Whether formal or casual, wedding invitations these days are meant to set the tone for the celebration, reflecting the themes of the weddings themselves.
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Heavier, more expensive papers reflect fancy black-tie weddings. Simple textured invitations with interesting fonts reflect celebrations in a more contemporary style. And florals reveal more classically romantic events, experts say.
"One of the biggest trends we've been seeing are printed envelope liners, particularly for destination weddings. So if you're getting married on a beach, there are liners printed with seashells, or maybe light blue with waves," says Rachel Sylvester, lifestyle editor for Real Simple.
Patrick Priore, chief merchant officer at the Chicago-based, design-oriented Paper Source, which has 130 stores across the country, says, "Destination weddings are a huge trend now, and we're responding with invitations that speak to various destinations, like beach scenes, or mountain vistas, or grapes and flowers for Napa Valley weddings."
No matter what kind of celebration it is, couples are becoming more creative with color, experts say.
"You often see a color-on-color approach to invitations, with a lot of couples pairing blush pink with orchid, for example. In addition to invitations, there's an attraction to a range of colors reflected in things like bridesmaids dresses, which are increasingly in any array of related colors instead of all the same color," Sylvester says.
FLORALS and GREENERY
"Florals and greenery are really working right now. It's really more about the execution. The trend started a few years ago with leaf motifs, and now we see it in lilacs, lavender and eucalyptus leaves," Priore says.
"When couples come in to look at invitations, paper quality is the first thing they look at," he says, adding that thicker papers and fancy envelopes and liners are hot items.
"If it's a black-tie wedding, for example, it's top-quality thick paper and envelopes with a bit of shimmer," he adds.
You can design and print your own invitations, use a professional designer or stationer, or go with an in-between option, using online retailers like Shutterfly or Minted.
If you decide to make your own, Sylvester recommends aiming for interesting calligraphy, or hiring a calligrapher to handwrite names and addresses beautifully for you.
Websites are a must now, experts agree, and can be mentioned on whatever type of invitation you choose.
"Your website is a catch-all place for wedding information that is very detailed, and an important way of getting news about any last-minute event changes to your guests," Sylvester says.
"It's poor form to include anything about your registration in your invitation," she adds. "A wedding website is a more appropriate place to include a link to a registry, if you go that route."
It's also a good place for links to maps and hotels, and a place to post photos after the event.
"All of our paper is mostly recycled, and that's something people really expect now," says Priore.
"Plantable wedding invitations embedded with seeds are a great sustainable option, as is vegetable-based ink. And for those who want to go beyond paper, there are even rustic-looking invitations made of thin, laser-cut wood," says Sylvester, of Real Simple.
"E-cards are certainly less expensive and more environmentally friendly, but paper is by far more popular," she says. "At the end of the day, aside from the photos, you have your dress and your invitation suite (invitations, R.S.V.P. cards and thank you notes) that encapsulate who you are and what the wedding was like, and will remain a memento for years to come."