Art director of Stylist magazine and resident bride-to-be, Natasha Tomalin, decided to get creative when it came to selecting her wedding invitations. Instead of opting for the usual template style, Tash designed - and printed- her own.
As a designer, I always knew I would want to create my own wedding invitations. I am pretty particular in my desires, and I knew that whatever I did would be exactly what I wanted and – more importantly – be utterly unique. Plus, it seemed a waste not to use my skills.
Additionally, having a gothic romantic-inspired wedding, I knew I wanted black invites, and unsurprisingly, no one offers black wedding invitations.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I once designed a friend’s wedding stationery and that was pretty stressful, but they had a fairly clear idea of what they wanted and I just had the task of making it look good.
But as an art director, doing my own invites is a completely different kettle of fish. a It’s the equivalent of being fashion designer and making your own wedding dress. Everyone (whether they admit it or not) will judge you, because it’s what you do for a living and judging is what people do best – so the pressure is on.
Here’s how I went about designing my own wedding invitations:
1) The idea
I started off with the romantic idea that I would hand letterpress all my invites on my friend’s antique desktop letterpress. I think: sure, this could be a lot of work, but the sense of achievement at the end when they are all beautifully crafted by my own fair hands, will be immense.
With my idea in mind – gold calligraphy on black card with a wax sealed envelope - I scoured Pinterest for ‘gothic romantic wedding invitations’.
I ordered reams of black card and envelopes from GF Smith who offer free samples on all of their paper ranges, and some gold letterpress ink so I’m all set.
Due to the nature of the old letterpress, I was limited by font and surface area, so I created a simple design. Turning up to my friend’s house with black card, gold ink and boundless enthusiasm (although slight trepidation), I was ready to go. We typeset the tiny metal letters, inked the letterpress up and started to print.
Unfortunately, the whole thing was a bit of a disaster – the ink didn’t take, we ran out of the letter ‘g’ and we discovered that the machine was just too old to produce anything of any sort of quality.
With only three months to go until the wedding, the panic set in.
4) The emergency Google
I frantically emailed every letterpress company that a Google search threw up and waited for someone to get back to me. Most companies weren’t taking any more orders for this year and some came back with ludicrous quotes.
5) Finding the right company
Finally a company called Blush took me on. They were incredibly helpful and accommodating and offered a pretty quick turnaround. In the end, I opted for gold foil blocking on black card (on their recommendation as gold ink on black could print badly – don’t I know it) and supplied them with my own design.
When they arrived they were so much better than anything I could have done on an ancient desktop letterpress.
6) Learning calligraphy
After a lot of drama with the printing, it was a relief to discover that the calligraphy for my envelopes was a much easier process.
Desperate to be involved in the design and use my creative prowess, I trotted along to a calligraphy class with À L'aise and Papier (they in fact have their own lovely range of ‘calligraphy inspired’ wedding stationery if you can’t be bothered to DIY) where I learnt the art in just two hours.
I would thoroughly recommend going to a workshop with Suzie from À L'aise; not only do you learn a skill, it’s also incredibly therapeutic. She also helped me with the calligraphy on my envelopes – again if you can’t be bothered to do them yourself, she offers an envelope writing service.
7) Making wax seals
Invites designed, envelopes scribed and special edition Shakespeare stamps purchased, I had just one more thing to do – the wax seal.
I sent my custom design (a lily by my favourite illustrator Aubrey Beardsley) to customwaxnseals.net. They suggested a nifty invention called peel ’n’ stick wax seals. You choose your colour, they hand-make the wax seals for you and turn them into stickers. No messing about with hot wax and glue guns, just peel… and stick – ideal.
It’s been a long process, but one I have most definitely learnt from. Don’t try and do it all yourself – unless you are well acquainted with a letterpress, don’t even think about attempting to print the invitations yourself. You just don’t need the stress. Cut corners where you can (peel ’n’ sticks), they will still look beautiful and no-one will appreciate the level of detail you put in anyway.