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 DoverPictura.com (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…