The Ultimate Wedding Invitation Guide

How to find the perfect pieces, paper and print for your suite!

Now that you’re engaged there’s a whole world of decisions to make, things to plan, memories to create and your invitations are one of the first!

So how do you know what information to include? What type of paper to use? What pieces to choose and how to make them?

This crash course will give you the tools to choose the perfect pieces, paper and print for your wedding invitations and stationery – even if you’ve never shopped for paper a day in your life!

Ready to get started? Click here to download The Ultimate Invitation Checklist and we’ll jump in!

1.  What stationery do I need for my wedding?

The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the stationery you’ll need for your wedding! If you’ve downloaded your checklist, you’re all set – otherwise download it now so you can build your list as we go through each section!

While it might seem like it’s too early to plan your day-of stationery – it’s helpful to keep those pieces in mind as you’re shopping for your invites if you want all your wedding stationery to go together!

The four types of wedding stationery you’ll need are:   

     1.  Save the Dates

  • Save the Dates are super important because they give your guests lots of time to plan ahead – especially if there’s travel involved! These should be the first paper goods you create and should be sent out 6-8 months before the big day

     2.  Invitations

  • More on this coming up next!

     3.  Day-of Stationery

  • Day-of Stationery is often overlooked because it feels so far out, but thoughtful day-of stationery will help you guide your guests through your wedding day – making it more enjoyable for everyone! Oh, did we mention it’s a gorgeous way to add personality and style to your venue as well? Yup – that too! ;)
  • Most popular day-of stationery includes:
  • Programs
  • Menus
  • Signage
  • Seating Charts
  • Place Cards
  • Escort Cards
  • Wedding Favor Cards

Design by Mein Schatz Events |  Photo by Studio Castillero

     4.  Thank You Cards

  • Thank you cards are a time-honored tradition that shouldn’t be forgotten! Everyone loves receiving happy mail, so if you’ve been given a gift (whether it’s a physical one or time spent) a thank you card should be sent to your guests within 2 weeks of the big day!

2.  What pieces should I include with my wedding invitations?

Your invitations should give your guests the first glimpse of what to expect on your big day  and tell them everything they need to know to arrive on-time and ready to party!

Start with the basics and then add flair and function as fits your theme by adding special “extras” like the ones listed below!

The Basics:  

  • Invitation Card: This is the centerpiece of your invitations and includes all the most important information like who, what, where and when!
  • RSVP Card: Your RSVP card will have a place for your guests to say whether they will be attending or not – and often includes their meal choice as well. 
  • RSVP Return Envelope: Don’t forget to include a prepaid, pre-printed envelope so your guests can easily return their RSVP!
  • Invitation Envelope: This is a great way to add flair to your first impression! Experiment with different envelope colors, add calligraphy, vintage stamps and even wax seals for a totally unique look – just don’t forget to add enough postage! 

Photo by Mason Nuefeld Photography |  Stationery by PaperOcelot

The Extras:

  • Details Card: Perfect if you have lots of information to share with your guests that won’t fit on your invites without overcrowding them – this is by far the most popular “invitation extra”!
  • Reception Card: Having your reception at a different location than your ceremony? Include all those details on a separate reception card for easy access – especially if travel is involved.
  • Travel Details/Accommodations Card: Hosting a destination wedding or have lots of folks coming to town for the big day? A travel card with accommodation information (especially if you’ve reserved a block of rooms for your guests) will keep you and your guests organized.
  • Custom Map: Is your venue a key part of your theme? Is your venue hard to find? If so, commissioning an artist to create a custom map is a beautiful insert and keepsake for your invitations. Connect it to your theme by adding colors, landmarks, illustrations and special details – this will make it even more special!
  • Activities Card: Hosting lots of activities surrounding the big day like a pre-wedding brunch, bowling night or group hike? Adding an activities card to your invites is a fun way to keep the celebrations going all wedding-week long!
  • Wedding Website Card: Wedding websites can detract from the look of your invites – so creating a small wedding website card with your URL is a great way to direct your guests to the right place, while keeping your invitations looking polished and professional!

3.  What information do I need to put on my wedding invites?

There’s nothing worse than sending out your invitations only to get 1000 texts from your friends and family saying you forgot to include your venue information on them!

