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Choosing invitations can be intimidating task
by Jill Allison White Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted on Sunday, April 21, 1996

The guest list is finally finished and now all you have to do is make sure everyone gets to the church on time. So, you turn your attention to the selection of wedding invitations, a task that sounds deceptively simple. After all, the function of the wedding invitation - getting the guests to the ceremony at the proper time, date and place - seems straightforward enough.

One look at the foot-thick sample books put out by most invitation companies, however, and couples will find that choosing invitations is more complicated than they thought, and the options nearly endless.

"A lot of people, when they go in to order wedding invitations, don't think to ask for anything other than the formal invitations," said Mary Klein of The Write Stuff, a stationery business she runs from her house in Aurora. "I like to tell people not to make decisions in 20 minutes or less."

As an independent consultant with "tons of samples," Klein is able to give her clients a level of personalized service that is often unavailable at stationery stores.

"I try to give them ideas, for wording and that type of thing, that they may not have thought of," she said. "Also, they can take the (sample) books home, which they can't do at a stationery store. (I tell them to) think about it before they make a decision."

Many stationery stores do offer some extra assistance forcouples needing to order wedding invitations. Card City USA in Lombard, for example, offers appointments with experienced salespeople to help couples wade through the dozen or so hefty sample books on hand at the store.

Each book includes dozens of invitation styles, along with ink color swatches, print styles and information about invitation etiquette and wording options.

The sample books - which are put out by Regency, one of the most prevalent invitation companies - also include sections of invitation "trousseaux," whereby the invitations and response cards are color-coordinated with everything from reception cards to pre-printed directions and maps, wedding programs, church pewcards, place cards, napkins, matchbooks, bookmarks and thank-you notes.

According to Klein, following a theme can make ordering invitations a lot of fun.

The opportunity to pick a whole package can really inspire your imagination, she said. "There are so many great ideas for those. One client I had wanted to coordinate the invitations to everything: the engagement party, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding. Even the invitation for a golf outing (for the groomsmen) blended in with the other invitations. It had a similar border, and we stayed in the same color family."

Klein also is able to help her clients with the wording of their invitations, which varies according to who is paying for the wedding, the marital status of the parents and other factors. She is versed in the etiquette of formal invitations, but will encourage her clients to be creative.

"I think people are nervous about changing the wording," she said. "But if the wedding is at an unusual location or something, it can be fun. One couple got married on the beach in the Virgin Islands and had a reception later in Chicago. So they ordered invitations that had a jungle scene in the background and the invitation said, 'All right, we admit it, it was a wild thing to do. But when you start planning a wedding, you quickly realize it's a jungle out there. And so ... we eloped. Come celebrate with us in a savage style.' "

Although Klein is adept at matching couples with unique, customized invitations like these, couples who want invitations that are specifically designed for them may want to seek the services of a graphic artist like Eunice Sherwood, the proprietor of Eunique Expressions in Buffalo Grove.

"I custom-design invitations uniquely for (each) bride and groom," she said. "I meet with them first and we talk (about what they would like). We try to make each one special. I did the weddings for all three children in (one) family, and one was a country-western theme, one was a hand-painted floral design and the third used screened photographs of the bride and groom when they were children."

An experienced calligrapher, Sherwood used to write the custom invitations by hand, but now uses Personalized Expressions, a software program she helped to design, and an ink-jet printer to generate the calligraphy.

After running one camera-ready copy, she sends theinvitations out to a printer. She is often kept busy in the meantime with hand-painting envelopes to match the invitations, which she hand-paints one at a time upon their return from the printer.

"I did a Halloween wedding where she (the bride) wanted a fall theme but didn't want pumpkins or anything like that," she said. "So I painted three tiger lilies on each invitation. The envelopes had a matching design, except the flowers were buds."

Sherwood's hand-painted creations cost from $3.25 an invitation (response cards and the appropriate envelopes included) to $10, depending upon the complexity of the design. Her designs that don't require hand-painting are somewhat cheaper, but still more costly than the customized invitations that Klein offers, which run from $1 to $3 a piece.

Those from Regency and other companies, which generally run from 50 cents to $2 a piece (invitations and envelopes only), are still the cheapest option, although they tend to be a bit less flexible in their customizing.

Timing is another factor to consider and will vary widely according to the type of invitation ordered and the company it is ordered from. Klein said she can have invitations ready in as little as a month, whereas stationery stores generally require six to eight weeks.

Custom designs like Sherwood's take the longest - usually three to six months, she said - depending upon the number of invitations ordered and the complexity of the design. Whateve roption they choose, however, brides and grooms should learn as much as possible before making a decision.

"They should educate themselves about the printing process," said Klein, who offers her clients a brochure on the subject.

"For example, a lot of people want engraved invitations, but most people can't tell the difference between invitations that are engraved and those that use thermography. (If they know this), they can save hundreds of dollars."

 
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