Q&A: 7 Do’s and Don’ts for choosing your Wedding Invitations

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The modern couple has so much choice when it comes to wedding stationery that it can be overwhelming.  Wedding invitations come in every shape, colour, style, and theme under the sun, and often my clients come to me for custom work because they can’t narrow down their choices!  With that in mind, I wanted to present a few things every couple should do (and not do) when choosing their wedding stationery (or stationer!)

 

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This couple was excited to have their invitations reference time they had spent in the military, communicating by written letters.

DO make decisions based on what is important to you.

When you’re planning a wedding, I know there are lots of people to please – family, friends, and of course each other! Because wedding invitations are fraught with potential etiquette missteps and traditions, they can be a particular source of friction between a couple and their close family. Often couples end up feeling forced to choose invitations that don’t reflect their preference to make someone else happy.

At the end of the day, the invitations should reflect as much as you want them to about you as a couple, and your wedding day.  If you don’t want invitations at all, then that’s OK – you do you! If you want invitations that are more casual and relaxed, that’s also OK – there is no need for super traditional wording or design if that isn’t what makes you happy.  Maybe you adore paper good and design, and you want something over the top – go for it!  What your guests may or may not think about your invitations is not something you should consider when picking them, partially because people are fickle and partially because their opinion on the design isn’t really that important.

If invitations aren’t that important to you (IE you want that money to go towards a killer reception band or your honeymoon instead!) and they are really important to your parents or future spouse’s parents, then I would urge you to consider a compromise that makes you feel good. Perhaps a simple invitation card will be enough to satisfy following tradition and help those guests who don’t use a computer, and a great wedding website or app will make you feel like you’ve set the right tone with your technology-literate guests.** Worried about the environmental impact of your wedding? Invitations can be printed with soy-based inks on recycled paper for a win-win.  Talking through this stuff calmly while protecting the things you feel really strongly about will help everyone feel good about the result.

Don’t mistake my advice here for a carte blanche to have a zilla moment or declare it’s your way or the highway – politeness is really important, and being assertive about your wishes is NOT the same as declaring an ultimatum.  If you can be clear about your wants and the reasons behind them, it can be much easier to compromise without either side feeling like you’re giving anything up.

 

Katie and Phillip loved the invites we came up with so much, they carried this design over into their reception decor.

Katie and Phillip loved the invites we came up with so much, they carried this design over into their reception decor.

DO work with vendors you trust!

This may seem a bit obvious but is not something I carefully considered when I was planning my own wedding. I was so concerned about what everything cost, and how to throw a wedding we really couldn’t afford with our budget, that I made decisions solely on past portfolio and whether it fit in our budget. In hindsight, someone like me would have vastly benefited from a wedding planner to bring vendors to my attention that I could afford and trust.

Working with great vendors means that you can a) relax during the process because you know things are going to be taken care of and b) come to them with ideas and know that the result will be even better than you imagined. I want to give a particular shoutout to the vendors who worked with this couple recently featured on Capitol Romance – they had their wedding during recent Winter Storm Jonas and their vendors made it happen! When you work with vendors you trust, your money goes even further because included in their services is peace of mind.***

Online stationery companies are pretty great about offering samples – take them up on it! This will either help you feel good about your decision to use them, or be a red flag that the quality isn’t what you were looking for.  Either way, you’re in better shape!

 

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Angela, a former graphic designer, had some common themes running through her inspiration images that made it simple to assemble a suite that hit the right notes.

DO collect ideas and inspiration you love.

Followed by the obvious: DON’T ask your stationer to copy someone else’s work.  If a particular vendor isn’t available on the timeline you need, or you are in love with a design that is just not in your budget, it is not OK to ask another stationer to replicate a design by someone else.

If you see a design you love, I ask my clients to think about what exactly they love about the suite – is it the elegant style? The choice of lettering or font? The printing process? The colours, or one particular detail like a vellum wrap or wax seal?  Collecting several images that you love for a particular reason helps me as a designer narrow down the vibe you’re looking for in your stationery, and present you with the best possible design match!

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There is no “theme” to this wedding invitation – it is simple and elegant, and most importantly legible in a soft grey!

DON’T feel obligated to be matchy-matchy or have a “theme”.

Wedding colours are great – they help you make all kinds of decisions from wedding party attire to florals, to linens at your reception. But nowhere does it say they MUST be included in your wedding stationery!  Going back to my first point – if you want something to be there, then great.  But feel free to let your invitations be as simple or elaborate as you want.

This goes doubly for people who have beautiful soft pastel colours for their accents – you don’t have to choose mint or blush ink for your invitations just because your bridesmaids will be wearing them because it is REALLY hard to read. A suite can be just as stunning with mostly black (or navy, or grey) text and a tiny splash of colour somewhere as one that shouts your wedding colours from the rooftops.

 

Anne and Ali had a fun and relaxed wedding, and wanted their invitations to reflect that!

Anne and Ali had a fun and relaxed wedding, and wanted their invitations to reflect that!

DO think about setting the stage for your wedding.

This is the one place where your guests’ reactions to your suite is important – let your invitations set the right tone for your wedding day! If you’re planning a glamorous black tie event and you send very casual invitations, your guests will likely be very confused and possibly show up in inappropriate attire. If you’re going to have an outdoor reception with barbecue and lawn games, then an element of playful wording or design will help your guests expect that, and show up ready to enjoy it.

Guests at a wedding do like to feel comfortable, and the right tone for your invitations can make sure they are in the perfect frame of mind to celebrate your marriage, however you’re envisioning it.

 

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Photo credit Stephanie Messick Photography. Emily and James chose wording that worked for them, and their families, for their stylish wedding.

DON’T follow etiquette rules that make you uncomfortable.

There are a ton of conventions about wording, and how people should be addressed. If those rules are important to you, great! If they don’t fit your situation or feel unnecessary or outdated to you, then don’t use the convention.  It’s as simple as that.

I would suggest that where possible, you should address people as they would like to be addressed – if your widowed grandmother is very proud to receive mail as Mrs. John Smith and not Mrs. Jeannie Smith than I would try and honor her wishes rather than insist based on your own.

A sidenote here: please do find out the names of Plus Ones whenever possible, check spellings carefully, and do take the time to find out whether a woman is changing her name after marriage or not. Receiving an invitation addressed to the wrong name is fairly insulting, and probably not what the sender intended.

 

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Jessy and David worked through several revisions, with lots of questions, to get a product they were thrilled with!

DO ask questions!

When in doubt, we’re here for you! Vendors work around weddings year round, and I am happy to give you the benefit of my advice and experience. If you’re not sure about the etiquette or what is typical, or if you are stuck on making decisions it is more than possible I have worked with someone before who has had the same issue. Yet another reason to work with vendors you trust!

 

** If this is the case, please do NOT email me with the phrase “I really would rather send an email but my mom wants paper invitations.” (True story.) If that is the case, there are many other places you can get invitations without me! Since I totally respect your decision to not want paper invitations as your choice, please respect my time and my passion for my work!

*** I once told a couple as we were designing their programs that if they couldn’t find a cousin or usher to hand them out on the wedding day, I would show up do it myself.  And I did.

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