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The Busy Mama’s Guide to Getting Christmas Cards Out and On Time!

authentically amber guide to family christmas cards

I’ve been sending Christmas cards out since I was a single girl in my 20’s. I love Christmas cards! I love that they are a way to physically stay connected to people within the digital age when everything moves so fast. I love sending cards and love receiving them. 

When I was in my 20’s, I would buy beautiful cards (whatever my budget could afford) and send them out to friends and family. Some years, I would even hand make them with beautiful vintage card prints from Ebony Classics Imperial Collection. I have friends who tell me now that some of my Christmas cards were the first they ever received, which warms my heart.  

Both technology and my life have changed since my early 20’s. Photo Christmas cards are easily accessible and affordable, and I have a family. These changes have made Christmas cards even more magical for me.

While it’s great to post photos on your family’s social media, there is something exceptional about receiving a physical card in the mail around the holidays and sharing what your family has been doing the past year! 

I often get compliments on my Christmas cards, as well as questions from moms who are shocked with how I find the time to get them done and out the door. This year, I’m sharing my secrets of how I do it without stress and having fun. 

THE NUMBER 1 SECRET TO SUCCESS: START EARLY!

Start early! The beginning of October is a great time to start, but if your schedule is less busy in September, I will encourage you to start then!

I know many people say they don’t want to think about Christmas in September, that’s fair. However, you don’t have to put any decorations up or put on Christmas music if that’s not your thing, but pre-planning is critical. 

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Collect Addresses and use Free Recipient Addressing. 

This is the one I hear from most moms is the most painful part of the process, and why some dread it. Trust me; it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few simple ways to make gathering mailing addresses more manageable:

• Create one master list of addresses for Christmas cards. If you don’t know where to start, start with your closest family and friends, people you may have recently invited to an event. If you’ve gotten married in the last five years, your wedding guest list is a great start.
• As you hear of friends and family moving throughout the year, edit your master list at that time, don’t wait until the end of the year! 

Use tools like Free Recipient Addressing from Minted

There are some people I exchange Christmas cards with every year, and every year they ask me for my mailing address. It’s like they have to recreate who they are sending cards to each year. This is one of the best tools for saving time, and the good news is, if you do it once, it can be reused for future years or updated at any time.  

Stationers like Minted offer free recipient address printing in beautiful styles that match your actual Christmas card. If you upload your address list to their site, in their format, they will take it from there. I love how this is included in the cards’ price, where I’ve seen several other card companies charge for it. This is both a time and money saver and will not only make your life easier, but people are always so complimenting and wowed by the presentation of my cards, and it starts with the envelope.  

Step 2. Secure a photographer

Photo by Courtney Morgan Photography

This heavily dictates your timeline! Securing a photographer early on will ensure everything else flows smoothly, and you are not rushing at the last minute.  

Whether you are using a friend, yourself, or a professional photographer, book it early and select a location. 

Explore Fall Minis 

Most photographers begin offering fall mini sessions in the September/October time frame. 

Mini Photo-Sessions are sessions that last roughly twenty minutes. The photographer will have one location set up, and each family books a time slot to get photos taken. Photographers usually give you  5 to 10 digital shots. Mini sessions are generally a fraction of a traditional photo session cost, which is great if you only need Christmas card photos.

If you don’t know where to start with finding someone to do a mini photo session, here are some ways you can find one:

Contact an existing photographer: If you use a current photographer, reach out to them and ask if they do “photo minis” and when will they start for fall? Being first on the list provides you with a lot of flexibility since these sessions can book up fast. 

Google Fall Minis: Believe it or not, one year, I found the most fantastic photographer by merely googling “fall minis near me.” Put in your city or nearest metropolitan city and the term “fall-minis” or “Christmas minis,” and you will be surprised by what you find since most photographers keep blogs where they post information. 

