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By: Cynthia Zatkin Blase

To the guests, the invitation is the first look at the wedding they are about to attend—a first glimpse into the soiree that awaits them! Will it be a whimsical beach wedding? Or a chic city wedding? Will it be more traditional or possibly more cutting edge? The invitation should reflect the colors and style of the wedding that is to come! It should excite the guests and build their anticipation!
Bob Hoffman Photography & Video
So how does a bride begin the process of designing her invitation? To create an invitation that is personal and unique to a wedding, it is best to work with an invitation specialist. Melanie Montoya of Fresh Invitation Studio describes how “the design process starts with a complimentary consultation at our studio, on the phone or by email, in which we get to know all about the bride and groom and their special day.” Many companies do such initial complimentary consultations but remember to make an appointment as most studios are open by appointment only.These initial meetings function as great brainstorming sessions for most brides. It is “a great opportunity for them to view our collection of invitation designs and also share their own style, tastes and personality,” continues Montoya. “Do they have a color palette for their special day? Flower arrangements? An event theme? We work with them to incorporate their vision and personality into the custom invitation.”

Before such an appointment, how should a bride prepare? Denise Scatena, owner of Blue Ribbon Invitations, says that “we ask [our clients] to think about and be prepared to discuss their theme, the information they need to include, the quantity and their budget.” Victoria Schaefer-Ramirez of Theory Weddings and Events adds that a bride should also be prepared to discuss the time of day, when the wedding will occur, whether it is outdoors or indoors and the degree of formality. All of these factors need to be considered in designing the perfect invitation. So let’s get back to theme. How does a bride figure out, what Scatena calls, her “style and sentiment?”
Clifton Photography
First, find a starting point. A fantastic piece of decorative paper, a photo from an art or photographic book, a style of décor, an era from fashion, a particular color or article of clothing off the runway—all can be tipping points that engender the décor of a wedding. Many brides will assemble pieces of inspiration from magazines and the internet and cart those around with her to her various vendor appointments. Scatena says that “If a bride has a project/idea notebook with color swatches and photos it is very helpful!” But “whether they come to us with a clear idea of what they would like or with just a few starting points (the palette of the wedding, the venue, the flowers, for instance),” says Montoya, “we will collaborate throughout the design and print process to create an invitation that they will fall in love with.” Once a design is picked, then what happens next? Enclosures!

Invitations need to be specialized according to the complexities of each particular wedding. “At the very least,” says Scatena “a bride should have the main invite card, a respond set and a return address printed on the back flap of the outer envelope. If the ceremony and the reception are at two different locations, I highly recommend including a second enclosure card, with the reception location and address.” Enclosure cards can also “share information about your wedding website, and encourage your guests to visit and learn more about hotels in the area, things to do and more details about your celebration, like the rehearsal dinner or the day after brunch.”

Montoya also suggests that “if most of the guests will be traveling from out of town, I might suggest including directions and accommodations enclosures.” Also, she continues that “some cultures require that an enclosure with the bridal entourage listed be included in the suite.” There’s definitely a lot to consider! An invitation specialist will assist each couple with figuring out exactly what would work best in their particular invitation. After the design and enclosures are picked, the last two pieces are wording and styles of addressing. An invitation consultant will help a bridal couple “with their wording and are [further] available to answer any etiquette questions,” say Scatena. Will the parents initiate the invitation or will it come from the bride and groom? Will a style of dress be suggested? Will the language be formal or more casual? These are all great factors to discuss!
Clifton Photography
Then will names and addresses be printed on the invitations in the same style of font as is in the invitation or will a calligrapher be hired to address them by hand? “Increasingly, my clients are choosing to have their guest names and addresses typeset on either the front of their outer envelopes or on envelope icings, which are long labels that wrap around the outer envelope and add color and design to the invitation,” says Scatena. “The addresses are in the fonts that match the invitation ensemble and add a nice touch, especially for those brides not comfortable hand addressing [the invitations] themselves.” Scatena further adds that “this feature is also typically cheaper than handwritten calligraphy.” But for those wanting a more traditional look, calligraphy is still a wonderful option! There are great calligraphers who will pick up and drop off your invitations and can inscribe names on fun wedding extras like unique placecards or favors.

Then finally, there’s timing. How far in advance should a bride begin the process of creating her invitation? When speaking of an ideal timeline, Scatena says “we need four to six weeks to design and order an invitation ensemble. Then a bride and groom should have at least two weeks to assemble and address the invitation. The invitations should be sent six to eight weeks before your RSVP date (eight weeks for a destination wedding or if a majority of your guests will be traveling in for your celebration).” RSVP dates are important to consider! “Your RSVP date depends on when you have to give your count to the caterer,” continues Scatena. “I recommend to all clients to give an RSVP date about two weeks before your count is due to the caterer.” Scatena sums all that up by recommending a bride order the “invitations at least five months before the wedding date and begin shopping and designing the invitations about six months before your wedding date.” Montoya says that an invitation consultant can do all that in three months, if necessary. But rush jobs can add extra fees so starting early is good for the budget!

And what is the goal of all this? What is the goal of all the brainstorming of style, discussing enclosures, wording, and labeling? Said perfectly by Ramirez, to “‘hit it’—to create the perfect design!” The perfect, unique, one-in-a-million, my-wedding is-going-to-be-awesome design!

