Wedding Paper 101: A Q&A on Invitations, Calligraphy and More

You’ve probably heard us say it before: our team is all about details, details, details! And if there’s one element of your wedding planning in which to implement gorgeous, to-die-for details, trust us – it’s your wedding invitation. Your wedding paper suite (including save-the-date cards, your actual invitation, place cards, thank-you notes and more) gives your guests an indication of the style, level of formality and look-and-feel of your big day. Our best advice? Do it the right way by giving it the attention it deserves! Below, we answer a handful of your biggest questions regarding your wedding invitation paper using the advice of the most talented design and calligraphy experts around.

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Q: How can paper add to a wedding’ “look and feel?”
Paper is more than just a tangible thing – it’s an experience. I have always loved the feel and texture of paper and various printing processes like letterpress. I think wedding paper is the first taste of the wedding day, and I want guests to begin the experience when they open the envelope. – Jessica Stalnaker, Empress Stationery

A: A perfect wedding invitation reflects the couple’s personality as well as the atmosphere of the wedding itself. The design choices I make for the suite mirror the overall ambiance of the wedding day. A perfect wedding suite needs a consistent design for strengthened aesthetics of the entire experience. Artistic elegance, color harmony and thoughtful design are fundamentals. Add attention to detail along with surprising and custom elements to distinguish the invitation as one-of-a-kind and 100 percent yours! – Katie Gwin, Haint Blue Collective

A: I always say is that a beautifully hand-addressed envelope is not only the “first look” to your wedding – it’s also a gift to your wedding guests. While many people have the feeling that calligraphy is an extraneous expense, I can promise you that after the wedding is over, guests will keep envelopes with their names and address on it when they look like art. It’s a joy for people to see their names expressed artistically. –Avivi Behel, The Refined Pen


Q: In what ways can calligraphy be used throughout your wedding paper?
Calligraphy has endless uses. What I love most is that adding just a simple touch of calligraphy makes the ordinary, extraordinary. Not only wedding invitations can be special; a simple thank-you note, a name on a gift, a bible verse or even a sweet post-it note to your husband or in your child’s lunch, if penned beautifully, makes it more special. –Jan Pruitt, Jan Pruitt Calligraphy

A: I love seeing weddings that not only incorporate calligraphy throughout invitations and envelopes, but also into day-of goodies such as place cards, menus and programs. A few more unique ways to utilize calligraphy throughout a wedding day include: a custom monogram or crest for the couple to cherish long after the wedding; a note to the bride or groom to be read before the ceremony; a favorite poem, quote or verse printed on a cloth backdrop or banner; and hand-written vows. –Katie Roden, Linen & Leaf

A: For me, calligraphy is first a service to the bride and her family. Having someone else handle the addressing can be a big stress reliever, especially as it is usually done when the wedding gets closer and there are showers happening and there are other things to focus on. A few things I have penned include personalized menus (each guests name inscribed on a letter-pressed menu), name tags for beautiful wraps the bride provided for her female guests for a chilly day, a 7′ high mirror with a custom menu and bridesmaid boxes with custom names. –Avivi Behel, The Refined Pen

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Q: What are the various components of a wedding suite?
A: A wedding suite is different for each client. We begin with the save-the-date card, which I think begins the design and feel of the rest of the suite. The invitation is a must, of course, and I always recommend a response card with an envelope or a postcard response. Recently, my custom clients have requested reception cards, and I LOVE them because it’s another opportunity for pretty typography and artwork. We also love adding maps, liners and ribbon to our suites when budget allows. –Jessica Stalnaker, Empress Stationery

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Q: What types of wedding paper and calligraphy “looks” are out there?
I can pen a wide range of fonts, from traditional to modern to organic, and I can most always match the font used in a suite for the addressing. I often create custom looks for brides who like to get creative. –Avivi Behel, The Refined Pen

A: The brides I work with are all so different and unique in their tastes and wedding styles. A look I have loved creating is a romantically-inspired garden suite complete with watercolor details and deckled edge paper. Just when I thought that was my favorite, I am drawn back to the classically clean lines of letterpress and serif text. That’s what I love about what I do – the paper process is always evolving, allowing each new bride a chance to make her statement in a beautiful and innovative way. –Kate Gwin, Haint Blue Collective

A: My calligraphy style tends to fall somewhere between traditional and loose or organic, which makes it quite flexible for a range of wedding styles, but I tailor it to each client. –Katie Roden, Linen & Leaf

A: Each project is unique and unfolds as it goes… that’s what I love! My ‘look’ could be described as more controlled and traditional.  A term that might be used is called pointed pen, or copperplate. Each design is very personal. When I see a full invitation suite in hand, I feel like it’s a part of me in a way, and I treasure it. –Jan Pruitt, Jan Pruitt Calligraphy

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Q: What are a few etiquette principles calligraphers abide by when hand-lettering a wedding suite?
It’s important to address people how they’d like, despite what the “rules” are. Some grandmothers prefer seeing “Grandmother” on the inside envelope, and some prefer to see their formal names. Also, if you know it’s important to someone to be addressed with a certain title, then do it. I’m all about making people feel special and honoring what is important to them. Finally, proof your list multiple times, and have someone else who knows most of the people on either side do it as well. It’s really a “miss” to pay for calligraphy and have the name be misspelled (Kelley when it should be Kelly) or incorrect in some way. –Avivi Behel, The Refined Pen

A: If possible, use each guest’s full proper name on the wedding invitation, as well as for your guest list. Also, write each word in its entirety; do not abbreviate. If ever there is a time to go all out formally, it is on a wedding invitation! As a side note, I feel the need to say, we have taken the formality out of so many social situations, that my Southern roots beg me that we should hold dearly to these three social graces: issuing a formal wedding invitation to invited guests, replying properly to any social invitation (especially to those asking for your prompt reply) and never miss the opportunity to send a hand-written thank-you note! –Jan Pruitt, Jan Pruitt Calligraphy

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Photo credit: Kelli + Daniel Taylor Photography

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