Local Referrals: Reaching out to other local moms is always a good way to find a tried and true great photographer! If you are local in the DFW area, here are my two favorite family photographers that we use: 

Courtney Morgan Photography

Willie & Kim Photography

Step 3. Pick out your wardrobe

Next, it’s time for wardrobe selection! This part is either fun for some mamas or makes others cringe from the stress! Here are some simple tips for wardrobe selection to make it easy, stress-free, and hopefully a little fun! 

• Decide upfront what kind of theme you want. Do you want to be Christmas Casual, Christmas Glam, or Christmas Rustic? 
• Next, decide what color palette you want. Be sure to consider your photographers’ background or setting if you are going with a mini. If you don’t know, ask them for the color scheme. 
• Now that you’ve accomplished the two above steps, you can do online searches or Pinterest if your heart desires and start by searching for specific apparel items in both your theme and color scheme. An example of how to word your search would be “[theme] family photo outfits,” so, for a rustic look, you would search “rustic family photo outfits.”  

Here is a simple example of our wardrobe for a session a few years ago. I usually start with me (cause I’m the mama!), and then I pick for my boys, and then my husband last because he’s usually the easiest to find items for. I try to lay everything out and together at least a week in advance to ensure it’s cohesive.  

Photo by Courtney Morgan Photography

Step 4. Select cards BEFORE the photoshoot

This is a big one and one in which people usually get overwhelmed. You can go to any card site, and there’s a sea of Christmas card options making it challenging to decide.  

Here’s my secret! I select my favorite card options BEFORE I take my photos. It will save you time and keep you laser-focused! 

Select 5 of your favorite card designs, save them, and share them with your photographer the day of your mini session before they begin shooting. It helps your photographer know what angles and directions to shoot from to most compliment your card options. 

Using a site like Minted allows you to save your card styles in advance. 

However, even if you prefer not to select designs ahead of time, they have great “Use My Photo”  or “Text Your Photo” options that allow you to upload your favorite photo from your shoot and see it on EVERY card on their site. 

Step 5. Attend your photoshoot 

Photo by Courtney Morgan Photography

This is simply because all of your prework is done! Relax, enjoy, and try not to strangle your kids for not smiling! Lol. If you have little ones like I do, some tips; try to avoid sessions that will interfere with nap time or bed time so that they aren’t cranky. This can be challenging for outdoor settings if photographers can only work at sunset or sunrise. I would recommend sunrise since small children tend to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning! However, if you’ve got teenagers, the evening may be the way to go! 

Step 6. Order cards and stamps

Photo by Willie & Kim Photography (www.willieandkim.com)

If you selected your five styles in advance or used Minted’s photo tool, this should be reasonably easy. I always order my cards and my stamps from USPS simultaneously so that when my cards arrive, I can quickly stamp them and mail them out in one fell swoop! I tend to pick different seasonal stamps each year that best go with my cards and envelopes. I’ve gone into the post office for a few years and found that some of the holiday stamps may be out of stock, so it saves time and headache to order them online in advance. 

Step 7.  Stuff and have fun!

There are two options here. I enjoy stuffing my cards because I’m one of those nerds that love paper, textures, etc. I put on my Christmas music, grab a glass of wine, make a fire in my fireplace (all while the kids are asleep!), and stuff my cards. If you will be self stuffing, here is what I use each year and what I recommend you have on hand:

• Return Address stamp or labels
• Crafters Tape or Glue Runner
• US Postage Stamps
• Christmas Envelope Seals (for a special touch at the end!) 

If this is not your thing and you loathe stamping and stuffing Christmas cards, Minted has an even better full-service option. They can stuff, seal, AND mail your cards for you. Once you select your design and upload your addresses, you’ll see that option and pricing before check out.  

If this process still seems overwhelming, here is a visual timeline of how I usually get this done each year. As you can see, it tends not to happen at once, which allows for less stress.

Do you have any questions? I would love to hear them! Please leave me a comment below, or leave me a message on my contact page. I absolutely would love to know how your Christmas cards turn out this year! If you post yours online, be sure to tag me on Instagram AuthenticallyAmberBlog.

