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April 21, 2010 • Sarah Schwartz
Style Watch: Wedding Invitations & Accessories

Delve into what’s driving this market

Just like fashion, the wedding market constantly evolves. Today’s bride will have different inspirations and desires than the bride of yesterday or tomorrow. Practically speaking, however, her eventual choices are affected by a slew of factors, from budget to season, venue to color scheme.

For that reason, the entire stationery selection process has to be service-oriented. And more importantly, as Suzie McKig, creative director, Twig & Fig, pointed out, a successful wedding invitation suite should truly reflect the couple, not the venue or designer. “What drives us is to embody the style and desire of the client to assure we are designing for them, not for ourselves. Be sure to show your client a wide variety of styles and colors to see what puts the sparkle in her eye, then take the helm from there.”

While every bride wants something completely custom, there are many currents moving through the industry that may color her style choices. They can range from lifestyle choices, like eco-chic-ness or blogging, to design trends, like lacy textures or pockets. To help negotiate this terrain, we’ve compiled snapshots of some currents shaping the market. Look for products that quote more than one of these trends for multi-faceted appeal!

Personal Branding
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Description: This concept typically replicates one element throughout the wedding stationery and entire event, which necessitates approaching each piece with an eye toward the whole package. The trend is spurred by cultural elements like celebrity wedding coverage, couples marrying later in life with more disposable income and an extensive online community enabling the easy exchange of ideas and resources.

Current Incarnation: While Feterie, featured at left, is on the high end, the idea can be utilized in the stationery suite of nearly any couple, for example, through a common color, flower, monogram or other icon.

Look for: Treatments that pull everything together so nothing feels disjointed, yet still allow individual events to retain their own flavor. Sometimes an element – for example a monogram – provides a couple with an identity to integrate into their lives later, explained Diedre Johnson, account representative, Spark Stationery. “One of our brides even had intentions of having their monogram made into a piece of jewelry!”

How to promote/position: Create albums that combine images or samples of the paper pieces with photographs of other elements to bring the concept to life. Have other vendors in mind (e.g. bakers, florists) that can translate the brand into their respective media.

Designer Quote: “To find inspiration, I keep in touch with fashion and home decor trends. Sometimes, I can find inspiration based on one little detail, such as a pattern found in nature or a simple stroll in an art museum.”

— Cathe Huynh-Sison, designer/owner/chief paper, Feterie

Eco-Chic
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Description: Traditionally, environmental options for paper looked cheap, commented Debbie Urbanski, owner of Smock. “We’re now seeing eco-papers that are suitable for high-end wedding invitations. Now that brides can go green without sacrificing style or luxury, I think there’s no reason not to choose a green invitation.”

Green players proliferate, taking different approaches. For example, at no extra charge, customers of Cat Seto’s Gallery album can have their invitations printed on 100 percent PCW, chlorine-free papers. At Oblation Papers & Press, “the majority of our work is printed on recycled, handmade, tree-free paper with soy-based inks,” said Bri Williams, public relations.

Meanwhile, Smock is printing on a luxury bamboo paper. “Bamboo is a truly sustainable, renewable resource,” stated Urbanski. “It grows fast, without pesticides or fertilizers, and requires very little water.”

Current Incarnation: As dynamic as the rest of the market. “Environmentally friendly wedding invitations don’t sacrifice elegance or style,” advised Cat Seto.

“The term ‘eco’ doesn’t reflect a certain style invitation,” agreed Tara Guérard, founder, The Lettered Olive. “If you can dream it up, we can make it green!”

Look for: Companies that mean it. “Brides in this day and age are very conscious of green-washing,” Urbanski emphasized. “Understand what makes a product and a company green before promoting it, and your customers will appreciate it.”

How to promote/position: “It would floor customers to see a display of the ‘eco-friendly’ look in stationery and invitations,” Cat Seto said, adding that for retailers, “communicating that eco-friendly can be stylish, modern and a personal statement is key.”

Designer quote: “We had no idea of the pros and cons of soy-based inks or certain types of papers. But as complex as it can become, we continue to strive for better and more environmentally friendly options.”

— Cat Seto

Techno-Savvy
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Description: Since nearlyweds have become more tech-savvy alongside the rest of the population, more and more are making their PC and the Web an integral part of the process.

Current Incarnation: Many engaged couples are sharing their adventures online. Also of interest are memory products created with digital photography.

Explained Ilira Steinman, co-owner, Rag and Bone Bindery, “With the advent of the digital trend we came up with our Digital Photo album in 2005. These allow the user to print right onto high-quality photo paper and then assemble the covers using their own desktop printer. Uses range from conventional wedding portraiture to creating custom guest books and personalized attendants’ gifts.”

Look for: Invitation vendors who have partnered with wedding and Web providers to promote both print and online designs. “Recently we formed a strategic partnership with a wedding Web site company by offering designs from our wedding stationery collection as templates for their customers,” commented Feterie’s Cathe Huynh-Sison. “In turn, they promote our printed stationery to their clients with a link to on our Web site; we promote the matching Web site design on our Web site.”

How to promote/position: Once you stock invitation vendors with Web partnerships, make sure every bride knows about these services! “Checkerboard offers promotion boards that can be placed at point-of-sale areas,” said Kerry Amidon, product director, Checkerboard. “Many times brides may be shopping for other wedding-related items. In-store signage on this unique offering allows a retailer to capture a sale that may have gone elsewhere.”

Designer quote: “I’ve been surprised at how ready customers who select a design from the wedding Web site are to order our matching printed stationery.”

