I launched my little paper villages last spring, and didn’t really have a plan for them. They were an evolution of my generic little paper house design. I was selling them singly or in sets, and people seemed to really like them, and be interested in more variety of design. The first village combined a mini version of my paper barn and animals kit with two pretty basic little houses, and I added three more village designs over the last year and a bit.
I realized a few months ago, though, that calling them “Village Number Two” or “Village Number Three” was not only kinda lame, it meant that as I grow my product line I have to decide whether to just increment the numbers, or replace the existing #1 with a new design….it felt confusing just thinking about it!
So, I sat down with my chief strategy advisors a.k.a. my husband, Brian, and our cat, Bash:
Brian had the brilliant idea to name each kit after different trees that grow in the New England region. It seemed fitting to name these paper products after the plant they come from. Bash just knocked things on the floor. He was definitely less helpful.
We landed on tree-themed street names, specifically. The neighborhood I grew up in had a mix of trees and states for street names, so it reminds me of my home town, but lets you also imagine your own neighborhood around these kits.
The original village kit is now “Spruce Lane”, a nod to the less-saturated colors and cooler feeling:
“Beech Street” for this kit that feels very New England summer:
“Village #3” became “Willow Road”, a nod to the bright, light, springy feel of this color combination:
Village #4, all decked out in heart-shaped windows, is now “Pine Drive”:
These little neighborhoods are also begging to be made into a map, so stay tuned for that – just have to figure out what to call it! Yeiouville? The Village of Yeiou? Yeioutown? Let me know if you have a brilliant idea!
I discovered Mr. Printables when I was collecting ideas for my Paper Fun Pinterest board. There is a TON of content on the site. They have everything from calendars in the shape of a weird accordion rabbit thing to 3-dimensional paper alphabets to decorations for every conceivable holiday.
I’ve tried a few of the free paper craft projects as part of my #100daysofpaperfun project this year. I found the quality of the templates to be a little hit or miss, but you can’t beat the price! The illustration/surface design is lovely and fun, and some of the ideas are really creative. My frustrations were more with ease of assembly. Sometimes the flaps are pretty small, and it’s always tricky to get the last flap adhered when you’re working with closed shapes like the fruit.
My favorite so far has been the paper fruit. I’ve assembled the paper watermelon and a paper lemon. There are a few more paper craft fruits printed and waiting to go. I think the kiwi is next!
I also experimented with the 3D alphabet a little. Ultimately, I decided that while it’s a great resource, if I want to make 3D paper letters, I’ll be happier making my own!
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen me posting random paper projects for the last month or so. This random little goat “faux taxidermy” piece I created on a whim was sort of the impetus for the project:
I realized I have all sorts of random scraps and pieces and materials that I’m “saving” for a “special” project, and that in addition to the mental health benefits that come from doing something fun, it might be good to experiment and see if I land on any new product or project ideas.
I’m 32 days in, as of today, and it’s been really fun! I’ve made some random thing, tested craft kits and paper craft projects designed by other people, and had fun modifying and decorating my own products. Some days the open-ended-ness of “fun” is a little overwhelming, but I’ve been trying to be intentional about doing what feels good, and sort of following my energy (even if that meant taking a day off because I had no energy).
Highlights, in no particular order
I made a paper chicken, something that I’ve been meaning to work on for…a long time.
I played with embroidery and cross-stitch on paper! I’ve been wanting to play around more with embroidery for a long time now, and combining that with paper was pretty awesome. Definitely planning on more of that in the future!
I’ve also done a few experiments with cutting and folding tabs, this one was hand cut, so it has a nice organic feel (that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway), almost like fish scales or something. I’m thinking about ways these sort of shapes/tabs might be interesting as elements on a 3-dimensional form or on something flat, like a card, or maybe even a shadowbox?
Some people can’t stand the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, or the squeaky noise that styrofoam makes. Some people get aggravated when they see garbage on the ground, and some people get annoyed by poor grammar in an email from a colleague. We all have our pet-peeves, our things that people around us probably don’t even notice, right?
