When you’re putting together a wedding day that’s a perfect reflection of you and your to-be, the last thing you want to do is send out cookie-cutter invitations to all your nearest and dearest. Luckily, the Philadelphia area is home to several custom invitation studios helmed by talented designers who can take your vision for your wedding day and literally put it down on paper. After all, your invitations are the first glimpse your guests have of what’s in store for them on your Big Day—you want to make sure they see nothing but the best.
Owners: Cheyenne Leigh Panzeter and Danielle Leigh Lyons
Cheyenne on how it all started: While attending the University of the Arts together, Danielle and I said we’d own a design-related business one day; we just didn’t know what. We both worked at design companies and museums where we designed invitations for galas and fund-raisers, which was the highlight of our jobs. We both really enjoyed working on our own wedding invitations, which led to more gigs with friends and family. When we received an inquiry from a stranger who saw our work, we knew this was the beginning of something good. Favorite color combo for fall/winter: Mint and gold. Special talent: Drawing maps. Most clients are surprised when they hear they can get a custom map that includes their venue, hotel and special points of interest in their invite package. Favorite medium to print on: Crane’s Lettra 220# cover paper. Craziest medium ever printed on: We screen-printed on vintage handkerchiefs for save-the-dates. Favorite special detail: A surprising envelope liner, like gold glitter. Thought process behind the look of the studio: My friend—an exhibit designer at the Franklin Institute—came by to help lay it out. We want our potential clients to see our work displayed all around them as they sit at our consult table to brainstorm. And we positioned the table next to the large windows, to let the natural light show off the paper and ink colors best. Biggest mistake brides make: Not taking a second to look for misspellings on the address list. Favorite trend right now: We love how a stacked suite looks, when the invite is the largest piece, the RSVP postcard is slightly smaller, and the details card is even smaller. Then we tie the bundle in twine or ribbon.
Owner: Carolyn Brandhorst
On why designing wedding invitations is awesome: You get inspired from just a color or a conversation, and then take a leap of faith that you’re on the right track. Favorite part of the process: The initial meeting, where we’re brainstorming together creatively. Favorite color combo for fall/winter: Rose gold and charcoal on ivory. Special talent: Really getting what it is the bride and the mother/mother- in-law, etc., want and need, and guiding them in that direction throughout the entire process. Craziest medium ever printed on: We’ve printed on fabric, to create an envelope lining, and plastic, which actually turned out beautifully. Favorite special detail: Tissue paper. Thought process behind the look of the studio: For all of us to be in an open atmosphere. It creates creativity and discussion constantly. First question you ask brides: “Are you more modern or traditional?” Funny thing is that a lot of brides get it wrong—they’ll think they’re modern but wind up picking out something more traditional. Number one piece of advice for brides: Less is more. Biggest mistake brides make: Not ordering enough invitations. Trend you’re totally over: Pockets. Your style in a word: Bohemian.
Owners: Cecilia and Nestor Torres
Cecilia on why designing wedding invitations is awesome: The wedding invitation is a sneak peek into not only the event, but also the personality of the couple. As they say, it sets the tone for what is to come. Favorite part of the process: Showing the bride and groom the final product. They’ve seen proofs and mock-ups along the way, but when they see the final creation and their eyes and faces light up—it’s a wonderful feeling. Favorite color combo for fall/winter: Gray, soft gold and pale pink. Favorite printing method: Letterpress, hands down. It’s a tactile experience, and we almost always use our 100 percent fine cotton paper, which lends itself to wanting to hold the piece in your hand. Craziest medium ever printed on: We printed an invitation on a linen napkin—white ink on red cloth. Most unusual request: To design a monogram for someone named Prince, which we later learned was in homage to the bride’s deceased dog. Thought process behind the look of the studio: Walking into a space that is uncluttered, with items easily accessible. Our decorative paper collection is hung on actual hangers where the customer can touch and play with the paper. Best part about what you do: I have a psychology background, and I enjoy hearing the couple’s story. I have been told that we have a calming effect on the somewhat stressful process of planning a wedding. Biggest mistake brides make: When ordering invitations, they go by their head count when they really should look at how many addresses they have on their spreadsheet. Your style in a word: Vintage-modern.
