The Custom Design Process: Katie & Adam

This is the fourth installment in my series, The Custom Design Process, where I walk through the steps I've gone through with a particular client to come to their final custom designed invitation. I find it so fascinating, once a design is finished and the invitations have been printed and mailed, to go back in my files and look at the very first draft for my client. Because most of my proofing process is digital, I have files saved in my email and on my computer from every single step of the way. Some designs are very close at the first draft, and the final design isn't too far removed, but others start out SO far from how they finish. If you've ever wondered what the process can be like, here you go! Katie & Adam

1. Inquiry- The first step in the process is for the client to reach out and start the conversation about what s/he is looking for in an invitation. Sometimes this includes sharing Pinterest inspiration, color choices, and general feel. And sometimes, it's a big fat "I have NO idea."

Katie had ideas. Lots of them! She was a bride on a mission, and provided me with lots of direction right from the get go. It was so easy to hone in on her style--she sent me links to invitations she was leaning towards, which made me see right away that she wanted something more traditional with a little creative flair. "Nothing boring" is what she said. Their colors would be navy, light green, light blue, and light pink, and their reception was at Alden Castle, a Longwood Events venue in Brookline, MA. She picked out a design from my own collection that was closest to what she wanted, and they had already done a Save the Date that she wanted to match, at least somewhat, in style:

 
 

2. First Looks - The next step is for me to start drafting up some samples based on the ideas the couple provided. I generally provide three First Looks.

Katie wanted to play with the iconic chandeliers of Adlen Castle, since they had used an image of a chandelier on their Save the Date. But she also said they might like to use some kind of lace image. The examples she sent me all had a sort of lacy border around them, so I tried to incorporate that in one of the First Looks. The third option used a fine paper with gold and tiny glitter accents in a layered style:

3. Honing in - The next step is for me to create another set of proofs based on elements from the First Looks that the client wants to see more of -- which fonts they like, which layout is best, and which color combination they prefer.

Not surprisingly, they went with the Chandelier design. The image was actually pulled from a photograph from inside Alden Castle, so the chandelier was a perfect match to their venue. Next up was the 2015 Battle of the Fonts. If am slightly font-obsessed, Katie Reynolds was certifiably font-crazy. (I can say that because she knows it's true, and she knows I love her for it!). They didn't love the formal, swirly look of the fonts on the first draft, so I sent over some script options and then some new versions based on their choices. We also swapped out the border to a navy:

When I say Katie was font-crazy, I say it lovingly, but I also mean it. I think she had dreams nightmares about fonts. I won't let the public in on how many emails really went back and forth on the tiniest of font details, but the short story is that we settled on the font from Option Two, with the ampersand from Option Three, with lots of glyph alterations. We also added back in the green border in addition to the blue, and I lightened up the chandelier to make it feel a little more delicate:

 
Reynolds_Fitz Chandelier_INVITE
Reynolds_Fitz Chandelier_INVITE
 

3A. The Inserts:Once the design is in place for the main invitation, I move on to the insert cards.

In this case we needed a Reception/Details card and an RSVP, which I actually started before the invitation fonts were settled on. Katie had been very specific about wanting one of the cards to be light lettering on a dark background:

 

After seeing these first drafts, Katie asked if we could bring in the chandelier, and had the idea to maybe incorporate an image of Alden Castle. I switched up the page orientation, and did a rendering of the castle. Once we sorted out the fonts, those were swapped out as well:

4. The Details - Putting the finishing touches on a design is maybe my favorite part. This is where I hand my design over, so to speak, to the couple, and let them perfect all the details to their taste and their event.

Once the three main pieces were put together, we started playing with different ways to present the whole package. Katie wanted a sash with some kind of square seal with either their names or a monogram, and we added in a green RSVP envelope to add another layer of color. The whole piece was presented in a white envelope with navy liner, with printed addresses on everything. I LOVE how this all came together!

5. The Accessories - For many of my clients, the invitation is just the beginning. As the wedding nears, there are other items that get added to the list -- welcome cards, menus, programs, favor tags, you name it. All these printed items can (and should, if you ask me!) be coordinated with your invitations. And the good news is, once the invitations have been finished, all the hard work and decision making has been done. The other pieces come together much more quickly because the design theme is already in place!

