The ultimate guide to wedding stationery
By Kathy Ritchie
Photography by Cathy Pinsky
There’s a wonderfully funny scene in the 1995 romantic comedy, While You Were Sleeping, when the character played by Sandra Bullock walks into her boss’s office and hands him a wedding invitation—as though it’s no big deal—written on what appears to be a Post-It note.
While it may seem easier to just scribble the details of your big day on a piece of paper or (cringe) shoot out an Evite, selecting the right stationery is a crucial component to planning your wedding. Besides providing guests with the always vital who, what, where, and when, stationery establishes a tone for the wedding: will it be a black-tie affair at Whitby Castle, or will it be an afternoon affair in your family’s backyard?
“You’re telling guests how you’re going to entertain them,” says Herb Leventon, owner of RSVP Design in Mamaroneck. On a more subtle level, your stationery will also do something else: It will tell your story. “It’s like the foreword to a book,” says Staci Rahamin, owner of Sincerely Staci in Pleasantville.
What’s Your Timeline?
The sooner you select your stationery, the better. Most stationers agree that if you’re sending out a save-the-date, it should go out no later than six months before the big day and no earlier than a year.
As for the invitation, there are a few things to consider, starting with whether you’re having something custom-designed or choosing a look from a book (custom designs take longer, of course). “We recommend starting the process of picking the wedding invitations four months before they need to go out,” says Andrea Most Gottschall, co-owner of A Most Creative Affair in Tarrytown. Once you’ve got your invitations completed and in-hand, they should be mailed at least four to six weeks before your wedding date, though two months is preferable.
You only have to flip through your own mother’s wedding album to see what choices were available to brides in previous generations: white or off-white paper with black ink. Today, the choices in invitations seem limitless—but good taste should still prevail. After all, you don’t want your stationery to be something you’re embarrassed to show your own daughter a decade later.
“Think of your invitation as a timeless piece, just like your dress,” says Dawn Norris, owner of dnOriginals, a home-based business in Peekskill. “No one wants to look at her wedding pictures and wonder what she was thinking when she wore that dress. The same applies to stationery.”
With so many papers, letter fonts, colors, and styles to choose from, though, selecting stationery that reflects your taste and meets your budget can be daunting. Where do you begin, and how do you decide? To guide you, we spoke to some of Westchester’s top stationers about what you should consider before placing an order for 350 save-the-dates.
The Right Stationer
Great stationers won’t pressure you to go with something you only like—not love. A fabulous stationer will want to know a bit about you and your future husband in order to help you create the perfect stationery.
Trust and honesty are key. “You need to make sure you’re on the same page,” Norris says. Maria Solazzo, owner of Impressive Invites in Mamaroneck, recommends finding someone who has a wide selection of stationery and price points and who’s willing to spend some one-on-one time with you to help you find what you really want.
“I Want Something Different”
Most every bride-to-be wants her stationery to be unique. “People do not want the same invitation they just received,” says Richard Koh, owner of Royal Press in Hartsdale. “They want theirs to be special.”
This is a reasonable request, after all, because stationery is a reflection of your personality. The danger here, however, is going so over the top when it comes to being “unique and special” that, in the end, you’ve created something that says nothing about you. “The most important thing is to stay true to who you are,” Rahamin says. “When a traditional couple comes in wanting something trendy and different, we will spend hours trying to make them an invitation that ultimately is not them. We will spin everyone’s wheels and then come back to a fairly traditional invitation in the end.”
What’s Hot Now
A trend currently gaining momentum is coordinating the invitation with a “suite of stationery”—your menu, place cards, programs, thank-you notes, and so forth. “I think the additional pieces add to your décor,” says Gottschall of A Most Creative Affair. For example, if you decide to create a custom monogram, you might use the monogram as a theme throughout your wedding, from your invitation to your programs to your cake. It’s your logo, in other words. “Branding your event plays a key role in tying it all together,” Norris says. “You want your guests to pick up on your overall vision.”
If your budget allows just one additional element, Gottschall recommends dressing up the tables. “Menus are a really nice option,” she says. “It’s a great way to enhance the overall décor on the tabletops.”
Setting a Budget
Most stationers aren’t going to tell you what you should spend on your stationery. But a rule of thumb is: from two to eight percent of your overall budget. A good stationer will work with you to come up with options that fit within your budget. If you feel pressured to purchase something out of your range, speak up before it’s too late or try another stationer who will work within your budget.
When you estimate the cost, do consider the cost of stamps for the save-the-dates (if you’re using them), invitations, response cards, and thank-you notes. Another consideration? The shape and weight of your stationery. “If you opt for a square invitation and square reply card, you need to factor in the extra postage required for square correspondence,” says Jackie McVick, owner of Write On! Larchmont.
Paper and Printing
Don’t depend only on your eyes when choosing stationery. “Always touch the actual paper,” Norris says. “Texture plays a key role in stationery.”
Once you’ve found a paper you love, talk to your stationer about ink color and ask for samples of the ink on different papers. “Different paper qualities hold inks differently,” Gottschall notes. “Not all colors look the same on different types of paper—especially metallic stock. The inks can look very different than they do on non-metallic stock.”
Once you’ve settled on paper and ink color, you’ll want to talk to your stationer about the various printing methods available. There are four methods: engraving and letterpress, which are two of the oldest (and, consequently, more costly) methods, and thermography and flat printing, which are less expensive. Letterpress is making a huge comeback right now. With this beautiful method, the text or an image on a raised surface is inked to produce a physical impression on the paper. Thermography is also popular and has a raised look similar to engraving. Flat print is just what it sounds like—flat, not raised or impressed.
If you’re still worried about getting it right, don’t be. “There is something for everybody and every budget,” Gottschall says. The keys to finding what you love—like most things in life, whether it’s your perfect job or your perfect partner—are being patient and staying true to who you are.
Kathy Ritchie is a freelance writer and editor (and bride-to-be) in Queens, New York.