The biggest part of my work every day is collaborating with couples to create custom invitation suites. This is my favorite part of what I do. I love love love the challenge of a new project where anything is possible and I get to create something beautiful from nothing. I also seem to be crazy lucky because I always seem to end up working with clients who have personal style and vision for days. For a designer, it doesn’t really get better than that. Because this process is so near and dear to my heart, I thought I’d share in more detail how the process works, what to expect and some examples of custom orders I worked on this past year. The last part is where I’ll gush and get a little sentimental (can’t help it!).
The couture process should first and foremost be exciting and fun! Think of it like working with a fashion designer to create a dress just for you. There are no compromises, nothing that isn’t perfectly tailored, and in the end you walk away with something beautiful that you get to share with your nearest and dearest. There is no other time in your life when you can send a little piece of beauty that is uniquely yours to 50 to 300 of your favorite people in the world.
Let's talk details I like to start the process with a consultation, either by phone or in person, or sometimes just by email depending on the client. This is where you share all the pretty things you have been stalking on Pinterest, discuss the intricacies of your favorite script font style, explain the nuances of color in your palette and gush a little about your fiancé. I want to hear it all. Every detail that is important to you when it comes to your invitations is also important to me. If your girlfriends or family members are burned out on wedding talk, think of this session as your time to get it out of your system. I live for this stuff and my ears are yours. We will discuss the style of your wedding, what you love and don’t love in a paper suite, what elements are essential to your wedding stake holders (mom, dad, future mother in law, etc), what you aren’t sure you want to include, but might want to see and what you can’t live without. It is always helpful to send me a Pinterest board or a few photo links to give me a visual on your style.
Getting started After the consultation, I will send you our couture design form and contract. To get started and begin the process, I’ll have you fill out the form, sign and email it back to me. We do require a $100 retainer to get started, which I can take by cc over the phone. Sometimes, after I receive your form, I’ll schedule a follow-up call or email if I have any other questions, but usually, it is at this point that I have everything I need to start designing!
Proofing A first proof for couture orders will usually take about two weeks. During this time you can think of me gazing thoughtfully at my computer screen, sipping a latte and bringing to life all the prettiness we discussed during your consultation. For the first proof, I usually start with just the invitation card or save the dates, if you are ordering them. I include three different styles, each unique and showing different options showcasing all the items on your paper wish list in different ways.
If you love one of these right from the start, I’ll make any necessary adjustments and then get started on designing any other cards you will be ordering. If you don’t love any of the options from the first set, I’ll design three more for your consideration. I cap the number of original design concepts at six, but will make as many revisions to chosen design as you would like to see until they are perfect.
Once you have approved a final proof of your suite with all the extra bells and whistles you might want to include (seals, ribbons, envelope printing, etc.) the design process will end and we will move on to printing!
Production and mailbox stalking The printing process will take 2-3 weeks. After that, unless you add on suite assembly, we will lovingly package your order and send it off to you! This is one of the best parts of the process because no matter what, your invitation suite will always look a million times more lovely in person than it does in digital proofs on your computer screen. It’s kind of magical.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How do I decide between a house collection order and custom order? Which one is right for me? This is probably the most commonly asked question. We like to make our house collection designs as personal to our clients as possible, even though they are selecting from pre-designed sets. Because this is important to us, we include a range of customization options with all of our house collection designs so you can make them feel like your own. Included customizations are: wording, ink color, fonts and card size. For house designs with monograms, the initials will also be customized. If you are looking for something more involved, like custom graphics, adding borders or other design elements or changing any of the placement, the order falls into the realm of a custom design. To view the different customization options for house collection designs, please visit our website here.
How many couture clients do you work with at any given time? Usually the maximum number of couture orders I design for simultaneously is six. This may change depending on the complexity of what my clients are looking for, but six seems to be the magic number.
How long does the custom design process take? There is no standard timeframe for the design process for custom orders. The length of the process varies by client. Everyone is looking for something a little different, will have different revisions to the proofs I create and will need different lengths of time to review and consider each set of designs I present. I know this doesn’t provide much guidance, but there are a few standard turnaround times I can share. A first set of proofs almost always takes about 2 weeks. Revisions can take anywhere from 24-48 hours, depending on the complexity of the changes. Especially complex edits like re-illustrating graphics can take up to a week. Textual or color changes are much faster, sometimes even same day. Our print turnaround time once a final proof is approved is always three weeks max. I like to recommend clients start to custom process 4 months from the date they would like to have everything in hand.
Do you have a minimum order requirement? For couture orders, we do require a three piece letterpress or foil order, not including envelopes or tags. The three cards can be any combination, invite + rsvp + details card or invite + rsvp + brunch invitation or invite + rsvp + map, etc.
Are there any limits to what you can design? The short answer is no. I haven’t yet been asked to create a custom suite that wasn’t within my capabilities to bring to life. I work with a broad range of styles and can create something for anyone. I love classic black tie, glam affairs as much as relaxed, rustic, homegrown celebrations and I really enjoy the challenge of designing something totally different every day of the week. It keeps my creativity fresh and I never, ever get bored with my work. That being said, if you ever ask me to create something that copies another designer’s work, I’ll have to regretfully decline. Maintaining the integrity of my work demands respecting the work of others in my field and I take this very seriously. I’d much rather create something that’s just yours instead of something that someone else already dreamed up. Wouldn’t you?
