If you’re recently engaged, wedding invitations (and stationery) are probably the first wedding-related expense you’ll have.
Your wedding invitations and stationery aren’t just functional in terms of giving your guests relevant information. Whether that’s about your wedding (or your pre-and post-wedding events). It’s also your first chance to impress them in the run-up to your wedding day. It builds anticipation and excites them by giving them a glimpse of what to expect. That includes your wedding style, the location/s, the logistics, and the overall event experience.
You can be as minimalist as you want or you can go to town with your stationery design. But before you get overwhelmed by the numerous options available in the market today, let’s get down to basics. There are three main options to choose from when it comes to wedding stationery.
GENERAL CATEGORIES OF WEDDING INVITATIONS AND STATIONERY
Custom Wedding Stationery
Sky’s the limit if you want the full experience of designing your wedding invitations or stationery. From choosing your materials to your preferred printing process, creating your monogram, having a venue illustration, personalising your wax seal. You name it. Choosing custom wedding stationery involves lots of time and resources. It also requires you to engage a specialist stationer so you can get the most out of your investment.
Semi-custom Wedding Stationery
Want your stationery to look custom-made but not ready to splurge? Semi-custom stationery is the way to go. Semi-custom wedding stationery is premade designs that can be customised to suit your needs and include your own wedding details.
Most couples have never been married before. Most don’t have a clue where to start when it comes to wedding stationery. Therefore, stationers created premade designs and turned them into templates. Stationers wanted to show couples what a complete wedding invitation suite looks like. All you need to do is find a semi-custom collection that you like. Choose which elements of it you want to keep, and share your wedding details with your stationer and viola. You’re all set!
Mass-produced/ Store-bought Wedding Invitations and Stationery
Strictly speaking, mass-produced wedding stationery is still customised. After all, you do need to indicate your wedding details in it before sending it to your guests. However, customisation options are most likely limited to just your names, wedding date, wedding venue, and ceremony/reception time).
Top Tip: How much time do you have until your wedding date? This matters when choosing which stationery category to go for. Custom stationery takes longer to produce and needs to be purchased from a specialist stationer. Are you thinking of purchasing custom wedding stationery? Make sure you allow enough time for the ordering process to consider your own wedding timeline.
WEDDING INVITATIONS AND STATIONERY PRINTING OPTIONS
digital printing is the most reasonable and the most popular among all the options.
Your stationer will most likely use an advanced industrial-grade printer. Digital printing usually requires normal printing ink to transfer your wedding stationery design onto paper. For digitally printed wedding stationery, your cost is most likely due to the materials used and the stationer’s time.
Top tip: If going for digital printing, why not invest in beautiful paper to elevate the look?
Letterpress printing is the oldest form of printing and my favourite among all the printing options available. It’s more expensive than digital printing mainly because of its labour-intensive process and the needed specialist tools and materials.
Your stationer will engage a platemaker who will transfer your stationery design onto plates (usually made of polymer). These plates are then loaded and fixed onto an inked letterpress machine. Then design is then transferred after the plates are pressed onto the paper.
The ink used for letterpress machines is specialist rubber-based inks that dry as they get absorbed by the paper. They’re usually mixed manually to achieve your exact colour preference using a Pantone colour card.
Top Tip: Letterpress printing is all about the luxurious tactile feeling of beautiful paper. You’ll want to make the most of the detailed design pressed on it.
So, if you’re going for letterpress printing, you can’t go wrong with 100% cotton rag handmade paper. It will beautifully show your stationery design because of its ability to allow a deeper impression. If you want to make it extra fancy, you can even opt for gold foil.
Engraving is the most luxurious and unsurprisingly, the most expensive among all the options. These days, fewer specialists offer the engraving option for wedding stationery.
The process involves stamping paper with a mold (or an engraving metal plate) to leave an imprint on the paper. Ink is then applied onto the imprint and left to dry. Engraved invitations have a raised imprint on the front of the paper and a slight indentation on the back.
WEDDING STATIONERY CHECKLIST
ENGAGEMENT PARTY INVITATIONS. Celebrate your engagement by throwing a party. Kick off the celebrations and get your closest family and friends to join in the fun. This is entirely optional. Are you’re planning to have a long engagement? It’s a good way to get everyone acquainted long before your wedding celebrations begin.
BRIDESMAID PROPOSAL CARDS. Ever seen one of those “Will you be my bridesmaid” cards? Send it through the post if you want to keep it simple or be as creative as you want. Get your girls even more excited for your big day! Include your bridesmaid proposal card in a fancy box of bridesmaid treats.
SAVE THE DATE CARDS. You don’t have to send save the dates if you’re planning on a short engagement. Are you going for a destination wedding? Or do you simply want to give your guests advance notice, go ahead and do so? There’s no need to include a lot of information about your wedding. Simply let your guests know the date and location, with the details to follow. This allows them to plan ahead. They’re more likely to attend and you’ll get a higher guest turnout rate.
