HDYDI: Put Together Great Holiday Cards

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been designing and sending out Christmas cards. Occupational hazard of being an OCD graphic designer, I guess. Over the years, my designs have gotten fancier, but the message is still the same:  reconnecting with people, even if only once a year, is important. Now, before all you Facebook and Twitter peeps go crazy and say things like:

“I post pictures all the time on my FB wall.”
“Why connect at Christmas when I can do it any hour of the day I want?”
“Spending money for cards is crazy.”

I just have one question for you:  Which is better – a handwritten thank you note or an email?

If you answered email, move along and delete this post. We’ll still part as friends. If, however, you answered a handwritten note, then we have even more in common. With the influx of electronic communication, we’ve somehow lost the ability, and the desire, to connect with people in a more tangible way. One click and we consider ourselves connected. For me, the holiday card symbolizes many things. Putting the cards together remind me of how much I value our friendship, allows me to spend time with my children while assembling them and that Christmas really IS the most wonderful time of the year.

I have a few suggestions on how to make your card something special this year and not just something you throw together at the last minute because you feel obligated. No, I say send the cards out because you want to, not because you have to.

1. Get a great photo of your family. You can definitely go the professional photographer route. If you do, you need to be calling the photog, like, today. Many of them offer “mini sessions” where you have a 15-minute slot and then they provide you with a CD of 3-10 images for a set fee. We always combine our holiday photos with our family photos and take them in late September/early October. If a pro shot isn’t in your budget, call your neighbor or enlist a family member. A few years ago we had my brother take this photo of us in our backyard. It did take us 25 tries to get it, but we finally got “the one.” My only suggestion is this:  get one of your whole family. Yeah, I know your hair looked better yesterday and those pants are too tight. But, someday (mark my words) you’re going to wish you were in more photos with your children.

2. I lurve seeing pictures of the people sending the card, however I love hearing how life has treated them the past year even more. You can make the update short or long, from your kids’ perspective or yours, no matter. If the task seems daunting, jot down a few bullet points about each family member. A day or two later, come back to the things you wrote and string them together. For me, breaking up that task makes it easier. You can ask Scott, I revise our letter (ahem) a few times before it’s the way I want it.

3. While you’re recapping your great family year, include a few candid shots if you have the room. Maybe the family picture didn’t turn out as well as you hoped? Use some great photos throughout the year and create a visual collage of memories.

4. Set a goal for sending out the cards. In our family, we mail them the day before Thanksgiving. People, I’ve been doing it that way for years. Whether you send out Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Advent or Epiphany cards, just set a deadline and work toward it. Otherwise, you’ll look up and it’s Valentine’s Day.

5. Buy the stamps and envelopes now. You can get the USPS Christmas stamps already and this year’s are fantastic. I’m a fan of the religious ones, but that’s just me. If the company/place you ordered cards from doesn’t have envelopes, you can get them for cheap-o-rama from a paper manufacturer or printer. Just hit up St. Google. Places like office supply stores usually charge way too much.

6. There are a ton of printing options. You can go the pre-designed, drop-in-the-photo route with places like TinyPrints and Shutterfly. A boatload of designers have printable files on Etsy. You print them at home and cut yourself. It’s economical and you only print what you need. You can make your own or your photographer may have some options, too. I put together a few options, as well, that combine photos and space for a family update. If you want me to do your cards, check out my 2012 samples. Whatever way you go, just make sure you do #7.

7. Set a budget. Some families have an unlimited budget. Awesome. You, however, may not. By doing #5, you can spread out your costs. Just remember your cards are already a masterpiece, they have your family in them!

8. Pare down the list. Every year, we go through our spreadsheet and decide to send, or not, a card to that family. If we didn’t do that our list would be ridiculously big. It could be a move, a lost address, a death, a marital change or an estranged relationship.  In the end, you’ll know if it’s right to take someone off the list or not.

9. Involve your kids. This might be my favorite tip. I get the kids involved stamping, sealing and stuffing. The littles put them in a pile, with the bigs affix stamps and stuff the envelopes. The best part is driving to the post office the day before Thanksgiving and putting them in the mailbox. There *may* be fighting over who gets which stack, but nevertheless, we crank the Christmas tunes and sing all the way there and back.

10. After you drop them in the mail, here’s my best tip of all. Enjoy running to the mailbox each day, reading and collecting cards from friends and family. We put ours in a stack and each night at the dinner table, we pull one or two out of the pile and pray for that family throughout the following year. Our kids know so many fun stories and have come to appreciate each friend and family member that sends us a card. It’s an honor to have them over for dinner.

 What’s YOUR best holiday card tip? I’d love to hear it!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

This post is linked up to Top Ten Tuesday over at Many Little Blessings.


  1. Molly on October 1, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Hey, hey, lady! Just got our photos taken yesterday and saving my pennies so that you can help this crazy woman with her Christmas card design and mailing!

    • Kathryn on October 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Woo hoo! The “harvest” color group is just for you. That’s MSU green!

      • Molly on October 2, 2012 at 7:52 am

        Awesome! I was thinking about the 200 word count and may go with the flat 5×7 with 300 words. I have too much to fit into 200 words, BK! Will you guys be around the weekend of November 3? I have an event in Houston and am trying to scheme how I could get to Austin for a night 🙂

  2. Erin {Home Everyday} on October 1, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Thanks for posting this! I’m thinking of doing our family photo a little earlier this year to capture the autumn colors, so while, I usually don’t start “Christmas” preparations this early, I am this year. Do you have any tips on Christmas gifting, Santa, etc? We have a something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read in our house. I know families that have a 3 gift rule, as Jesus was given three gifts from the Magi. What is your take on this?

    • Kathryn on October 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Oh, Erin, I need to do a post on that. I do have some ideas on my HDYDI for Christmas shopping, so that’s a start. I definitely believe in curbing back the buying frenzy.

  3. My Christmas Card Addiction - Team Whitaker on December 22, 2016 at 7:56 am

    […] shared my ten tips for doing cards, why they’re a big deal and enlisting child labor. Here’s a peek at this year’s […]

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