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August 31, 2020

So let's talk stationery, you are engaged, and much to plan. Amidst the world of the curious web, invitations have never been so accessible and affordable. Online services enable choice, purchase simplicity and a myriad of designs with various finishes. Vista Print offer foil touches, premium recyclable matt paper and linen texture, and for under £50. Hardly surprising that the barometer is rising, when it comes to making a winning choice.

Unless you are the type of person who is happy to arrive at a party wearing the same outfit as someone else steer clear from mass-produced wedding invitations.

What it is right for you?
It is only right that marrying the person you love is given importance. Weddings are different from other events – whether creating a slick urban vibe or a charming country garden statement – start as you mean to go on. You want your guests to know this. What are the opinions when choosing invitations? Should you decide on the quick and perceptively easy online purchase? Or would you benefit from a local wedding stationery designer to step up? A seemingly expensive option – right? Perhaps family are chipping in with the w-bill – and there you dip into family flashpoints. Have you considered doing-it-yourself? Can you squeeze in more commitments to your already busy calendar? How do you access gorgeous stationery that balances your finances, creates seamless planning yet reveals your good taste?

As early as possible, gather samples, from literally every supplier, for a small fee. Start with the invitations already received, even amongst your group of friends and family. Seeing and feeling will be your pinch. What do you like about them? How do they make you feel? Cringe? Excitement? A wedding invitation has to do a big job.

A little guide to print
Online services can turn around a product super quickly – it's the go-to place in the first instance. This revolution is a technological divergence from off-the-shelf-blank, cards-in-packs once the affordable alternative to a local print shop during the 20th Century and early part of this century. Local print shops would have a physical catalogue brimming with the latest designs – thermograph and lithograph with gold foil, debossed and embossed features. 

Thermo powder is sprinkled onto the wet ink of your design, then exposed to extreme temperatures of up to 704C. The melting of the powder-ink mixture rises as it cools it creates a raised tactile finish with a beautiful glossy sheen. 

Today the online market is intense – and the saturation and low prices have undervalued aspects of the design and the traditional print profession. 

Laserjet printing is the most versatile print method – it enables you to truly personalise your design because you can add guest names onto each piece, such as the invitations, reply cards and small enclosures. Key for your planning. But the standard home printer does have print limitations – the usual output is a maximum of 300gsm – this will make invitations feel insignificant. The use of appropriate paper and card is essential. Adding a bit of creative trickery, just like that, will increase the feel. Apply découpage – this technique of layering coloured card with special paint effects, gold leaf and other decorative elements will volumise your pieces. 

Alternatively, a beautiful calligraphy letter on 170gsm parchment paper – delicately folded with a belly band then sent as an invite – adds interest.

Some uncoated papers are naturally compatible with digital printing, for consistent results, take time to experiment with soft sheen varieties too.

What are the options for wedding invitations
What paper is best for wedding invites? There is no right or wrong answer. Using 300gsm card is an absolute minimum for an invitation to upgrade to a slightly heavier card of 350gsm would cost a few pence. And anything less than 300gsm will appear limp and feel flimsy – giving the appearance of a leaflet. If you care little about impressions, then so be it. Nevertheless, an invitation does manage the expectations of the recipient. 

Using thick boards above 350gsm will add a premium to your bill. This gives a less flexible print technique for personalisation. You will have to use a specialist stationery printer. The thick boards (>500gsm) perfect for letterpress and foil print techniques – a plate is created as a one-off. Then the design is ‘kissed’ (stamped) onto the board using coloured ink. This glorious print finish is perfect for invitations and order of services. The metallic foil is applied to a prepared heated die – the impression of your design permanently adheres to the surface. 

Autumnal bespoke design, white matt foil on G.F. Smith, Colorpan Navy 500gsm

This technique, whilst stunning, is only cost-effective with a large run. If you are having a small wedding and require separate invitations for the daytime and the evening, a plate is created for both, as the print press warms into action set up charges and waste which also be a factor. For this technique personalisation of guest, names are only possible with a calligraphy pen. Simple and elegant!

Lily Anna Rose archive 2008, Boelyn ready-to-write wedding invitations

Ready-to-write is by far the small-fee option. Japanese dots (not an exotic feature) are simply guidelines with blank spacing to aid with the laborious task of handwriting guest names and wedding details on individual cards (hopefully your future mother-in-law will help here).

Good quality cards, accompanied by beautiful calligraphy art, ready-to-write stationery cards can stand-alone as a winning combination – it is personalised and therefore individual. 