- Consider sending printed save the dates through the post. Save-the-date emails can sometimes get stuck in spam folders.
- You don’t want uninvited guests to turn up at your wedding. So be sure to only indicate the specific names of the people who are invited so there’s no confusion later on.
WEDDING SHOWER INVITATION AND THANK YOU CARDS. Your wedding shower is usually organised by your wedding party. So your maid of honour and your bridesmaids will most likely send the invitations out too. Don’t forget to thank them and the guests they invited with personalised wedding shower thank you cards!
REHEARSAL/WELCOME DINNER INVITATIONS. Your rehearsal dinner usually happens after the final wedding rehearsal on the evening before your wedding day. Guests generally include your closest family & friends and your wedding party. Rehearsal dinner invitations may be posted separately. Or if you want to keep things simple, include them in your wedding invitation suite.
Main Wedding Invitation Suite
The main wedding invitations and stationery suite is simply everything. Everything you send your wedding guest along with the main wedding invitation. Traditionally, a wedding invitation suite includes the main invitation. Maybe a response card with a self-addressed return envelope, and some postage, all neatly packed in an envelope.
However, as weddings have evolved from short simple affairs to more elaborate weekend celebrations, so have wedding stationery. Not sure where to start? Here’s a brief overview of what you might want to include in yours.
ENVELOPES (outer and inner). The outer envelope is traditionally the one that has the name/s and address of the recipient printed in plain text. It’s left plain and simple because its main purpose is to protect the inner envelope during shipping/handling. The inner envelope then remains presentable when the recipient opens the actual wedding invitation suite.
The inner envelope is where the magic starts. With the protection of an outer envelope, you can seal the inner envelope. Use fancy embellishments (like a wax seal with your monogram) if you like! Relax and never worry about it getting damaged while in transit. You can even have the recipient’s name hand-calligraphed to make it look extra special.
TOP TIP: The envelope address is one way to indicate how many guests you’re inviting. If you’re inviting the whole family, address the envelope using their family name “The Potters”. Is it only for a specific person or persons (or excluding their children)? Address the envelope using the guest’s/guests’ specific name/s, “Mr. Harry Potter”.
WEDDING INVITATION CARD. The main stationery and the most important of all. Even if you’re going minimalist, this is the one thing you can’t skip. But what to include inside? Here are some essentials you mustn’t forget.
- Hosts – Formal invitations indicate that the wedding will be hosted by the bride’s parents regardless of who pays for the wedding. However, hosts can also be both parents of the bride and groom, both families of the couple, or simply, just the couple.
- Bride and groom’s name – of course! Traditionally, this indicates the couple’s full names. Helpful, just in case your guest knows a few people who share the same first name. We don’t want any confusion here!
- Date and time – Formal invitations include a full spelling of the dates and times while more casual ones use numeric details. Ultimately, it’s your choice.
- Locations – Be sure to include the ceremony location/s and/or the reception location/s if they’re different. Mention one location if both ceremony and reception are going to be held at one venue or include a reception details card if not.
RECEPTION DETAILS CARD. If your wedding’s going to be held at various locations, it makes sense to include a reception details card. Is the reception for adults only? Are you having a sit-down meal? Is it more laid-back? Your reception details card should reflect the nature and formality of the event. It also gives relevant details, so guests know what to expect and can dress the part.
EVENT/VENUE MAP OR DIRECTIONS CARD. This is common for destination weddings whereby the celebration happens over several days and at different locations. However, it’s also useful if your wedding is going to be held over various areas of one big venue.
RESPONSE CARD (with SELF-ADDRESSED ENVELOPE AND POSTAGE). What we commonly refer to as the RSVP card. It’s important for you to ensure that the guests are able to confirm some important details. This includes their names, the number of guests attending, food and dietary requirements, and any special requests/needs (ie mobility assistance).
- Assign a number to the RSVP cards and match it to the recipient on your guest list. If they miss filling in any of your required responses, it’s easy to follow up and confirm the details.
- RSVP cards offer another opportunity to clarify how many people you’re inviting. Indicate how many guests are included in the invitation and they can respond to confirm how many of those you invited can come.
- Make it easy for your guests to respond by adding boxes to tick instead of blank lines.
- Indicate a deadline for when your guests should send back their RSVPs. Four weeks before the wedding date gives you or your planner enough time to finalise details and confirm numbers for the venue, and caterers. etc
DIRECTIONS AND ACCOMMODATIONS CARD (travel info, hotel options). Provide your guests with more detailed information about the event’s logistics and various accommodation options available near your wedding venue. This is helpful especially if you have guests traveling from overseas.
WEDDING WEBSITE CARD. Almost all couples now opt to have a wedding website. It supplements the information shared with guests in their wedding invitation suite.
