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Calligraphy and Invitation Design

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Fear

Kelsey Carpenter

cheryl strayed wild quotes
Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.  
— Cheryl Strayed, Wild

My husband had been begging me, cajoling, and trying to trick me into hiking with him for years. We'd been together for about 6 years before I took my first reluctant step on a rocky, wild, and steep trail with him. I was, for the most part, just afraid. I was afraid of mountain roads, of bugs and bees, of being too weak or too out of shape to complete it. I worried my face would get red, my arms would itch, my skin would crawl. I didn't want to be so far from home, from running water. I didn't want to be lost in the wild where anything could happen.

But, because he needed to be outside. He needed to escape from his own stresses and worries, I took those steps. I laced up my shoes and I stepped over rocks and branches and a fair amount of bugs. I got sunburned and itchy and I thought many times there were bears or something nefarious chasing us through the woods. And in the end, we hiked back to the car and made it home and in one piece.

Fear, was a story I had told myself, and telling myself that story had led me to believe that story. I believe I couldn't do it. I believed it would go wrong. Turns out, the story wasn't up to me. My story was fiction and I was trying so hard to make it a reality I almost missed out on seeing green gorges and tumultuous waterfalls and deer grazing in a meadow and cougar tracks in mud and experiencing the complete silence of being alone in the great wild forests of the Northwest.

By the time we moved away from Portland, we hiked every single weekend. We'd done 13 milers and climbed thousands of feet. We'd hiked in snow and heat and rain and sleet. I could hardly stand being inside anymore. I just wanted my feet in boots and mud and I wanted to be, more than anything else, smelling those pine trees.

Fear, to a great extent, is a story we tell ourselves. And we try so hard to fulfill the prophecy we've created. 

When I first started my calligraphy Etsy shop in January of 2015, I wasn't very good at hand-lettering. I had enough encouragement from some friends in Portland and the barrier to entry was low enough to propel me into opening an online storefront. I opened it with skepticism. I didn't feel like I was supposed to be an entrepreneur. I was somewhat afraid of actually getting an order. Within a few months I'd been selling little things like place cards. I was learning the hard and the long way what inks did and didn't work and what kind of customer service was required in a handmade trade. 

By May I had my first wedding client. A brave, trusting bride who got some of my earliest hand-scripted wedding invitations and probably taught me more than any client since. I learned that there were people out there willing to pay me to "craft" for them, but I couldn't imagine why. But I fully believed each client that came to me was a fluke and returning clients were crazy. I believed I'd found a niche of people who were out of their minds in hiring me. 

When this hobby turned into a full-time side-job, I was working myself to exhaustion. I believed if I slowed down for a second it would all stop. The crazy dream that was unfolding would collapse and I'd never be able to get it back again. So I worked harder and harder and harder, without working any harder on my self-talk. I celebrated no accomplishment. I brushed off questions or compliments and I kept working. I felt I knew one thing: hard work is the only reason I am here and I am doing this. If I stop working hard, it will end. 

I had many a colleague laugh at my business, or act surprised to hear it earned any income. I had acquaintances call it my little crafting thing, and people told me not to quit my day job. But the worst stories came from inside me. I was able to brush off the comments of others are someone that didn't understand what I was doing. But I couldn't brush off my own words. I was, once again, telling myself a story and struggling to prove it.

The leap of faith I took to start my business was probably one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I had to tell myself: you can do this. You can be more than that story you told yourself. You can succeed not just by killing yourself working 80-100 hour weeks but because this is something you're good at, that you love, and that you have a desire to make succeed.

We are our own worst critic in every area of our lives. We are so prone to telling ourselves that we're not good enough, we need to work harder, we are on the brink of everything falling apart. We love to narrate our stories as if we are not the hero. But if we aren't the hero of our story, who is? 

So if you're in the throes of impostor syndrome, or self-doubt, of the fear of starting a new business/hobby/venture, if you don't believe you deserve your success or your clientele or your business - think about your story and make some edits. I'm willing to bet you are right where you're supposed to be.

