Printing Techniques, Part II

We've already covered the basics of digital printing and thermography. Now it's time to learn about the highest quality printing techniques, engraving and letterpress! Many of the wedding invitations we design and print are done using these techniques, because they produce such beautiful prints. So let's get started...

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Printing Techniques, Part I

At least once a week, I get a phone call or e-mail from someone asking "how much are your wedding invitations?" This is such a difficult question to answer because there are SO many options! There are literally hundreds of paper and envelope choices, and then on top of that, the most important decision you'll make is the method of printing that you'll choose. The method you choose will have a big impact on your budget, and sometimes will dictate the design and type of paper you can go with. So, here's my attempt to try to help you narrow down your choices, from lowest price to highest... part one of this series breaks down digital printing. Post your questions in the comments!

Digital / Flat Printing

The Look: Digital printing is similar to what you would get when you print your invitations on your home printer, except with much higher quality since they are printed on a professional digital press.

The Feel: When using digital printing, it is important to use a high quality paper because your invitation won't have the raised or embossed feel like you would with the other printing processes. This can be difficult because many digital presses can only accommodate thinner papers that easily go through the machine, which is why we like to layer papers for a thicker, more luxurious feel.

This printing method is completely flat and takes on whatever texture the paper has. I like to use a high quality 100% cotton paper and coordinating envelopes to achieve a look and feel that is as close to an expensive wedding invitation as possible. When incorporated with a custom design by Soirée Signatures and handwritten calligraphy addressing, nobody will notice the difference!

The Ink Choices: Digital printing is perfect for someone who wants to incorporate color or some kind of full color design in their invitation because the pricing includes every color of the rainbow!

There are now other types of digital ink choices such as white ink, and digital foil – so you can achieve the look of foil stamping without the high cost.

The Turnaround Time: From proof approval, digital invitations typically take 5-7 business days in production.

The Customer: These invitations are great for brides on a budget, someone with tight deadlines, or a couple who is hosting a small, intimate wedding and is sending less than 50 invitations.

The Budget: Don't get confused... "digital" doesn't always mean "cheap!" You can easily make digital invitations awesome and luxurious by layering paper and adding some custom artwork such as paintings, sketches or hand calligraphy accents.

Once you've incorporated an invitation, RSVP card and coordinating envelopes, digital invitations end up being around $6 - $8 each, but could easily get more expensive the more options you choose to add. If you're looking for something on the less pricey side, we have several options available in the $3 range.



The Look: Thermography, also known as "raised print," is very similar to engraving. The only difference is that the printing has a slight shine to it, and the back of the invitation is smooth. Thermography has a more formal feel without breaking the bank.

The Feel: Running your fingers across the invitation you'll notice a raised lettering, resulting in an elegant, tactile effect. This is achieved by a heat process with ink and a resin powder. This printing process looks better on a stiff, matte paper – I would recommend staying away from metallic papers or anything too thin.

The Ink Choices: Your choices are pretty limited with thermography when it comes to color. "Gold" ink has more of a bronze look and "Silver" has more of a charcoal look. Its hard to get pastels or light colored hues because of the process of which it is printed.

The Turnaround Time: Just like digital printing, thermography typically has a 5-7 day turnaround time after proof approval. Depending on the time of year, you may run into a 7-10 day turnaround if you're printing in the middle of wedding season.

The Customer: Thermography is a great option for the bride on a budget who wants a more formal look and feel for her invitations.

The Budget: This process is a cost-effective way to achieve the look of texture without the added costs of plate-making. You are charged "per color" with thermography, so sticking with a single color will help with budget concerns.

Again, depending on the paper choices and number of envelopes and inserts, you can expect to spend anywhere from $7 - $9 per invitation and up.


Top 5 Rules for Addressing Properly

Just when you think you've got everything figured out... the perfect wedding invitation, perfectly coordinated ceremony programs and even the perfect stationery for before AND after the nuptials have taken place. But then... you realize its time to address the invitations and you know NOTHING about proper etiquette and how to make sure "Perfect Aunt Penny" doesn't get her undies in a wad over the way she was referred-to on her perfectly calligraphed envelope.

