Finding the Right Words

Wedding Planning

As much as the aesthetics of our invitations were important to us, the words were–of course–the most important part. I mentioned that I tried to stick to the more formal wording, more or less, to convey the right tone but we had to take a few liberties as far as format went. I think it’s a pretty common push-and-shove in modern weddings: how traditional do we want to be without being mired down in the things that no longer work.

Because I think the balance we found works particularly well, I thought I’d share it for those who might be looking for ideas.

The first panel, aka the main invitation reads:


request the pleasure of your company
at their wedding
on Saturday,
the nth of November
two thousand and thirteen

City, State

It reads pretty much the way any other invitation hosted by the couple and not being held in a church would read with one major difference: there’s no time noted (but only because we’ll be addressing that in subsequent panels). One step away from the traditional wording I did take was the use of wedding instead of marriage. It’s still considered correct to invite people to your marriage and I admit that I get hung up on the word there. It’s one thing if it reads “the marriage ceremony” because that’s what they will be attending. Saying “at their marriage” (as many guides suggested) feels like an open invitation for folks to be royal buttinskies for the duration of the relationship and, to be perfectly plain, no. Just no.

It’s also worth noting that my line breaks aren’t necessarily in standard places. Usually you’d break them up by clause, often putting the linking bits on their own lines, but I played a bit fast and loose with some because of the style I was going for. Formality versus function and all that.

The second panel, then, let’s them know the schedule is going to be a bit different:

Please join us
before the ceremony for

Coffee & Cocktails
and assorted breakfast nibbles

in front of the fountain
at half after ten in the morning

I debated on adding the “assorted breakfast nibbles” line or taking it out, but ultimately decided to keep it. For the same reason I included a menu panel, I like to let the guests know what to expect and assuring them that coffee and pastry will be available for such an early “cocktail hour” will ward off many questions. I did get the “will there be coffee?” query from some of our guests when things were still in the early planning stages, so I consider this the natural next answer. And as awkward as it sounds, “half after” is the correct formal wording over the expected half-past. I couldn’t find a reason why past was frowned upon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with past sounding like passed and reminding people of passed-away. As for the “and” in the year on the first panel, “experts” seem to be evenly divided. I think the only thing they were unanimous in was not writing twenty-thirteen.

will take place
on the steps of the
Gathering Hall
at three-quarters after eleven o’clock

Reception to follow in the
Owl’s Nest

The third panel basically tells folks ‘okay, if you oversleep or want to be fashionably late, don’t worry, just  be in your seats by 11:45 so as not to miss the ceremony.’ Could both of these be covered by one or two enclosures, had we gone a more traditional route? Of course. In fact, the “reception to follow” bit is classic corner-copy on single card invitations without enclosures. This way just keeps things in a nice progression of information, all in one place, and easy to find.

You’ve already seen our menu, which takes up the fourth panel and the fifth is, again, a standard enclosure style of map and physical location for folks to MapQuest or enter in their GPS. We also included the url of our wedding website on that last panel for those who want even more details. Will this 100% prevent our guests from asking questions already answered on the invitation or website? Of course not. I’ve written enough employee memos to know that never happens (and that most people don’t read what you hand them, anyway), but it doesn’t mean I can’t try.

The Road Trip Invitation Reveal

Wedding Planning

The responses are starting to roll in, so let’s take a peek at what our guests saw when they opened up their envelopes.


At the last moment I opted to do envelope liners, even though they would only just barely show. I was pleasantly surprised that the chocolate-brown envelopes were peel & seal (had a strip of adhesive as opposed to  the usual dry-gum seal) so I used that strip to adhere the liners and added another strip of double-sided tape to close the envelopes. The patterned paper for the liner is the same that I used on the mini-books and I have one more project that will use it, as well.

Will our guests notice that the paper is the same between the various elements? Probably not. But I like that it adds a certain cohesion to the bits and pieces when all taken in together.


Reaching into the envelope they’ll pull out the wine bottle and its single enclosure. I added a band to keep everything together (just like countless brides before me) but the placement of this band turned out to be pretty important in the end.

At first I’d put the band around the center of the invitation bundle, as you do, but because the pieces are different widths the bottle portion tended to free itself from the band’s confines and come out alone, leaving the RSVP card and envelope (not to mention the band with it’s oval inner-envelope-stand-in-informal-guest-designating-label, once again featuring the vine frame from the Save the Dates) inside. While I figured most of our guests would expect there to be an RSVP card of some sort and would probably look back inside the envelope to check, I wanted to remove as many of the “could happens” and preserve the look of the invitation suite, so I experimented until I found the a solution.

