What’s the best way to find the perfect wedding stationery? Talk to a pro. Here, the secrets to choosing the right invitation suite for your big day.

By Sarah Stebbins
Updated August 08, 2012
Crane & Co.

Selecting the right stationery is one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make in preparation for your nuptials. The invitation not only sets the tone for your wedding, but also serves as a lifelong keepsake. Rachel Ivey, vice president of product and creative development at Crane & Co, gives us the inside scoop on choosing an invitation suite that reflects both your style and budget.

What are your thoughts on working with a stationer versus ordering invitations online?
I do not personally purchase invitations online because I’m so particular about the details. I like to have all the options laid out in front of me, so I can see and feel the various paper weights, finishes, and printing styles. Stationery is a form of self-expression, so it seems only natural that the experience of choosing it be personal and tactile. There are also benefits to working with a stationer, who can help guide the design, suggest wording, and find ways to cut costs. That said, you will probably save more money online. The invitations on our website are priced the same as in stores, but there are fewer options for customization, which can add to the bottom-line. I think the question ultimately comes down to: What type of bride are you? If you are lower maintenance and don’t want to make as many decisions, the web is a great place to go. Another nice thing about designing online: You get to see a proof at the end of the process. When you go to a store, it can take anywhere from 24 hours to a week to receive a proof via e-mail—that turnaround time is something we’d like to improve on.

What are the most popular printing techniques?
Sixty percent of our brides go for thermography, a raised print that gives you the look of engraving for about a third of the cost. Engraving is what we’re known for and about 30 percent of brides choose it. Anyone familiar with engraved type can recognize it immediately: The process of creating the raised letters leaves indentations, known as “bruising,” you can feel on the back of the paper. There’s a vibrancy and fineness to engraved print you can’t get with other techniques. About eight percent of brides select letterpress printing, a handcrafted method that involves pressing ink into paper. Letterpress can be up to 20 percent cheaper than engraving and has a less formal feel. The least expensive option is digital printing, also known as offset printing or lithography, and it accounts for about two percent of our sales. The type is smooth to the touch and has a casual effect.

If cost is a concern, where should couples focus their budgets?
Concentrate on the invitation. You don’t need double envelopes, which are very traditional and not done so much anymore, or envelope liners—these are a beautiful touch, but we’re talking about something people open and throw away. Some couples put their wedding websites on their invitations and have guests go online to RSVP, choose meals and get all the wedding details, eliminating the need for a response card, and separate reception card (used when the party is in a different spot than the ceremony), altogether. People sometimes think they have to spring for super-thick paper, but thinner cardstocks can be really elegant. We have beautiful wedding announcements from the 1930s and 40s in our archives that are printed on paper that almost looks like onionskin. I think 96 pounds is a good baseline weight for invitations—any thinner, and the paper starts to look like something you picked up at Kinko’s.

Where do you recommend splurging?
I know I just said you don’t need to spend extra for thick paper, but if you can afford something in the 192 to 220-pound range, and you combine that with engraving or letterpress printing, you truly have a work of art. If I could only splurge on one piece, I would choose the finest paper and printing technique for the invitation and select a cheaper paper, and digital or thermographed printing, for the response cards and envelopes. Your guests are going to hold onto the invite for a while, and you’ll probably keep it forever, so it should be fabulous.

Is it possible to have an invitation that feels modern and fun, yet formal?
Definitely. I love the idea of doing engraving or thermography, which look really traditional, in an unexpected color palette. You could do bright coral type against a yellow or smoky gray paper for a cool, Tory Burch look. Or think about how Vera Wang has been putting black, chocolate-brown, and nude wedding gowns on the runway. A card in one of those shades, juxtaposed with white engraving and some hints of gold, would look sophisticated and right on trend. Letterpress and digital printing tend to have a more relaxed feel. To dress them up, you could mix calligraphy with a modern, graphic font or incorporate a vintage-inspired botanical print.