My pet-peeve is kinda weird…I get riled up when I encounter situations that are awkward or inefficient because of poor design. Everything from kitchen tools that fall apart when you try to use them (spatulas with a rubber scraper and a wooden handle, I’m looking at you) to websites that make it hard to find key content. One of the things that landed on this list quite some time ago was invitations, especially wedding invitations, that have a lot of little pieces, and no good way to keep track of them.
In my invitation design work I typically address this issue by using pocket enclosures that go inside an envelope and have their own little pocket that holds all of the bits and pieces. This can be an expensive option, though, as the enclosure itself costs at least $0.70 per invitation, which can be a significant percentage of an invitation budget for a piece that doesn’t actually communicate anything, just looks nice.
It was the intersection of these two problems: lots of pieces, and expensive pockets, that I set out to solve, and I came up with this:
Teal, gold, and triangles. A shimmery gold envelope coordinates with the metallic ink on the bright, handmade paper band around the invitation.
The invitation is a generous 5″ x 7″ (A7 size) which feels big, but isn’t ridiculous.
The accordion fold reveals plenty of space to describe all of the details of your big day, from hotel blocks to directions and RSVP information, as well as a little note instructing guests that they can pull the three panels apart at the perforations to make this:
With this invitation design, I wanted to solve the “loose bits” problem in a more cost-effective way, but I also started thinking about what happens to the invitations after they arrive at their destination. I take a lot of care when I’m designing and making these things, and it seems sad to just have the invitations be destined for the bin after the wedding is over, so this invitation doubles as a decoration that guests can hang in their home as a cheery pick-me-up for birthdays, holidays, or all year. The added bonus, I suppose, is that if they hang it up somewhere in their home, they’ll also know where to find it when your wedding day comes around and they realize they don’t know the way to the venue!
At the end of September I got to participate in a really amazing event called the Big Fake Wedding. The event is a fresh take on a bridal show built around the idea of showcasing wedding vendors doing what they do best — putting on an amazing wedding event for a real couple. The night features a ceremony of vow renewals for a couple and then a huge party reception. The “wedding guests” are brides and grooms to be!
The event featured invitation and paper goods designers, like me, photographers, florists, clothing and jewelry providers, caterers, DJs, live bands, photographers, and videographers. Everyone together did what they do best and put on a truly amazing event!
As you may have picked up in my wedding invitations and what comes next series, there are a lot of paper goods to consider for your wedding! For the Big Fake Wedding, I designed a full invitation set, as well as guest favor boxes, dinner menus, and table numbers. It was really fun to design for the the “Autumn Harvest” theme–it happened to tie together my favorite season and some of my favorite colors, so I basically took this as an opportunity to design my dream wedding invitations.
You might be aware that most of my work is actually in designing and creating unique papercraft kits. I LOVE to make paper do unexpected things, so I took this opportunity to think outside of the box a little! When you pull the invitation out of the envelope, you see a standard pocket enclosure, with the primary invitation text adhered to the flap where you would expect. When you reach into the pocket to pull out the traditional assortment of cards that tell you how to RSVP and which hotel to stay in, you realize that they aren’t cards at all! I created a garland of watercolored paper leaves that contains all of the important information, and can serve as a seasonal decoration (and reminder of the wedding), or at least a worthy commemoration of one of the most important days of your life!
I worked with Jody at My Personal Florist to create the custom die-cut menus and 3D table number for table #4. I created a more rustic/romantic menu and table number design for Jenna’s (O’Malley Floral) impressive (and giant!) arrangement for table #8, and we set each seat at the table with a menu held in place by a wine cork stand, and an elegant favor box crafted out of the same textured paper.
And photos! The watermarked photos above were all shot by photographers who participated in the event. One of the fun parts of the day was that the vendors were all there for several hours before the event, setting up and getting to know each other. It was really lovely to get to know these talented professionals! Most of the photos above were taken by Leona Campbell, including the beautiful shot of my invitation design at the top of the page. There’s also some that were taken by Danny Ebersole, from Ebersole Photography.
The Big Fake Wedding was a unique and creative event and an amazing way to get a real feel for all the elements that make your wedding day so special. If you’re getting married soon and feeling overwhelmed with imagining your special day, I’d definitely recommend checking out a Big Fake Wedding event near you!
