As the years go by, the use of personalized paper products seems to decrease dramatically. The rise in email correspondence and online invitation outlets has made it simpler to send a quick e-vite versus spending the time to shop for the perfect invitation to mail to guests. This digital world has made correspondence impersonal, robbing a generation of the art of eloquent writing, pen in hand and on expertly crafted paper.
However, think for a moment about receiving a hand-written note or a beautiful invitation in the mail. The feel of the paper, the style of the liner, the colors of the printed ink and the practiced script of a close friend are all lost in the email inbox. While there is a time and a place for a clever electronic invitation, the presence of a thoughtful note in the mail gives an unmatched feeling of excitement. It dates back to a love for books, magazines and receiving packages in the mail. Wrapping all of those pastimes into one evokes a similar emotion to receiving a perfectly crafted paper product.
Correspondence items can include anything from stationery and thank you notes to business paper. Stationery can come in many shapes, sizes and styles, and deciding upon the perfect design for your taste and use can sometimes be incredibly daunting.
To begin, paper color is the first item to select. Colors range from the classic ecru and white to just about anything you can imagine. Some colors that are currently popular are gray, light blue or taupe; however, if you want a timeless look, ecru or white is the way to go.
To complete a stationery suite that has the correct items for any occasion, order several shapes, sizes and designs. For men, monarch sheets or correspondence cards are great choices, while women traditionally prefer correspondence sheets, letter sheets or a double sheet (folded on the left like a book) for a formal occasion.
Half sheets are small sheets of paper that simply fold in half to fit in their envelopes. These are typically more simple but may be adorned with anything you like. The sheets may only be written on the front side — for additional space, use supplementary half sheets.
Monarch sheets are much like half sheets but are larger for longer personal or business letters. These fold into thirds to fit into their envelopes. Again, these are usually simply and professionally designed and may only be written on the front side.
Folded notes are one of the most popular choices and are where you can really let your personality shine. These are for writing thank-you notes, short messages to friends or to extend informal invitations. Traditionally, a monogram or name is printed on the center of the front side of the folded note. Feel free to substitute a nickname for your full name. If the name, monogram or design appears in the center of the front page, try to keep your message brief enough to fit only on the inner section of the note. If there is no design or it is featured on the top of the front page, you may write on all four pages of the folded note card.
The most important piece of stationery is the correspondence card. These are used in the same way as folded notes but are usually flat, heavy cards and less formal. Correspondence cards may be bordered and have a name (without titles) or small monogram placed at the top with a corresponding envelope to match the design. Only write on the front of correspondence cards.
A little less popular these days, but still serving a great purpose, is house stationery. This may be used by any resident or guest staying in your home. House stationery is commonly used in vacation homes or kept in guest rooms to give guests accessibility to stationery if needed. These usually feature the name of the house or address. A family crest or coat of arms should only be used if descendants of that lineage are using the stationery.
Couples stationery is an exciting addition to the traditional stationery wardrobe. These are usually folded notes or correspondence cards featuring the couple’s names or joint monogram. This can be used in correspondence that is coming from both parties and is most commonly used for thank you notes.
Next, it’s time to decide how to have your stationery printed. Stationery is most commonly engraved, blind embossed, thermographed or flat printed. Engraving is the most classic and beautiful way to create an impeccably detailed three-dimensional impression. Engraving is made possible when a copy of the design is etched in reverse onto a copper plate. When the process is finished, the lettering or image becomes raised with beautiful ink colors shining about. Engraved paper is more expensive than thermographed or flat-printed stationery, and you must have an engraving plate made, but this copper plate can be used for years to come to create more timeless stationery in different paper choices and ink colors.
Blind embossing is the same process as engraving but without the ink. This is especially popular with large monograms or return addresses on the flap of the envelope.
Thermography is less expensive than engraving but can still produce a beautiful look. This choice features a “raised ink” feel that adds a bit of dimension and pop to the paper and gives similar choices in ink color to engraving, such as a shiny gold. Flat printing is the most basic and is simply printing ink on the paper.
For every celebratory occasion, invitations must be sent in a proper manner to explain who, what, when and where while also giving a glimpse into what to expect at the event.
A general rule of thumb is a maximum of two to three colors of ink and font choices. If too many colors or fonts appear on an invitation, the prospective guests will be disrupted by clutter and confusion. It is also recommended for hosts to send invitations in envelopes so that the details are kept private for the guests’ eyes only. As for requesting a reply on invitations, it is best to note “Please respond by, ” or “R.S.V.P. by,” the French abbreviation for “respondez s’il vous plait,” to give the guests a deadline to respond and give yourself a date to follow up if need be. Some hosts may be tempted to put “Regrets only,” but this is not the best choice as it can create highly inaccurate headcount numbers.
Formal dinner invitations are usually engraved on ecru or white letter sheets that fold on the left hand side like a book. Correspondence cards can be used as well, but these are slightly less formal. Black is traditionally the ink color of choice, however, a dark blue can be used as well. For the most formal invitations, leave room for the guest’s name to be written at the top.
Invitations to wedding anniversaries usually include the year in which the couple was married or the anniversary year at the top. Nowadays, a joint monogram is becoming a more popular choice, however, this is still scrutinized in the wide world of traditional paper etiquette. For those who choose to engrave their wedding anniversary invitation, gold ink may be used for a 50th anniversary, ruby red for a 40th and silver for a 25th. It is best to use the metallic ink sparingly and only on the focal points of the invitation while black works wonderfully for readability. Many couples do not feel comfortable receiving gifts, so a simple “No gifts, please” may be included in the lower right-hand corner.
Bridal or baby shower invitations are a perfect way to let your creativity shine while basking in the exciting times that lie ahead for the honorees. These invitations can be anywhere from extremely casual and fun to refined and elegant. Any of the printing processes will do, but one that is becoming more popular is letterpress. The hostesses’ names appear at the top of the invitation and the theme in the lower left or right-hand corner.
To take your stationery, invitations or paper products to the next level, there are wardrobe “accessories” that can help in making a lasting impact. Wax seals are a simple addition that can add much elegance and personality to any note. From the color of the wax, to the embellishment on the seal, the recipient will be thrilled to admire the extra touch. It is recommended to take envelopes with wax seals to the post office and ask for them to be “hand cancelled” so that there is no risk of the seal being torn off when running through the stamp cancelling machine. This is the post office’s system for both marking your stamp as paid and for ensuring stamps are not reused.
Calligraphy is a wonderful way to add a personal touch to more formal invitations. Whether you are a practiced calligrapher or have a professional, this can make an envelope, invitation or note something that the recipient keeps for years to come.
When dealing with the envelope, creative liners that coincide with the style of invitation or stationery brings all aspects of the suite together. If interested in vintage or themed stamps, visit Zazzle.com for some fun options. Also, embossed, stamped or engraved return addresses on the envelope add interest and save you time from copying your return address by hand over and over again.
Paper products help make this increasingly impersonal world more personal. Internet and inbox clutter creates stress and frustration. Nowadays, we could all use a reason to slow down, sit at a table and write a note. As for the recipient, they will feel cherished that their friend or family member took the time to think about them through the tiny details of a piece of expertly designed mail. For help in designing just what you need, Columbia offers wonderful experts that can lead the way. Also, Crane.com and Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition have fantastic tips on paper and reply etiquette for any occasion.