By: Kathryn Bechen

Is it really possible to have unique, luxurious, and economical wedding invitations for your big day? The invitation designers we interviewed about today’s trends all say “YES!”
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Lea Armstrong, of Wedding Paper Divas, based in Mountain View, CA, notes that their company has access to thermography printing which means the ink is raised off the paper and looks similar to engraving, yet saves hundreds of dollars. “This has been one of our most popular looks for those opting for luxurious yet economical invitations,” she says. She also notes that couples who choose traditional flat printing tend to opt for textured paper to add a sophisticated look to their piece. As for popular colors, Armstrong says jewel tones are still big sellers but their number one color is chocolate brown. Gray is also one of their top five colors, beating out black. She predicts that chocolate brown will still be a popular color this fall with deep mauve, gold, and navy blue also expected. Nature elements such as trees and florals are big motifs right now according to Armstrong, and she thinks that will still be true this fall. In addition, monograms have been one of their top five designs but this year, instead of doing just the initials, they are doing the whole first names of the couple. “It’s a unique twist on something traditional,” she notes.

Although Wedding Paper Divas invitations are purchased solely online, the order does not go to the printer until it’s reviewed by three individuals: a wedding etiquette expert, a design expert, and a Q&A department. “There is lots of hand holding to make sure the order is perfect,” Armstrong says.

Victoria Schaefer-Ramirez, owner of Invitation Theory, based in Spring Valley, CA, says color is HOT right now. “The wedding might be cream and brown but couples are still incorporating color into their invitations,” she notes.
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Schaefer-Ramirez uses several layers of different papers to create borders and then she embellishes them with ribbons, buckles, rhinestones, and other unique items, depending on the theme of the wedding. Many of her invitations are three dimensional. She utilizes a graphic designer and professional printer, but designs and assembles the invitations herself. She describes her design style as “a little edge to classic designs but not so urban that it won’t stand the test of time.” Today’s couples are still looking for unique invitations Schaefer-Ramirez says, yet they also want traditional wording and etiquette. “I’ve given a lot of guidance on etiquette in the past six months; I’ve noticed the request for that has been even stronger lately,” she notes. Many of her clients either hand write their addresses or use calligraphy, although she said some brides want computer generated addresses.

Schaefer-Ramirez says monograms have not been as popular with her particular clients this year, and thank you cards with the couple’s first names written out are now “in” rather than using a monogram, she says. She notes that she is also seeing fewer programs and more escort cards. Meeting with her clients in their own home or work environments to get a feel for who they are is typical for Schaefer-Ramirez, because she feels it’s important for couples’ invitations to reflect their personalities. If it’s more convenient for them however, she will also meet with them at her home office. Denise Scatena, owner of Blue Ribbon Invitations, based in San Diego, CA helps her clients choose from a variety of invitation books when they meet with her at her design studio/office in the North Park/University Heights area. They can also order online from her website if they prefer, and she also works by phone with couples who are located outside of San Diego. “I help them narrow down their choices and I support them in finding the line that will best fit their taste and budget,” she says.
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Popular designs Scatena has noticed lately are pocket designed invitations with layered papers, and instead of enclosure cards, her clients are streamlining things by directing the guests to RSVP on their personal wedding website.

Scatena says shimmer papers in brown, white, and silver are still popular colors and damask and patterned prints behind the text or along the side the text are “in.” She says black print is not as popular as brown, blue, and different shades of purple, and she also notes that two color inks are now available at a much more affordable price and can create a customized personal look. Laser die-cut invitations with a laser pattern cut into an enclosure or even the actual invitation are also fun, she notes. She finds monograms are still popular and run the gamut from intricate designs and flourishes to something more simple.

In addition to helping her couples choose their invitations, Scatena also acts as their etiquette consultant based on the theme they want to convey, be it contemporary, formal, or “super formal.” “I also help them with wording for sticky family situations,” she says.

Scatena says she teaches her couples how to put their invitation sets together and that it’s a fun thing for the bridesmaids and family to get involved with helping assemble the invitations too.
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Designer and manager of Truso, Julie Galyan, notes that home décor and fashion trends also impact weddings. “A couple of years ago damask and brocade was popular in home décor and that has trickled down to wedding invitations,” she says. Galyan, who meets with clients by appointment only at Truso’s location in the Del Mar, CA area, says Old World and French cottage looks are now popular with a lot of textures in the paper, use of fabrics, handmade papers, and “going green” with recycled papers. She notes that it’s not always less expensive to use recycled papers, and although she totally supports “going green” she advises that it’s also not always possible to get the weight and quality of papers with recycled papers so that is a consideration for some couples. Galyan custom makes each invitation by hand, taking into account the client’s taste, theme, and budget, and she uses unique embellishments such as fabric and ribbons. “I made one invitation where the bride liked a fabric I found in a placemat,” she says. She’s never made the same invitation twice. If couples prefer, she can also refer them to invitation books, but she says 95 percent of her couples want custom invitations. Galyan notes that some brides are even electing to make their own invitations, and she notes that she makes every effort to stay within their budgets. “Monograms are still popular but I am seeing them used in non-traditional ways such as incorporating flowers,” says Galyan. “Monograms are timeless and classic, as is calligraphy,” she notes.

The bride and groom choosing the invitations together has been popular this year notes Galyan. “They seem to be planning small and more intimate weddings together and using more detail,” she says. When it’s all said and done, Scatena probably sums it up best: “Couples want their guests to say, WOW, where did you get that invitation?”