You’re engaged! That’s awesome, congratulations! Now comes a LOT of decisions, some of which involve rules of etiquette you never heard of before you were planning a wedding, or fuel debates about what is the “right” shade of ivory for everything to match. In the midst of all this, stationery can be a confusing place and it can be difficult to know where to begin in selecting invitations. When Courtney asked me to participate as a guest blogger, I knew I wanted to tackle some of my most frequently asked questions about wedding stationery, and how to get started.
First off: it is spelled stationery, not stationary. Stationary means not moving, stationery means pretty paper goods. I’m glad we got that one out of the way! Now, on to the good stuff:
When I am searching for invitations I am seeing words like thermography, letterpress, digital – what does it all mean?
Printing is something most of us do every day in our jobs or homes. But commercial printing has a lot of techniques available, especially those that were traditionally used for special occasion paper like wedding invitations. Some terms:
- Digital $ – Digital printing takes a computer file and prints it using flat inks (either inkjet or laser, like you would most likely have in your home/office). Digital printing involves the printer mixing the correct amount of the four process colours (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black or CMYK) and applying them in a single run, so you can get a full range of colours in a single pass through the machine. Laser and Ink Jet are the two different techniques for applying the pigments – inkjets spray ink directly onto the paper, and laser printers use toner and heat to set colours.
- Offset Lithography $$ – Offset is a flat printing process that involves the transfer of the ink from printing plate to paper via a rubber roll. The four process colours are printed individually in offset printing, or you can use a single solid ink colour in a single run. Offset printing is more expensive than digital printing because of the time and technique involved, but it can be more accurate and produce higher quality images.
- Thermography $$ – Thermography is a printing process where specialty ink is heated to created a raised ink surface. This ink will have a physical raised feel to it when you run your hand over it, but the back of the paper will remain flat.
- Foil Stamping $$$ – Foil stamping doesn’t actually use ink at all! Foil stamping used heated metal plates to emboss or deboss your design and seal the foil. (Embossing means raised print, debossing is the opposite – recessed print.) Foil stamping is the only way to get truly metallic shiny printing for your stationery. Price can vary based on the actual size of the foil stamping you want.
- Engraving $$$$ – Engraving is an old school technique for printing, so not all commercial printers still offer it. Engraved printing is done by taking a metal plate with your design and pushing it through the back of the paper to create a raised paper surface, which is then inked. This technique produces beautifully crisp printing, and allows you to ink lighter colours on dark paper. Engraving requires an individual to stand at the press and run the job and production of specialty dies for your custom job, which is why it is much more costly than more automated options.
- Letterpress $$$$ – Letterpress (as practiced today) is the opposite process of engraving. Instead of pushing your design through the back of the paper, letterpress pushes your design in through the front for a debossed impression with an inked plate of text or design. Historically printers would have been looking to transfer the ink with no impression in the paper (because the pressure damages movable type) but with modern plates printers can deeply press into the paper, giving you the deep impression seen in modern letterpress. Like engraving, letterpress is a traditional technique requiring the production of plates for your design and a lot of man hours.
I should note that wonderful stationery blog Oh So Beautiful Paper has written excellent detailed posts on these (and other) printing methods complete with gorgeous photos, so if you’d like to know more you should check them out!
I don’t even know where to begin with styles!?! How do I figure out what my invites should look like?
A modern couple has a great advantage when it comes to finding their inspiration for invitation design – the internet. Pinterest, wedding blogs, Etsy, even Facebook… the internet is saturated with photos and inspiration for engaged couples. The trick is narrowing down your style, which sets the tone for everything else! Think about plans for your flowers, your attire, your venue, and then try and use descriptive words that feel right to you. Are you going for romantic, floral, and airy? Modern, bold, and dramatic? Comfortable, rustic, and quirky? Once you’ve figured out how you want the wedding to feel, you’re most of the way to choosing an invitation style.
How many pieces do I need to include in my invitation?
A little bit of this depends on the details of your wedding. Are your ceremony and reception in the same place? If so, you probably don’t need a separate reception card (unless you want one, of course!). If your ceremony and reception spaces are spread out and require directions, you may want to include a map for your guests to get from one place to another. If you have multiple wedding weekend events or are planning a destination wedding, sometimes an itinerary card is very helpful, although this can always be given to guests as part of a travel welcome bag. Many of my clients are opting for a postcard-style RSVP card in lieu of an envelope and card – this allows for a fun postcard design, and costs less to mail!
Another element to this question is the level of formality of your wedding. For a black tie wedding, you might want to go more traditional with your suite and include an inner envelope, a formal reception card, and also a card detailing direction and accommodation information. For a less formal wedding that may not be necessary! Either way, there are many exceptional designers out there who can help you make your stationery uniquely beautiful as well as functional, with as many pieces as you need.
There seem to be a lot of “rules” associated with invitations, and all that etiquette! How do I figure out the wording?
My personal opinion on wedding etiquette is that you should do a) what’s polite and b) what makes you and your partner feel comfortable. Parents often have strong feelings about what wording should be used on the invitations, and this is one situation where I advise my clients to compromise if the point is not important to them. A quick online search will bring up tons of resources for alternative wording choices, and of course if you are working with a designer then we are happy to help there as well! The most important part of wedding etiquette is to be polite, not to be overly formal, stuffy, or old fashioned. Feel free to change things up that don’t work for you!
In this digital age where even your grandparents are surfing the net, why have paper invitations at all? This is a question I get asked a fair amount, and honestly the answer is this: you don’t need physical invitations if you don’t want them and they’re not important to you. It’s up to you to decide what elements are worth spending money for on your wedding, and there is nothing saying you can’t have a beautiful digital design you send through email. Your invitation is likely to be the first thing your guests receive about your wedding that sets the tone for your big day, so make this first impression count!
Having physical wedding invitations is also a little bit about courtesy to your guests. For those of your guests who might not want to access your wedding information on the internet, or who can’t always reliably use their cell phone standing in the church parking lot to find the address of the reception venue, having a physical piece of paper telling them where to go might be preferred.
One thing about weddings that I love is that weddings are about permanence and traditions, whatever tradition means for you. That means we speak publicly about holding fast to each other, we might receive an heirloom passed down from generations of family to use/wear/have at the ceremony, we actually make an album from all those digital photos that would usually just sit on our cameras and computers. Having a physical copy of your wedding invitation is a keepsake worth saving.
I hope this was helpful to you as you begin your search for wedding invitations! A big thanks to Courtney for inviting me to guest post!
Jenn Heller is the Owner of Ribbons & Bluebirds where she creates custom wedding invitations and stationery as well as other fun party and every day paper goods. She also created the paper goods for our winter wedding inspiration shoot that we shared last week and our summer wine dinner that we will be sharing soon.
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