Making the Perfect Custom Invitations

One of my favorite things in the world is hearing a client’s wild idea for their perfect custom invitations, especially when it ties into some theme that I have a particular connection with. Growing up, my sisters and I would spend hours making detailed movie “props” from household objects: cardboard, papier-mâché, or whatever else we could find. It was all about coming up with creative solutions using the materials we had on hand, employing a little healthy imagination to make something that was special to us.

I’ve found that, not surprisingly, those same principles are true when creating custom invitations for clients. Using the basic ingredients of ink and paper along with some applied creativity, we get to create something truly special. Over the years, though, I’ve found some wisdom about how to do custom invitations well. Rarely do ideas pop out fully formed; and intricate, detailed designs almost always have complications, hangups, and problems that require creative solutions.

I love it. And if we get to work together, I want you to love it too. So, here’s my thoughts on how to make your custom invitations perfect.

Theme and concept are two different things.

All invitations are based on a theme; this can be a color, a style, or a physical element. Think about a gorgeous watercolor invitation, a fun travel invitation with a map, or a beach invitation with seashells. Each of those has a particular theme to the visuals: The watercolor invite is themed around pastel colors and calligraphy, the travel invitation incorporates illustrations and typefaces that may remind you of early/mid 20th century travel, and the beach invitation uses the colors of a sunset and the illustration of the seashell.

Themes are visuals that work together.

Concept goes much deeper than that. Behind the visual, what’s the invitation about? What makes it stand out?  Your theme should reinforce the concept, while the concept helps give unity and focus to the theme.

I know, that’s really abstract, so look at this example:


Ignore the typeface, illustration, and wording for a moment and look at the physical product. The concept here is a wedding invitation that’s a newspaper. In this case, the concept is a physical item that most people are familiar with, so some things are easy to determine. It’s going to fold a certain way, it’s going to have a certain feel, and it needs to contain a lot of information.

The theme, then, is “Romanticized American 1920’s”. You could easily theme this design as a modern (or future!) newspaper with a different paper choice, different font, or different illustrations, and it would still have the core concept of a newspaper. The theme unifies the design and focuses it on a specific era and type of newspaper.

Whether or not you have the theme first, you always want to step back and work out a solid concept. A well thought out concept will always make a fun theme even better.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Having the opportunity to do whatever you can think up does not necessarily mean it should be done. (Jeff Goldblum was on to something in Jurassic Park.) Consider who will receive this invitation and how they will experience it. Will they understand the information they need to know? Will the invitation draw them in or will it be confusing? Will they “get it”, or is it too much of an inside joke?

If you’ve never seen Jurassic Park, my reference above made absolutely no sense. And that leads me to the one thing I’ve found to be the most common obstacle in making your perfect custom invitations: Don’t overwhelm your guests with a mashup of 100 different things you love jumbled into one design.

I understand, you and your future spouse are Whovian Hobbits who trained as Jedi for Starfleet at Hogwarts. Believe me, we speak your language, even if it’s Klingon, but that doesn’t mean combining those elements will automatically make for a good invitation. (By the way, that’s true for sports, literature, music, and any other collection of interests.)

Remember, your theme and your concept need to work together. The tighter they are, the better your invitation is; and that means more amazed phone calls, texts, and, most importantly, RSVP’s. You want your invitation to be polished. Sharp. You want it to reflect who you and your spouse-to-be are. Your story is more than a bunch of pop culture references.

The best joke is the one the audience gets. We’ll help you work through your ideas, that’s part of our job. It’s not always easy, though, which leads me to my last tip:

Trust us!

It sounds sort of obvious, but if you’re our client, trust us! I have over a decade of professional experience creating artwork that is unique yet easy to engage with. Before I discovered my love for designing wedding invitations, I worked on everything from museum signage to banner ads for national brands. You’d be a little surprised to know just how much of that translates to designing your perfect custom wedding invitations – I certainly was!

Sometimes that means asking you to let go of a particular idea you may really like in favor of your other, stronger concept. Other times, I might be encouraging you to really “go for it” if I think it will work. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Jon and I spend lots of time working out ideas together, each seeing things differently than the other, listening to the other’s input. We don’t always agree, but we always trust each other. You’ll be amazed at the results if you trust us, too!

Let’s dream together!

There’s a lot that can be done with paper and ink. In addition to the modern digital press, we have access to specialized tools for laser cutting, foil stamping, and letterpress, plus a myriad of specialized papers. It’s amazing what you can create with a mixture of modern and traditional techniques. If you’d like a little inspiration, browse our gallery of custom designs. If you’re ready to create your perfect custom invites, start your project! Let’s dream together and make something special!

Posted by Melissa / filed under: Advice, Ideas & Notes

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Melissa & Jon Meek

We love sharing the behind the scenes about our business. Relationships are important to us, and sharing our stories allows us to connect with fans and customers on a personal level, while providing expert advice on invitations and other paper creations.