The Voyage

Kelsey Carpenter

Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.
— Tennessee Williams

It is so easy to look at someone else's story and see the end result. It's impossibly simple to believe only the good about others but the worst about ourselves. Perhaps that's the human condition - giving others endless grace and giving back to ourselves the opposite.

Yet, the journey is never as simple as it seems from the outside. Success is not born overnight. There's no race to a finish line. For any of us. And beyond that - there is no one-size fits all definition to success, definition of the finish line. There is no one journey that we all must take. We have the opportunity to peer into others' lives in this voyeuristic culture of Instagram posts and Facebook albums, but it so rarely tells the beginning and middle. Just the end: the developed picture.

My pretty Instagram picture right now is this: a full-time business-woman/calligrapher/entrepreneur. Time to read. Time to cook. A doctor husband. Life in a big city. Clients. Two cats. My Instagram picture looks like I've made it. It seems like something I always wanted. It seems like it happened overnight.

Less than a year ago, I was at a job I absolutely hated and I was living a life that seemed very out of control. I don't have words for how much I hated that job, but it was a hair shy of all-consuming. Every single day I felt sick before walking in to the office. I counted down the minutes until I left. I thought if I had to talk to my boss, or my colleagues, for one more second I would explode. I plotted quitting endlessly. I talked about it until my husband asked me to please stop. Though it contradicted my complete hatred of the job, I had maxed out my vacation accruals and somehow not used any of it. HR kept calling to tell me I needed to take a day off or risk losing them. It had destroyed my mental well-being and I was trying to take refuge in external things like my small business. I felt that I was in the job because my husband's medical school necessitated I provide for us, try to pay down our collective student loan debt, and that I couldn't afford to do something else with any pay cut.

I knew that the job wasn't financially enough either. We were so financially far behind our peers who were buying houses and cars. We had massive loan debt from medical school and undergrad, interview season with a $10,000-20,000 burden approaching (all out of our pocket), a car on the verge, an upcoming move, the desire to one day own a home and have children. I needed to do more and make more. And a small business was the only way I could see that.

I slept 4-5 hours a night. Fitfully. I woke up every morning with a pounding heart. My routine was timed to the minute. I worked from 5 am to midnight every day. There was absolutely no room for variation. If something interrupted my schedule - a computer error, a printer glitch - I would burst into tears.

When I got new emails, I felt like they threatened that final thread I was hanging by. I told my husband not to speak to me when I was working because I just had no space for anything more. But I was always working. 

My apartment was such a mess that I, a formerly neat person, would slide piles of things to the side to get to the next pile of work. The cats had to step over paper piles. We didn't vacuum for a month straight.

I worked 85-100 hours a week. My husband, who works an average of 90 hours a week would ask me to please spend time with him. He was struggling with depression caused by the high-pressure and burnout of medical school and I didn't have the patience for it. We used to argue over who was having more stress or a worse week.

I didn't cook. I didn't clean. I took one 1/2 day on weekends when my husband and I would do as long of a hike as we could stand and then return, exhausted, to get back to work.

There was nothing healthy going on with me. I wasn't eating well. We had the same meal for dinner every single night, of every single week, for months straight. My complexion had turned completely awful. I lost a healthy glow and felt pale. No manner of skincare products worked. Sometimes I just sat on the floor in a panic. I became afraid of the fire alarms going off when we cooked. I feared heat waves or cold snaps. Going grocery shopping stressed me out. Traffic made me panic.

I'm not really sure why I felt like working myself to the bone would chase out the bad in my life, but I did. I was working so hard to erase the rest of what was going on, without the ability to see that it was making everything worse. I thought that my side business could make up for so many things that were seemingly out of my control: my low-paying day-job; my husband's student loan debt; rising rents; a spouse's depression; the lack of control that comes with following a spouse through medical school. 

And so, while my business grew, nothing about it made me happy. I experienced for the first time what complete burn out felt like. Each new project felt so difficult to complete. I lacked inspiration or drive. But I kept going. My husband kept telling me: we don't need more money if it destroys you. But I wore that exhaustion like a badge and my business grew because I was giving it every last thing I had.