 
 

Katie and Adam decided to carry the design through their Rehearsal Dinner Invitation, which was to be held at the Hampshire House, also in Boston. I employed the same techniques I used to manipulate the image of Alden Castle, and switched up the colors to make it feel different but related:

They also added ceremony programs with coordinating fonts and colors:

Photo: The Feds Weddings
Photo: The Feds Weddings

And menus that poked out of the napkins and incorporated the chandeliers that hung over the tables:

Photo: The Feds Weddings
Photo: The Feds Weddings

This invitation, along with many others, is available on my Etsy shop!

Stay tuned for more Custom Design Process posts!

The Ultimate Luxury Wedding Invitation - Think INSIDE the box!

For a while now, I've wanted to delve into the ultra-luxury side of wedding invitations. I don't own a printing press and I'm not about to go out and buy one. So at this time, high-end printing methods are not part of my repertoire. But I can, and do, provide a super-custom design experience with a heavy dose of creativity and personality. I got into this business because I wanted to provide a couple with a reasonably priced, fully custom invitation that feels more like a creative experience than a store-bought product. And whaddya know, I've actually been successful! People want that. So, why do I want to go upscale? Well, in this case, it was just for the fun of it. If I had the budget for it, what would I splurge on? Foil printing? Check. Gorgeous fonts? Check. A mix of fine paper and luxe envelopes? Lots of details like double faced paper and hand calligraphy? Check. An un-boxing experience (literally) that rivals a new Apple product? Definitely.

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These days, I rarely take the time to design for an imaginary client, so I really went whole-hog on this one. I started with the box and the Italian paper. I was inspired by a friend of mine who did her own invitations, packaging all the pieces in stacked white envelopes, each slightly smaller than the next, each with it's own card inside. It was like you were opening a collection of secret messages or clues to a treasure hunt. Such a cute idea, I took it a step further and nestled the whole thing inside a BOX. After doing some research, I found that you can literally seal the edges of this bad boy, throw an extra stamp on it (based on weight) and pop it in a mail slot along with your electric bill and it goes through the mail right like that!_MG_2006

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The idea of playing around like this, for an imaginary client, is to try out new techniques, but also to add to my portfolio of ideas and inspiration for future real clients. I love a challenge, and it's so fun to be able to try out big ideas like this, even if it's not for a paying customer. Of course, it does also give me a new listing on Etsy and something to blog about! :)

Do I have your wheels turning? Let's work together on your custom project! Complete an inquiry form and we'll chat!

The Custom Design Process: Jen & Andy

_MG_1989This is the first in what will be a series of posts that will take you through my custom design process for wedding invitations. I find it so fascinating, once a design is finished and the invitations have been printed and mailed, to go back in my files and look at the very first draft for my client. Because most of my proofing process is digital, I have files saved in my email and on my computer from every single step of the way. Some designs are very close at the first draft, and the final design isn't too far removed, but others start out SO far from how they finish. If you've ever wondered what the process can be like, here you go! Jen & Andy

I featured Jen & Andy's wedding invitation back in January when I wrote about my favorite invitations from 2014, but I didn't go into too much detail about the process. Here goes!

1. Inquiry- The first step in the process is for the client to reach out and start the conversation about what s/he is looking for in an invitation. Sometimes this includes sharing Pinterest inspiration, color choices, and general feel. And sometimes, it's a big fat "I have NO idea."

Jen and I have known each other our whole lives, and she was getting married at the vacation spot where we met. It's a beautiful lakeside setting in New Hampshire, at a family camp that's been there for almost 100 years. To start, Jen said, "when I look for inspiration on Pinterest i tend to go with pictures associated with words like gypsy, modern hippie, boho". She told me her colors would be grays with pops of red. She also said she trusted me to come up with something...

2. First Looks - The next step is for me to start drafting up some samples based on the ideas the couple provided. I generally provide three First Looks.

