Dress? Check! Venue? Check! Engagement Ring? Sparkly, sparkly check!
What comes next? For many of us, designing the wedding invitations will be one of the most important and exciting milestones during the planning process. It certainly was for me when I got married! It turns out that your childhood fascination with scrapbooking, stickers, stamps and embossers never really went away. Now, there is a new reason to fall in love all over again…
Holding a meaningful piece of paper can stir up wells of nostalgia for many years to come after your celebration. It sets the tone of your wedding and celebration! is what you hear many people adamantly say. So how do you choose something that is truly right for you?
Well, your style and vision will be an integral part of the design (yes, matching it to your bridesmaids’ dress colour will be a part of that too). However, equally importantly, think about your choice of printing process, paper choice, and finishing. In other words, the building blocks of your design.
Let’s compare your invitation design to a beautiful wedding cake. The sugar icing and fresh flowers—much like the design motifs and swirly calligraphy on your invitations—will be what catch your eye. But what’s holding the cake up is a well built and delicious sponge—that would be your printing process. Without the icing (read: swirly calligraphy), the cake looks boring, but functional. But without the sponge? The whole thing will collapse. That is why some basic knowledge of printing processes will help you a long way!
Many processes are used for printing in the world today, and a selection of them are suited to printing wedding invitations. Here are some of the most popular ones:
Letterpress Invitation by Abigail Warner
The process of Letterpress dates back to the late 1800s. Block types or metal plates with the image are produced through the press piece by piece, imposing intense ink onto paper under intense pressure. The process is laborious, ink is applied colour by colour, and the result is exquisite.
What it looks like: the paper is usually heavy, often with indentations on the printed or “pressed” parts. Typically, they are printed in one or two colours.
Why Choose Letterpress? Letterpress embodies the tradition of printing, and each piece feels important and tactile.
How should I budget? Because of the labour-intensive process of letterpress work, it is amongst the costlier forms of printing currently on the market. Typically, the price will depend on quantity, your choice of paper, and the number of ink colours you will be using.
Digital Notecards as doubling as Place Names and Wedding Favours, by BerinMade
Photography By Denny Wong
The digital process should be one that most are familiar with. Images are printed directly from a file on a computer (instead of via printing plates). Its full colour process is composed by four colours simultaneously: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (black)—or in its shorter, more well-known form: CMYK— and is executed via inkjet or laser.
The digital printing process is fast and inexpensive. Unlike letterpress, the paper only needs to be run once through the printer to get all the colours on it.
What it looks like: The paper is usually lighter in comparison to letterpress. The printing is flat (meaning, there are no indentations in the paper), and can be in full colour.
Why Choose Digital? Digital enables printing lower quantities, hence lower start up costs compared to other processes. It produces beautiful full colour and also photographic images. If you love watercolours illustrations, or Photo Save the Dates, digital is the way to go.
How should I budget? Because of its automated process, digital prints are relatively cheaper to print. You can start at low quantities of around 30-50, depending on the printer you are working with, and unit costs for an invitation is low. Unlike letterpress or screen printing, the number of ink colours will not affect the price.
Screen-printed Invitation by Abigail Warner
The screen-printing process (also known as silk screening) is another hand-rendered process which involves taking a stenciled image on a screen made with porous mesh or silk. A squeegee is used to pull ink over the stencil, which pushes the ink through the mesh onto the paper underneath.
What it looks like? The resulting ink finish is velvety and vibrant in colour. The process allows for a wider use of materials so often you will find that Save the Date handkerchiefs, wooden chip boards, and even leather tags are screen printed!
Why Choose Screen Printing? The inks of the screen printing process sit right on the surface of the printed material and the resulting look is vibrant and bright.
How should I budget? Similar to letterpress, the laborious process of screen printing is reflected in the price. Pricing will also depend on your paper choice and the number of ink colours.
Other Fancy Bits
Here is a short glossary of some other finishing processes you may come across, or even consider for your own invitations!
A metal die holds a shape that is stamped onto the stock to leave an impression. An emboss may be made with foil to give colouration to the design.
The inverse of embossing, the die is stamped from above, leaving an indentation on the stock.
Debossed Business Cards by BerinMade
Thermography and Gilting:
Thermography is a finishing process which renders a raised image by fusing thermographic powder to a design under high heat. It creates a raised bubbly surface that is highly visible and tactile.
Invitation with Gold Gilted Edge by Abigail Warner
The die-cutting process is used to create custom shapes and decorative edges by punching out on the stock using a steel cutting die. If a more intricate shape needs to be cut, laser cutting is also a popular solution.
Some designers work with a wide range of these processes, while others will only focus on one or two process as their expertise. When choosing a designer to work with, make sure you have a thorough look at their portfolio, and where possible, ask to see samples of past work in the flesh to ensure you are happy with the quality and finishing. Most of all, relax and enjoy the process! Leave the technicalities to your designer and enjoy the praises of your guests when they receive the finished results. Your wedding invitations designer is one of the most valuable assets to your team of helpers. After all, like your wedding photographs, your invitations are investment pieces that are to be admired, framed and cherished for years to come.
Words by Erin Hung Berin Made