— Cathe Huynh-Sison

Lacey Textures
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Description: Lace has been the choice of many an iconic bride, from Grace Kelly’s rose point lace bodice by Helen Rose to Caroline Kennedy’s shamrock-embroidered gown by Carolina Herrera. As well, pointed out Liz Denny, founder, Peridot Paper, “In the last two years, pretty white day dresses trimmed in lace and crewel have reappeared on the runways of Paris.”

Current Incarnation: Inspired by both wedding gowns and haute couture, paper is the ideal medium to hint at those designs through diverse elements from wraps and pockets to delicate letterpress designs and blind embossing.

Look for: Treatments that are as clever as they are lovely. “What’s new in our invitations is glitter applied to the lace patterns,” noted Anna Griffin, president, Anna Griffin Inc. “I did this to emulate the intricate beading on a wedding dress.”

How to promote/position: This look lends itself to big statements and cross-merchandising among diverse categories. “If I were a stationer, my windows would be filled with all things wedding —
showing samples of lace used on paper goods as well as wrapping packages and tableware,” mused Griffin.

Designer quote: “Nothing says romance like lace, and those patterns translate beautifully into paper. The wonderful thing about lace is when you look back 20 years from now, you’ll love the invitation as much as you did when you selected it!”

— Anna Griffin

Initials and Monograms
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Description: Monograms and initials have been around since the time of the Greeks and Romans. As they apply to weddings, they can be incorporated throughout, although many caution against their overuse.

Current Incarnation: “Couples are currently using any combination of their initials, first names or even just a symbol,” stated Erin Linneman, owner of Lucky Designs LLC, who created a monogram for her blog when she was getting married and soon started getting requests for custom creations. “According to Crane, your three-letter monogram should be the bride’s first initial, the groom’s last initial and the groom’s first initial.

However, if you are an avid Martha Stewart fan, she recommends not using your married name initial until after the ceremony! That has led most couples to use a monogram with just their first names/initials or a graphic element.”

Look for: Designs that are customized as possible. “We are finding our clients are craving fully custom designs that can carry through a true preview of their wedding,” pointed out Twig & Fig’s McKig. “It’s been an amazing season full of exploring new materials and unexpected directions — all of which have been a designer’s dream to create. Each project has been so different and so personal to the client that the thread in common is truly just that — fully custom and fully luxurious with a strong emphasis on texture and substance.”

How to promote/position: Nothing feeds the urge like finished samples, displayed with care and thought. “We are both a stationer and a custom letterpress invitation manufacturer,” explained McKig. “To tell our story to our walk-in boutique clients we have a regular rotation of shadow boxes that show off our latest projects. There’s no better way than to make them come alive for all to view. Their opulence speaks for itself.”

Designer quote: “The single initial/monogram has been so popular in this market, we have spent many late nights coming up with new products to offer our retailers.”

— Sarah Nusken and Katie Vincent, owners, donovandesigns

Pockets
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Description: Pocket invitations are nothing new, but they’ve earned bridal credibility not present even five years ago. Among the reasons for this, said Meena Merchant, vice president, Marsupial Pouches & Papers, is “the logic behind having a multiple-component invitation all contained in one package. It’s a form-follows-function thing — you need a place to put your RSVP, your directions card, your reception card, why not bring order to the chaos?”

Other elements driving their allure include their three-dimensional quality and their interactivity, she continued. “With a pouch, you unfold, you pull out and peek in; there is a whole new level of satisfaction on the part of the recipient, and therefore a whole new level of design and decision-making that can go on.”

Current Incarnation: As it becomes an industry standard, it’s affected by marketplace trends like any other mainstay. For example, Marsupial has introduced 100 percent cotton papers as well as organic metallic-coated papers. Carlson Craft’s Pockets has gone the luxe route with “fresh, new colors with a twist,” commented coordinator Stacy Buendorf. “Like yellow and orange on a shimmer paper stock. It’s really quite beautiful!”

Look for: Any product that takes the basic form in unexpected directions. “The beauty of the pouch is that it is still in its raw form — it can be transformed and changed in so many ways, which keeps this type of product continually refreshed,” noted Merchant.

How to promote/position: When you get an interesting component, use it for a mailing, recommended Merchant. Advised Buendorf, “Display and upsell. Take every opportunity to show the new product in person; have them touch and feel the quality and textures.”

Designer quote: “I have been surprised to learn that squares are still very popular, in spite of their higher prices and increased postage rates. When a bride wants a square, she wants a square!”

— Meena Merchant

Super-Luxe
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Description: For those having a client base with grand visions of their nuptials and the budgets to make it happen, this is the ticket. “Many couples want to be different, mused Sandi Spells, owner and creative designer of Sandi Spells Designs. “They want to show originality and style.”

Current Incarnation: It might be Swarovski crystals, creative packaging or fabrics, but whatever it is, it makes a big impression. “I firmly believe it is the attention to detail that makes the difference,” said Robin Beth, owner/designer of Robin Beth Designs.

Look for: Designs that are miniature works of art. “I compare myself to the chef who picks his own ingredients the day gourmet meals are created,” continued Beth. “My style utilizes layers of decorative papers, beautiful ribbons and other embellishments that emphasize dazzling color combinations, letterpress printing and handwork.”

How to promote/position: Find an approach that works for your client base and business identity. You may not choose to display these designs — rather to bring out samples and albums during one-on-one consultations so you can explain each one to the customer.

Designer quote: “Even when a customer says they want something really ‘different,’ they still tend to choose fairly traditional elements but apply them uniquely. Brides adhere to more traditional colors, such as sage green, pink or burgundy, despite contemporary trends toward bolder color combinations. Then, we apply them together in a totally different way, such as a four-page booklet invitation, bound with a hand-dyed ribbon.”

— Robin Beth




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