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30 Comments

  • Reply
    Asia
    October 20, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    These are adorable! I usually use Zazzle for my Christmas cards, but this year I will consider Minted! Thank you for sharing!!

  • Reply
    Amber Hines
    October 20, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    ?? the tips!!! I’m always looking forward to your cards each season! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year!!!

  • Reply
    Sonia
    October 20, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    Looking for a photographer now! And I’m going to need ALL the help from Minted. Great tips

  • Reply
    Cameron
    October 20, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Those cards are the cutest!! Definitely showing these to my friends for some holiday inspo!!

  • Reply
    Kimie
    October 20, 2020 at 4:16 pm

    This is such a great guide. We’ve never done Christmas cards but with baby on the way I think we will have to start!

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      October 20, 2020 at 4:38 pm

      Yes! Its a great way to keep family near and far connected with whats going on with your new bundle of joy! Definitely check it out – I know you will do great!

    • Reply
      Brittany
      October 20, 2020 at 5:23 pm

      Your Christmas cards are ALWAYS the best. Your tip of selecting the card before the photoshoot is genius. I will be doing this from now on!

      • Reply
        Amber Elizabeth Anderson
        October 21, 2020 at 3:51 am

        I’m so glad and I hope it helps and makes for a more seamless process! Please keep me posted and let me know how it goes 🙂

  • Reply
    Nikki
    October 20, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    My problem is I never start “early”. This year I will take your tips.

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      October 21, 2020 at 3:50 am

      Yes! You’ve got this Nikki! I am
      Here if you need any help, but now is the time to start. If you need a little more time, New Years cards aren’t also great and on trend now as well 🙂

  • Reply
    Brittney Pruitt
    October 20, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    This process is typically overwhelming for me and for that reason I haven’t actually sent them out! Thanks so much for this step by step guide, it’s very helpful and breaks the process down into actionable steps.

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      October 21, 2020 at 3:48 am

      Thank you Brittany! I truly hope this helps and makes it a lot less stressful! Feel free to reach back out and let me know if you have any questions or if there’s any way I can help. I’m happy to help and I truly love doing this!

  • Reply
    portia
    October 20, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    I love all of these helpful tips!!! Agreed early takes the all the stress out I’ll definitely check out Minted – especially with the discount code! We always look forward to your Christmas Cards

  • Reply
    Melissa Bryant
    October 20, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    Each personalized card you create is so cute! Making memories and capturing them. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      October 21, 2020 at 3:52 am

      Thank you for taking the time to read! I hope it inspires you this year and helps you with your planning 🙂

      • Reply
        Amanda
        October 21, 2020 at 11:39 pm

        I miss sending Christmas cards! Thanks for this! I want to start again!

  • Reply
    Dara M Sandland
    October 20, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    Oh my goodness, what great suggestions! And your cards are always THE BEST!!

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      October 21, 2020 at 3:53 am

      Thank you so much! You are my fellow planner counterpart so I know you understand how helpful the pre planning can be!

  • Reply
    Diana
    October 21, 2020 at 11:17 pm

    Starting early is definitely the way to go! Your family photos are beautiful and love the card designs!

  • Reply
    Holly
    October 22, 2020 at 3:21 am

    I love this!! I always intend to send out cards and then lose track of time. I hope this year I can follow your steps and make it happen 🙂

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      October 22, 2020 at 6:01 am

      Absolutely! I hope it’s helpful Holly! Please let me know if you have any questions!

  • Reply
    Tiffany Parker
    October 22, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    Girl I needed this!!! Bc Christmas will have come and gone and I didn’t have anything. I. haven’t done cards in about 3 years sadly. Let me get my butt in gear. Thank you for these tips!

    • Reply
      Amber Elizabeth Anderson
      October 22, 2020 at 8:03 pm

      Thank you! I’m so glad it’s helpful! Please, please let me know if you’ve got any questions on the tips I’ve laid out. I absolutely love all things Christmas! Lol

  • Reply
    Angela Fry
    October 22, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing. I am the worst about getting cards out in time!

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