It's interesting. You have your whole life to make a business grow and work. You have years and years to become successful at something. You can't take back destroyed friendships. You can't get back damage you do to your body. You can't unhurt a spouse. You cannot rewind. I'm not sure why we choose, in so many cases, to rush to some non-existent finish line when we can take our sweet time getting there and enjoy the run.

When my husband got a position in Chicago and an income for the first time in five years, it was apparent to both of us that I needed to quit either my day job or my side job. There was no longer a way for me or my husband to operate at what we'd been attempting back in Oregon. And so, out of mostly necessity, I quit that day job to move across the country. Relief flooded over me like waves off of a wake. And so starts that pretty Instagram picture.

I am not at the end of anything. With any luck I am at and will often be at the beginning of something: growth, a journey, a learning experience. I feel those old feelings biting at my heels almost constantly: you have to work harder, you have to make more money, you have to grow this business, you have to work hard to maintain control. But if the past three years were any lesson, I know that I have to kick back at those monsters on my heels because outrunning them never works. You just end up collapsing before they devour you.

The next time you see the pretty picture, love the pretty picture, but love harder what went into making it happen or what's going into making it happen every single day. Love that voyage that brought the picture to you.

How to Define your Wedding Invitation Style

Kelsey Carpenter

how to determine your wedding invitation style

It is remarkably hard to wade through the sea of paper good options and figure out the best possible invitation for your one wedding day. There's something a bit easier about florals, catering, venue, and wedding dress. Even though there are a ton of options in those categories, you usually have a vision of those pieces from your (possibly life-long) research. Paper is a bit harder. You've never had to send out any invitation in paper form to anyone. How do you navigate the world of paper, finishes, edging, script, and more! 

I'm here to help you get everything defined. Sometimes starting broad and identifying a simple category of invites is helpful to get you on the right track to an invite designer or calligrapher. Once you have your keywords ready, you can let the googling begin! No more stationary confusion.

 Images, clockwise: Kelsey Malie Calligraphy Ohia suite; OnceWed, photo by Maria Lamb, cake by Sainte G Cake Company; Charlotte Simpson Bridal; Sally Pinera Photo; Sally Pinera Photo; cord lamp by Form Us With Love for Design House Stockholm

Images, clockwise: Kelsey Malie Calligraphy Ohia suite; OnceWed, photo by Maria Lamb, cake by Sainte G Cake Company; Charlotte Simpson Bridal; Sally Pinera Photo; Sally Pinera Photo; cord lamp by Form Us With Love for Design House Stockholm

Minimal

You might be a minimal bride if you picture _____ for your wedding day:

  • simple decor
  • bright, open spaces
  • relying on the natural landscape or architecture to define your mood
  • a simple wedding dress
  • a focus on love and guests rather than material items
  • timeless black and white photography
  • black tie attire or no dress code at all

Are you thinking of a honeymoon in:

  • Iceland
  • skipping the honeymoon altogether and buying a home instead?

Are you drawn to:

  • clean lines
  • architecture
  • simple living

If so, what kind of invitation suite is right for you? Focus on things like clean typography, relying on textured papers to speak rather than an abundance of details like wax seals or ribbon. Opt for classic black and white or a neutral color palette. Explore having a minimal crest or wedding heraldry defined for you that you can use across your wedding paper goods.

Suites you may be interested in: Ohia; Magnolia; Pastel

 Counter clockwise: Austin Gros Photography; Hannah Suh Photography with Roseville Designs and Yong Suk Events; Ashley Rae Photography with Cleo and Clementine wedding dress; Amy Donohue Photography; Jen Huang Photo; Amy Donohue Photography; center: Kelsey Malie Calligraphy

Counter clockwise: Austin Gros Photography; Hannah Suh Photography with Roseville Designs and Yong Suk Events; Ashley Rae Photography with Cleo and Clementine wedding dress; Amy Donohue Photography; Jen Huang Photo; Amy Donohue Photography; center: Kelsey Malie Calligraphy

Whimsical

You might be a whimsical bride if you picture _____ for your wedding day:

