Your wedding invitation is the first thing guests will see that really gives them a sense of what your big day will be like. Whether it's formal or casual, destination or close to home — this is when they start figuring out what to expect. While there are amazing stationery designers all over the country who have created suites you can personalize with your names, unique wording, and maybe a tweak in the color palette, there's nothing like a truly custom invitation suite to set the scene. But with save the dates, invitations, inserts, RSVP cards, welcome bags, and more included in a suite, it's a task that is best left to the pros — as it can sound pretty daunting. Thankfully Rachelle Schwartz, co-owner of boutique graphic design and invitation company Wiley Valentine, broke it down for us (hint: it's easier than it sounds, and, if you love design and paper, is pretty fun!).
It all starts with a consultation. "We love to meet with couples in person if their local, or schedule a phone call with out-of-towners," says Schwartz. You'll begin by figuring out a general outline of what will be created. Some questions will include: which pieces will you need? What materials are you drawn to? Do you have a preference of print method or paper type? "Then the couple submits how they'd like the suite to be worded, and details like the date and location, and the design process begins," Schwartz continues. "We go back and forth via email to review and edit proofs, tweak designs, alter colors, and play with wording." Once it's all approved, your design goes to production. Some couples like to assemble and send out their invitations themselves, while others choose to leave this to the pros if it's a service the stationery company offers.
Now that you know what to expect, what should you know before you schedule your consultation? "You should know both your guest count and the number of invitations you'll need," Schwartz explains (since a family of five will only get one invitation, but will need five menus and escort cards). You should also have an idea of your budget. "There are countless options for invitations, and if your stationer has a feel for your budget, they can lead you in the right direction (and make sure you don't fall in love with something you can't afford)." This could mean opting for a different printing style, choosing less expensive paper, or deciding that engraved lucite invitations are really exactly what you want.
You should also know your target mail date. Save the dates should head to the post office four to six months in advance (six to eight months for a destination wedding), and invitations should be mailed six to eight weeks in advance (again, longer for destination weddings).
When it comes to design, make sure you have an idea of how your wedding will look and how you want it to feel. You may want to tie in similar colors, a motif or pattern, or other item that relates to your celebration (say, tying invitations to a ranch wedding with suede cord), and the wording should match the formality of your event. "Pinterest boards are helpful to both share how your wedding will look and collect images of invitation suites that you're drawn to," says Schwartz. "We also love to see pictures of the venue, your dress, the bridesmaids' dresses, and more."
And if you have a planner, loop them in as early as possible. "Planners can offer invaluable insight into what you might need for your wedding," Schwartz adds. "They can help keep the invitation design tied in to your overall vision."