July 10, 2021 • Sarah Schwartz
A Return to Love
Are weddings back?
COVID-19 cut a wide swath through American life, with all gatherings and especially weddings taking an enormous hit. For all of 2020 and a significant portion of 2021, Stationery Trends did not run any images of invitation suites — but fortunately, that is changing!
The slow return began December 2020-January 2021, as soon as vaccinations started rolling out, noted Erika Firm. Interestingly, the South Carolina maker actually did sell some invitations in 2020, she recalled. “(There were) mostly just the invitation card, no RSVP, which tells me that couples were likely using them for Zoom weddings, as save- or change-the-date cards, or as announcements after courthouse weddings. In early March I started seeing orders for day-of items like place cards and menus.”
Likewise, by mid-January, Tara Sikel, director of sales and marketing for The Occasions Group and Carlson Craft, started hearing about an increase in foot traffic from its huge network of retail partners. “It was quite obvious in February that couples were not going to let a pandemic push their wedding back any further!”
MEET THE MICRO-WEDDING
But while all weddings share the same end goal, today’s nuptials drastically differ from their pre-pandemic counterparts. Like many others, to help her clients evolve their expectations, Emilie Dulles, a custom graphics, lettering, and watercolor artist who also owns Dulles Designs in Charleston, South Carolina, has dubbed these celebrations Micro-Weddings.
Firstly, Micro-Weddings are smaller. Sikel says that on average, the guest count appears to be down 10 to 20 percent. Dulles puts most of her micro-wedding invitation counts between 25 and 50 versus her customary 175 to 450 or more. Meanwhile, Firm cites her pre-COVID-19 invitation orders typically as quantities of 250 and up; her largest order so far this year was for 150 invitation suites.
Less guests transforms the budget, Dulles underscored, as well as the entire vibe of the event, as now smaller, more innovative venues –– say an art gallery, library, elegant farmhouse or lakehouse barn — can be selected. “Since your volume of wedding guests is the biggest factor when it comes to ‘blowing up a wedding budget,’ fewer guests allow for a very intimate and meaningful event, and for the couple to spend more on luxurious wedding details and delights. From food and drink to décor and stationery, micro-weddings are the new way to WOW your closest family and friends, and to reward yourselves as you begin your new life together.”
PIECES & (MOVING) PARTS
For the most part, “couples are still ordering save the dates, rehearsal dinner invitations, and wedding invitations,” noted Sikel.
For Dulles, lower quantities translate into more luxurious printed pieces. Heirloom touches like bespoke calligraphy, custom envelope linings, engraved or letterpress printing, extra-thick paper, hand-painted edges, metallic beveling are suddenly attainable.
Also driving the stationery spend is the lack of ancillary events, Dulles continued. “Instead of multiple showers and larger parties that require domestic and international travel for the wedding party and immediate family, Dulles Designs couples are opting for a more inclusive set of events within their wedding weekend to group all travel into one celebration time frame.”
And while bridal shower invitations, engagement party invitations, and bachelor/bachelorette party invitations have largely disappeared for now, they are still being planned, Dulles observed. “We have been printing insert cards for those events that will be included in the wedding invitation sets for our couples.”
Sikel agreed that the contents of printed pieces are changing. “As for enclosures like response cards, reception cards, accommodation cards and more, these (have) become even more important than they were before. Couples have important details they need to share, and printed stationery puts an appropriate emphasis on these significant details like CDC guidelines, celebration etiquette, entrée choices and safety precautions.”
While the invitation requires the most planning and proofing, the save-the-date is more important than ever, Firm emphasized. “As everything starts to open up, social calendars are going to get packed with parties,” Firm noted.
Speaking of which, the new essential that no one wants, but must plan for, is in the same vein as save the date. These are referred to as a change of date or change of plan card. It’s wise to “have a design picked out and ready to order, just in case!” Firm recommended.
“We continue to see change of dates, which is tough to see,” Sikel concurred, “but we expect it for a while until everyone feels 100% safe to have the wedding of their dreams.”
And when it comes to day of, “we’re seeing more thoughtful planning going into day-of pieces such as place cards, escort cards, table numbers, seating charts, wedding programs, and reception décor,” Sikel added. “We have also seen table cards printed with safety information letting guests know safety precautions that were taken and/or are expected throughout the wedding.”
Dulles cites custom printed masks, personalized hand-sanitizer bottles or sprays, and elegant signage that can be read from a safe distance as de rigueur. “(We have) introduced cohesive illustrations and watercolor patterns that make such COVID-19 norms more creative, colorful, and as delightful as possible. We are also suggesting that couples order enough ceremony programs for every guest to have their own, when in the past some couples might have shared one program.”
Because the pandemic has forced people to celebrate special occasions in new ways, new trends like yard signs have appeared, Sikel described. “We’ve expanded our collection to include some really amazing designs. In addition, we just can’t stop raving about our Foam Core Letter Signs. We know couples are going to love having these at their reception as decoration or in place of a traditional guest book. They make a great keepsake for years to come!”
And, suggest post-wedding announcements, urged Dulles. “(These) are mailed out to the larger volume of friends and family and associates who perhaps could not attend, or simply could not be invited due to state-by-state restrictions.”
Sikel is staying positive as keeps her eyes firmly fixed on the future. “As you can imagine, destination wedding stationery halted with the pandemic but we expect this is going to really blow up in the next year.”
Now more than ever, the invitationer plays an essential role in the life of a couple, finished Dulles. “I take great comfort and find hope in the resilience of fine stationery and printing experts who keep our art, traditions, and expert craft not only alive, but ever more so relevant in connecting families and friends through beautiful and tangible stationery. As practical as Zooms, emails and texts are to keeping our businesses running, it is only through the engraving and printing of our clients’ wedding stationery suites that the most meaningful celebrations of 2021 will be remembered for generations to come.”