What worked best was to first fold the band around the single widest element (the #6 3/4 return envelope) alone–not as part of the stack!–so that the band fit it the snuggest. Then slip the “neck” of the wine bottle cutout under the band and label and slide it up just to the point that the invitation booklet slipped under the oval label. What all of this did was insure (more or less) that when the recipient goes to pull the bottle out of the envelope, the folded invitation catches on the band and pulls it and the RSVP card/envelope out all as one piece.

Something to consider if you decide to go with a non-traditional envelope or invitation configuration!


Once everything is out of the envelope and the band is removed, the label-themed invitation naturally springs open. This has a lot to do with the weight of paper I used (100# Feltweave Cover, for the curious)–even scored and folded and the edges burnished a bit it still wants to open up–and because of this tendency I went back and forth over whether to leave it as an accordion fold or stick the backs of the facing panels down to make more of a booklet. There were pluses and minuses to both, so Mr. Road Trip stepped in as tie-breaker and we went for booklet-style. Again, one of those pesky decisions you don’t expect to be making. Either way, the pop-up tendency works in our favor, as it invites our guests to flip through the panels rather than just skim down the front and put it down.


And then our RSVP card! After going with a shaped invitation, why stick with a plain rectangle for the RSVP card? And what goes better with a bottle than a cork (though I did take a certain amount of “artistic license” by pairing a Champagne-style cork with a non-sparkling bottle style). I used a black and white image of a cork, added some overlays to it in Photoshop to give it more of a cork coloration, and then added our response options.

We look forward to toasting with you!

___I’ll drink to that!
___My glass is empty.

Apparently I should have put “(yes/accepts)” and “(no/declines)” along with the semi-witty options as a couple of folks have asked exactly what we were really asking (one person wondered if it meant to expect them to be drinking or not), but most seem to get it. It was quite a thrill to see the first couple of responses in our mailbox a mere 3 days after sending out the invitations (some of our local invitees are super-prompt!), and the returned corks are being tucked into a French memo board that stands in our hallway, so that’s fun to see each day.


The idea is that the invitation sets the tone for the event. I made sure that I used traditional wording and styles to convey the formality and gravity of the moment but in a non-traditional package to add in a bit of fun. Overall, I think it’s a pretty good indication of what we want our wedding to be like, which I would describe as traditional with a twist.

A Sip of Inspiration: Wine Label Invitation Design

Wedding Planning

It’s been said often and will continue to be true: having a theme makes so many decisions so much simpler. At least in theory.

Once we’d decided that the wedding would be wine-themed, I knew that I’d take design cues from wine labels for our invitations but there was still the question of which labels and how all of the pieces and parts would fit and work together. An envelope of random label-looking things wouldn’t exactly hit the mark, here, but that’s where the early brainstorming sessions headed.


When our local Borders closed (boo! *moment of silence*) I’d picked up a copy of the 2008 Windows on the World Wine Course book. One night I sat down and just started flagging any labels that jumped out at me. Didn’t matter the shape, orientation, colors, just whatever looked interesting. And that’s about as far as I got, the book went back on the shelf (sticky notes still in place) and I put invitations on the back burner for about a year.

Basic shape... so many possibilities!

Basic shape… so many possibilities!

When I got my eCraft I thought it was cool that there was a wine bottle shape on the basic cartridge and started playing around with the idea of incorporating the bottle silhouette somehow. At this stage I was still trying to fit everything into the usual large-card-invitation-with-smaller-enclosures mold, but I was running into the issue of our event format. Namely, the cocktail hour being before the ceremony really needed to be spelled out, but I was afraid that it might get lost or overlooked on an enclosure.

Admittedly, I was probably over-thinking things a bit (something I do often). When I’ve created invitations for other parties we’ve thrown that have a schedule to be considered I’d just create a panel or card for them and our guests figured it out, but I didn’t want something so agenda-ish in the invitation, nor did I want to depend solely on our wedding website to spell it all out, either.


Meanwhile, for the sake of continuity I decided that the labels that would serve as inspiration all needed to be the vertical or tall variety, so I picked out six of the best contenders and made a rough sketch of each to concentrate on the shapes and divisions–this removed the urge to recreate each label down to the nth detail, and took us from parody-of to inspired-by. Definitely a step in the right direction.

