Unless you're a paper nerd like me, you might start hearing a lot of unfamiliar stationery terms during your wedding planning process. Lucky for you, I've compiled a list of some of the most common ones and have included an explanation for each. Some are pretty self-explanatory, but it never hurts to be thorough!
Read on to learn everything you ever wanted to know about wedding stationery (and then some), from the different pieces of your invitation suite to different printing processes.
SAVE THE DATES
Save the dates come before your formal invitation and give your guests the chance to put your wedding date in their calendars and to start thinking about travel arrangements if necessary. Save the dates are typically sent out six to eight months before your wedding — err towards eight months if you’re having a destination wedding or if many of your guests will be traveling to you.
The invitation is the centerpiece for your entire invitation suite. While your save the dates might be the first stationery your guests receive, it is your invitation that formally announces your wedding. It holds the most important information for your guests — the who, what, when, and where - and the style and wording you choose will help you set the tone for your big day. The entire invitation suite (see reply card and details card below) is typically sent out two to three months before your wedding.
The reply card (or RSVP card) is your way to keep track of the guest list for your wedding. In addition to tracking attendance, they are also a good opportunity to ask invitees to select meal options if necessary. Reply cards typically come with a pre-addressed envelope so it’s easy for your guests to fill them out and send them back to you. Nowadays, it’s also fairly common to ask guests to rsvp online via your wedding website. Whether you go with paper or digital replies, ask your guests to respond at least two to three weeks before your wedding so you have time to finalize your seating chart, place cards, menu count, and any other day-of details that require a more specific headcount.
The details card, although not absolutely necessary, can be very useful for providing extra information for your guests. It can include dress code, travel and accommodations, directions from the airport, any additional activities, etc. If you’re holding your reception at a separate venue, you can also include the reception location and any relevant details. The information on this card can also be as simple as directing your guests to visit your wedding website, since you might not want to include a URL on your invitation.
Individual menus are incorporated into each place setting, and are great if you’ll have table service or if your guests have pre-selected their meals. You can also utilize menu signs for each table, or even one large scale sign for your entire reception.
Table numbers are incorporated into your table decor to help guests find the table they’ve been assigned to. Although tables are traditionally numbered, you can also go with themed names, such as cities you’ve traveled to, your favorite local trails, etc.
ESCORT CARDS + PLACE CARDS
Escort cards, or seating cards, are displayed together and direct guests to their table, while place cards are used to assign specific seats at each table. Escort cards are often individual pieces, but table assignments can also be displayed as a large scale seating chart.
A seating chart is a large scale sign that takes the place of individual escort cards and tells gusts which table they’ve been assigned to.
Programs contain the order of your ceremony, details about readings and music, and information about your wedding party. They are also a good place to include a tribute to those who could not be in attendance. You can also include a note to your guests, such as a request to shut off electronic devices or information on how to get to the reception venue.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
The schedule of events can be included in your program, or it can be a stand-alone feature if you have a complicated schedule or a weekend full of activities. In the case of a wedding weekend, you can also incorporate the schedule into your welcome booklet.
Welcome booklets are usually only necessary for extended wedding festivities, such as a destination wedding or a full wedding weekend. In addition to sharing a schedule of events (welcome drinks, ceremony, farewell brunch, etc.), this is also a great place to include your favorite restaurants, scenery, and activities in the area, especially for your out-of-town guests!
Envelope liners a fun way to add more personality to your invitation suite. They are adhered to the inside of your envelope, so they’re only visible once the envelope flap has been opened, and often feature a pattern or illustration that ties in with the rest of your suite. They are typically only used for the large (A7) outer envelope, although you do have the option to include them with your reply and save the date envelopes as well.
The euro-style envelope flap is, in my opinion, the most elegant option - the back flap extends down past the halfway point of the envelope and ends in a graceful rounded point.
A1 (sometimes referred to as 4baronial) is the minimum size allowed for mailing by the USPS, and is commonly used for reply cards. The paper measures 3.5” x 4.875” while the corresponding envelopes are 3.625” x 5.125”.
A2 is a fairly standard size for thank you cards and other greeting cards, and they are the introductory size for AZC detail cards. The paper measures 4.25” x 5.5” and the matching envelopes, if necessary, are 4.375” x 5.75”.
A6 is the standard size at AZC for save the dates and flat thank you notecards. If you have more than the usual amount of information for your details card, A6 is a good size option. The paper measures 4.5” x 6.25” and the corresponding envelopes are 4.75” x 6.5”.
A7 is the most common size for the invitation - it is the largest piece out of the suite and allows the invite to stand out and command the most attention. The paper is 5” x 7” and the matching envelopes measure 5.25” x 7.25”.
Digital printing is the standard and most common printing option, where a digitized design is transferred onto paper. Although there are different types of digital printers, you really don’t need any specialized equipment for digital printing - you can take a design to your local printer or even print from home.
Foil printing is used for metallic designs or for light ink on dark paper. The process is similar to letterpress printing - a raised plate is used to press the design onto the paper, with the added step of transferring the metallic or white foil onto the paper.
With letterpress printing, a raised plate with the design is inked and pressed onto thick, soft paper stock. The result is an impression of the design that has a beautiful, timeless quality. Letterpress works best with details and fine lines rather than large blocks of color.