Before I claimed to be a writer of any kind, my career began as a graphic designer; as early as 8 years old, I was busy messing around with PrintShop Deluxe and a noisy dot matrix printer. Over the years I’ve worked for in-house departments, advertising agencies, and ran my own boutique firm for six years. If you’re also in marketing or design, you’ll enjoy this wedding invitation tale. If you’ve never had a lick of graphic experience in your life, I’m hoping this story gives you an idea of where to start and how to do it yourself.
Sketch Your Ideas Early – They Will Evolve Over Time.
When we got engaged, I didn’t respond by saying “yes,” I responded with “abso-fucking-lutely!” This is a testament to who I am (a sophisticated lady who swears a lot) and the laughs we share regularly as a couple.
My now husband is a bit more conservative than I am, and so my first idea was to really push the boundaries and brazenly tell our engagement story with big, fat, juicy typography. I began sketching ideas about 8 months before our wedding day and drew a few type-only designs that shouted this story loudly in color and in size (see below). But, knowing our color palette had yet to be established (the only thing we had at that point was a venue), I let those concepts brew quietly in the back of my sketchbook.
While choosing bridesmaid dresses, we also decided on a navy and coral color set for our wedding theme. I fell in love with design accents like chevron, champagne-like bubbles, and thick serif lettering. And as I pulled ideas from Pinterest over and over I couldn’t see through the thick piles of pins as to how to pull these elements together.
There were a couple of trends that emerged from the fog: an airmail theme and a passport theme. Both nailed the destination wedding aspect through visual messaging of symbols like planes, airplane tickets, and obviously passport books and stamps. On the airmail side, and since our colors were red and blue (essentially) the airmail idea was super cute, but most of the stuff that came through was for a boy’s baby shower. Meh. The passport designs were a bit lack luster as well, but the simplicity of a bi-fold card resonated with me because I’m not a fan of the thick, many-layered envelope, pocket folder, stick this card here, tie that ribbon there invitation. It’s too much work to assemble and I’m not getting married to lose my mind!
Still suffering from the deafening walls of Pinterest boards, I finally said “fuck it,” closed my laptop, and grabbed the sketch pad. Allowing my pencil to do the thinking for me, the passport concept emerged into view.
Create Your Wedding Logo.
It could be as simple as J & S in a circle with an extra thin line on the outside, or it could be more specific to your theme; maybe you’re having a Star Wars wedding and the Millennium Falcon silhouette is the only thing that matters. Whatever the symbols, shapes, and lettering, begin designing your logo by choosing smaller assets and then try to bring them together in a handful of concepts. Once you have this little gem, it will inform the typography choices made across the invitation as well as other elements to include on the back of the invite, the RSVP card, and even your table numbers. One less thing to think about!
Detailed online research: I went on a few stock design websites like iStockphoto.com and searched for things like “passport stamp” and “travel icons” to get a better idea of how to bring together things like a ship’s anchor, an airplane, a string of pearls, and champagne glasses.
Take these screenshots and images into the artboard of whatever program you’re using. I’m an Adobe girl through and through, and in this moment, Illustrator is my A-1 choice. If you’re not rocking Creative Cloud however, there are free, open source editors out there like Gimp and Inkscape.
Next, start designing! I created 7 concepts with different versions of the above elements. Needing a second opinion, and a moment of inclusion because this is his wedding too, I asked my groom for his thoughts on which one was best.
We chose a version that had the clink of two champagne glasses with a tiny airplane flying in between – destination celebration baby! We then popped our names in a ribbon that ran across the circle and added the wedding date below. The last of the classy touches was a ring of “pearls” on the inside of the main circle. It tied the champagne bubbles together, kicked up the sophistication a notch, and brought a formal angle we felt communicated the value of the wedding we were planning. (It’s going to cost quite a bit to attend, so let’s make it look like the all inclusive, dress-up and celebrate event we hope it to be.)
Hit Save. Once this logo exists, save it in a bunch of formats. You’ll use it later on for all kinds of things, from table favors to thank you cards.
Outline the Information Your Guests Need to Know.
You may want that pocket folding card, or you may want a single card with all the information, either way, start outlining the details guests will need to know in order to attend your wedding. Ours included the following:
- Quick story intro about how I said yes
- Location of the whole shebang
- Day, time, and location of the welcome reception, ceremony, and dinner reception
- Days, location of the after party
- RSVP by date
- Visit our wedding website for all kinds of other information
Design That Invitation Card!