Yay! You did it! You wrote an invitation, collected all the contact information, and sent that invitation out into the world. The party is officially on!
At this point, you will have a ton of things to continue to sort out over the few months remaining before your wedding day. At some point you’ll consider things like: seating charts, table numbers, place cards, programs, signage, welcome gift bags, menus, favors, cupcake or cake decorations, cake or cupcake decorations, and gift table decorations,
The sooner you can give some mental space to these things, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve whatever vision you may have for them! Whether you choose to take care of all of these elements yourself, or outsource some or all to a designer and/or calligrapher, the sooner you can set aside a few minutes to sketch out a plan, the easier it will be.
I’ve created a printable worksheet that can help you get organized:
Just like your invitations, there are a million different ways to make these things happen. The resources I listed in my post about making invitation decisions can be helpful here: many of the print-at-home or print-on-demand invitation services also offer place cards, menus, and other printed pieces. There are DIY kits and tutorials all over the internet, and kits at your local craft/hobby store.
I’ve collected some unique and interesting ideas for various pieces on Pinterest:
As I outlined in my Wedding Invitations 101 and Wedding Invitations 201 posts, you are not short of options when it comes to wedding invitations. After you’ve considered some of the decision-making guidelines I sketched out in those posts, you can move into the fun part: making your plan a reality! The list below is organized by the way the invitations are designed and made.
Glassine belly band backer….what?
Before you get lost in invitation jargon, check out this handy glossary of wedding invitation terms that The Knot put together. Especially if you’re going the printed route, it’s super handy!
Order Templated, Printed Invitations
There are SO many places to look for customizable, printed invitations. As you explore the options below, think about the parts of the process that are important to you, so that you can choose a good fit! Do you feel strongly about using 100% recycled paper? You could “go green” by only sending digital invitations, instead. Do you need the invitations to match the bridesmaid dresses? Can that online RSVP system handle RSVPs for the family brunch? Make sure the platform you’re choosing can do what you need before you spend too much time looking at design options!
Minted sources their designs from independent designers from all over the world. A portion of what you pay for your invitations will even go to the designer! This is a unique combination of large-scale printing and production capabilities for designs created by independent designers. Minted is also offering a digital invitation option, available for free through Dec 31, 2017!
Paper Source is known for their boutique stationery stores, but they also offer invitation personalization and printing, including options for gold foil, embossing, and letterpress. These are, again, templated designs that you can add your information to. One bonus of going with Paper Source is that you have access to matching paper stocks if you want to DIY coordinating day-of details.
Etsy is another source of unique invitation designs. Many Etsy sellers are able to go beyond the customization options given at Minted. Every seller has their own process for designing or customizing invitations, so make sure you read everything closely and understand what you’re signing on for!
Print at Home
These DIY invitation kits are available at your local craft store, and sometimes even at big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart. You’ll only have a handful of options to choose from, but you can customize the design pretty extensively as you will be printing it yourself. This option will be less frustrating if you’re comfortable with doing a little bit of graphic design. Also, make sure you purchase at least 10% more of the blank invitations than you need for your guest list, because there will almost definitely be some trial and error getting the invitations to work in your printer properly.
Paperless Post is a solid digital invitation option. They have invitation designs by top designers, and you can even add upgrades like a digital envelope liner! This is by far the best digital invitation experience that I know of. It includes some limited RSVP management capabilities. Many of their designs are free or very affordable. The extra-bonus cool thing about Paperless Post, is that they make it super easy to also send matching paper invitations. This is a great option if your guest list includes a bunch of tech-savvy folks along with a few who refuse to sign up for an email account.
GreenVelope is a digital invitation and RSVP management tool with a mission to cut down on paper waste. They donate some of their proceeds to help plant new trees. This gives you a way to give back while also getting a fully-customized design! Their designs can be customized more than Paperless Post, and the RSVP management system seems to have more wedding-focused features. There is no free option for this service, though.
Using a vendor directory site you can find an invitation designer or print shop close to where you live. If you value face-time and want to be hands-on, this is an option to consider. Often, local stationery shops contract with larger printing companies and can show you binders full of designs you can personalize. You can find lists of wedding vendors at The Knot, Wedding Wire, or search a site like Thumbtack.