To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, here are the 5 things you MUST include on your wedding invitations:  

  • The Hosts’ Names (or an introductory statement like “together with their families”)
  • Couple’s Names (that’s you!)
  • Date & Time of the ceremony
  • Location (make sure you include the city and state - especially if your guests aren’t local)
  • Post Ceremony plans (and other important info)

Artisaire Quick Tip: Don't forget to include your RSVP information as well so you guests know where to reply!

Photo by Mango Studios | Stationery by Little North Company

4.  What kind of wedding invitations are there?

Now that you’ve figured out what pieces you need – it’s time to choose the right type of invitations!

Depending on the look you’re after, your budget and how much design expertise you have - there are three different types of wedding invitations you can choose from:  

1.  Custom Wedding Invitations

Custom wedding invitations are without a doubt the easiest and most luxurious option out there!
Working with a professional designer means every detail of your wedding invitations will be thoughtfully designed, beautifully crafted and totally taken care of! If you love beautiful stationery and are already relieved at the thought of handing off your invites to a professional – this is the option for you!

Pricing for custom wedding invitations usually ranges between $5,000 - $10,000+ depending on the artist.

Stationery by Maurelle Calligraphy

Artisaire Quick Tips:  

  • Start researching stationers early! Most book 9-12 months in advance for peak wedding season!
  • Ask your designer about day-of stationery during your consultation. Tying your day-of pieces to your invites is a total pro move and may even save you some money!
  • Turnaround (to make them) is usually ~2-3 months for custom invitations once the design is set – but most designers require 6-8 months to account for the design and revision process.

2.  Semi-Custom Wedding Invitations

If you’re looking for something a little more involved – semi-custom invitations are a great option! While custom invitations will always have our hearts, many designers offer beautiful semi-custom invitations that you can mix and match to create the perfect suite for you. Working with a small studio means you’ll still get beautifully crafted invitations and design – but as you will be doing a little bit more of the work, you’ll get to enjoy them a lower price point.

Investment for semi-custom suites usually ranges from $1,000 - $3,000 for the average wedding.  

Stationery by Plume Calligraphy

Artisaire Quick Tips:  

  • Look for stationers who have a wide range of products in their semi-custom collection like save the dates and day-of stationery – this will help create the most cohesive look for your wedding by shopping for them all in one place.
  • Even though your order will likely be placed online, the studio you buy from will work with you during the proofing process and production – meaning you will still receive a higher level of quality and service than large online retailers.
  • Short on time? Ask your designer if they offer assembly of their semi-custom suites. While this will cost extra, it will save you SO much time!

3.  Pre-Designed Wedding Invitations

If you’re looking to create invitations quickly and efficiently – this is a great option! As the name suggests, pre-designed invitations are completed designs that you can personalize with your text, order online and assemble yourself. Available through big brand retailers like Minted and Envelopments, this is the fastest way to get wedding invitations made – and often the most economical option as well.

Pre-designed invitations usually start around $1.50/invite.   

Stationery by Envelopments

Artisaire Quick Tips:  

  • Many pre-designed invitations have matching Save the Dates, RSVP cards, details cards and more – so make sure to look for those while you’re shopping!
  • Transform your pre-designed invitations by adding embellishments like wax seals, ribbon and liners to your suite!
  • If you’re tight on time, most retailers can turn these types of invitations within a week!
  • Watch out for hidden fees! Things like envelopes, addressing, postage and rsvp cards can add up quickly – so if you’re comparing cost, make sure to look at the total cost per invite!

5.  What type of paper should I use for my wedding invitations?

Now that you know what pieces you need it’s time to pick your paper!

If you’re working with a professional, they’ll already have their favorite paper weights and guide you through the process – but knowing the most popular types will make the whole process a lot easier!  

Photo by Tara Lynn Butterworth | Stationery by Jenny Sanders

Text:

What most people think of when they think of “printer paper”, text weight paper is thin, versatile and designed for most at-home printers.

While you could use this type of paper for wedding invitations, we recommend working with a higher grade of paper for the best results.

Most Common Weights: 20 lb. – 80 lb. 

  • *Weight is how “thick” your paper feels compared to other types. The heavier the weight (i.e. 80 lb. vs. 20 lb.), the more robust and luxurious your paper will feel.

Cover/Cardstock:

Cover weight or “cardstock” is the most popular paper type for invitations because it’s thicker and feels much more luxurious than text weight.

As cardstock is thicker than most printers can hold – make sure to check the paper specs for your printer and order paper samples for testing if you’re printing at-home.

