I’ve always considered myself a traditional girl with relatively traditional values, and when it comes to our big day in September, they’ll certainly be out in force; we’re sleeping in separate rooms the night before the wedding; I'll be wearing a veil over my face; my father will be walking me down the aisle and giving me away at the altar; and we’ll be saying traditional vows. But when it comes to stationery etiquette - in particular invitations - we’ve taken a very modern approach. We’re not having any. It’s a pretty big middle finger to tradition, particularly when just one year ago the thought of not having invitations was unthinkable. I sneered at those who decided to take their wedding ‘online’ and genuinely saw it as an erosion of traditional wedding etiquettes and a threat to the art of correspondence. But up to this point, all our communication for the wedding has been online, and it’s purely because we’re getting married abroad, it’s so much easier to relay information to guests and it’s saved us a huge amount of time and money. So whether you're a destination bride who’s starting to think about stationery or a modern bride looking for an alternative to the status-quo, here’s a summary of how I went about it.
Save the DatesLovely to receive and a useful reminder for guests to stick on their fridge until the invitation arrives, but in my opinion, an obvious area to save money. Alongside the physical costs of producing them, we would’ve spent an extra £100 just on postage, which for us was money better spent elsewhere (such as a bridesmaid dress or extra prosecco!) At this stage, the only information our guests needed to know was the date and it just seemed a waste of money when a text, email or phone call would suffice. So like many other couples are now starting to do, we created our own save the date on the computer and emailed it to guests as a PDF. None of them knew where we were getting married so we used our venue as a backdrop which made a nice surprise and definitely helped build the excitement. Timeline tips: It's best to send/email your save the dates as soon as you’ve booked your venue and worked out how many guests you can invite. This will allow them plenty of time to schedule in annual leave (before they book their own holidays) and save up for the trip. We emailed ours about 14 months before the wedding.
Invite InspirationI started thinking about invitations as we approached the one year mark. By this time I’d finalised the theme and colour scheme (‘Timeworn Opulence’) so I had a rough idea of how I wanted them to look. Being a bit of a creative bean, I was keen to make them myself and saw it as an opportunity to put my own stamp on the wedding as well as save some money in the process. I started by browsing through related images from my ‘theme’ board on Pinterest and quickly found the inspiration I was after.
After a month of brainstorming and searching for potential supplies, I finally settled on a design. Influenced by the monastery and the style of our wedding, I decided on thick khadi handmade rag paper with deckled edges (what calligraphers tend to use for one-off inspiration shoots), I’d then tea stain each one to achieve a 'timeworn' effect then write the common invitation blurb in black using the modern calligraphy style. To add a bit of intrigue, I planned to wrap the invitations with tracing paper (similar to the image above), bind it with thin twine then seal it with a wax stamp. The invitations would be lined with a watercolour wash in muted teal blue and sealed with another wax stamp. With 80 invitations to make by hand this was no mean feat, but for some insane reason I believed it was possible. I had most of the materials at home, I'd located an art store in London that stocked everything else I needed, and based on the fact my handwriting is similar to the modern calligraphy style, I assumed that mastering the technique would be relatively straightforward. I was of course completely wrong. Timeline tips: If you’re getting married abroad, it's worth sending invites out about 8-12 months before the wedding (bearing in mind your guests will take another 4 - 12 weeks to reply). The earlier you send them, the earlier you’ll know who can’t come - and this means you can extend the invite to other people before flights become too expensive.
Calligraphy Workshop at Lamplighter LondonAlthough I was convinced I’d be a total natural at calligraphy, I knew I needed to learn the basics. So after a bit of research and a recommendation from a fellow bride to be, I booked myself and one of my bridesmaids onto a workshop run by Lamplighter London. Despite my initial optimism, it was of course quite a lot harder than I’d estimated. Like many people, I wrongly assumed that calligraphy is an extension of beautiful handwriting, but it really is an art form that takes time, patience and practise - so don’t be put off if your handwriting sucks (because it really doesn’t make a difference), and if you're one of those still proudly displaying a trophy from 1996 for having the best handwriting in school (guilty), don’t expect to become an expert overnight otherwise you’ll be severely disappointed! Frustrations aside, it really was one of the most delightful, relaxing and enjoyable mornings I’ve had in a while. It’s the perfect pre-wedding activity to do with your bridal party so if you’re a creative type and fancy attempting a bit of DIY calligraphy ahead of the big day, this workshop is an absolute must!
