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!
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
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:
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.
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
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
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.