Since we loved the passport idea, all we needed was a bi-fold card, much like the size of a standard greeting card. This made the price super low and the assembly pretty simple. Here’s how the layout landed:
- Front of card: Logo, lettering that read “Passport to Paradise”, champagne bubbles coming in from the lower right corner (encourages people to open the card)
- Inside left side: All the above outline information, minus the website link.
- Inside right side: Large circle that held the website information along with a little set of questions like “wondering where to stay? How to get to the venue? Visit our website:”
- Back of card: Passport-stamp-like use of the logo with a repeat of the website link on the lower left corner (to tie back to the front)
- Yet to come: The RSVP card and envelope mount on the right panel using glue dots. Once guests removed the RSVP to send back, they reveal the big circle with the website. Surprise!
In terms of color of the main invitation card, we kept it silly simple: a lovely deep blue and white. While we printed them digitally and could have used any color, this kept things classy and easy to work with.
Outline Your RSVP Card.
We didn’t have a plated dinner, so no need for food choices. All we needed was a confirmation of names, any +1s, who was attending what event (we weren’t sure how many people would make it for the Welcome Reception or would want to attend both the wedding and the local party back in Connecticut) and an email address so we could keep people in the loop should there be any updates to the master plan. Essentially, the fill-in-the-blank list was:
- Mr & Mrs _________ look forward to attending the Welcome Reception / Wedding / Afters / Local Party / sorry we can’t attend
- Email address
Find & Purchase RSVP Envelopes.
Since the RSVP had such limited information, I picked out envelopes first and chose to design the card to fit inside said envelope. I went to Paper Source and picked up a few stacks of coral envelopes in the 3x5ish size. A perfect pop of color to add to the blue and white invite!
Design, Test and Measure the RSVP Card, Envelope, and Wedding Invitation.
Using a sheet of standard printer paper, I cut out the size of our invitation (5×7 card once folded) and placed a coral envelope on the inside right panel. Success! Now to see what size card will fit and where I can get that printed as well.
My online printer research resulted in 3×5 postcard, which should fit nicely inside the correspondence envelope. Matching these size specs, I designed a front and back of the card.
- Front of RSVP: Fill in the blank information for guest information
- Back of RSVP: Chevron pattern in blue and white!
The little addition of chevron just made me so damn happy. I wanted more of it in our wedding but it became really difficult to try and squeeze it into places it didn’t belong. Additionally, placing the RSVP card face down with this little explosion of zig-zag-ery looking up at the guest again engaged them to peel it off and turn it over. The extra cost of printing the back was nearly zero on this as well (thankfully, double sided printing has become commonplace).
Final Step: Find & Purchase Outer Envelopes.
One of my favorite things about wedding invitations is the surprise you can tuck inside, underneath, and around the back. I clicked over to a shop I’ve used in the past and found white envelopes with blue and white pin-striping on the inside, which tickled my design fancy in just the right way.
Things I Didn’t Care About.
I didn’t care about the addresses on the RSVP envelopes or the stamps for either envelope (I actually used our return address labels from our Save the Date because they were already paid for and legible). You are my guest and I need you to send this little envelope back to me. Who cares what the front of the envelope looks like? The priority here is counting who’s attending or not attending what.
Also, going to the post office can be a pain in the ass. I opted to pick up stamps from CVS most of the time because they’re open after 6pm. This meant that whatever Forever stamps they had on hand went onto our invitations.
Things I Did Care About.
The one thing I did do however was hand-write all the addresses on the main envelope. Outside of birthdays, major holidays, or fake direct mail stuff, when else do we ever hand write anything any more? This was also why I opted for printed materials rather than online. Even if it saved time, I just wanted a hint of tradition. I will say however, this is a bitch if you attempt to do it all in one shot. Your hands will ache, they may cramp, and you need to drink a ton of water and get ready for some painkillers afterwards. In the end it was worth it though, a little piece of personality comes through in each name, street, or zip code you write. I say grab a glass of wine and a pen. Your guests will appreciate it.
- Invitation card: GotPrint.com
- RSVP card: GotPrint.com
- Outer Envelope: Envelopes.com
- RSVP Envelope: Paper Source
One last note: All beautifully lit and composted photos by Sandra Costello Photography.