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BUILDING YOUR WEDDING SUITE SERIES: part one

PART ONE: Timelines, Budgets, and Printing Method

A wedding is, every time, a lovely expression of a couple’s story. Following the engagement is a series of tasks and to-dos that can pile quickly. Wedding Stationery, and all its moving parts, is one of the key factors during your wedding planning journey. Here are some things to consider when you are ready to tackle your wedding stationery:

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TIMELINE
Mentioned above, the wedding invitation is a key piece of the puzzle during your wedding planning. It will entail several essential factors for both you and your guests to discover. Before deciding which route you’d like to take with your stationery, a general rule of thumb timeline will be a good tool to abide by.

Save the Dates:
-mailed 6-9 months prior to the big day
-entail the couple getting married, wedding date, location of the wedding (city & state, venue if booked)

Wedding Invitations:
-mailed 8-12 weeks prior to the big day
-entail the couple getting married, wedding date & time, location of the ceremony, and details about reception, responses, and/or accommodations (more on series two)

BUDGET
There are lots of different sources that will give you an estimated budget you should allocate for stationery. Many budgets often exclude the afterthoughts wedding stationery can incur once you reach that planning mode. Here are some factors you will want to consider when planning your stationery budget:

The Nuts & Bolts
save the dates
printing method
envelope addressing or calligraphy for save the dates
postage for the save the dates
invitation suite
printing method
envelope addressing or calligraphy for wedding invitations
main postage for the wedding stationery (often higher than a typical letter)
response card postage
day-of stationery (rehearsal dinner invites, programs, menu cards, etc.)

Quantity & Guest List:
One of the first questions I ask my couples before issuing a proposal (different than the one the bride was issued) is “how many pieces will you need?,” and that is when I often receive back an “ummmm.” The general rule of thumb is to account for roughly 2/3 of your guest list. If you are inviting a total of 300 guests, you will probably need about 200 invitations.

Guest List:
You’ll want to start working on your guest list right away. If you are going to have your envelopes digitally printed, download this address template here. If you are going to have your envelopes hand-written by a calligrapher, it’s best to contact your calligrapher to ask what format you’d like your addresses. There is nothing worse than working so hard on that spreadsheet to find out the format is all wrong!

PRINTING METHOD:

flat printing

flat printing

letterpress printing

letterpress printing

Flat Printing
Flat printing is the simplest and most affordable route for printing. Your design can be printed from professional digital printers producing a highly desired look. Flat printing is great for cost reasons, but also yield certain mediums that are not achievable using other methods. Flat printing is great if you have any sort of graphics, like watercolor or various colors. Whereas letterpress printing prints opaque, solid colors and appeal best to more line art, sketch type of graphics.

Letterpress Printing & Foil Printing
Letterpress printing, contrasting from flat printing, is considered a high-end printing medium. Letterpress printing is more labor intensive and costly than flat printing, but appreciated for its tactile impression it leaves in its textured, thicker papers. Like Letterpress Printing, gold foil is also a high-end printing method, as its labor and set up is more intensive and costly. Gold foil can be mixed with letterpress printing and flat printing and comes in various colors (black, gold, rose gold, silver, white, and more).  

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Should I Send Out Save the Dates?
Save the dates can be extremely helpful to those who have large wedding parties, wedding parties located in several different cities or states, or for the couple wanting to set the tone and formality of the wedding early on.

Save the Dates include the following information:
-the couple to marry (last names included)
-the wedding date
-the location of the wedding: if the venue has not been decided, you can include the city & state) -wedding website: wedding websites are often included on the save the dates to inform guest about the upcoming event (wedding websites are NOT included on the main invitation)

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Stay tuned for part two in this four part “Building Your Wedding Suite Series”
part two | the wedding invitation basics

LETTERPRESS PRINTING | behind the scenes

TODAY'S HISTORY LESSON:
Way back when, any type of writing that was "mass produced" was simply written by hand, over and over. Books, manuscripts, etc. There was no assembly line, no machinery driven printers. Can you imagine? During the mid 15th century, Johannes Gutenberg got his thinking cap on in efforts to solve this issue. ...and boy am I glad he did.

"WHO IS JOHANNES GUTENBERG?" ...the only Jeopardy question I've ever gotten right.

Gutenberg invented the method of letterpress printing. Using metal casted letters, ink, and pressure, text was able to become mass produced! Imagine how you use a simple wooden stamp. An image or word was made in to a stamp by hand carving or laser etched. You tap the stamp on an ink pad, then stamp it on paper. It's a similar conceptual process. Metal letters, carved linoleum, or wood blocks are placed inside a press. Rollers are inked to cover the raised surface of your type or block cuts, paper is pressed on to the inked surface of your text/block leaving an impression in your paper. In opposition to modern day digital and offset printing, letterpress printing holds a timeless appreciate for the one-of-a-kind art is truly is. 

WHAT GOES BEHIND THE SET UP?

There are all different types of letterpress printers. I run a Chandler and Price platen press (below). It's about 100 years old and I can work this one better than my Best Buy Epson printer. 

Many printmakers still use what's called moveable type, cast iron letters that you set in to place to form your word, sentence, paragraph, etc. 

ONE COLOR AT A TIME

You mix your ink just like you'd mix paint. You can patch just about any pantone color or even order a custom pantone match. Each color is run separately. So if you have 100 invitations with two colors, you'll set up the first color and artwork, run 100 of that color. Clean your press. Mix the second color. Set up that run, then print the second color. ...totally 200 runs.

Once your materials are set up in the press, you can test your impressions, color, etc. and then get to work! My particular press runs off of a motor. There's a clam-shell action that happens where the paper reaches the inked type and stamps or impresses it in the paper. There's a quick scene in this video that shows the press running. 

