For most people, ordering custom wedding stationery will be the first time they have worked with a graphic designer. A lot of potential customers don’t know what to expect (apart from a pretentious wanker in a black turtleneck) and the question I get asked more than any other is “How does the process work?”. I am here to tell you that it’s not a confusing or time-consuming process at all, in fact, it should be fun!
Concept sketches for a recent customer. You can find some finished designs here.
The process will vary between different stationers, but here is a general guide:
Consider which paper goods you require. Starting from the beginning (save the dates) to the invitation itself (plus RSVP, accommodation card, registry card, directions) to the actual day (signage, place cards, escort cards, seating chart, favour tags, program, menus) and beyond (thank you notes and personalised stationery). Calculate how many of everything you need, remembering to add on an extra 10% because, well, life happens. If you’ve done any research on stationery, jot down what you did and didn’t like in terms of formats, styles and paper, as well as any themes, colour palettes and ideas for your day. To make your invitations a true reflection of you as a couple, it’s also really helpful to think about which aspects of your interests and personalities you might like to incorporate.
Provide all of this to your stationery designer so she can prepare a quote for you (bearing in mind that the price quoted will likely be an estimate only as the specifications may change significantly during the design process). If you have no idea what you want, don’t panic! That’s what your designer is for (helping, that is, not panicking), so have a chat and pretty soon you’ll have a more concrete idea of some stationery that will fit in wonderfully with your day.
If you’re happy with your quote, it’s time to place your order and confirm the items and quantity required (if not, you might like to ease the sticker shock with these cost-saving ideas). Send through your wording as you would like it to appear on your stationery. If you’re having trouble with the wording, ask your stationer for a hand (she’s seen a lot of invitations in her time so she should have plenty of ideas!). Policies will vary between suppliers but you may be required to pay part or full payment at this stage (for example, I require a 50% deposit prior to the commencement of any design work). Your designer is now ready to come up with an exciting new concept just for you! Most suppliers will provide 1-3 proofs, beyond which you’ll need to pay for, so check your proofs carefully to avoid extra fees. If you haven’t paid in full upfront, you’ll probably need to settle the balance at this stage.
As soon as you have approved your design, your stationer will print your invitations according to the printing method you have discussed. The timeframe can range from a few days for a simple digital job, to up to a month when using a high-demand specialist printer or specially-ordered materials.
Yay, your invitations have arrived! All that’s left to do is address (if you haven’t ordered envelope printing or calligraphy), assemble and post.
If you’re more of a visual person, here’s how I roll in flow-chart form:
As you can see in the nifty timeline down the side, it suggests starting your research six months before your wedding and placing your order no later than four months before. This is suitable in most cases, however if you are ordering save the dates at the same time or if you plan on sending out your invitations earlier than 8 weeks to go, then make sure you start the process earlier and make sure your designer is aware of your deadlines.
I hope that’s gone some way to make the method a bit more transparent. But if I’ve totally missed something, harrass me in the comments.