For Jen and Andy, I created three drafts of a Save the Date to start. This was going to be a destination wedding for their friends and family, and the original plan was to send out a Save the Date way ahead of time that would include lodging information, etc. and follow with a formal invitation later. Jen said she liked the pine trees, and liked the whimsical script font, but was picturing a brighter red. She also said they had just had engagement photos taken (by Heather Fairley Photography in Denver). They were hoping to use a shot or two for the invites, so I waited a few weeks to see those before the second round of drafts went out.

3. Honing in - The next step is for me to create another set of proofs based on elements from the First Looks that the client wants to see more of -- which fonts they like, which layout is best, and which color combination they prefer.

In this case, I received a folder of gorgeous engagement photos and a totally new idea started to form. Jen and Andy are musicians and music lovers, and this photo in particular really spoke to me:

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An idea started to form around the idea of a record cover, and as I started to piece together the format and design, I realized this was going to be best seen in person, rather than a digital mock-up. And since Jen was a friend, I decided to surprise her with the design. The plans had changed a bit, and this invitation was going to include a lot of information. After gathering all the details from Jen, I got the draft finished, printed and assembled and sent it along in the mail, just telling her to keep an eye out!

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It was designed to look like a record case - A folded card, with a pocket on the inside to hold the necessary insert cards and a printed record background. I used the original whimsical script Jen had liked, vamped up the red a bit, and made the whole thing a little more urban-feeling to reflect their Denver rockstar lifestyle. A few days after it hit the mail, I heard the good news: They loved it!

4. The Details - Putting the finishing touches on a design is maybe my favorite part. This is where I hand my design over, so to speak, to the couple, and let them perfect all the details to their taste and their event.

Jen asked to change text on the front from "Diamond Collection" to "Love at 45 RPMS", and we swapped out the photo for one where they were both looking at the camera. I love that Andy's guitar made it onto the cover, and that the color of Jen's shirt plays off the red in the invitation. Jen added her parents' names to the front, and it was good to go! (Aren't they gorgeous?)GaNun Cover Cropped

To finish off the theme (I love a good theme) I made the RSVP look like a concert ticket, and Jen asked for a tape deck card for song requests. I also added a little record symbol with their initials on the back cover--I love these little details! They chose a cement deep-flap envelope, on which I printed their guest addresses in coordinating fonts to tie the whole suite together.

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5. The Accessories - For many of my clients, the invitation is just the beginning. As the wedding nears, there are other items that get added to the list -- welcome cards, menus, programs, favor tags, you name it. All these printed items can (and should, if you ask me!) be coordinated with your invitations. And the good news is, once the invitations have been finished, all the hard work and decision making has been done. The other pieces come together much more quickly because the design theme is already in place!

Because Jen & Andy's wedding was a destination and the invitations went out so far in advance, they had some more information they wanted to relay to their guests closer to the date and prior to their New Hampshire arrival. When the time came for the "second send-out", as we were calling it, Jen sent along the information she wanted to include and asked if I had any ideas. I thought it might be fun to package the information as a brochure -- the invitation had hinted at a music festival kind of vibe, so I thought it would be cute to play off that idea. Plus, we got to use more of their awesome photos!

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Since Jen & Andy's wedding, I added their invitation to my Etsy shop, and I've had quite a few custom orders. The finished product is always different depending on the couple and their personal choices. Here are a few that show how different this design can look:

Peck Cover Torres Ivory Cover 1 Drumgold Cover

This invitation, along with many others, is available on my Etsy shop!

Stay tuned for more Custom Design Process posts!

That Time I Made a Huge Life Change: One Year Later!

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boothOne year ago this week, I quit my full-time job. After uprooting my life to St Louis, I had started my third job in 9 months and I was miserable, again. I was working for an organization that overworked and undervalued its employees. I worked a Monday-Friday work week that frequently pushed into nights and weekends, and I didn't make nearly enough money to justify my frustration. I managed an enormous staff and hundreds of labor hours, but someone else held the purse strings and wrote my budget, leaving me with little say in how I actually managed my employees. Not enough time for proper training or supervision, not enough staff hours for the size of the business, and not enough management to handle emergencies. I had been seriously reconsidering taking the job after only 35 days, but I told myself to stick it out at least 3 months. JCC St Louis

My mom and sister came to visit last February (for wedding dress shopping!) and they got me talking about what I really wanted for my life. I talked about wanting to follow passion and creativity. They asked about my business--the hobby I had turned into Katherine Elizabeth Events. How about following that and really trying to make it a career? We talked it out, and over the next couple of weeks I kneaded the idea around enough that it turned into something. Anthony encouraged the challenge, and promised to support me if I had trouble paying the bills. 