And whilst the economical on the scale will not set any roofs alight, they will act as a suitable vehicle to send your guests attendance details – job complete! 

Whilst do-it-yourself increased in popularity, do your homework – the perception of making hand-crafted wedding stationery as a cost saver – remarkably underestimated!

Products_2019_14-(1).jpgHandcrafted layered wedding invitations from the Lily Anna Rose, Maurice collection

How can you make cheap invites look expensive?
Invest either the time, creativity or money? Authentic print, exceptional design, quality service and the thickness of the paper – are ingredients for individually – unless you are happy to arrive at a party wearing the same outfit as someone else!

What's in an invite?
BBC Radio 4 presenter Rachel Hurdley, interviewed Peter York, Writer and Co-Author of The Sloane Ranger Handbook (first published in 1982) for The Hidden History of the Mantelpiece. During the 1980s the upper middle-classes would display carefully curated luxurious objects on the most revealing space in the home – the mantelpiece. Decoding the social status an elegantly printed invitation often called a 'stiffy' were very important. Proudly exhibited amongst the Chinese vases, neoclassical obelisk and canine ornaments. Peter explains, "They showed that the great world loves you and invites you. So what you want is glorious wedding invitations from people of undoubted importance.

Even when an event was just a distant memory. Peter explains "Invitations gathered dust – if glamorous why take them [invitations] down? They’re not just to remind you to go to a place – but to remind you that you’ve been to it [the place]. And to remind other people”.

Today, a mantelpiece would be an aspiration for your invitation to be adorned, and if not a mantel than the fridge door. But never a closed drawer.

Cycle of life for the future
Over the past few decades Lily Anna Rose have experimented with materials – the aim that whilst we work on the conception, the product must offer end-of-life, as part of its course. The paper must be durable, recyclable and stylish. All this from paper? Yes! Lily Anna Rose has no longer use any materials such as vinyl foam tapes for decoupage techniques unless sourced from products that can be recycled. Instead, we have found an effective way of producing wedding stationery – reducing materials and printing.

Washy tapes, recyclable paper bags along with tissue paper is the only way for packaging stationery orders – this is a must moving forward, to help reduce unnecessary resources.

How much should be budgeted for wedding stationery?
A frequent question presented during a consultation is: 'how much should be budgeted for wedding invites when using a local stationery designer? There is no straight forward answer. You can spend from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand. The simple reason for the disparity is due to the materials and complexity of orders. The design service, consultation (with tea and biscuits) and 24/7 connectivity to the designer, quality of product remain uncompromised regardless, and no matter what you spend, both doing their job thoroughly.

Claire Turner in the studio looking at paper swatches

Although the perception of a stationery designer to produce a bespoke collection may sound expensive, here are two illustrations: 

A typographic design (with a licence for clipart floral watercolour painting), with a simple scripted monogram on a 300gsm, folded card with insert. Bundled with the invitation set is a response card, blank envelopes (for clients to write themselves), an information sheet and each card personalised with guests names. The price for a mix of both 30 daytime ceremony and 30 evening reception is £357.00. To produce this wedding set was one digital print process.

​In contrast, the following bespoke design had at five print processes: A5 pocket folder on 400gsm card with an intricate die-cut information card. Lithograph with Pantone ink, printed on an invitation and A6 reply card with menu choice options – all personalised. Foil monogram design on folder and information card, foil printed reply address on the response envelope. Calligraphy was written on a hand-made envelope and on the invitation and a licence purchased for the artwork from a stock image library. The total order took 20 hours of design and assembly. Per piece was £27.00 for 100 daytime invitations and 30 evening reception invitations.

Products_2019_57.jpgLxurious wedding invitation set, inspired by Goodwood House

Be our guest at Lily Anna Rose for a chat
No matter what you decide is the right decision. Mmake sure it works for your planning requirements and don't forget the envelopes, as these can be pretty special too. For a consultation, call +44(0)7788 577468

Wedding stationery jargon
Small enclosure – this is for brief information which may include the reception address if this is different from the ceremony venue.

Response card or R.S.V.P. (revenez s'il vous plaît) – indicates a guest response and can include menu choices and food allergies.

For the convenience of your guests – pre-filling a return address is etiquette whilst including paid postage on the response envelope ensures the recipient will acknowledge swiftly for your convenience.

Styling by Claire Turner, model Sophia Brewer

Digitally printed layered wedding invite bundle