By now most of my friends and family have gotten their invites to my upcoming nuptials, so it’s probably a good time to share the story of how they came to be. I’m a sucker for stationery and other fine paper goods, so the invites were one of the first things I started shopping for once I started planning my wedding. And let me tell you: the internet is a veritable treasure trove of up-and-coming letterpress and stationery designers. There is some truly amazing stuff out there, if you’re wedding budget is comparable to an NBA signing bonus. I, however, have never known extravagance, being from the school of ‘If it’s Not on Sale, Do Not Buy’, otherwise known as the school of $1375 for That? Pfffffft! I Could Make That Shit.? So I did. Make that shit.

It started with an inspiration: a custom-made letterpress invitation suite by Atelier Isabey:

The general rule is that the invitations set the ‘tone’ of any fete, and the location informs the design of said stationery. I knew I was having my wedding in a Chinese garden so this little lantern theme was perfect, and much sweeter than the ubiquitous cherry blossom (because it’s not like they bloom in October) or double happiness (because Mr. Panda is Korean, not Chinese) designs. The only problem is that for the amount of people we’ll be inviting, these invites would cost us over 3 grand. Not. Gonna. Happen. After the jump, find out how I DIY-ed my way to cheap wedding invites without sacrificing style.

First of all, know that I am an analog girl. I went to art school, but somehow my rotation was never taught Photoshop. I know, man, I was ROBBED! Damn pot-addled bohemian teachers. Anyway, if I was going to do this, it was NOT going to be digital. Generally, I can do lithography printing blindfolded, which would have been easiest for me. But buying all of the supplies to do an at-home printing press would have set me back as much, if not more, coin as my dream invites. Screen-printing was another option, but that would likely have required a design done on Photoshop, not to mention that the whole screen-printing outfit is costly. The Gocco screen-printing machine is not only expensive ($395 at Paper Source), but also extremely hard to find in stock in any US stores, and also it’s quite tricky to use (until you get the hang of it, then it’s a dream, so I hear). So I said, ‘fuck that.’ I decided to kick it old school. WAY old school.

The lovely botanical Chinoiserie design of my invitations was done primarily with rubber stamps. I got the idea to use stamps and ink when I ran across this image from Impress Rubber Stamps:

This design was achieved by stamping the lantern stamps onto patterned paper and then cutting the shape out. I just happened to have a stash of really fancy origami paper I got as a Christmas gift, so it was perfect. And this way, my invites would have a festive little pop of color, as opposed to the monochrome of the Atelier Isabey suite. It took 18 pages of 6 x 6 chiyogami, stamped all over with the oval lantern shape (about 50 times on each page) to make my invites. Stamping them was relatively fast, but cutting out all 800 teeny lanterns with surgical scissors took at least a month (weekends only), and I could not have finished them without holding 2 invitation-making parties and enlisting help from my family.

In order for the chiyogami lanterns to stand out, and have a bit of a ‘glow’, I could not get away with using white cardstock. Besides, white and cream are kind of blah. So, I bought cement cardstock, which turned out great, as the gray tone caused the whites and golds of the many-colored chiyogami lanterns to really pop.

My next design obstacle was to duplicate the swirling, organic look of the orchids in the background of the Atelier Isabey invites. I bought 2 botanical peony stamps and 3 pads of chartreuse ink from Impress, and used them to stamp a floral pattern along the left side of the cardstock, leaving room for the text on the right (like in the Atelier invite). Chartreuse is a little loud, but against the cement, it looked more muted. Printing 4 flowers each on 200 cards, with all the re-inking nearly gave me carpal tunnel, but it sure looked pretty.

I did the text in MS word, actually, as current editions of this common office software have tons of fonts to choose from. My text choice was just a generic script, per insistence from my design-challenged mother. Ugh. But whatever, it looks nice, though lining the text up on the right side of the card with nearly no margins was a total bitch (I told you I was analog!!). As for the finishing touches, the swag of rope that the 2-D lanterns were to ‘hang’ from was accomplished by tracing around the edge of a dessert plate with a gel pen. Seriously. Then I simply stuck the lanterns on with glue stick and that was that. I managed 200 posh, gorgeous, hand-made invites for under $350 (including thank-you notes, RSVP cards, and all envelopes). Sure, all told the project took about 3 months, but nothing can top the sense of accomplishment I got from getting exactly the design I wanted and doing it all myself.

(UPDATE:  Peep the Panda Invite! ~Ed.)