I’m passionate about wedding invitations, but I wasn’t always this way. I thought, like many, that the invitation was only a piece of the process, a dreaded detail to think about when they should have been mailed out 2 weeks ago. When I was engaged, the thing that pissed me off the most about my wedding invitations was that I sent them to my guests pre-stamped, and it was like pulling teeth to get them to draw a cute picture and say yes or no to being a guest by my reply date. I’ve since learned that there are 4 non-negotiables if you want to create the perfect wedding invitations.
What? You were expecting something like “names of your hostess and her betrothed?” Nah—that doesn’t make an invitation interesting. Well, it does if the hostess has a stick up her butt and demands the recognition and you choose ignore her…otherwise, it’s not expected anymore and not particularly creative.
Personality is how you put a piece of yourself into your guest’s mailbox. Wedding invitations are really fun to get in the mail (or is that just me?), so creating something that packs a punch before you even open the envelope creates anticipation and excitement for your guests. Vintage or photo stamps, hand calligraphy or a funky wraparound label all show that this envelope is important and fun, and something you’re gonna wanna open.
Obviously, the star of the show is the invitation itself. It can be paper with hidden easter eggs (like mickey mouse ears hidden in script flourishes), or it can drop jaws with a unique shape or material that no one has ever seen before. Whatever you decide to do to make your guest’s say woah should be unique to you. I love merging couples’ interests together (like hiking in the Adirondacks and kate spade) in my designs—being you is a certain way to stand out and make an impression.
Remember how I told you that the most frustrating part was harassing *cough* politely asking guests to send back their RSVP card? Patience is key. Custom invitations take much longer than modern brides have become accustomed to. I tell my brides it’s never too early to start the process, but anything under 12 weeks until your wedding is cutting it way too close.
Wedding invitations should be sent to guests 8-12 weeks before your wedding. Typically, about 4-6 weeks before is a good timeframe for your reply date, as it allows you to send b-list invitations and get a final headcount to your venue two weeks before the big day. After all, perfection takes time! Find a designer you love and contact them as soon as you think you want to work with them. Like photographers and other wedding vendors, stationers book months in advance, and it’s in your best interest to reach out early.
Brides are given a bad rap, but most of my clients have been too nice about their custom invitations. Proofs are meant to be changed—you don’t need to apologize for making edits to your design. If you want to change something and then decide to change it back, that’s cool too. I promise designers aren’t offended by this in any way.
Another aspect of honesty is the dirty little word that plagues brides everywhere: budget. By knowing your budget up front, designers can make suggestions to fit your look while also being tactful about managing your stationery funds. Brides also have to be honest with themselves: Pinterest and wedding planning websites can show you all these pretty details that you may not know the price of. I personally wanted a six tier metallic and flower encrusted wedding cake, but alas…budget. Designers want to see your inspiration, and they want to create something that you love.
4. The hard and fast details.
Okay, fine. Yes, we need to know your names (first and last!), where to show up, and when the ceremony starts. And don’t dismiss the importance of enclosure cards that give guests additional information like reception attire, directions from the ceremony (yes, people still use these), things to do in the area for out of town guests, accommodation and transportation information as well as whether or not children are permitted at your reception.
Use the pieces in your suite to get the most important information to your guests, even if you are redirecting them to your wedding website. You’ll probably need to refer back to suggestion number one a few times throughout the process as guests will continue to ask questions such as Can I bring my boyfriend? Will you have my favorite wine? Can you seat me next to the dance floor?, but at least you’ll have a blanket set of reference materials.
Creating the perfect invitations doesn’t mean you have to stick to a set of particular rules—don’t let anyone tell you what you need at any point during your wedding. I promise that if you stay true to your heart with every step of the planning process, you will look back on your wedding not only with memories of sharing what feels like the best birthday party ever with your best friend, but also a sense of authenticity that will never stale.
Kasey is a stationery designer who is passionate about telling couples’ love stories through paper…or wood or acrylic or metal! She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and dog, and she’s always looking for a reason to celebrate with cake and champagne. Learn more about her work on her website and Instagram.