I’d also come to a decision about just how the invitations were going to work. At first I was concerned it would seem too gimmicky or who knows what, then I realized that I didn’t give two pins about it, that it was a fun and different and I was going to do it. Thus, it was decided that the backing of the invitation would be a wine bottle shape and the invitation would go where the label usually does, but instead of a single label, it would fold out or open up to reveal different sections in lieu of the enclosure cards that would otherwise be necessary.

Taking shape, literally!

Taking shape, literally!

The dimensions of the bottle cut-out determined the size of the “labels” so I could begin to recreate the label designs in Illustrator and get down to cutting out all those bottles. Regular card stock was too flimsy, so I decided to use mat board instead, believing that it was just thin enough to go through the cutter. Go through, yes. Cut worth a darn, not so much (to clarify: it would have cut, but it left drag marks from the blade anywhere it traveled since the board was so thick the blade still caught even when retracted and caused feed issues, ugh!).


But I was a Road Trip on a mission, so I spent a Saturday afternoon cutting out wine bottles from maroon mat board (I found some with a dark green backing/core that looked much better than the usual white-core options) and got 30 out of a single 32″ x 40″ sheet. And it turned out that a sturdy pair of scissors worked much better than a craft knife. To smooth out any cutting wobbles I took a regular emery board to the edges and it left the bottles with a nice, smooth edge and me covered in maroon fuzzies. Such is the price of creativity, sometimes!

Laying down the design bones

Laying down the design bones

Back in Illustrator I created each label on it’s own artboard set to the size of each “page” of the accordion-fold booklet, blocked out the basic shapes, and added colors picked from the “beverages” swatch which were perfect for what I had in mind. Then I exported them individually and brought them into Photoshop so that I could start matching up each label/panel with the necessary text.

As I started to format the text for each panel, that’s where looking back at the original labels really helped and I started to really notice some of the hallmarks of the labels that, when incorporated into the invitation panels, would really echo that style rather than just a drawn-out invitation with some geometric backgrounds.

  • One or two lines are usually highlighted with either a different typeface, a different font style or size, or a different color.
  • There’s ample negative space both around and between sections of information.
  • Small-caps are used often throughout the body of the label, often with a serif-style typeface.

Once I started employing those visual design cues, the panels really started to look more like the wine labels that inspired them. (There was also some spacing manipulation but between lines and characters–never underestimate the benefit of kerning and leading!)


Your general script, centered wording on the right, a more label-inspired look on the left.

Screen-shot comparison: the general script, centered wording on the right, a more label-inspired look on the left.

Finally, several of the panels needed some pretty pictures to polish them off. My favorite place for royalty-free design elements is (yes, you pay a nominal fee for them, but there’s no ambiguity if I want to use them in a design-for-hire job later on). I found several sheets of both line-art designs and old-fashioned images that I could easily manipulate to fit the image slots of the invitation panels. What I didn’t find was a good line-art image of an old-fashioned plantation house, so I ran an image of our venue through several filters to get a grainy, halftone-look that I could blend into its spot on our Ceremony panel, and created a simple map for the location panel in Illustrator.

All dressed up and ready to print!

All dressed up and ready to print!

One other thing I included in our invitation that you don’t normally see is a menu panel. This is something I have always done for my parties to give guests a heads-up of what will be available. Since there’s not a ‘chicken or beef’ option and we’re not doing a buffet, this is an easy way to set realistic expectations and invite them to let us know if they’ll need special accommodations.

After that it was just a matter of printing, scoring, folding, and rounding 1.001 corners–at least that’s what it felt like (in reality it was only 36o, 12 punches per invitation) before I could assemble them and get them in the mail…

Coming Soon to a Mailbox Near You!

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

If, of course, you live near one of our invited guests, that is.

After spending the entirety of the recent 3-day weekend completing the design, printing, and assembling thereof, the Road Trip invites have flown the coop (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor). While we want to give them a few days to get to their destinations, can we talk envelopes for a moment, and the addressing of said bits?

Even though it complicated matters a smidgen, I went with chocolate brown envelopes from for our invitations. Even though they’re the usual #10 envelope size (which fits just right with the style of invitation I designed), the color definitely sets them apart from bills and junk mail that might also be in the box that day. With such a dark envelope that leaves only two options for addressing: labels or opaque ink (white or metallic). For some reason I didn’t even consider labels and option, really, so went on the hunt for just the right opaque ink.

I got my first calligraphy for my 11th birthday and have been practicing different styles, off and on, over the last 26 years but I really didn’t feel like fiddling with my dip pens for this. Instead, I started with a couple of paint pens: one with a chisel tip that just disappeared on the paper and one that showed up great that would have worked well for the front but would have been a bit big for the return address flap. So the hunt continued.