Most Popular Paper for Invitations:

  • Linen Cardstock
    A beautiful fabric-like textured paper, beautiful for wedding invitations.
  • Cotton Cardstock: 
    The most amazing billowy paper that’s GORGEOUS when paired with letterpress, embossing and foil printing!  Made from cotton fibers.
  • Pearlescent Cardstock:
    Looking for a little shimmer? Pearlescent cardstock has been coated with a shimmery finish to give your invitations a beautiful iridescent glow.

    Special Note: Pearlescent cardstock can be more difficult to work with as ink won’t set the same way on it. We recommend saving this type of paper for printing professionals!   
  • Handmade Paper:
    Hands down this is the most luxurious paper to use for wedding invitations! If you’ve never worked with handmade paper before, trust us when we tell you it’ll change your life!

    Perfect for letterpress, this paper is made from recycled paper fibers and a special screening process that gives each sheet a hand-crafted, organic feel. As each sheet is shaped by-hand, it has a much more rustic look which makes it perfect for fine art invitations!  

Photo by Tara Lynn Butterworth | Stationery by Jenny Sanders

  • Vellum Paper:
    The last type of wedding paper we’re sharing is vellum. Semi-transparent, vellum paper is known for being opaque and more textured than other paper types. Vellum is one of the top stationery trends of the year and is a gorgeous way to add texture to any invitation!

    Artisaire Quick Tip: Love vellum but have already printed your invites? A vellum overlay is the perfect option to add the look and feel of vellum at any stage of your invitation making process!

    [RELATED: 16 Ways To Add Vellum to Your Wedding Invitations] 
  • Bonus Material: Acrylic
    For those of you looking to switch things up, meet acrylic! While the name isn’t super sexy – making your invites out of it sure will be! Gorgeous for invitations and day-of stationery, this clear plastic comes in a whole bunch of formats (thin sheets for invitations, thick blocks for table numbers and custom sizes for signage and seating charts) and we’re totally obsessed!

    If you’re as hooked as we are – we’d highly recommend finding a stationer with experience in acrylic stationery, as it does require some special steps to make it happen!

Stationery by Mickey Loves Jacqui

6.  How do I know what printing style to choose?

If you’re working with a designer, they’ll guide you through the best choice for your design – but if you’re working with semi-custom suites or an online retailer, knowing the difference between the most popular printing methods will save your brain from invitation overwhelm!

Here are the top 8:    

1.  Digital Printing

Digital printing is the most basic type of “flat” printing (which just means that no impressions are created during printing) and is a similar method to how you’d print at home. Digital printing is also the starting option for wedding invitations and most economical.

http://www.tara-lynn.com/Photo by Tara Lynn Butterworth  |  Stationery by Jenny Sanders

Paper Pairing:

  • Text weight paper
  • Light cover/cardstock up to 110 lb.

Artisaire Quick Tip: Maximize your budget by using different printing methods for different parts of your stationery – investing in letterpress printing for your main invitation card and digital print for your RSVP and details card is a great way to get the most bang for your buck and set your invitations apart!

2.  Offset Printing (Lithography)

Offset printing is how you flat print on thicker kinds of cardstock (over 110 lb.). While this method requires more sophisticated equipment than digital printing, it’s the best way to use more luxurious paper while keeping your print costs low!

Stationery by Saffron Avenue

Paper Pairing:

  • Cover or cardstock over 110 lb.
  • Handmade paper
  • Specialty papers

Artisaire Quick Tip: Offset printing uses a different type of ink matching – so if you’re looking for an exact color (i.e. matching your invitations to your favorite wax color), make sure to send your printer a physical sample to match to! 

3.  Letterpress Printing

Letterpress printing is a labor of love and the most popular option for wedding invitations! This type of printing uses an engraved plate that’s been covered in ink to create an ink-filled impression on your invites.

Suited for heavier paper weights, letterpress printing is a more expensive option – but is totally worth the investment!  

Stationery by Papel & Co.

Paper Pairing:

  • Handmade Paper
  • Thick Cardstock (the thicker the better)
  • Double Thick Cardstock (best)

Artisaire Quick Tip: Ask your printer about Blind Press – which uses the same printing method but without any ink – a totally gorgeous twist on a classic!  

