October 11, 2023 • Sarah Schwartz
The Custom Customer: That which is personalized is always impactful

Smitten on Paper

Custom elements elevate printed pieces. And now that events are back in swing, the custom stationery space finds itself reinvigorated but evolved from 2020. Several players in the space shared their thoughts on this crucial segment.


Small, smart details comprise the core of every milestone. Photo courtesy of Oblation Papers & Press.

For starters, quantities are back up, noted Kathryn Zumalt, owner of Smitten on Paper. “We’ve been surprised to see a dramatic increase in the size of guest lists. If anything, coronavirus seems to be responsible. People aren’t taking for granted being able to be together.”

In this climate, brides are not scrimping, explained Jennifer Schlauderaff, product development manager at Carlson Craft. “Save-the-Dates have become standard. Couples want friends and family to reserve their date early.”

Schlauderaff also sees a resurgence in response/RSVP cards. “These are a must-have that allows less tech-savvy guests to respond.”

Photo courtesy of The Occasions Group.

Meanwhile, printed invitations resonate in a digitally weary world, Schlauderaff added. “The arrival of a printed invitation in the mail is an event. It has an emotional impact that an e-invite doesn’t have.”

While Rhonda Marie, creative director at PrintsWell, sees some couples doing RSVPs through websites, most want to personalize their suite. “Custom monograms and crests containing interlocking letters and artwork depicting the couples’ story together, their interests — even their pets. These custom pieces become a part of the wedding theme and are printed on the invitation suites, thank-yous, day-of signage, programs, favor tags, drink coasters, basically anything that can be printed.”

Zumalt spots guest personalization as a key trend. “A lot of brides personalize items like menus and programs with beautiful, creative ideas. It’s an easy way to make guests feel valued.”

Finally, extra pieces literally extend the honeymoon period, Zumalt laughed. “We’re seeing more thank-yous ordered with invitations. Not only does this mean they’re ready right away, but couples realize that their extra thank-yous can later serve as beautiful stationery.”


Photo courtesy of Chloe Clark.

Schlauderaff sees milestones experiencing a similar boom. “Milestone events have not scaled back at all — in fact, we’re seeing even more than years ago,” she said. “When things started going back to normal, we had a lot of our customers wanting to transform our wedding invites for other events. Pre-wedding parties, like bachelorette parties, have become weekend getaways to Nashville or Miami, for example.”

Added Zumalt: “People are putting more emphasis on life milestones rather than business milestones. Many job environments have been fractured, so people look to family and friends for community and stability. We’re seeing more invitations for events like quinceñeras, first communions, and baby announcements.”

Some bridal trends overlap into other markets. Consider the envelope. “[This] now needs to be adorned with pretty fonts, design elements, vintage postage stamps and a lining,” detailed Marie. “We’ve experienced a large increase in sales of lined envelopes. This is another area where people are being creative and introducing more customized details.”

Print signage of signature cocktails now overflows to other events as well, Maria added. “Some of my favorites are pet-inspired offerings, like a ‘Puppytini’ or ‘Meowgarita,’ with drink ingredients printed alongside the pet’s portrait or likeness.”

Atelier Saucier through Shoppe Object

Office, Home and Online Duty

While Rifle Paper first made a huge splash with its wedding invitations, bearing brides and grooms illustrated by Anna Bond herself, the company’s personalized flat note and business card offerings still “encapsulate that original energy of the brand,” shared Trish Whelan, CEO of Rifle Paper. “A common thread is that our customers feel an emotional connection to the patterns and product and feel like they can express themselves through our products. With personalized stationery, the customer is investing in something special for themselves, their business or a loved one. Personalized stationery is easy to re-order, and this customer returns to update their portrait, order additional stationery and more.”

Personalized stationery from Rifle Paper Co. makes a big impact on the gift table — and in the mailbox!

While Rifle does not wholesale its personalized offerings, the brand collaborates with Chatbooks on personalized photo books. After an event passes, these physically remain. “Our collaboration with Chatbooks [allows] people to bring our prints into their lives and memories through these photobooks. We see customers return at the start of each year to create their ‘yearbook’ for the previous year.”

Meanwhile, Rifle’s personalized business cards draw a small but mighty crowd, stated Whalen. “We see a lot of people create them for side hustles, new ventures and established small businesses.”

Regardless of the type of event or a printed piece’s function, social media is key to all promotions, finished Marie. “So many customers are now influenced by what they see online. Seriously, how did we ever know what to buy before it was shown to us on daily social media feeds? It is imperative that dealers actively interact and communicate with their customers to [stay] in front of them.”

Tips for the Trade

Our subjects shared what they see successful retailers and dealers doing:

  • Twenty Two West through Shoppe Object

    Listen to the couple to discover their “dream invitation,” then work with them to bring it to life.

  • Offer a large selection of wedding papers in their storefront, but also maintain an online store.
  • Showcase complete ensembles and advertise as a one-stop shop for weddings and other events.
  • For clients who order save-the-dates and invitations, offer discounts for remaining items.
  • Offer past customers savings on other stationery items such as holiday cards or baby announcements.
  • Consider attending bridal shows. Samples on display enable attendees to touch and feel the product; that tactile experience is not found online. If there’s space, stage the booth with wedding invitations and a place setting featuring menus, table cards and place cards.
  • Prioritize communication and relationship building. People want to be able to go to a business they can trust and enjoy collaborating with. It’s not always about price; it’s also about expertise and experience.

Featured photo: Smitten on Paper

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