 Around the same time I gave my two weeks' notice, I found out Paper Source (where I have always bought all my paper supplies) was opening a new store in St. Louis. Great news for my materials cost! I could buy from the store instead of paying shipping fees! And then I realized, what a great opportunity for a part-time job!  Turning a very part-time second source of income into a full-time career doesn't happen overnight. It's a lot like the chicken or the egg. You can't afford to quit working for someone else without having enough business to be full time, but you won't get the amount of business you need to be full time until you have the time to dedicate to building it. I decided a part-time job was the right next step, and I was hired at Paper Source for a 20 hr/week position.

Chalkboard

The combination of building my business and working at Paper Source part-time has been perfect. I've met some of my best friends in St. Louis at Paper Source. I've had the opportunity to work with creative people every day, it gets me out of the house a few days a week, and it ensures I've been able to pay the bills every month. I get a great discount on anything I'm not reselling (not my materials for my business, but there's SO many other things to use it on!). And the bonus is that I'm working in the same industry as KEEvents--keeping up with trends, and getting sneak peeks into what's coming down the pipeline from some of my competitors. At first I was afraid of Conflict of Interest, but rest assured--I've been entirely open about my business, and I make sure to keep the two separate. 

 The last 12 months have definitely been the most challenging, rewarding, and exciting of my life. I spent a significant portion of the year planning our wedding and learning a lot about the other side of the bride/vendor relationship. Some days I don't remember what it was like to be in the wedding industry before I was a Bride. I don't know how I did it! There are definite challenges to working from home and being your own boss that I didn't expect. It's not always as glamorous as it sounds (keep an eye out for a future post about this!) I spend way more time on finances and paperwork than I'd like, and this spring I've been so busy that I'm working early mornings, late nights, and almost every weekend. 

 For the first time in my life, I reap the direct benefit of my hard work and long hours, and that feels better than I ever could have imagined. Last week I looked back at the business goals I wrote down for myself a year ago, and I've reached Every. Single. One. And more. Today I closed out Q1 of 2015 with 55% of the gross revenue I had in ALL of 2014. Quarter 1 Last Year brought in 30% of my total revenue, but in 2015, I have enough orders in the pipeline for Q2 to surpass Q1. 

 But enough of the financial mumbo-jumbo. Business is on the up and up, and I have so many ideas for growth down the line. The possibilities are kind of endless, and I'm PUMPED.

Long story short, I'm happy at the close of every single day. My stress level, even when I have a lot going on, is completely manageable. I swear less and smile more. Many, many days my work doesn't feel like work. I honestly LOVE what I do. And that's so much more than I can say about where I was a year ago when I chose to make this huge change. 

 So... April 24, 2015 will be my last day at Paper Source. I will officially work full-time for myself at Katherine Elizabeth Events (with a couple of A Bride's Ally weddings to close out the spring in St. Louis). And June 1, Anthony and I will move back to the east coast and set up our home (and shop) in New York City. We are SO excited for the next adventure, and I am so proud of myself (which is not something I say often) for making this HAPPEN. Pinch me!  

If there is something in your life that you love doing, find a way to do it as more than just a "when I have free time" hobby. Our "free time" seems to disappear more and more every year, and if you neglect your passions, you won't ever be as happy as you could be. 

 What's your passion? How do you make time for it? 

 Have a great weekend! 

 XO, 

 Katie

  Katherine Elizabeth Events


Two Food Lovers in Love (OUR WEDDING!)

