What Is Custom Wedding Stationery?
The questions I get asked most often by my couples is: “What exactly is custom wedding stationery?”
The simple answer is that custom stationery is exactly what it suggests: these are wedding invitations that are designed from scratch, tailored to you and your wedding, from colors to paper to design to calligraphy to illustrations and more.
I’ll put it a different way:
Using a online or store big-box invitation retailer is like renting a house. Everything is ready for you to move in, and you can change the paint if you’re feeling up to it, but that’s about it. It is what it is.
Custom stationery, on the other hand, is like building your dream home. Not only do you get to choose the color of your walls, but you get to pick the number of bedrooms, what kind of hardware you want for your kitchen cabinets, and what design style best fits you and your family. You even get to pick the lot your house sits on.
Custom sounds exciting, right? That’s because it is! (And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep reading. I’ll get into that next!)
What Goes Into Custom Stationery?
The next question I get asked most often is: “What’s the difference between what you do and what a big-box online retailer does…and why is your price higher?”
First, it’s important to understand what goes into custom stationery.
Custom stationery works from the ground up. I’ll work with you to help you pick out paper, a style of printing (letterpress, foil stamping, digital printing, etc.), and envelope colors that fit your budget. We’ll chat about calligraphy or fonts, and whether one jives more with your wedding theme than the other. I may give you several options to choose from so that you can see what matches your style and budget best!
So, where do you start? How long does the process take? What can you expect from me, as a custom invitation designer?
Let’s assume you’ve already sent out your save the dates, but you want something a little more YOU for your invitations: something personalized to fit the two of you, that shouts from the rooftops, “We’re getting married and we’re so excited to invite you to our wedding!”
Here’s what a typical custom invitation design timeline looks like:
7 months out from your wedding day: You send me an email (subject line: “I want you to design some awesome wedding invitations for us!”). I get excited and send you a short questionnaire that outlines the basics of what you want. (View that form here!) <- link: https://hello.dubsado.com/form/view/5a94e82f7df6f6562ea378c7
6 months from your wedding: After we decide on a vision for your invitations (are we going with a modern letterpress look, or a watercolor foiled dream?), I’ll get to creating! My custom invitations include 2 design options per piece in your suite, and you’ll get 2 free revisions included!
4-5 months from your wedding: This is when I’ll start working on the custom bits of your design. If you’re adding an illustrated map card to your invitation suite, I’ll begin researching the area your wedding will be held in and sketching out your map locations. If you’re looking for specialty printing on acrylic, I’m sourcing those pieces. Need a special color for your ribbon belly band? I’m dying those babies by hand. What about adding a unique stroke of paint to each invitation? You guessed it: I’m doing that by hand just for you.
4 months from your wedding: This is when we need to chat about your day-of pieces! Day-of pieces include place cards, menus, signage, programs, welcome letters, and any special pieces you’ll be including on your big day. Don’t forget to add on thank-you cards as well, so you can have them in time for your wedding – this will make it so easy to thank your friends and family right after your honeymoon!
3-4 months from your wedding: This is the general timeframe that your pieces will need to be approved by. Depending on the type of invitations you get, production can take 2-6 weeks. Production times take into account ordering your paper, printing, and gathering up specialty items for your suites.
3 months from your wedding: After your pieces are done being printed, I’ll start addressing your envelopes in calligraphy! Generally speaking, 100 envelopes takes about 1 week to complete. Assembly will happen after your calligraphy is complete, which means I’ll start putting all of your invitation pieces into their envelopes. For 100 invitations, assembly alone can take 4-6 hours from start to finish!
6-8 weeks from your wedding: It’s Happy Dance Time: you’re done with your wedding invitations and this is the time frame to mail them in! I typically encourage my couples to send their invitations from their local post office (you know, to make sure they all get mailed!), but I’m happy to mail them myself! You’ll get a little video of your invitations dropping in the mail, which is almost as neat as doing it yourself.
2-3 weeks from your wedding day: Your RSVP’s should be coming in, but that also means I’m in a serious relationship with your day-of pieces. Day-of pieces are generally delivered in the days leading up to your wedding to make sure we include those last-minute RSVP’s!
What Are Some Examples of Custom Stationery You Can Create?
This is always a fun question! My favorite pieces have all been custom pieces, because there is so much thought and love that goes into these suites. Some examples of my favorite are:
Incorporating your pets into your stationery! I love adding illustrations of your pups and kitties into the liner of your mailing envelopes or postage stamp.
Venue illustrations, monograms, and crests are a fantastic way to make a statement that can be carried throughout your entire wedding theme! These elements are not only super fun (and your guests will love them), but they’re versatile and can be used on your signage, programs, and even your aisle runner, bar lights or dance floor projection!