Skip the Templates and Go Custom
Hiring an invitation designer to work directly from your vision for your invitations saves you a lot of time sorting through pre-made templates! Working directly with a designer gives you access to an expert who can guide you through the digital vs. paper decision. Your designer can help you make the best choices for your budget, for your guests, and for you. You’ll end up with a design that fits your event and your budget perfectly.
If you have questions about the process, or want to see if your idea can work, shoot an email to email@example.com and we’ll chat!
Pinterest is amazing for wedding planning and idea collection. It can also be an excellent way to distract yourself and waste time, though, so use it wisely! I have a number of different wedding-related boards that you can check out to get started:
If you’re debating the merits of different invitation formats, here are four things to consider when planning your printed or digital event invitations. If you’re just getting started thinking about invitations, don’t miss the first post in this series, Wedding Invitations 101: Making a Plan!
1. Consider your Guest List
You might be inviting your closest 50 local family and friends – and you might have all of their email addresses already. On the other extreme, you might have a guest list of several hundred, hailing from different countries, speaking different languages, and having varying amounts of experience with, or access to, technology.
Think through some of your edge cases. Do you have a set of cousins who refuse to use computers? Or great-grandparents who have more important things to do than check email? If you have different languages in play, will you need to create different versions of the invitation? A bilingual invitation? Or just follow up individually with a few people?
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – if you want to steer clear of technology, you can go the traditional route and have a mailed invitation and mailed RSVPs. You could also mail an invitation and accept online RSVPs. You could even send a digital invitation to most guests, and follow up in person or send a simple printed invitation for those who don’t have email. Only you can determine what works best for you and your guests!
2. Consider your Limitations (Limitations are real, even on your wedding day)
Your wedding day is about the two of you, your relationship, and your commitment to each other. Despite what all the magazines and blog posts tell you, it is, ultimately, still a real day consisting of 24 hours and all of our normal human limitations. All of the decisions you’ll make about that day will cost you time, money, or both. Time and money are finite resources.
If you don’t actually care about the details of your wedding invitations, or don’t have the budget to do much, don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. You obviously need to invite people, if you want them to come, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. Send a regular old email, or pick the easiest printed invitation option (see above), and move on to the parts of planning you ACTUALLY care about!
If you do put high value on the design of your invitations, consider partnering with an invitation designer to come up with something that fits your vision. Depending on your budget and your amount of free time, there are also DIY options to explore: making your invitations yourself, adding custom elements to an invitation suite that you order, or assembling your custom designed invitations yourself instead of paying your designer to do it.
3. Consider your Level of Enthusiasm
Another major consideration when thinking about invitations is being honest about how much you want to even think about them. Sorting through pre-made templates on all of the different websites or in your local stationery store can be incredibly overwhelming! There are probably hundreds of thousands of printed invitation designs for you to choose from, and thousands of digital options. That’s insane! Unless you have some way to narrow your focus, you will get overwhelmed quickly.
If you can narrow down your choices because you have a coupon, someone’s running a sale, that website is easiest to use, that designer is easy to communicate with, etc., that’s great – own it, and stick to it, so that you aren’t tempted to change your mind last-minute. You’ve still got the rest of the wedding details to figure out, after all.
Moreover, if you’re sending traditional paper invitations with RSVP cards, you’ll need to receive all of those RSVP cards back and process them, conscript a family member or friend into helping, or pay for a service to receive, organize, and report on those responses for you.
4. Consider Hiring a Professional Invitation Designer
If you’re feeling indecisive or having trouble coming to an agreement on what you want your invitations to look like, bringing in an invitation designer will help you get focused quickly so you can move on to the rest of your wedding planning. As a designer, it’s my job to listen to your interests and vision and turn that into a handful of options for you to look at that already look like your wedding. You don’t have to imagine it in your color palette, or with your names, or wonder what would happen if you made the text bigger. I can show you!
There are absolutely cheaper options for sending your invitations. However, if you need or want to prioritize your invitations, choosing to go with a custom design gives you access to an invitation design expert who can guide you through the process and help you make all the decisions.
