originally written by Brooke of the Tony Townie, updated by Joy Unscripted
There aren’t really any hard and fast “rules” when it comes to planning your wedding. Yet, if we had to pick one, we’d say that the best-guiding principle for wedding planning is to include plenty of personal touches to make your special day uniquely yours. A great way to do that is to hire a wedding calligrapher!
Beyond wearing your grandmother’s ring, dancing to “your song,” or serving your favorite foods, calligraphy is a lovely way to personalize everything from paper goods to day-of signage. A hand-lettered invitation or custom cocktail menu conveys intimacy and thoughtfulness that resonates on a deeper level than pure aesthetics. We all know a hand-calligraphed invite is sooo pretty to look at!
Bethany (Thames) Riegel of Joy Unscripted is a premier wedding calligrapher and invitation designer here in Asheville, creating original items for couples, wedding venues, special occasions, and personalized gifts. Her flare for new concepts and gorgeous lettering have set her apart in our local wedding industry, and we know she’s just the right gal to bring engaged couples up to speed on what they need to know about calligraphy!
From her top five need-to-know tips to choosing to take on a DIY project, Bethany covers all the basics in this comprehensive guide to wedding calligraphy.
— Bethany Riegel, Joy Unscripted
*Just not all at once
Calligraphy has been increasingly popular across all things weddings. While invitations are popular items to have calligraphed, there are lots of other items you can feature for your special day with a wedding calligrapher’s touch!
Planning a wedding is certainly about all the fun, pretty stuff — the dress, the flowers, the cake. It’s also about scheduling…like, a lot. Booking your vendors and then establishing a working timeline will take so much stress out of the planning process. Knowing when vendors expect certain things from you — and vice versa — is the key to getting to the altar without majorly stressing out along the way.
Here is a quick rundown of Joy Unscripted’s timeline as a wedding invitation designer when it comes to four major categories: save the Dates, invitation suites, envelopes, and day-of signage.
All you need to know before you send your Save the Dates are your wedding date and venue! Well…and some idea of what you’d like them to look like. Like all wedding vendors, designers appreciate couples sharing their favorite Pinterest images to aid in the design process. Yet, we have to caution them against getting overly attached to an exact look — we cannot copy anyone else’s work, and we need to have some flexibility in the design process to make it authentically ours.
After nailing down the design, couples can expect to receive a first draft of rough pencil sketches to convey the general idea. From there, they can fine-tune details, tweak colors, and edit the included information. Next, the wedding invitation designer will submit a final proof for client approval.
Remember to build printing and shipping time into your overall timeline!
Couples can expect a similar process for their invitations aside from the fact that they’re typically much more formal and detailed than the more playful Save the Dates. “Wedding Invitations” often means invitation suites – a collection of separate items that all arrive together (more on that below). Wedding calligraphers and designers prefer couples to be specific and upfront with what they would like included from the start in order to stay on time and on budget. It’s okay to add things along the way, just know that it could delay the printing and delivery of your items, and will create additional costs. In some cases, switching a printing method also means a total change in design.
What to Include: A standard invitation suite includes the invitation itself, an RSVP of some sort (whether a card with a pre-stamped envelope, postcard, or online response request), and an additional details card (hotel info, other special arrangements like transportation if applicable, and so forth) and your envelope(s). More on those below.
Wording: There are etiquette guidelines on what to include in your invitation should you need a little guidance. These are often very helpful for couples looking for a traditionally worded invitation. The couple makes the ultimate decision, yet often families (or whoever is footing the bill for the wedding) want to have more input on the invitations compared to Save the Dates. It is also important to take into consideration the etiquette for same-sex couples and nonbinary guests.
The primary function of the envelope is to get your beautiful invitation suite to the proper guest — which implies having the proper address to mail it to! Couples should triple-check their address list prior to submitting it to their designer and/or wedding calligrapher. It’s not likely a calligrapher will know the wedding guests personally, which means they won’t inherently know the couple meant to write MA instead of ME. Calligraphers will write EXACTLY what is on the list, so be sure it’s correct. The same is true for designers who will be printing addresses on envelopes for clients. TRIPLE-CHECK EVERYTHING!
Wedding calligraphers will need a fully formatted and triple-proof-read address list — this is of the utmost importance! Excel spreadsheets are NOT recommended for envelope addressing. Rather, calligraphers prefer couples to format their list exactly as they want it written on the envelopes to prevent a design error. For example, if couples want the addresses centered on the envelopes, the addresses should be centered on the list they provide. However, your wedding calligrapher may request the information in a spreadsheet and edit the format themselves. Be sure to ask how they prefer your information before just emailing over something you’ve already made.
Wedding invitation suites may contain inner and outer envelopes. Outer envelopes are typically addressed formally (i.e. Mr. & Mrs. John Smith, Dr. & Mrs, the Honorable, etc.). Again, there are traditional etiquette guidelines on which a wedding calligrapher can provide clarity. Inner envelopes use the “familiar” names we actually call our friends and family, such as “Grandma” or “Mike.” This is also a great time to explicitly let them know who is invited by using names instead of “guest” and “family.” This helps if you’d like to keep your wedding reception kid-free.
Envelope calligraphy is typically priced per envelope with additional flat fees added for specialty envelopes (think: metallic) as these can be harder to write on, require more drying time, etc. Custom ink colors and handwritten pre-addressed return envelopes may come with an additional charge as well. Some couples feel strongly that the return address matches the outer addresses in style. A great way to ensure they do is to have the wedding calligrapher design a stamp of the couple’s return address.
These types of signs — including welcome signs, menu boards, seating charts and so on — come much farther down the timeline. However, if you already know you’ll want your designer/wedding calligrapher to complete day-of pieces, let them know up front! Yes, it’s possible to accommodate late requests in some circumstances. However, three signs versus ten is a big difference in the amount of labor required, which will affect delivery times and, of course, the contract amount. Depending on workload, many businesses charge a percentage fee for projects requested less than two weeks in advance.
While wedding calligraphers never tire of hand-lettering traditional wedding documents and details, we love exploring out-of-the-box ideas and writing surfaces! Don’t be afraid of going non-traditional if that’s your style, or creating a unique wedding detail that helps tell the happy couple’s story. From escort cards on fruit to vellum invitations, and giant balloons, almost anything can be written on given enough time to experiment!
Are you interested in taking a DIY approach to save money or to flex your creative skills? Bethany from Joy Unscripted teaches workshops in the Asheville, North Carolina area! From modern calligraphy to chalkboard art, she offers classes spanning a variety of hand-lettering styles. Learn the basics to incorporate your own lettering pieces into your special day! Get on her mailing list and check her website often to see when the next workshop will be offered!
January 31, 2023