Looking for something other than paper? Printing on unique materials is another great way to wow your guests. Printing white ink on acrylic invitations is a modern and Pinterest-worthy choice for your invitations, as is using materials like fabric!
If luxe is your jam, let’s create invitation folios for each of your guests! These are hard-bound, fabric-covered, ribbon-closing booklets that hold your invitation and other details. You’ll get one of these as an invitation client of mine, but your guests will feel like royalty when they get their own in the mail!
Mixing your theme into your invitations is always a surefire way to make your invitations your own. We can use silver foil on dark blue paper to play up a celestial theme. Looking for something romantic for your winery nuptials? We can add some blind debossed, hand-illustrated grapevines behind your invitation wording!
In the end, the best custom pieces are the ones that mean something to you as a couple. Remember, the sky is the limit and I’m always up for a challenge – tell me your crazy ideas!
The Custom Invitation Price Tag
After you understand custom stationery a little bit more, it makes sense that the pricing structure is higher than big-box retailers. Is custom for everyone? As much as I wish it was, it’s not – some budgets simply can’t accommodate custom wedding stationery and that’s totally okay!
I’ll never tell you which parts of your wedding to cut to make room for custom invitations, because honestly, it’s all up to you as a couple. You’re totally able to decide what’s most important to you on your wedding day!
However, for the couple who finds joy in opening invitations to their friends’ weddings, or appreciates the tangible beauty of invitations in today’s digital world, custom invitations are a must.
Custom carries a price tag, it’s true…but the final product is priceless, especially considering that your invitations are technically a piece of art created just for you!
If you’re recently engaged or deep in planning your wedding, chances are that you want to personalize your wedding day, making it a special event that you and your guests will remember for the rest of your lives. And since your invitations are the first impression your guests will have of your wedding, why not make an impact with custom stationery?
A Few Parting Tips
I like to leave these little pearls of wisdom where I can to help ease your mind about timelines, postage, and those other pesky tidbits you may not think about…because knowing these is my job and what I live for!
Tip #1: Reach out 7-10 months out from your wedding to ensure I can fit you in my custom schedule. The sooner you reach out, the better! That will help you avoid any design or printing rush charges, encourage a smooth process, and generally keep you less stressed!
Tip #2: There ain’t no limit to the things you can do with custom stationery…except your budget. Don’t be afraid to communicate with me about your desires and your budget! You may think you won’t be able to afford whatever it is you want, but you never know what suggestions I have to accommodate your requests. We stationers can pull rabbits out of hats sometimes!
Tip #3: When you get in contact with me about creating custom pieces, it’s so important to have an idea of what you’re looking for. Send me inspiration! Send me a Pinterest board with 5-10 images of stationery and anything else you’re planning for your wedding! Tell me you want to incorporate your pup or kitty in your invitations and I’ll love you forever. Be as specific as possible with your design requests.
Tip #4: Remember to factor postage into your invitation budget. I include a line item for postage in my proposals, but not all stationers do. If you’re working with another stationer, be sure to ask them to include postage or prepare yourself to do the leg work yourself.
Tip #5: Speaking of postage, remember the 3 Golden Rules of Mailing Invitations.
Rule 1: The more pieces in your invitation suite (invite, reply card + envelope, details card, map card, etc.), the more it will cost to mail.
Rule 2: Square envelopes automatically cost more. There’s no way around this.
Rule #3: Take your finished invitation suite, envelope and all, to the post office you’ll be mailing from. Have them weigh it and tell you how much postage will cost for each piece. That’s the only way to guarantee you’ll buy enough postage for your pieces!
About Holly, designer and calligrapher behind Sablewood Paper Company
Holly may be a newer resident of Seattle, but she isn’t a stranger to design and calligraphy. She began learning calligraphy at age 7, but put her pens away to pursue an award-winning career in graphic design. She founded Sablewood Paper Company in 2015 after teaching herself pointed pen calligraphy, combining her love of letters with her passion for design into a calligraphy and bespoke wedding invitation studio. Her invitations and calligraphy are inspired by European architecture, minimalist designs that stand the test of time, and classical music.
Most recently, Sablewood Paper Company was named the Seattle Bride Magazine’s Editor’s Pick for Best Invitations of 2018. Her work has been featured in many publications, including Martha Stewart Weddings, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Junebug Weddings, and more.
Holly gets her daily caffeine fix from Coke Zero and Dr Pepper, loves Broadway musicals, and enjoys woodworking. When she isn’t designing, Holly can be found writing her novel (which won runner-up in a contest), adding to her book collection, or antique shopping. She lives with her sweet husband and their two cats in their cute little 1950’s home, tucked away in the suburbs.
To see more from Sablewood Paper Company, click HERE!