Behind the Scenes: Assembling Wedding Invitations
The process of designing and producing custom stationery involves so many layers. From initial inquiry and quoting all the way down to packaging and shipping to clients, there are countless levels of consideration, industry knowledge, and hands on creation required to bring invitations to life. It is so much more than a pretty design on a piece of paper. With behind the scenes posts, we are pulling back the curtain and giving an inside look into the process behind our custom stationery.
This is part four of our custom stationery series.
gather all materials
In part three of this series, we went through our printing process, talking about what we print in house and what we outsource, how we prepare files, make color adjustments, and trim pieces down. Once everything is printed and any other materials are gathered, it’s time to assemble!
Assembly is one of my favorite parts of the process, because you finally get to see the vision and hard work come together. It’s the moment when everything clicks. Depending on how complex the suite is, and how many embellishments are included, the process can take anywhere from an hour to a few days. When planning your schedule, always leave some buffer time, just in case things don’t go as planned.
We offer both printed and calligraphy addressing for our stationery clients, and propose a method (or combination of methods) based on aesthetic and budget. No matter which route we end up taking, I always handle addressing after printing the suite and before doing any other assembly.
The main difference between the two methods in my process is timeline. Where I can print and proof 100 envelopes in a couple hours, calligraphy addressing is an entirely different story. Not only is the act of writing much slower, but I have to limit myself to 20–25 addresses a day for the health of my hand and wrist.
When every address has been written or printed on the envelopes, I proof twice to make sure they match the supplied address list. If anything needs to be corrected, I fix it before moving on to the rest of the assembly.
Addressing is a huge part of our process, so I’ll be dedicating a couple future posts to practices and processes when it comes to each addressing method. Stay tuned!
There are a couple different kinds of envelope liners that we are able to incorporate into our designs. The most basic option is a plain, unprinted paper—pretty straightforward, but I love giving more complex designs a simple and elegant finish. I often will source a really beautiful shimmer paper for these, which gives the suite a subtle but distinct touch. Typically, I order these die cut to fit our envelopes, which makes the assembly process one step shorter. I’m also able to print custom designs onto liners, or source fine art paper for things like marbled finishes. Most of the time, we trim these liners by hand using a template.
When the liners are cut to size, I place them inside envelopes one at a time, position them, and then fold the the envelope closed with it inside. I use the edge of my bone folder to run over the fold, creasing it (and the liner inside) down. I open the envelope, but leave the liner folded down, so the backside is facing up. I use my Scotch ATG to place adhesive along the edges. Then, I close the envelope again and run the belly of the bone folder all along the surface. When I open the envelope again, the liner is adhered to the flap.
After the envelopes are all prepped with addressing and liners, I gather the pieces of the suite and prepare to group them for each envelope. Cards in invitation suites should always be arranged from largest to smallest. Traditionally, smaller cards are placed on top of the main invitation, however, depending on the suite design, we may place cards behind the main invitation. I always nest the response card inside the response envelope as well.
The suite in the photos includes a pretty unique sewn vellum overlay. It’s not a full wrap though, and we designed it to be placed over the main invitation. I trimmed and sewed these sheets during the printing process, and stacked them accordingly.
ribbon, thread, and wraps
If the suite design calls for ribbon, thread, wraps, or belly bands, I add these after cards have been grouped. I trim any wraps or belly bands to the correct size and score everything at once for efficiency.
I trim any ribbon and thread uniformly and all at once as well. Depending on how the ribbon or thread behaves, sometimes it’s easier to wrap and tie just around the main invitation, then slide other cards in after.
stuffing and sealing envelopes
When the suite has all the internal touches it needs, I then stuff and seal envelopes. I use this process as a chance to double check that all cards are included in every suite.
Believe it or not, there is actually a correct way to stuff envelopes! Etiquette calls for suites to be placed in the envelope face up and left side first. While it most likely comes naturally to right-handed people, us lefties have to think backwards, because using this method allows guests to pull invitations out of the envelope with their right hand.