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Anthony and I love food. We love to cook, we love to eat, and most importantly we love to sit across the table with those that we hold dear and share a meal. (Sharing a meal is different than the simple act of "eating", but that discussion is for another time). If you ask Anthony the way to his heart, he probably wouldn't say "through my stomach" because he's pretty romantic and I think I have other qualities he would list before my cooking. But, he would definitely agree that a mutual appreciation for cooking and eating good food was a huge building block of our relationship. We made pizza together on our second date! Our love for all things food has led us on many journeys together; amazing dinner dates, the perpetual hunt for new eateries, the food blog, and some memorable cooking disasters, just to name a few.

So when it came time to talk about the feel of our wedding, we both agreed immediately that we couldn't skimp on the food, and a fantastic farm-to-table caterer was a must. We eventually settled on Season to Taste, and it was one of the best vendor decisions we made! As one vendor after another started to fall into place, so did the feel and theme of the whole event. The focus would be on sharing a meal, and in general, the idea that "food is love". In keeping with the KE Events model, our stationery would start to tell that story, and then the details and decor on the day of would tie it all together.

We started things off with a postcard Save the Date that looked like a recipe for a good time!

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A great way to save money is to do a postcard -- it's $.15 less postage per card, and the envelope is another $.25 to $.50 depending on size. We sent 200 of these bad boys, so by sending a postcard, we saved $100! 

When it came time to design our invitations, I stuck with the theme, and tied in the red striped tea towels we would be using for our table settings.

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Anthony designed a beautiful website that matched all our stationery (he built the website, I created the content) and we accepted RSVPs online.

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Accepting RSVPs online is a fantastic way to use modern technology to make your wedding consumed life easier. Again, you save at least $1.00 per invitation (postage and envelope for returned RSVP cards). But more importantly, it's easier for you AND your guests. You automatically collect all your responses in one place that you can access from anywhere, and your guests can RSVP from their smart phone--no trip to the post office! We used a google form to collect ours, but many of the wedding websites out there now have online RSVPs included in their website templates. I can't recommend it enough! (If you hire KEEvents for planning and coordination, we even offer a free custom website with online RSVP as part of the package!)

When our out of town guests arrived at the hotel, we had prepared some goodie bags to welcome them. Inside was a little booklet I created with some information about the wedding and the area, complete with two maps and an explanation of what the heck a #hashtag is! (Click to see full size images)

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A Welcome goodie bag is certainly not a necessity for your wedding. It does add work, and some cost, and if your budget is tight it's an easy thing to skip. However, it's a nice thing to consider if you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town. We had over 150 people staying at the hotel, many of whom had traveled quite a distance to be with us and share in our day. My mom was a big proponent of the bags, and I wasn't about to argue. It's a nice thing to provide for your guests, but it also provides you with another way to communicate important information for your guests. Our little booklet included a personal note, the schedule for the weekend, wedding shuttle details and a tutorial on #hashtagging (for the older folks!) 

We got married at the church I grew up in, Melrose Highlands Congregational Church. The ceremony was so special to us. It included a poem written by my cousin and a song written and sung by some of my closest friends. I didn't want a boring program!

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

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The reception was held at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Melrose, MA, which is an old utilitarian theater and event space that houses the Melrose Symphony Orchestra and Melrose Youth Ballet, along with many community events and a few weddings per year. The stage is where I performed in The Nutcracker for 8 Years as a child, it's right around the corner from my childhood home, and right in the center of my hometown. I personally didn't know anyone who had hosted a wedding there, and there were almost no photos online of the space set up for a wedding, so I was starting from scratch with decor ideas.

We went with long tables because I love the look, but also because I think they're better for conversation than the more traditional rounds. We did a family style dinner, and we wanted our guests to feel at home.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

Photo Credit: @clairemary on Instagram

Each table was covered with white linen and a layered  paper runner and decorated with simple paper roses in mis-matched jars and mason jars with fresh Maine winter berry. The bridesmaid bouquets were lined up down the length of the head table. The simple look worked to blend the rustic, farm-to-table meal with the grand, indoor, utilitarian space.

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Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

We weren't allowed to light real candles in the space, so my mom rigged up some stringed cafe lights to bring a cozy feel to the tables without any open flame.