Sometimes it just helps to see the options side-by-side.

Sometimes it just helps to see the options side-by-side.

Another trip to the store yielded 2 metallic contenders: Prang brush pens and why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-before Sharpies. Even though the bronze and gold Sharpies fit our color scheme better, the Silver stood out the best of the three and just felt better writing-wise (Mr. Road Trip cast the deciding vote on that one, as he did with a few other invitation elements).

As for the writing, I skipped the exemplars and just went for my usual handwriting with a few extra swoops on the capital letters. After all, calligraphy comes from the Greek for “beautiful writing” and while I don’t claim to have the most beautiful handwriting in the world, it is something I’ve been a tad obsessive about. In high school I would rewrite homework assignments if I didn’t like my handwriting on a particular page and would change how I made certain letter-forms when I thought my writing could use a little shaking up. As a bookkeeper it helps that my writing be more than legible, and when I draw comics I insist upon hand-lettering.

With all of that in mind, I probably shouldn’t have started addressing envelopes at 2 in the morning. I was  up, it was next on the list, but I completely spaced about using titles on the first handful of envelopes and I wasted about a dozen all-told with various screw-ups. This is the point where I didn’t mind having to order a pack of 50 envelopes to send out 25 invites!

A Tip: When using opaque ink on a colored envelope and you need to fix a little bobble, find an ink pen or Sharpie that’s the same color as your paper and “fill in” the little oopsies. It’ll save your sanity when you’re down to your last few or you’ve already put postage on an unfinished envelope.

Of course we're inviting the head cheeses!

Of course we’re inviting the head cheeses!

For stamps I didn’t stress. There weren’t any good wine or grape-themed stamps available outside of places like Zazzle (and I just couldn’t see paying double for postage, even with such a small quantity) so I chose the wedding cake and white roses stamps (which was about $0.20 more postage than necessary, but better safe than sorry). In the end, they looked great against the dark brown envelopes, so all’s well that ends well.

What was your biggest challenge when it came to addressing your wedding invitations?

Our Date is Officially Being Saved

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Or so several of our guests have reported, since I did finally get them sent out.

When last we talked, my mock-up was looking like this:

Front and back (side by side) of what would be considered a "rack card" or insert, about 1/3 of a standard letter-sized sheet, landscape oriented.

Almost done!

But now they’ve got some color to them and are looking more like this. Exactly like this, in fact.

Front and back of the finished Save the Dates

Front and back of the finished Save the Dates

Once I made the decision to go ahead and have them printed elsewhere it was a no-brainer to work shades of our wedding colors into the mix. I’m admittedly proud of how my vines all turned out, and the hand-drawn frame will be showing up again on the invitations and our table numbers, too!

Since I had to place a reorder of bookmarks at Overnight Prints and had been very happy with their print quality before, I went ahead and piggy-backed the StD order onto that one. They have a lovely matte finish and the texture overlay I added to the final design showed up very nicely when all was said and done.

We did end up with more cards than we needed (the minimum order was 25) but I’m thinking I might trim out our picture and use those in some of the table decorations just so they don’t go to waste. Might as well, right?

Now, OP does offer corner rounding for a nominal fee (it was going to be like $2 or some such) but I saw no reason to have them do it when I have a corner rounder of my own, so that was the only finishing I did besides addressing the envelopes.

Speaking of envelopes, I designed these cards to fit into standard #10 envelopes, though I did pick up a pack of the nicer stationery-style ones instead of plain white. To address them I didn’t even bother with calligraphy (which I’ve been dabbling in since I was 11 or 12), but I did make this handy guide to keep my lines straight.


I don’t know if they still do it or not, but the larger wedding paper suppliers used to include a similar guide with their orders and I just thought it was the neatest thing. If you’re going with a lighter-colored envelopes it’s pretty easy to make your own out of an index card (or two and some tape) and a black marker.

While printed envelopes and fancy labels are becoming more common, hand-addressing envelopes is one of those old traditions that I think is worth keeping alive. It’s just so much more personal.

Of course, if you are using a darker or more opaque envelope and still want straight lines to work from, you can use this trick from those Medieval scribes that spent their days hunched over parchments. Using a straight edge and a pointed instrument of some sort (the tip of a bone folder, the back of a craft knife if you’re careful, etc.) to lightly score a line across your paper. If done just right, you’ll be able to keep your letters on the straight and narrow without your recipient knowing your secret.

Sure beats the flat-bottomed look of writing along a ruler, right?