I always seal envelopes with adhesive, even if the suite calls for a wax seal on the envelope. A lot of things can happen while mailing, and the last thing you want is for envelopes to pop open before they’re delivered. Depending on where we source envelopes from for that particular project, I may wet the gum on the envelope itself to seal, or I may use the ATG to run adhesive on top of the gum thats already there. Certain envelope varieties have a weaker gum that pops open in areas, and I’d rather be safe than sorry.
If we use wax to seal an overlay or as an ornamental touch on a card in the suite, I do that part of the process before we stuff and seal envelopes. Most commonly, however, we use wax as a decorative touch on the outside of envelopes. In those cases, I do this step after things are addressed, stuffed, and sealed.
When doing large quantities of seals, I use a low-temperature glue gun to apply the wax to the envelopes. This is much more efficient than heating and pouring one by one with a spoon. When you do things so quickly, however, your seal will heat up and start to stick to the wax. To solve this, I keep a glass with ice nearby, and place the seal in the ice in between envelopes. I wipe any condensation off with a towel before using the stamp again.
The final step in our assembly process is adding postage. While we can pretty accurately guess the proper postage for any given suite, I always like to take a few finished suites down to the local post office and have them weigh and check for me. If we end up needing more postage than I estimated, I let my clients know and we adjust. This part of the process is part of the conversation all along, so clients aren’t surprised if we need revise. I build buffer into the schedule for things like this, so it rarely effects timeline.
While current issue postage is a pretty quick job, applying vintage postage can be more time consuming. I like to use an acid-free glue stick on gummed stamps, rather than using the gum adhesive, simply because on many stamps the gum is inconsistent—sometimes it sticks great, other times it has worn down and needs extra adhesive. Using a glue stick right off the bat eliminates the need to problem solve, and keeps things consistent and efficient.
At this point, the suites are in pristine shape and in such big quantities, they’re too pretty not to take photos of. I always am sure to grab a few shots of all the envelopes stacked up and pretty, while being sure to never show a full address. I may take photos along the assembly process as well, but we order extra copies for our own records (as well as copies for the wedding planner and photographer), that do not get fully sealed, so we are able to take some nice styled photos after client sets are assembled. This keeps us from having to rush photos while trying to assemble and meet a deadline.
Tools & Supplies Used
Envelope Drying Racks
If envelopes call for calligraphy addressing, I use a few small drying racks to hold them. Most of the time, the envelopes need to be sealed with a fixative after addressing, so the envelopes remain in the racks until I’m ready to seal them.
Scotch Advanced Tape Glider, 0.25” with Acid Free Adhesive
I use the ATG to adhere envelope liners and to seal the envelopes themselves. This tool is so great because the rolls are so inexpensive compared to small adhesive rollers, and so efficient compared to glue or any other method of adhesive. It has low waste packaging comparatively as well. Be sure to purchase the acid free adhesive rolls to keep things from yellowing and aging over time.
Low-Temp Glue Gun
A low temp glue gun makes wax seals really efficient when working in large quantities. Rather than heating and pouring each seal individually, the glue gun heats up sticks of wax and is used to apply it just like it would hot glue. Stamp the seal in right after and you’re set!
Glass with Ice
Your wax stamp will heat up pretty quickly when you’re doing multiple seals in a row, so resting the stamp on ice will keep it from being so hot it sticks to the seal and doesn’t pop out properly.
If the suite calls for envelope liners, wraps, or belly bands, a bone folder is a must. Clean folds are so important on invitations, and using this to score and crease papers will make sure things look precise.
Acid Free Glue Stick
I use an acid free glue stick to apply any vintage postage that doesn’t have self-adhesive on the back. While many are gummed, you never really know where vintage postage has been, so I just prefer to use a glue stick. You can also use a damp sponge to activate the gum, but the gum on certain stamps will be weaker than others, so the glue stick keeps things universally sticky.
If the suite is being wrapped in ribbon or thread, good scissors are a small but important tool to have on hand.
I always measure out any ribbon or thread being applied to invites so things are uniform and easy to duplicate from one invitation to another.
HAVE ANY QUESTIONS? LET US KNOW!
In our custom stationery series, we are walking through our entire process: from sketching all the way to packaging. If you have any questions about our process, or would like to know more specifics, let us know!