One of my favorite parts of any wedding is the paper suite. It’s one of the first ways that the bride and groom reveal styled details about their upcoming nuptials. The paper suite is an important design element, yes, but more importantly it becomes a treasured keepsake for the bride, groom and their loved ones. I dedicate a significant portion of my refrigerator display real estate to save the dates and invitations for upcoming events. But when I got engaged, I entered into a whole new world of detail and specificity. There can be a surprising number of choices to make: printing style, cardstock, shape, color, design, and details.
In my experience, paper stock will generally be largely determined by your printing style of choice and your budget. Your paper vendor should be able to steer you in the right direction, based on what paper is best suited to your design needs. Many vendors have specific stock that they prefer to use.
Here’s a few important vocabulary terms for your wedding paper education:
Paper weight is defined by lb or gsm. For example, copy paper used in a standard office copy machine is 20 lb; cotton cardstock often ranges from 90-200 lb. Cardstock above 100 lb will stand on its own without flexing. Some companies offer cardstock as thick as 360 lb!
Paper thickness is defined by caliper/point thickness. (For example, standard copy paper might have a caliper of 0.004 but cotton cardstock might have a caliper as high as 20.0.)
The shape of your invitation and other accompanying suite pieces impacts design aesthetics as well as postal logistics. While many couples choose a rectangular invitation, you can choose to incorporate a variety of special shapes and detailing. You could choose square, circle, or laser-cut designs, or you might add special corners or edging. Be advised that special shapes (such as squared or circular) may cost you more in postage than a comparably sized rectangular invitation.
Next, there is a broad spectrum of printing options and an equally broad spectrum of related prices.
Flat/Offset/Digital Printing/Lithography ($)
There are some notable distinctions between these printing processes, despite some of these names often being interchanged. However, for the purposes of an introductory guide, I’m going to group them together. These printing processes allow for finely detailed graphics, increased ink coverage, and allows for multiple ink colors of nearly any color imaginable.
Thermography is a process by which flat printing is heat embossed. The resulting printed material is raised off the page. It produces a look very similar to engraving for a more affordable price point.
Foil Stamped ($$)
Foil stamped invitations involve adhering a sheet of foil (typically metallics such as silver and gold) to the paper of the invitation. The result produces shiny, finished designs which often feature slight indentations.
One of the oldest forms of typeset, designs are etched into plates, coated in ink, and then pressed into the paper. The notable difference between thermography and engraved invitations is the “bruising” or indentation on the backside of the engraved materials.
Paper Airplanes via Oh So Beautiful Paper
This is also a very traditional form of typeset. Letterpress printing involves either a moveable type or a raised polymer plate, rolled or dipped in ink, then applied to the paper. The result is a deeply indented invitation.
For a premium, you can commission an artist to hand-paint each individual invitation. Depending on the vendor, this might involve digitally printed text and hand-painted illustrations or the text and additional design elements may all be hand-painted.
Similar to the latter listing, you can commission a skilled calligrapher to hand-letter each individual invitation. Calligraphy is an elaborative, flourished form of script which is often implemented with a broad tip pen.
Paper lovers, rejoice! Many vendors offer a limited number of free or highly discounted samples of their paper stock and/or design suites: Minted, Crafty Pie Press, Cat Print, Wedding Paper Divas, Magnet Street, PS Print, Paper Presentation, and Storkie Express.
Know of another fabulous wedding paper vendor who offers fabulous work and/or free samples of their fabulous work? Share your favorites in the comments below!
Lauren Miller is a northern born, southern bred girl planning a January wedding. She lives in Memphis with her fiancé, Mitch, and their two dogs, Bosco and Cassidy. She loves dogs, traveling, and fresh food. Check back for regular updates on her adventures in wedding planning, detailed how-to guides, and design inspiration! You can also follow her on Pinterest.