So, here are five basic things you should remember when preparing your guest list – whether you are addressing them yourself, having them printed digitally, or having a professional calligrapher address them for you. Enjoy!

1. Never use any abbreviations (with the exception of Mr. / Mrs. / Ms.)

Do you have a Jr. or Sr. on your list? It should look like this:
Mr. and Mrs. Rene Albert Smith, junior (<-- Yes, "junior" and "senior" should be lowercase)

Is there a doctor in the house? Spell it out:
Doctor and Mrs. Edward Kenneth Smith

Street Names, Apartments and States should also be spelled out. I also like to spell out any numbers under 10. Like this:
One South Springbank Road, Mobile Alabama

2. Always indicate who is invited

If you're using outer envelopes, this is easy. Simply address the outer envelope to the head of household, and on the inner envelope you indicate who in the household is invited.
Singles: Miss Smith and guest (or just Miss Smith if you're not including guests)
Families, inviting children: Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Henry and Lila
Families, no children invited: Mr. and Mrs. Smith

If you're using single envelopes, it becomes a little more tricky.
Singles: Miss Laura Michelle Smith and guest
Families, inviting children - include children invited on second line
Mr. and Mrs. Rene Albert Smith, junior
Henry and Lila

Families, no children invited: Mr. and Mrs. Rene Albert Smith, junior

3. Adults Need Their Own Invitation

This one is hard to swallow when you're spending $10+ on each invitation... but here are the rules:

  • Adults who are not romantically involved, but live together (example: roommates) should receive their own invitation.
  • Children over the age of 18 who still live with their parents should receive their own invitation.

If you're addressing to an unmarried couple who lives together, list their names on separate lines on the outer envelope. No need to send them both individual invitations.

4. Pay Attention to Unique Family Situations

Nowadays, its hard to define what "normal" is in a family situation, right?! Sometimes, these are difficult to know how to properly address these modern families, especially if you've never been educated on it before. Here are a few I've been asked about time and time again...

Girl Under 18: Miss Karen Elizabeth Smith
Woman Over 18: Ms. Karen Elizabeth Smith
Widows: Mrs. David Allen Smith (or Mrs. Karen Jones Smith)
Divorced Woman: Ms. Karen Jones Smith
Married Couple, Woman Doctor: Doctor Karen Smith and Mr. David Smith
Married Couple, Both Doctors: The Doctors Smith
Gay Couple, Different Last Names: Mr. David Smith and Mr. John Lee
Gay Couple, Same Last Name: The Messrs. David and John Smith
Lesbian Couple, Same Last Name: The Mesdames Karen and Lisa Smith

5. Know Your Audience

I'm always asked about whether brides can just "do what they want" on the addressing as far as etiquette goes. I always say, "I would consider your audience." Meaning, if your fiancee's fraternity brother from college is invited, and only goes by the name "Fat Boy" and you REALLY think he would think he would hate to be addressed by his formal name... by all means, address the envelope to Mr. Fat Boy Stephens.

If your aunt just recently lost her husband and you think its too soon for her emotionally to see her invitation addressed as "Mrs. David Allen Smith" – let's go with "Mrs. Karen Jones Smith" instead.

And back to those fraternity brothers... if there is a group of them living together and they're all invited, its probably "okay" to send one invitation to this group. I'm not a huge fan of breaking etiquette rules, but I AM a huge fan of saving money! So in this case, when you know that 1) everyone in the house is invited, and 2) nobody will get confused or offended by not getting their own invitation, I would say its okay to send a single invitation. Please use discretion with this one though!!

If you're deciding to go with an informal way of addressing your invitations, I would suggest combing through your list to see if there are any "etiquette sticklers" on the list and be sure to address theirs properly. 

For other etiquette questions, see the full etiquette guide on my website! One of the benefits of working with a stationer/calligrapher, such as Soirée Signatures is that you have an expert on-hand to answer any questions that may arise throughout your invitation process. Ordering inexpensive invitations online doesn't come with the level of service and expertise that you get when working with Soirée Signatures.

Do you have other addressing etiquette questions that I didn't cover here? Leave a comment and I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have!