MamaLA: It’s Holiday Card Time

If only our annual missive to friends and family would shoot, order, and mail itself

Every year, moms (and maybe some dads) start to get that nagging feeling about cards. What kind of correspondence can cause such uneasiness? The Annual Family Holiday Card, that’s what.

Sending a custom note to family and friends should be a feel-good no-brainer, but let’s face it, what The Annual Family Holiday Card represents—a sliver of your family life, immortalized for all to see while grabbing some orange juice from the fridge—complicates everything.

It starts with the photo. If you’re lucky, you’ve already got a great shot of your family taken someplace that you love, doing what you love. Think vacation photos: everyone’s looking healthy, sunkissed, relaxed, and happy. If you got one or, at the very least, got one of the kids lying around, you’re golden. But if you don’t, you’ve got to make one, and stat. To do this, you can either hire a pro or try to rig a shot yourselves. We’ve done it both ways. Working with a professional photographer is the safe bet—they are pros for a reason. If they are great with kids, they can coax the best shots out of everyone. Soraya’s husband is somewhat notorious for taking bad photos. He’s also the family member who thinks just a few frames will definitely yield a good shot. Wrong! It takes hundreds of shots to get one good enough for The Annual Family Holiday Card. Yasmine faces challenges with her family, too. Between young toddlers and teens, she faces a host of potential pitfalls, the biggest being trying to pin all six family members down for the photo to even happen. She’s hired the same fabulous photographer, Sharon Suh (a former photo editor of Los Angeles magazine), to shoot her holiday card pictures for years. She’s amazing and nails it every time. 

Once the photo is settled, you’ve got to navigate the card selection process. Yes, picking out which stationary to use is a process. Here are a couple of the questions you’ll need to answer: Which online vendor should I use? Whose promo code is still valid? Should I go with flat, folded, square, or rectangular cards? Should I opt for an envelope liner or not? At an average of $1.50 to $3 a pop, card stock doesn’t come cheap. We both order 300 or more cards, and then we have to pony up for the postage (48 to 68 cents), too. Like the way the square cards look? Just be prepared: They’lll run you an additional twenty-cents in postage. Why? We guess it’s the USPS’s way of getting us back for weighing them down with our 300+ additional pieces of mail during holiday crunch time. 

From styling the photos, to producing the shoot itself, sorting through the proofs, selecting and ordering cards, updating the recipient address list, standing in USPS lines, stuffing, addressing, and labeling, Soraya has easily spent upwards of fifteen hours on her family’s cards this year.

Some of our friends have opted out of sending cards this year, and given the above (not to mention the benefits of being Earth-friendly), we totally get why. But in the end, we opt in—we find the time and we tackle the additional to-dos. Why? Because we do love seeing the photos our friends and family send from near and far. There are clever ones, gorgeous letter-pressed ones, and ones that make us laugh. We even cherish the ones that come with a full-page newsletter (you know who you are!). We love them all. Our kids love looking at them, too. While the cards we receive bring us cheer, the ones we exchange illustrate the passage of time for our families as our kids grow up and change. We’ll just be sure to slip a little something extra to our postal carrier as a way of saying thanks for lugging all that extra mail around. 

With seven children ranging in age from one year to seventeen years between them, sisters and bloggers Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Soraya Delawari Dancsecs are experts at parenting in L.A. They take a break from PTA board meetings, cooking, and producing films to blog at CityThink each Thursday.