(I can totally help you with this! I love designing unique invitations, but I can also help you make a plan to customize off-the-shelf invitations, or help you DIY your invites. Get in touch!)
There are as many different ways to plan a wedding as there are weddings, so my thesis here isn’t that there’s a correct WAY to plan your wedding or your wedding invitations, just that there might be an efficient order in which to make whatever decisions you’re going to make. As you’re beginning to plan, it’s wise to keep your timeline in mind, make your decision about the format of your invitations before you get too far along, and to keep the details that will inform your invitations in mind.
Invitation Format: Print or Digital?
There are a whole lot of decisions that go into an invitation, but one of the first decisions to make is whether you plan to mail your invitations, or send them via email. This choice will affect your timeline, your budget, and how you manage your guest list and other details. There are many different ways to approach both of these types of invitations, so narrowing down your format first helps you eliminate some of the options right away!
Determining a Timeline
Paper invitations are usually sent so that they arrive 6-8 weeks before the wedding day, but they can be sent as much as 3 months in advance, to give guests ample time to plan. If you know you have guests that will be traveling long distances, it’s nice to let them know as soon as you have the date secured, either by sending some sort of Save the Date announcement, or just by talking to them!
If you’re hiring someone to design your invitations, they may have a turnaround time of 3 to 6 weeks, or sometimes longer depending on the complexity of the invitations and their production process. Some designers are booked out months and months in advance. A lot goes into custom letterpress printing and other specialized techniques. Adding calligraphy will extend your timeline even further, because it takes time to write things by hand! This means that if you’re interested in custom invitations, especially if you have your hearts set on working with someone specific, it would be totally reasonable to start reaching out 6-9 months before your wedding.
If you’re planning to DIY printed invitations, or order from a line of standard invitation designs, you’ll want to account for printing and shipping timelines, so you might start trying to lock down some details and decisions around 4 months before your wedding.
Digital invitations make timing a little less of a concern, because many platforms will allow you to make your own updates to existing templates – you could theoretically DIY your invitations and send them the same day.
The basic goal of an invitation is something like “I’m having a party, can you come?”, but often weddings are complicated enough events that we end up also needing (or wanting) to use the invitation to communicate information about lodging, travel, and other logistics as well as to collect information about guests, dietary restrictions and/or choices, and maybe even attendance at related events like rehearsal dinners and brunches.
You will have a much easier time, however you plan to make or have your invitations made, if you can sketch out ahead of time the information you need to communicate and the information you need to collect. This will help inform your timeline, too, since the details of these different pieces will come together at different times. This is a great time to get parents or other relatives involved, because you might discover that someone has strong feelings about specific wording, or that your rehearsal dinner venue doesn’t quite fit everyone you thought you were inviting.
Of course, all of this decision making is helpful, but not a required pre-requisite to working with a designer! If you have a question about invitations, the invitation design process, or any of the things I mentioned in this post, you can get in touch by email, post your question on my Facebook page, or track me down on Instagram.
I’ve moved 10 times in my life, but since my parents still live in the house I was born in, that counting starts when I left home 13 years ago. I generally refer to “home” as the place I’m currently living. And I’ve been in the Boston area for long enough now (8 years??!) that it feels more like home than Illinois does, but I still occasionally refer to my parents’ house, or the midwest in general, as “home,” since I did spend some important time there…but honestly, maybe also just because “my parents’ house” is a lot more syllables than “home”!
It’s a strange feeling, though, to know a place intimately, then leave it for a while, and then come back – some things are the same they’ve always been, and some things are totally different. It’s almost like time travel.
We spent some time traveling to and through the midwest last week, to visit the in-laws and roadtrip from Illinois to Oklahoma to see more family. When we go back to visit I’m always surprised at how much sky you can see from the side of the highway driving through rural Illinois. We have clouds here in Boston, but they’re harder to see without craning your neck.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve been working on! We were (obviously) far away from my studio, so these things are mostly cobbled together from the few supplies I brought with me, crafted on grandma’s kitchen table, and photographed in …exciting… lighting conditions.