4.  Engraving

One of the most luxurious printing methods you can choose for your invites is engraving. Like letterpress, an engraved plate and ink is used to create an impression – but a totally different type!

Instead of your artwork being pressed into the paper like it is with letterpress, engraving will create a raised impression – meaning your letters are raised on the front and indented on the back, which is totally gorgeous!

Because this is one of the most complex printing methods, it’s often one of the more expensive options as well!  

Stationery by Crane Paper

Paper Pairing:

  • Thick Cardstock
  • Handmade Paper
  • Specialty Paper

Artisaire Quick Tip: Love the look but want a more budget-friendly option - Thermography is your best bet!

5. Thermography

Thermographic printing looks like you’ve had your invitations engraved – except the back of your invitations will be flat instead of indented. This type of printing uses ink, a resinous powder and heat to create raised areas of text/illustrations and is a beautiful, lower-cost option to engraving! 

Stationery by Invitations by Dawn

Paper Pairing:

  • Thick Cardstock
  • Handmade Paper
  • Specialty Paper

Artisaire Quick Tip: With so many different colors and styles of ink – this technique works well on both illustrations AND text! 

6.  Foil Press

One of the most popular invitation printing must-haves is gold foil! If you’ve fallen in love with the look of shimmering print, this is the one for you!

To create this look, an engraved die is covered in foil, heated and stamped into your invitations leaving behind the most beautiful metallic foil impression.

Depending on how much foil you use – this method can get pricey, so use it to accent the biggest parts of your stationery for a totally show-stopping look!  

Stationery by Swell Press

Paper Pairing:

  • Thick Cardstock
  • Handmade Paper
  • Specialty Paper

7.  Embossing

Embossing is a beautiful embellishment that can be used in combination with any of the other methods shared above!

Created by pressing two engraved plates on either side of your invitations or envelopes, an embosser will create a raised impression featuring whatever artwork you like!

As embossers are usually smaller, they are best used on envelope flaps or edges of stationery and work best on lighter cardstock.   

Stationery by Jenny Sanders

Paper Pairing:

  • Text weight Paper
  • Light Cover/Cardstock
  • Handmade Paper Cardstock
  • Specialty Paper

Artisaire Quick Tip: Metal embossers will create the strongest impression so look for solid metal plates when ordering. Also make sure to check the suggested paper pairing for your embosser – not all embossers will work with extra thick cardstock! 

8.  Laser Cut

Laser Cutting is a “printing” method that uses a laser to cut out intricate patterns out of paper instead of ink. Whether you use laser cut elements as an embellishment (like a wrap for your invitations) or as the basis of your invitations themselves (see example below), this technique requires special tools and is best left to the professionals!

Stationery by Swell Press

Artisaire Quick Tip: We love this great DIY invitation idea from Pipkin Paper Company that uses paper edge punchers to create a pretty laser cut-inspired suite! Click here to read more.

7.  What about shape and size?

Even though more and more brides are experimenting with shape and size for their invites, the 5”x7” rectangular invitation still takes the cake!

Getting creative with shape and size will instantly make your invites stand out – and we’re totally here for it!

Here are a few of our favorite examples from Britt at Swell Press:  

As you search for your invitations, you will see that most stationery is sized based on what envelope it will go in – this makes it easier to pair your stationery with the right envelope and keeps the whole process streamlined.

Here are the most popular envelope sizes you'll come across: 

     1.  A7

  • Most popular envelopes for wedding invitations
  • Dimensions: 5 ¼” x 7 ¼”

     2.  A7.5

  • Most popular outer envelope size
  • Dimensions: 5 ½” x 7 ½”

     3.  A6

  • Most popular envelopes for Save the Dates
  • Dimensions: 4 ¾” x 6 ½”

     4.  4 Bar

  • Most popular return envelopes for RSVPs
  • Dimensions: 3 5/8” x 5 1/8”

     5.  A2

  • For small insert cards and RSVP's
  • Dimensions: 4 3/8” x 5 ¾”

     6.  Square 

  • Top trending “specialty” shape for invitations
  • Dimensions: 5 ¾” x 5 ¾”

The Wrap Up

Now that you’ve worked your way through this guide – you’re ready to create the perfect invites for your big day!

If you’re ready to take the next step, we’re talking about how to choose a wedding theme you’ll love and create invitations that match in our next post: 

This is the funnest topic we’ve covered so far – so don’t miss it!

XO,

The Artisaire Team