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Stationery from A to Z
Confused about calligraphy? Befuddled by fonts? Find paper perplexing? Here, the ins and outs, the latest offerings, and everything you need to know about personalizing your invitations.
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A is for ...
Add-ons Generally speaking, a basic stationery suite includes an invitation, a reply card, and envelopes for both. Any helpful extras like reception cards, directions, itineraries, and maps are considered “add-ons,” and typically cost more.
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B is for ...
Backer Why spend so much time focusing on the front only to neglect the back? You can adorn it with card stock in a coordinating color or pattern (shown).
Blind hit No, it's not the wallop you feel when you’re presented with your stationery bill. This is actually a type of printing where text or a design is impressed onto the paper sans ink.
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C is for ...
Calligraphy In short, it's fancy lettering that’s done by a skilled hand -- and it’s one of our favorite ways to give stationery a personal touch. Calligraphers can either write each piece individually or create one master copy and have it printed again and again (a smart, cost-effective strategy).
Paper, by Arturo Fine Stationery, from Legion Paper. Calligraphy, by Bernard Maisner Calligraphy & Fine Stationery.
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D is for ...
Deckled edges A feathery, intentionally unfinished effect that has a proper, antique look (shown). If Martha Washington were ordering invites for a fancy party, we bet she’d request them.
Decorative border This is simply a band of color or pattern that decorates the outer edges of an invitation as a finishing touch.
Die-cutting It's a scary name, but a very cool technique. A sharp piece of metal (a.k.a. a "die") is used to slice letters or designs into a piece of stationery.
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Embossing A printing technique in which a 3-D design or text is created by pressing a piece of paper between hot metal molds (shown). It’s a fun, affordable option for DIY brides. A small embosser customized with your monogram costs as little as $30!
Engraving The most traditional -- and arguably the most expensive -- printing process. Text is etched onto a metal plate, filled with ink, and pressed onto paper. The result? Crisp, raised letters.
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F is for ...
Foil A heavier alternative to plastic wrap. Joking! It's thin sheets of metallic paper that stationers use to give their work a rich reflective sheen (Kamal for Bella Figura).
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G is for ...
Gilded edges A rim of metallic ink or foil that lends an invitation a formal, finished look (shown).
Green Nope, not the color -- we're talking eco-friendly. You've got lots of earth-saving options: recycled paper, tree-free paper (made from cotton or linen), and even seed-infused invites that guests can actually plant in their gardens. And don't forget about paperless mail (paperlesspost.com, pingg.com, and cocodot.com). We're all for it when it comes to your save-the-dates, but invitations should be sent the old way: via snail mail.
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How-to Wondering how to word an invitation or the right way to address an envelope that's going to a judge and a doctor? It can be a tricky business, but we've got you covered.
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I is for ...
Illustration Design elements such as maps or drawings that are done by hand, with the exception of lettering -- that's calligraphy. But just like calligraphy, an artist can either illustrate each piece of stationery or make just one and have it reprinted, which is much more budget-savvy (theindigobunting.blogspot.com).
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J is for ...
Justification The placement of your stationery's text -- either top, bottom, left, center, or right.
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K is for ...
Knock-out type Hopefully the way your fiance describes you to his friends. But it's also when the letters on your invite are light-colored (like white) and the background is a darker hue (such as navy). Some stationers call it "reverse type."
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L is for ...
Laser-cut Paper that’s been trimmed with an intense beam of light. The resulting design is crisp, detailed, and precise. Scissor-cut has nothing on it (shown, top; alpinecreativegroup.com).
Letterpress A printing process that dates back to the days of yore where blocks or plates of raised type are inked and then pressed directly into paper. It's a good DIY project for ambitious brides. There are all-in-one kits at crafts stores, online tutorials, and classes galore.
Liners Colored or patterned paper that is adhered to the inside of an envelope (shown, bottom; bellinvito.com).
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M is for ...
Map Yes, we know you know what maps are. But we included them because they’re becoming so popular and are so helpful for guests.
Monogram The most classic way to personalize your stationery, whether it’s the first letter of your new last name, your initials and your husband's, or a grouping of all three.
Motif A single design element that appears throughout your suite (shown; shopantiquaria.com). To tie it all together, you can incorporate it into your programs, escort cards, and favors.
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N is for ...
Negative space The blank, text-free area on a piece of stationery that creates an artistic effect. On an invite for a modern loft event, for example, a lot of negative space provides a minimalist feel (parklifepress.com).
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Overprinting When your stationer accidentally makes 1,000 copies of your save-the-date instead of 100? Not exactly. It’s the process of printing one color on top of another so they overlap (Kamal for Bella Figura).
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Perforations A line of small holes that allows a portion of the paper to be torn off, movie ticket-style. It's typically used on reply cards. (shown; mickeyduzyj.com)
Postage Anything over one ounce costs more; weigh a completed invite at your post office so you’ll know how much you need for each envelope. Consider creating custom stamps at websites like zazzle.com.
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Q is for ...
Questions? Stationery’s an extensive subject. If you have a query after reading this glossary, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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R is for ...
Return address On a formal invitation, this information should go on the back of the envelope -- either on the flap or at the bottom (shown, top; sideshowpress.com). The only writing that belongs on the front is the address of the person you’re sending it to.
Rounded corners Exactly what it sounds like! (shown, bottom; julieholcombprinters.com)
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S is for ...
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Thermography Another printing style, where ink is applied to paper, dusted with powder, and heated. This liquefies and then hardens the powder, resulting in raised print. Surprisingly, it’s quite reasonably priced.
Typography Everything that goes into the way the text looks, including size and typeface (shown; http://rosebrookmeyer.com). Most typefaces fall into three categories: sans serif, serif, and script.
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U is for ...
Unexpected surprises An extra something-something that catches your guests off guard, like a shower of confetti, a tiny envelope that says “Open Me,” or a little trinket from the far-flung locale where you’ll be saying "I do."
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Vintage elements The various antique maps, postage, ribbons, and ephemera that stationers use to line envelopes, embellish cards, and bundle multiple pieces together. Here, vintage Lewis and Clark stamps add an extra special touch to this stationery. (soholetterpress.com)
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Wax seal While it sounds like a tchotchke you could buy at a zoo gift shop, this drop of hardened wax used to close an envelope looks anything but (left, top; wax-works.com).
Wraparound label Printed stickers that make addressing your envelopes both easy and cost-effective. The front contains the return address and the back bears your initials (left, bottom; minted.com).
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And XYZ ...
Xyron An at-home laminating machine that can be used to make stickers, adhere fabric to paper stationery, and lots more. We like the Xyron 900 9" Creative Station ($120, xyron.com).
Yes What your guests will undoubtedly say when they receive your beautiful invitation!
Zero The amount of money most stationers charge for a consultation. So go ahead and meet with as many as you like until you find the perfect fit.
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