Top Tip: Your wedding stationery is part of your wedding story. Make sure to save extra copies for your photographer (even better if you mail it in advance).
On-the-day Wedding Stationery
WELCOME NOTE. This is usually used for destination weddings. Your welcome note contains your personal message thanking your guest/s for coming to celebrate with you. If your guests are staying within the wedding venue grounds, you may leave your welcome note in each guest’s room. It’s the first thing they’ll see when they check in. It will ensure their wedding experience starts on the right foot. Do you want to up the ante? Make your guest welcome extra special by putting your welcome note in their wedding welcome package.
TOP TIP: A wedding welcome package is usually a basket of treats to welcome your guests. But it can also include wedding weekend invitations and stationery. Think of itinerary or programme booklets to brief the guests about the celebration schedule.
WELCOME PACKAGE TAG / LABELS. Thinking of labeling? your guest treats with hand-calligraphed food labels? How about branding them with your monogram? Tags and labels are some of the best ways to add your personal touch to your wedding.
WEDDING WEEKEND ITINERARY/ PROGRAMME BOOKLET. Best for weekend celebrations or multi-day wedding celebrations. An itinerary card or programme booklet lets your guests know what to expect and the timing/location of each event.
TOP TIP: Include an illustrated venue map or wedding timeline to make your welcome package more fun.
WEDDING CEREMONY WELCOME SIGN. A welcome sign to direct guests to the ceremony space. It confirms that they’re heading to the correct location and attending the right wedding.
UNPLUGGED CEREMONY SIGN. Unplugged ceremonies are becoming more common these days and as a wedding photographer, I’m so here for it. Display the sign at the entrance of your ceremony venue. Get beautiful photos of you walking down the aisle without glowing phone screens blocking your face.
CEREMONY PROGRAMME. A guide for your guests so they can follow and appreciate your ceremony. This is important especially if your ceremony includes religious rituals. Also good if you’re doing cultural practices and you have guests who might not be familiar with them.
RESERVED SEAT CARDS/CHAIR CARDS. Keep the VIP seats free for your wedding party by adding reserved seat cards to hold their place. Want to make every guest feel a bit more special? Add chair cards to assign seats for everyone.
WEDDING RECEPTION WELCOME SIGN. A welcome sign to direct guests to the reception space. Great if your ceremony and reception spaces are in different locations or different parts of a venue.
GUESTBOOK. Have your guests sign and write a short message to congratulate you. It doesn’t have to be a book, by the way. Be as creative as you want.
RECEPTION SEATING CHART / ESCORT CARDS. These guide guests to their assigned tables and are usually positioned upon entry to the reception space. A reception seating chart is mainly a list of people sitting at each table. Escort cards are individually prepared cards (or whatever you want) that have guests’ names on them. Escort cards require more effort to make but personally, I think they’re more special. Guests can even take their escort cards with them as souvenirs from your wedding.
PLACE CARDS AND FAVOUR TAGS. Normally placed on the table to indicate where a guest should sit. It’s not only for the guest though. It’s also for the catering team to identify where the special meals should be delivered (for special dietary requirements). Make it more fun. Use a tag instead of a place card. Attach the tag to an item (like a box of French macarons) your guests can keep.
RESERVED TABLE CARDS AND TABLE NUMBER CARDS. Direct guests, so they can easily find their way to their assigned table.
MENU CARDS. A beautiful reminder to guests so they know what they’re having. This is really helpful for forgetful guests. Oh, you know! The ones who are too busy to confirm any allergies or special dietary needs before your wedding.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR WEDDING STATIONERY
Choosing your wedding stationery (or stationer) is really a matter of personal preference. While lots of factors may contribute, these are some I’d recommend you consider when choosing one.
YOUR NEEDS. If you’ve not been married before, then you might not know this. There’s a number of options you have when it comes to wedding stationery. It’s not just the actual wedding invitations and stationery! There are lots more that you can pick and choose. Don’t worry, I’ve listed them all in the succeeding checklist for you, so you don’t miss a thing.
Of course, none of it is a strict requirement. It’s your wedding and you can do whatever you want. However, it’s good to start by knowing what you need. Then add any extras that may not be as important to you.
STYLE/THEME. Make sure you’ve decided on your wedding style/theme before deciding. Your wedding stationery sets the tone for your wedding. So the design should go with the look and feel of your wedding.
BUDGET. You’ll find a lot of advice online about wedding budgets and percentage allocations. But the truth is, there’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Allocate your budget depending on which suppliers are more important to you and take it from there.
THE PERFECT MATCH. Look at the options that match the style you’re going for and the budget you have. Just like photographers, stationers can charge fees that vary greatly. This depends on their experience and their individual business expenses. The important thing is to go with someone who has an established brand and a style that suits you.