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To fill the old theater boxes at the back of the hall, I hand painted large banners that coordinated with the logo I had designed. Each was 4 feet wide by 6 feet tall:

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The cocktail hour was held in a room off the main hall, and was pretty much filled to capacity with our family and friends. We made up a signature cocktail, The Crimson Camel; a twist on a Moscow Mule that represented our two Alma Maters (the Harvard Crimson and the Connecticut College Camels)

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For our favors, we bought spice jars from World Market and filled them with our Rotio spice blend for our guests to use in their own kitchens. I designed tags for the front that served as place cards, and a small hang tag with recipe suggestions. Anthony's Dad built us a giant "spice rack" to display them, and I wrote on the kraft table runner, "Spice a dish with love and it pleases every palate" along with a little map of the tables.

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table map

Each table was named after one of our favorite restaurants. Anthony built a miniature sandwich board for each table, and I created a "chalkboard" design for each one that told a little story of why each spot was important to us.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography

The menus and table settings were meant to mimic the trend in some of our favorite restaurants - a clipboard style card holding a simple utilitarian menu, tucked into a tea towel.

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In keeping with the theme (and taking into consideration that we'd want it displayed proudly in the future), our "guestbook" was a collection of bamboo cutting boards.

Photo credit: Nikki Cole Photography


There were a couple other pieces that didn't get photographed -- an adorable Rehearsal Dinner invitation with an embossed silverware emblem and checkered envelope liner, and Head Table placecards for our bridal party. Only now, after writing this post and seeing all these photos collected in one place, am I coming to terms without how much work I did on my own wedding! Holy moly! And this doesn't even include the flowers!

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If you don't work in this industry, I would strongly recommend NOT taking on this many DIY projects for your big day. (Hire an expert like me!) Because I do this for a living, I was able to tackle it all myself, and was very prepared with a timeline that started 11 months out and left me two weeks before my wedding to catch my breath and take it all in. I recommend taking on 2-3 major projects max, and I would also suggest choosing projects you can tackle well before your wedding date. The other tip I have for getting DIY projects done on time is to ask for RSVPs extra early. Our RSVP date was a full 2 months before our wedding. You won't have your final count for Welcome Bags, Favors, Placecards, Menus and Programs until you have your RSVPs back, and if you have a bigger wedding (ours could have swung 100 people in either direction!) you'll want some breathing room.

Skinny Black Tie Wedding Invitations

My cousin Annie got married back in 2010, and when she asked me to be her Maid of Honor, I was SO thrilled. She's been like a sister to me my whole life and I couldn't wait to help her plan her big day. She decided to have a black tie wedding at the Branford House in Connecticut, a beautiful stone mansion on the ocean. The theme was what I'll call "vintage elegance", with unique touches all over the place. From the antique centerpieces to the vintage place settings to the black and white family wedding portraits, everything was one of a kind, romantic and super special. I've never seen an event with more personal touches! It was a lot of work (and shopping, and hugs, and tears and glasses of wine) but in the end the day was perfect and well worth it!

SO, when we set out to think about invitations, I knew they had to be special. The main reason we chose to make them by hand was to save on cost, but the more I played around with the design, the more we all realized that this was going to just add another personal touch to the whole day. What's more special than receiving a handmade, one of a kind, wedding invitation in the mail? I was so excited!

The shape: I knew I wanted something different. It couldn't just be a typical folded invitation. So once I had the idea to create a sleeve of some sort, the shape sort of fell into place. I went to Paper Source to look at paper, and after an hour and a half, all the other details had fallen into place.

The design: I started out with a vision that included some sort of ornamental "swirl" and a complementary swirly, elegant font. I ended up scanning a piece of wrapping paper for the swirl, and I went with Edwardian Script for the cursive font. I'm really happy with the way they turned out!

The construction: It took 4 of us about 6 hours to put these together (and we're all artistically inclined!) Definitely not a simple construction, and if I did it again I may have planned the pockets a little differently. A complete invitation had 11 different pieces!

Love these invitations? I am now taking orders for personalized handmade invitations! Complete this form for a quote!