Letterpress is simply appreciated for it's tactile impression it leaves in the paper. You cannot deny its method against digital and offset printing. It truly does stand on its own.

CHANGING TIMES

Over the years, there have been a number of ways to transfer text and imagery to a press bed. Moveable type is still commonly used for many printmakers. However, polymer plates (or other similar materials) are often used for its ease and flexibility. Using laser-casted polymer plates allow any vector, created with fonts or from the sketchbook, to become a printable plate. This is great for handlettering, hand-drawn imagery, and graphically designed pieces to originate the final piece.

The above photo is a letterpress printed piece that began as a sketch. The sketch was digitized and formatted to be made in to a polymer plate. The plate was then set up in the press, similar to the way moveable type is set up, then printed. 

Of course, there are 100 steps in between. There's ink mixing, color matching, press setting, packing backers to set, gauge pins to line up, paper to measure, etc. etc. etc.

For anyone in the market for letterpress printed work, this is a good insight to the setup and labor that happens prior and during printing. It's surely a labor of love that stands as an art in its own.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT
some phrases we can credit to letterpress

Mind your p's and q's: When setting casted, movable type, you set the letters from left to right, upside down in order for the type to mirror and read correctly on the paper. You'd be surprise what your eyes will fix for you as you read backwards printed letters. This is where the phrase originated from. ....same goes for b's and d's. 

Uppercase & Lowercase: Casted, movable type is arranged in type drawers. There's a little spot for each handful of A's, B's, C's and so fourth. The capital letters were found in the upper case drawer slot and the non-capital letters in the lower. 

FIVE TASKS & TIPS FOR YOUR WEDDING STATIONERY TO-DO

1) SET A DATE & VENUE
Before you venture over to your stationery to-do-list, you need to have some of the big things checked off first. Your date, venue(s), and ceremony and reception time need to be decided upon. If you are sending out save the dates, you only need to confirm your date. Keep in mind though that your date often depends on certain venue availability. 

2) ALLOCATE A BUDGET
Brides have an endless amount of options for wedding stationery. ...local stationery shops, etsy business owners, the Pinterest-inspired DIY bride. No matter the route, whether it's in hiring a professional designer or opting to invest your own time, stationery is just that - an investment. Brides often budget for $800-1200 for wedding stationery. The best thing you can do is give yourself a comfortable number and let that budget determine the "must haves." It may be that letterpress printed stationery is really important to you or that you KNOW you want to have the envelopes addressed in calligraphy. Establish a budget and work backwards to get the best of what you can get with that number.

3) ESTABLISH YOUR AESTHETIC
The aesthetics involved in your wedding stationery should be intentional. The ink color, the paper choice, the assembly ...it all represents the type of wedding celebration your guests will expect to attend. For example, you may not want a super traditional or over-the-top formal invitation for a backyard soireé. You'd probably want to lean towards the more casual side. These decisions are often inspired by your color schemes, an overall feel or mood you want to create, etc. You're going to want to have a general direction of where you want your stationery to take you.

4) TIMELINE
You typically want to mail your invitations 8-12 weeks before your wedding. If you opt for save the dates, you typically send those roughly 8-12 months prior to the wedding or as soon as your date and venue is set. If you are investing in a professional designer to create your stationery. You'd want to allow at least a few months of planning. You also want to make sure you give yourself or your calligrapher enough time to address your envelopes. The sooner the better is usually key here.

5) COORDINATE YOUR DAY-OFF PIECES
Once the save the dates have been sent and the wedding invitations printed, there are still some lingering after-math pieces to keep in mind. There is nothing better than a series of paper goods intertwined through out your wedding that all compliment each other. Some of the items you may want to think about including for the day off are you programs, menu cards, place cards, thank you notes, or even a special print or card to use as wedding favors or a special gift to a family member.


PERSONAL PREFERENCES AND TIPS 


PURCHASE A CUSTOM ADDRESS STAMP
A custom address stamp is super affordable and has a multitude of uses. If you purchase this stamp early enough, you can begin using this stamp for thank you notes after showers and as your return address on save the dates, shower venues, and celebrations. You can also use this stamp for the return address on your wedding stationery and/or your recipient address for your response card's return back to you. ...then of course all of your snail mail post wedding stationery.

STAMPS & POSTAGE
Try to find a stamp that coordinates with your stationery. The post office usually has some ...ehh "generic" wedding stamps. I would recommend opting for a custom stamp.  ...even better, use a vintage stamp collection if you can. You can find vintage stamps on eBay by seaching "unused uncanceled stamps." 

IMPORTANT: Ask your postman (or woman) to hand meter your envelopes. Otherwise, you'll end up with those ugly black lines at the bottom of your envelope. That's a good way to make your calligrapher cry. 

WEDDING WEBSITES
Wedding websites are a fantastic way to have your guests updated on the latest wedding news, allow for accommodations, and even allowing your guest to rsvp in advance. Opt for your own domain name. Domain names are super affordable, you can usually create one for about $10 for a whole year. As a stationery designer, I know www.TheJohnsonsBigDay.com looks way nicer than www.Name/us/SomeVenue/somethingelse.com ...don't you think?

PACK YOUR STATIONERY TO THE WEDDING
Everyone should have a really great photo of their stationery. Go ahead and pack your stationery suite in your wedding day bag to have the photographer snap a great shot of that pretty paper. 

FRAME YOUR INVITATION
Your invitation, along with your dress and maybe some heirlooms are one of just a few tactile things you'll actually preserve from your wedding day. The first anniversary calls for "paper." Frame your wedding invitation as an anniversary gift to remind yourself and your spouse why you chose one another. Maybe write a hand written note to keep on the back side of the frame.