With its light flourishes and romantic curves, it's no surprise that many brides want to use calligraphy on their wedding paper goods. The beautifully scripted letters make invitation envelopes, table numbers, escort cards, signage, and the dinner menu feel extra festive and special. While certainly worth the associated costs, some couples may not have the budget to hire a professional calligrapher. Instead, crafty brides may want to DIY their own calligraphed details. Before you commit to taking on wedding calligraphy yourself, consider these six helpful tips.
According to Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls, an artist and calligrapher based in the San Francisco Bay area, a bride who wants to do her own calligraphy should start by looking at different styles of script. "Calligraphy incorporates so many different styles," she says. "You want it to be cohesive in terms of your wedding day." If you're planning a formal ceremony, ornate letters with delicate flourishes give an appropriately traditional look. Think of the beautiful writing of old-time English calligraphy. Brides throwing a more casual affair can choose letters that look handwritten, with fewer brushstrokes and playful curlicue details.
Research examples of calligraphy online, and pay special attention to the shape of the letters that you prefer. Free font sites often have a wide collection of typefaces to use as reference. Instructional books and reference websites may also help narrow your focus.
Have the Right Materials
When doing your own calligraphy, you'll need three simple materials: ink, a pen with a nib (the pointed metal piece that distributes ink), and paper. You should look for a smooth paper such as vellum or a color copy paper with a nice surface, says Imasa-Stukuls. She recommends staying away from craft paper or anything with fiber, since the ink will settle into the uneven grooves.
Beginners may choose to use a fountain pen or calligraphy marker instead. "You can still get the same effect," says Imasa-Stukuls. Fountain pens contain a cartridge that continuously releases ink, so you don't have to dip the nib. However, brides using a fountain pen must still wait for the ink to dry properly to prevent smudging. Those trying calligraphy for the first time may want to order extra supplies, just in case smudging, misspellings, or other mess-ups occur.
Learn the Craft
Once you find the right inspiration for your calligraphy, it's time to learn the tricks of the trade. Many calligraphy tutorials (both free and for sale) exist online and in stores. Imasa-Stukuls offers an online class catered to calligraphy beginners, and she also released a book titled "Belle Calligraphy Kit: Materials and Instruction for Modern Script."
If time allows, a bride may want to register for a beginner's calligraphy class. For those with limited time to spare, drawing a singular set of letters and tracing them, possibly with a lightbox, may be the best solution.
Make a Timeline
Calligraphy takes lots of time and patience, especially if you've never done it before. Make sure to give yourself adequate time to write out table numbers, menus, signs, or whatever else you're scripting. If a bride wants their lettering to look cohesive and professional, Imasa-Stukuls suggests signing up for calligraphy classes soon after getting engaged. Also leave some leeway for a backup plan, so if all attempts at writing your own paper goods fail to live up to expectation, you'll be able to consult a professional.
Know Your Limits
Be realistic with your projects. As a calligraphy newbie, chances are you won't be able to flawlessly address 150 wedding invites—even if you have impressive penmanship. Avoid the stress of such a large undertaking and focus on smaller projects instead, like scripting a sign or the table numbers. "Realize that it will take a few practices. Be patient and try not to get frustrated," says Imasa-Stukuls. If you're really struggling to master calligraphy, it's best to hire a professional sooner than later. "I wouldn't wait until the last minute because the professional calligrapher will charge a rush fee," says Imasa-Stukuls.
Learning calligraphy should be more fun than stressful. In fact, the process of learning a new trade can be relaxing. "Sometimes brides get overwhelmed, and they might find that taking a beginner calligraphy class is meditative," says Imasa-Stukuls. Even practicing something simple, like your initials or monogram, can distract you from the frustration of wedding planning. As another idea, Imasa-Stukuls suggests learning calligraphy with your bridesmaids. You'll bond while trying your hand at beautiful script, and you may end up sharing wedding calligraphy duties with your friends.