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Our wedding journey, part 3 - Bringing our summery wedding invitation designs to life

Yes, I am still slowly working my way through sharing our wedding experience with you all! Here is installation 3, all about the design process of our wedding stationery...

Once we had set the date for our wedding, I began working on the designs of our wedding invitations. This was also around the same time that I’d decided to launch my own business as a wedding stationery designer.

I began the process by illustrating our wedding venue, as I knew I wanted to incorporate the beautiful building into the wedding invitations somehow. Once I’d sketched out a line drawing on paper, I then digitised it in Illustrator to turn it into a vector. I knew very early on that I wanted to use a traditional printing method for our invites because I was very eager to learn about the process - and vector artwork is essential for letterpress or hot foil printing.

My interest in traditional methods of printing stemmed from my love for designer Anthony Burrill's work. Burrill is a screen printer, known for his bold typographic prints. I met him back in 2016/17 during Clerkenwell Design Week and he spoke about the process of screen printing and allowed me to have a go at printing my own piece. Over the years I became more and more fascinated by traditional forms of printing. I started following some printers on Instagram who specialised in letterpress and hot foil printing and became more invested in wanting to try it for myself.

Once I had digitised the line drawing of our wedding venue, I decided to use this on our Save the Date cards because I felt it was a great introduction to our wedding. Did you know that I offer venue illustrations as an added extra to the bespoke process? If you’re interested in featuring your venue on your wedding stationery, please get in touch to discuss your ideas further! I then began the long process of sourcing a typeface to use. Choosing a font takes me a number of hours, if not days! There is so much choice and I like to consider all my options very carefully because typography has the power to really set the tone! I wanted something classic but with a modern feel and I think I managed to achieve this by pairing a serif and a sans serif font together. Unfortunately, I am not willing to share the names of the fonts I have chosen because this is something I keep under wraps. Once I’d chosen the fonts and finalised the drawing of the venue, it was time to begin laying out the design on the page.

Designers tip:

When laying out a design, I consider the information I intend to feature on the page and assign a level of hierarchy to each element. This helps the viewer digest the contents clearly and easily. This is achieved by varying the size and weight of the copy, making the key information larger.

After finessing the Save the Date card design, it was then time to move on to the main invitation. Having made the decision to use the colour yellow within our wedding colour palette, I knew that I wanted to feature lemons on the invitation. I found a beautiful vectorised arrangement of lemons on a stock website (yes, not everything has to be hand-drawn to still feel unique and creative) and used that as a base for the design. I re-arranged and manipulated the original illustration to form a ‘lemon border’ that I used to frame the invitation details. I then used the same lemon illustrations across the rest of our stationery suite, creating a cohesive lemon themed set. As the Save the Date cards did not feature lemons, I made sure to use the same typeface throughout to help tie everything together.

I kept things simple for the RSVP cards, using a little elephant motif, that you also may spot on each piece of our wedding stationery. George and I met whilst working at a restaurant called ‘The Elephant’ so we wanted to pay homage to that in some subtle way.

Once I was happy with the designs, I began sourcing a printer that I could work with in order to bring everything to life. Thanks to social media, I found the lovely Grania from ‘Ink & Paper’. She offers a ‘print your own wedding stationery’ session which was perfect because I was really eager to learn and print everything myself.

We managed to arrange a printing session, amidst lockdowns and busy schedules and prior to the ‘print day’ I sent Grania all my designs for her to check. We decided to go down the letterpress route because I felt the lemon design really lent itself to ink over foil. I had also watched Grania use her mighty letterpress aka ‘The Beast’ on her stories and was eager to have a go! Grania then organised all the paper and dye ordering and before I knew it, I was standing in her lovely studio situated at the bottom of her garden.

We began by setting up the press ready for a blind deboss of the venue illustration for the Save the Date cards. I quickly learned that setting up the press involves a fair bit of trial and error in order to get everything aligned correctly. The same process is applied when printing on a hot foil press machine. I remember feeling quite nervous when Grania told me to turn on the press. It is quite a noisy contraption and ‘The Beast’ is certainly an apt name. Thankfully, with Grania’s expert guidance, I quickly got the hang of printing and we soon whizzed through our first print run.

I loved the impression the press created of my hand-drawn venue illustration - this really is where the beauty of letterpress printing lies. You will not get the textured debossed feel from digital printing and this is what makes traditional methods of printing look all the more luxurious.

After a cup of tea and biscuit break, I was then shown how to mix inks ready for printing. This involved weighing out different primary ink colours in accordance with the Pantone book formula. I enjoyed creating the perfect yellow for my lemons. Once the ink was mixed, Grania showed me how to apply the ink to the press and it was fun watching it spread evenly over the rollers. Again, a short time was spent making sure everything was aligned correctly on the page before I began the repetitive yet therapeutic task of placing each piece of paper onto the press for printing. My designs used a total of two ink colours and after the first colour, Grania showed me how to clean the press ready for the next. It was this part of the process that I did not enjoy very much - the smell of acetone and the laborious task of scrubbing ink off the rollers seemed to take forever.

I think in total our wedding stationery passed through the press a total of nine times. This is because you have to print each colour separately. Our Save the Date cards went through twice, once for the blind deboss and once for the grey. As the design for our main invitation was quite complex, we printed some of the same colours separately, to ensure everything aligned correctly. The main invites, therefore, had a total of six print runs and the RSVP cards had two. If you’re thinking of hiring a letterpress printer to print your wedding invitations and you wonder why it costs a lot more than digital printing - this is one of the reasons!

I spent a whole day with Grania, printing everything for our wedding. It was a great experience that ultimately lead to me purchasing my own traditional printing press. I ended up opting for a foil press because I currently do not have the studio space for a large letterpress machine - I do however intend to invest in one in the future, this is one of my goals and aspirations for my stationery business moving forward. I’m very thankful that Grania was willing to share her skills with me and I was so pleased with how our invitations turned out.

After everything was printed and I was back home, wishing I had my own garden studio with a letterpress machine, it was time for me to order the envelopes. I chose a mixture of G.F Smith colorplan envelopes in Factory Yellow and Forest Green - all in keeping with our wedding colour palette. I then digitally printed the addresses onto the yellow envelopes for the Save the Date cards and the return addresses onto the RSVP cards (a service that I offer in-house). I hand calligraphed the addresses onto the main invitation envelopes in gold ink - something I decided not to offer in-house after I gave myself severe neck issues doing our own addressing (I can however organise this on request using an external talented calligrapher). I also digitally printed the inserts of our details cards, which I made into a little booklet for our guests and these included accommodation options and some of our favourite things to do in the area, for those travelling from afar.

Finally, after several months of planning, designing, printing and calligraphy, our wedding invitations were finally ready to pop into the post! Then it was a matter of waiting for the little yellow RSVP cards to pop through the letterbox. This was a really exciting part of the wedding planning - seeing the little yellow cards being returned to us with people's replies on, it made checking the post each day quite thrilling.

If you would like to work with me on designing your own wedding invitations and if hot foil printing is something you’re interested in, please get in touch to further discuss the exciting process.



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