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Pushing the Envelope

Pushing the Envelope
This passport-style invitation was designed for a bride and groom who were airline attendants for JetBlue. The RSVP card is a boarding pass. Both were designed Social Savvy.

Classic white invitations with embossed borders and delicate flowers certainly trumpet the fact that a wedding is on the horizon. But many of today's couples are opting for bolder announcements that reflect their personalities or offer a glimpse into the setting or tone of the nuptials.

“I’ve seen it all,” said Jennifer Sanchez, owner of Social Savvy, a custom invitation and stationery studio in Pasadena. One client pushed the envelope by requesting a Day of the Dead-inspired invitation, decorated with sugar skulls and the vow, “‘Til death us do part.” But even those who don’t veer so far from tradition often want to put their personal stamp on the design. Color, text placement, artwork and embellishments are popular ways of updating traditional styles.

Here are some of the trends that local custom stationers have spotted:


Purple is popular now, with some couples choosing eggplant (a dark brownish-purple) and others going for more vibrant shades paired with silver. Charcoal gray is beating out chocolate, said Jill Velez, co-owner of Copper Willow, a custom stationer in Culver City. But anything goes, with some couples splashing on color inspired by bridesmaid dresses or other wedding elements. 

“They are using much more color, and not just navy and white or gold, but bold colors like canary yellow paired with gray,” said Laura Ching, co-founder of Wedding Paper Divas, an online company based out of Sunnyvale.


The definition of vintage varies depending on who is asked, but it’s big now. Maybe the invitation has romantic Victorian styling, with doily-like lace, Ching said. Or maybe the vintage feeling comes from using calligraphy or letterpress as Copper Willow does. Brocade patterns give a more formal bearing, while paisley patterns evoke the flower child of the ’60s, said Marcela Blakey, owner of Simply Stated Stationery & Graphics in South Pasadena.


For couples wanting to make sure their personalities shine, photos are popular, particularly on save-the-date cards and magnets. They might use “fun film strips to tell a story from an engagement shoot or [just show] them acting silly,” Ching said.


On a traditional invitation, the text is centered down the middle of a vertical card. For a modern twist, Velez orients the text horizontally or lines the type on the left or puts it on the lower part of the card. “The text has an artistic purpose rather than just printing the details,” she said.


To add a magical touch to invitations, rhinestones and crystals are fashionable. For a Malibu wedding under a tree adorned with twinkling lights, Blakey affixed clear rhinestones to a drawing of a huge tree. A crystal accented the tip of a wand on a Peter Pan-themed wedding invitation designed by Sanchez. 

While nature still dominates wedding artwork, it’s no longer delicate little flowers. The art is bolder, larger and more colorful and often reflects the wedding or reception venue. For instance, Velez did pen-and-ink lemons for a wedding in Italy and poppies for nuptials at Santa Lucia Preserve. Florals are still big, Ching said, but modern brides love watercolor designs.


A lot of times monograms are just letters, but new trends give the couple a chance to showcase their personalities through custom designs. For instance, for a Utah wedding Velez used the veins of an aspen leaf to create the letters of a monogram to reflect the setting of the wedding. 


With ecological and economical concerns, many couples are omitting some of the pieces of the traditional invitation suite. By turning the RSVP card into a postcard, the return envelope is unnecessary. Without an exterior envelope, Velez has used little tags, ribbons or bands to bundle the pieces together. 


Even the size and shape of the invitation is changing from the more traditional 5-by-7 format. 

“If you want to make a huge impact, go with a huge invitation or an unusual shape,” Blakey advised. 

A 7-by-7 invitation that unfolds to an 11-by-7 begs to be opened, she said. Circle cards and trifolds are also popular, according to Ching.

“My personal advice is it’s important that the invitation set the tone of the wedding [and] reflect who the two of you are,” Blakey said. “It should make people know what to expect to wear but it shouldn’t break
your budget.” 

The final litmus test is if the couple would still be proud to hang it on the wall 10 or 25 years from now. “Would you feel it was just too out there or too safe?” Ching asked. There’s no longer a right way — just what is right for the couple. 

Karen Koch, Custom Publishing Writer