Can we get creative with my suite beyond just the paper aspect? YES! I love embellishments. Don’t get me started on wax seals and silk ribbon. I am crazy for all the details that make a paper suite pop and I am happy to source pretty much anything you can dream up. Have a crazy idea? We can find a way to make it happen.
Do we see proofs of our order at any time during the process? I will always send digital PDF proofs of any revision we make to your suite, but unfortunately, due to the nature of letterpress, we can’t print custom, physical samples for you to view prior to printing the entire order. We are happy to share physical samples of past work and color swatches to help you get a better idea of what the end result will look like letterpress or foil printed.
How much do custom invitations cost? We price all custom orders the same, regardless of what style you have in mind. We have a really easy to use custom pricing calculator on our site that you can use to determine the cost of your order, playing with variables like number of colors, quantity, envelope printing, etc. You can find it here.
Do you require a deposit to get started? Yes, we have a $100 non-refundable retained requirement to begin the design process. When you finalize your order the $100 is applied in the invoice toward your final balance.
Can you combine letterpress and foil? Yes. I love mixing letterpress printing with foiling. See Elizabeth and Cody’s invitation below for an example of mixing the two print styles.
Can you print on colored paper stocks? The answer to this one is sometimes! We can almost always print foil on colored papers, but we can only letterpress print on very light papers because letterpress inks are transparent. For white printing on colored papers, we can only use foiling.
What assembly services are offered? If you are looking for a full service order, you’ve come to the right place. Our team is happy to assemble your order with ribbons, seals, envelope liners, pocketfolds, boxes, calligraphy, guest address printing, etc. We will even mail your envelopes directly to your guests and send you the extras if needed. Please inquire with us directly for pricing!
What are you itching to design that you haven’t been asked to do yet? I am dying to design a family crest style monogram! I’m still waiting for just the right client to come along, but when they do, I’m probably going to do a happy dance and treat myself to an extra espresso shot in my latte.
CUSTOM SUITES FROM 2014
I thought it might be helpful to share a few of our 2014 couture orders and a little about what inspired them so you can get a sense of how a client’s vision gets brought to life in paper and ink.
Elizabeth + Cody | June 21st, 2014
This is one of my all-time favorite suites. We worked with Elizabeth’s wedding planner, Julie at Strawberry Milk Events, to create this one and I just love how personal it ended up being to this particular couple. The inspiration was Parisian romance and the ballet. The bride is a professional ballerina and Paris is one of the couple’s favorite cities to visit. They wanted the suite to feel romantic and elegant and connected to the style of their venue, which is the beautiful, ornate Meridian House in Washington D.C.
Elizabeth had recently danced in the ballet version of Sleeping Beauty and so the garland swags on either side of the monogram were meant to mimic some of the beautiful set design for that production. We also incorporated a ribbon bow above their interlocking initials to tie in the look of a ballet slipper. The pale pink of the ink and silk ribbon was also meant to imitate a point shoe. We also die-cut their invitation and added a thin gold foil border to give the suite a more Parisian feel. The monogram itself is vintage feeling and reminds me of something of the monograms on exterior of the Louvre in Paris.
Amy + Anthony | September 20th, 2014
I am a huge fan of wine country weddings in Napa and designing beautiful invitations for them just never feels like work. Amy and Anthony were married at a private winery estate belonging to a friend of Anthony’s family. Amy wanted the suite to feel elegantly wine country with a hint of Italian country-side (Anthony is Italian) and a little femininity. She didn’t want the look to be too formal so she wanted to use a script font that was loose and would look a little freehand.
We took her inspiration and created suite with an intricate but delicate border that we repeated on all the pieces. For her itinerary card we added some illustrated icons to give it a slightly more old world feel and used the Sudestada script for the scrawling, freehand look. Amy also wanted to have everything wrapped together so we added a hand dyed silk ribbon in ivory with bronzy dipped-edges. The ribbon especially gives it that luxurious, but slightly rustic feel that always reminds me of Napa.
Anna + Nick | August 9th, 2014
Anna and Nick’s suite really appeals to the side of me that appreciates beauty in the simple things. I worked with both Anna and her planner, Erica from Twine Events, and they really had a clear vision right from the start about what they wanted to see in the paper goods. Anna and Nick were married at San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, which is a beautiful, natural location. They wanted to keep the suite timeless but connect to the rustic feel of an outdoor wedding in Southern California. Their celebration was a several day affair so they also wanted to share a map with their guests that would highlight the important locations.
To create a paper suite that felt timeless, but natural and clean, we kept the invitation simple with just text and adding custom calligraphy for their names. We also added a vellum wrapper finished with white twine and perfectly imperfect wax seals with the initial of their new shared last name. The envelopes were also hand calligraphed in the same style as their names on the invitation. We also created a hand-illustrated map with drawings of the different key locations for their weekend celebration to add interest and a personal touch. Anna chose a muted color palette of antique gold and a true white to maintain the simplicity and timelessness of the look.
This map truly ended up being one of my favorite pieces I worked on all year. I just fell in love with the natural feel of the illustrations and how it brought a little extra warmth to the suite. Maps are always a standout, because if nothing else, guests will hold on to maps because they feel more like a gift or keepsake than a utilitarian piece of paper with instructions. Maps make my heart happy.
I hope this helps you get a better sense of what to expect when placing a couture order and makes you excited about all the possibilities of what we could create together! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org)!