Wedding Paper 101 - Decoding Paper So You Have Beautiful Invitations

choosing wedding invitation paper - the right fit for you

At first glance, paper is paper right? How hard can it be?

Then you start shopping and you see things like text weight and card weight and uncoated and linen and cotton and cotton digital. In the end you pick the one that is right in front of you and hope for the best. 

Let me help! I'm a paper pro and my goal today is to help you choose the papers that are a perfect fit for your wedding.

Paper Colors

There are SO MANY colors of paper out there. I'll be honest, I'm a simple girl. I shop at one paper company and one paper company only. I have made that decision as a business because I don't want to bog my head down with which company carries which colors and at what prices, what minimum orders, and which envelope shapes are where. It just takes up too much time and brain space for me.

The company I work with is top notch. They started in the wedding industry and design papers and products specifically for wedding invitations. Since they have so much wedding experience they also 'get it' that their orders need to be perfect and they provide by far the best customer service I have ever experienced.

I have over 250 different colors to choose from with just this one brand, and do we really need more choices than that? I don't want to overwhelm you with allllllll of the options so I choose to work with just the best.

Now if you really have your heart set on a color and I just don't seem to have one that matches, I can absolutely find something for you with another vendor, it may just take me some time to track it down.

Why does color matter?

Two reasons.

First - the colors you use are going to set the tone for your wedding. If you are having a wedding that uses berry colors, pinks, burgundy, rose gold and neutral tones - you can do a lot.

- If you are having a fall wedding you might want to make your invitations more burgundy overall.

- If you are having a summer wedding that is light and romantic, you might want more nudes and pinks with just small accents in darker pinks.

- If your wedding is all glam - a rose gold glitter would stand out really well against burgundy for some real drama.

- If your wedding is black tie, be chic an sophisticated with white letterpress paper and a rich, crisp burgundy letterpress.

We'll go more into this in a few weeks with sample designs so make sure you make it to the FACEBOOK LIVE EVENT! If you sign up on the page and like my facebook page, you'll see every week of the Wedding Stationery 101 classes!

Second - how you print depends on your paper color. With digital printing, the darker your paper, the harder it will be to read your text. Take the examples below - those are the exact same invitations - Stephanie and Thomas, one printed on matte ivory, the other on kraft.

paper colors using different neutrals

Type "Stephanie and Thomas" into the search bar at the top of the page to see this design in 4 different colorways!

On the flip side of that, if you love something with white ink, you'll want to make sure that it's dark enough for the white to really stand out and be nice and easy to read.

black and white wedding invitations

Paper Weights

It can be confusing. There's a metric system and a US system (shocking right?). If you see paper weights that are measured in gsm - that's metric - grams per square meter. If you see a paper weight listed in lbs - that's US, seems logical so far right?

In general - the more the paper weighs, the thicker it is, the more impressive your invitation will feel. 

OK, here's where it gets confusing, the US system uses pounds, but 80 lb text weight and 80 lb card stock are two totally, not related things.

Text Weight

Text weight paper is what you think of when you use letterhead. It is thinner and is generally used for letter writing paper, business letterhead and resume paper. 

In the invitation world, text weight paper is typically used for belly bands - thin bands of paper that have your monogram, logo or guests names printed that then wrap around your invitation and hold all of your pieces together.

wedding invitation belly bands

It is also used to make envelopes and envelope liners.

Card Stock Weight

Card stock is what you're thinking of when you think of invitations. It usually ranges in weight from 80 lb  up to 240 lb. Most of the colors that I use are in the 80-140 lb range. Again, the more it weighs, generally the thicker and more impressive it feels.

Why it even matters .....

Not all printers can work with every paper weight. If you are thinking of DIY-ing your invites, your at home printer can likely not pull in paper thicker than 80 lb card. You should be able to look up your printer's capabilities on a the printer spec sheets.

I picked my printer specifically for this reason. It is one of the few printers in my price range that works well with 140 lb paper without curling it or running into jams at all.

Additionally, if you want to go with a specialty printing method like letterpress or foil, you'll want to go as thick as you can so that you can maximize the effect of the texture those methods will apply.

Textures and Specialty Types

In general, paper comes in either matte or shimmery. That's not a texture per say, but it's the first choice you need to make and I couldn't come up with a creative category name for it :)

I've found that there is no perfect generalization for which is right for you, it's more of a personal preference. I have used matte and shimmery for everything from formal to rustic.

Beyond that though some common textures are:

Smooth
Most common type of paper, very smooth to the touch
pro - works really well for using a lot of color

Linen
Linen has a light, woven texture that looks and feels like linen
pro - great for sophisticated invitations
con - not great for large blocks of color

Eggshell or Felt
Felted paper is very soft and luxurious with a thick feel and a drywall like texture
pro - really elegant and formal, adds a subtle texture to your design
con - not great for large blocks of color, may be too thick and textured for a laser printer

Vellum
Vellum is an opaque, text weight paper
pro - fantastic to layer on top of patterned or printed layers
con - none, I love using vellum!

Duplex
Duplexed papers are two sheets of paper that glued together.
pro - they can give you a really unique look to your design - a bold floral pattern on the outside of your pocket, but a solid inside. Or go with a more subtle choice - shimmery silver on the outside and matte gray on the inside!
con - cost. Not all are expensive, but some of them can be quite costly

Letterpress
Letterpress papers are most commonly made from 100% cotton. They are soft and buttery and they just FEEL like a luxury item. 
pro - ideal for letterpress printing, go with a thicker paper to really enhance the texture!
con - they are not ideal for digital printing. They absorb ink like crazy so are not suitable for highly colored designs and cannot often be used in standard digital printers. Specialty printers can handle the thickness.

Handmade
Handmade paper is the cream of the crop. It's an artisan craft and comes in some really lovely colors.
pro - super luxurious, very artisinal, great for hand deckled designs
con - they can be hard to print on, prints best with ink jet printers, cost is usually high

Glitter and Foil
 These are great for adding glam to your design! Most come in silver, gold or rose gold. The glitter I use has either a coarse or fine grade glitter and it is absolutely no shed. I love it.
pro - it really packs a punch in a design!
con - cost - it is usually quite pricey, so budget well!

Layering with texture

I love to use these different textures to add depth to my invite designs. Think of it like getting dressed - you wouldn't want to wear a velvet shirt, velvet pants and velvet shoes all together at once right? You would want to pair velvet pants with a smooth white shirt with a pop of glam in a statement necklace to balance it all out right?

Paper design uses the same concepts. I love to mix and match shimmery and matte to create balance. Add in just a pop of glam with a glitter layer or belly band. I love to take a classic, white invitation and add some personality with a hunter green envelope with crisp, white ink.

layering with paper design wedding invitations

Other thoughts ...

What else can I tell you about paper? I've talked a lot today about feeling paper and seeing the colors. How do you do that working with an online invitation designer? You ask her for samples :)

I can't put together a custom invitation in your specific colors, I just don't have the stock on hand to do that, but I am always happy to send out small, 3x3" swatches in the colors you are using so that you can play with them like paint chips until you find the right combination for you.

I recommend ordering a sample invitation in the style that you like - flat, pocket, gate card, etc and then let me know what colors you are using so I can include swatches! That way you can see a finished design and get a feel for the overall product and then play with the color swatches to get it just right.

by Laura Mays
Tags: Paper Tips
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