Growing up, my mother always sent out a Christmas letter — complete with family photo. We would contribute to this family tradition by telling my mom what we wanted to share in the letter. Not all of our input made the cut, but it was definitely a personalized yearly greeting that our family and friends enjoyed receiving.
When Steven and I got married, I knew this was something I wanted to turn into a tradition for us as well. So, every year since we’ve been married, I’ve created a holiday greeting card or letter. The year, I stuck with the format from my childhood: a letter on 8.5″x11″ paper, detailing all the new events of the year, and a separate photograph greeting. Do you remember those long envelope-sized photos? They had the greeting printed on the right quarter of the photograph. And then I discovered the thrill of designing a custom holiday greeting card. A greeting card can incorporate photos and text, which streamlined the assembly process.
So, that’s what we do to this day. And I offer custom greeting card design services to the families I photograph too. There’s something nice about having someone else do the grunt work for you — just saying “these are the photos I like, and here is what I want it to say.” A far cry from the days of my childhood, when we would all spend hours composing the text, proofreading, and re-wording to fit it onto a single page… then having to assemble all the components to fit in the envelope.
Now, you might be wondering why I’m writing about this so early, right? I like to let the various seasons be celebrated in their time, and I’m not one to jump the gun on decorating.
But, with family photos being included in the holiday greeting cards, you have to plan ahead. In fact, sometimes families will take their holiday picture in the summer, during a family vacation. This year, my goal is to capture the fall colors in our family picture. I’ve been watching the weather, the leaves, making sure I don’t miss that narrow window of opportunity, when the leaves are golden but still mostly on the trees.
Now, since I promised you some tips for getting a jump start on your family photo greeting cards, here they are:
1 . Plan your family photo in the summer or fall.
There is no reason to be stressed out and trying to get a last minute snapshot of the family for your greeting card. If you have kids, your stress may be reflected in their willingness to cooperate for the photos. And you probably don’t want a family portrait with unhappy faces, right?
2. Hire a pro; outsource your picture-taking.
Let’s face it, sometimes it is tough to get your own kids to smile for the camera. A non-parent can often elicit better smiles and expect better behavior. I know my mom gave up trying to teach me flute; I just wouldn’t listen to my teacher because she was also my mom (sorry mom!).
3. Ask everyone about their highlights of the year.
In our greeting card, everyone gets a little blurb, one or two lines about what’s going on in their life. As my kids get older, I’ll begin asking them what they want to share — and an “I don’t care” answer means mom gets free reign (kind of)!
4. Have a second set of eyes check your work.
I can’t tell you how many last minute typos we’ve caught over the years, just by having another person look through the text of a card. One year, a relative discovered their card had a typo too late — and ended up gluing a strip of paper with the correctly spelled word to every card. Not a fun task!
5. Order your cards early – before the holiday rush.
While there’s no set date you need to get your cards, I like to finish mine by the end of November, so I can get it ordered at the beginning of December. That way, I can focus on holiday parties, planning, and the like instead of rushing to get our greeting cards out. There has been a time or two where we got caught with too many holiday “to-do” items — and the greeting card went out as a “New Year” card instead of a Christmas one.
6. Keep in touch with contact information.
It can be hard to keep peoples’ contact information straight, with families frequently relocating or changing email addresses. I like to include our mailing address, email addresses, and phone numbers in the card — that way our friends and family can update their contact book with any changes. Plus, you can share your blog or facebook profil if there’s more you want to share than will fit in a letter or card.
7. Use an online service.
Sometimes it’s tough to get a jump start on things like this — it’s just easier to deal with the immediate needs, particularly if you have a lot on your plate. Maybe your plans for a family portrait (professionally done) fall through, or you need to pull together a quick last-minute card on the fly. Either way, you can use a service like Tiny Prints #afflink.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful for you, and perhaps inspiring, even? I’d love to hear about any family traditions you have for the holidays… particularly if you grew up helping with some sort of annual greeting card or letter.