The class lasted about 2 ½ hours and was led by Chiara Perano, founder of Lamplighter London. Through class demos and one to one assistance, she guided us through the basics of modern calligraphy, from ink flow and pen pressure, to mark making and shapes, and learning the modern alphabet. We also received a beautiful personalised modern calligraphy kit including inks, nib, paper and other stationery treats to practice with at home. Classes currently cost £80 and include the most delicious two course lunch at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. Their workshops tend to sell out as quickly as tickets to Beyoncé, so if you're keen, sign up to their newsletter and you’ll be notified as soon as new workshop dates are released. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to learn calligraphy in the comfort of your own home, they’ve just released a new book called ‘Nib & Ink’ which you can buy online through Amazon.
Problems AheadMy initial plan was to hone my calligraphy skills over the Christmas break then with the help of one of my bridesmaids, make all 80 invitations within the space of a few weeks. I wanted to make the website and invitations at the same time so I could include the URL in the invite, but once we’d been on the workshop and realised it would take much longer than a few weeks to become a calligraphy ninja, I had to change tack. By Christmas, guests were already enquiring about flights and wary that prices would increase, I decided to focus on the website and send the invitations a month or so later.
Creating a wedding websiteAnyone planning a destination wedding will know that there’s a lot of information that guests need to know before they can make their decision. Communicating this information through a website rather than sending multiple information sheets with your invitations not only saves you money, but means you can update information as and when it becomes available. With most guests booking flights and accommodation online, it’s much easier for them to search from your website with all the links there. There are lots of websites you can use to make your own wedding website and you don’t need to be computer literate to do it. Most offer ready-made templates and have lots of funky features including RSVP forms, gift-lists and photo sharing (you can even create your own app with some) - the most difficult part is deciding what to write! I decided to go through WIX, mainly because it was free and I found it the easiest platform to use. It also allowed us to duplicate the finished website which we could then translate into Italian (really useful if you’re a bilingual couple). For £60 we could've had our own domain name but we didn’t think it was necessary (and I much preferred to spend the money on shoes)..! Here’s the final result:
Why we decided not to send invitationsWithout being prompted to do so, guests immediately started RSVPing and requesting accommodation at the venue - and the more people did it, the more I began to question the relevance of invitations. Everyone already knew the date and other key details, so what was the point of sending the same information again? Was it really worth spending hundreds of pounds for the sake of having a momento that would inevitably sit on a mantelpiece before ending up in a bin several months later? Absolutely not. The amount we’ve saved through making a wedding website and forgoing invitations and their associated postage costs is the equivalent to what we’ve paid for a live band during our cocktail hour, and in my opinion, it’s a no brainer. Would I look back in several years time and regret not sending invitations? Unlikely. Would I miss not having live music while supping on Aperol Spritz and circulating the crowds? Almost definitely! Once we made the decision to forgo invitations, we set up an RSVP form via Cognito Forms and embedded it into our website (sounds tricky but it’s super easy). Similar to the website, we popped our questions into a data sheet (number of nights, accommodation preference, song choice, allergies), and I have to say it was such a success. We asked guests to reply within six weeks of sending the website link, then a week before the deadline we sent an email reminder to those who hadn’t yet responded (only 13 people out of 94!) and although my brother still hasn’t submitted his RSVP (hint if you’re reading!), we had hardly any chasing to do. Although I had no cute RSVP cards to look forward to in the post, receiving notifications with everyone’s song choices was even more fun so I really recommend it to everyone, destination wedding or not!
Other areas for creativityWhenever I read real wedding blogs or go on Pinterest and see the most exquisite invitation suites, it kills me a little, but then I remember there are plenty other snap worthy stationery projects to get involved in, notably the order of service, place names, menus and the seating charts.
Apart from the order of service, all other stationery is off the radar until we finalise things with the caterer and wedding planner. I’d like to scribe everyone’s names for the place settings but I also like the idea of allocating guests to a table and letting them decide where to sit (if anyone has done this before I’d love to know if it’s worked well or not!), so there’s still lots of scope for creativity! I’m sure many of you will think differently to me and could never contemplate a wedding without invitations. If we had an unlimited budget then I’d absolutely go nuts with stationery, but as we don’t, we’ve done what we believe will give us the greatest satisfaction on the day and when we look back in years to come.