Two Paper Dolls
Owner: Vanessa Kreckel
On how it all started: It started in 2000, at my dining room table. I was working nights and weekends while also working a full-time job designing at UPenn. Why designing wedding invitations is awesome: We love to tell the story of a couple through design, and share in such a happy time in people’s lives. Favorite part of the process: Getting to know our clients. There is nothing random about creating an invitation—I want to know who you are, what you’re passionate about, how you met, what you love to do, what kind of flowers you love. … And then working closely with them to create something that embodies who they are and what they are about. Favorite color combo for fall/winter: Charcoal gray and golds, with a pop of something unexpected. Favorite printing method: Letterpress. I especially like to use thick paper to get a deeper impression. Special talent: Being a one-stop shop. We don’t farm work out to other printers—we even letterpress in-house, which is uncommon and gives us the ability to control our production—so it makes for a pretty seamless process. Craziest medium ever printed on: Leather. It’s the trickiest. Trend you’re totally over: Inner and outer envelopes. And wax seals. Favorite trend right now: Edge painting. Your style in a word: Expressive.
Paper Rock Scissors
Owner: Christina Carnevale
On how it all started: I have been obsessed with paper and pens since I was a child. I even wrote out my own Communion invitations. When I was in my 20s, friends started asking me to write the calligraphy on their wedding invitations, and I fell in love with the beautiful papers, typography and embellishments, so I went back to University of the Arts for graphic design classes. In 2007 I designed my first wedding invitations, and in 2010 I quit my job in finance and opened my studio in Conshohocken. Favorite color combo for fall/winter: Ivory and gold is my favorite. I always find myself coming back to it. Favorite medium to print on: Anything that is different—we’ve printed on wood veneer, on museum preservation boards, on mirrors. Most unusual request: To scent silk box invitations with lavender! Favorite special detail: Handwritten calligraphy, whether it’s on the envelopes or having the entire wedding invitation done in calligraphy. Nothing beats the art of handwriting. First question you ask brides: “What do you want your event to feel like when you walk in?” We want to translate that feeling to paper to create an ambience before the recipient even walks into the wedding. Biggest mistake brides make: Waiting too long to start the process. They should start looking early, anywhere from 10 to 12 months out. Your style in a word: Timeless.
Owner: Robyn Platoni
On why designing wedding invitations is awesome: We love being a part of a couple’s day and story. It’s really meaningful for us to create pieces that our couples are in love with and will cherish forever. Favorite color combo for fall/winter: Mixed metallics with soft tones of ecru and bright pops of coral and forest green. Favorite printing method: We are really into foil printing right now. No matter how it’s used, it creates a really unique look, and we love combining a shinier foil with more tactile elements to balance out the feel. Special talent: We have a keen eye for typography. We’re all trained graphic designers with a huge obsession with great type. The font choices used on your invitation will really set the tone for your wedding—our job is to make sure they’re great! Craziest medium ever printed on: A super-thick piece of wood. We did a combination of engraving and laser cutting, so the piece had a lot of dimensionality to it. Most unusual request: We had a client who absolutely loved all things Disney and wanted us to include a Disney-related element in her otherwise formal stationery. We were slightly skeptical at first, but the little icon we incorporated into the reply card that resembled Flounder from The Little Mermaid turned out really cute! Number one piece of advice for brides: Be open to options, and have a priority list. Having a priority list helps us focus in on the details that really matter to you. Trend you’re totally over: Burlap and chevron. Favorite trend right now: Incorporating a couple’s pet into their save-the-dates. It’s such a fun, playful way to bring your loves into the wedding day.
This article originally appeared in the fall/winter 2014 issue of Philadelphia Wedding.