  • flowers absolutely everywhere (you love flower crowns, wreaths for your pup, boutonnieres)
  • a dessert bar with various treats for your guests
  • fun table numbers like books or figurines
  • a bohemian dress and mismatched bridesmaid dresses
  • fun socks for your groom
  • allowing and encouraging pets at your wedding (especially your own)

Are you thinking of a honeymoon in:

  • absolutely every country you can visit within a month
  • somewhere back-pack-able
  • Mexico (or anywhere super warm and humid)

Are you drawn to:

  • watercolor
  • custom wedding crests
  • illustration

If so, what kind of invitation suite is right for you? Focus on pieces that incorporate a ton of personality and fun into your wedding - think about custom heraldry that symbolizes your romance and pets; personalized details like an invite featuring illustration, watercolor, or non-traditional wording. Think about add-ons like boutonniere tags, envelope liners, pretty envelope calligraphy, and hand-torn paper.

Suites you may be interested in: Aquarelle, Juniper, Petale

 Jenna Bechtolt Photography; Susie Saltsman ring; Sam and Kelly wedding invitations as featured on Oh So Beautiful Paper; unknown; Blue Magpie Invitations; Kelsey Malie Calligraphy; Landon Jacob Photography with Reggie's Flower Shoppe; center: unknown

Jenna Bechtolt Photography; Susie Saltsman ring; Sam and Kelly wedding invitations as featured on Oh So Beautiful Paper; unknown; Blue Magpie Invitations; Kelsey Malie Calligraphy; Landon Jacob Photography with Reggie's Flower Shoppe; center: unknown

Classic

You might be a classic bride if you picture _____ for your wedding day:

  • neutrals or black and white or metallics
  • traditional, tighter floral arrangements
  • white flowers
  • an up-do
  • black tie attire
  • formal wording and formal tradition
  • an elegant venue
  • tradition
  • timeless black and white photography

Are you thinking of a honeymoon in:

  • Europe

Are you drawn to:

  • gold foil and letterpress
  • etiquette and tradition
  • luxe paper and customized stationary

If so, what kind of invitation suite is right for you? Focus on luxe details like double-thick paper in classic cream. Think about adding some letterpress or foil detail to your invites to make them match your wedding feel. Nix the handmade papers and torn edges and keep things straight and clean. Work in a venue drawing or a classic monogram.

Suites you may be interested in: Spencer; completely custom design

 Kayla Yestal PhotographyO'Malley Photographers with Tiers of Joy cake; Jenni Kupelian Photography; Rebecca Schoneveld dress, photo by Rachel Gomez Photography; Anastasiya Belik Photography

Kayla Yestal PhotographyO'Malley Photographers with Tiers of Joy cake; Jenni Kupelian Photography; Rebecca Schoneveld dress, photo by Rachel Gomez Photography; Anastasiya Belik Photography

Romantic

You might be a romantic bride if you picture _____ for your wedding day:

  • lots and lots and lots of florals
  • pretty, loose blooms like peonies or garden roses
  • lush greenery
  • flower covered cakes
  • lace or floral applique wedding gown
  • soft  bridesmaid dresses or soft tulle or organza gowns
  • readings and emotional moments at your ceremony
  • violin, cello, or live music as you walk down the aisle
  • many details
  • film photography

Are you thinking of a honeymoon in:

  • wine country
  • Hawaii
  • France

Are you drawn to:

  • emotion - quotes, sentiment, honoring loved ones on your wedding day
  • poetry
  • fresh flowers

If so, what kind of invitation suite is right for you? Focus on many little details that'll catch your guests eyes and prepare them for your lovely wedding day. Think: handmade paper or hand-torn edges, beautiful silk ribbon, floral liners or floral illustrations, adding a welcome note or a quote, lots of calligraphy in gold, white, or blush, wax seals with your custom calligraphed monogram.

Suites you may be interested in: Talus, Pacific, Passerine or completely custom design

 Emily Riggs gown, 2017, photographed by Corbin Gurkin; Mariel Hannah Photo; Rylee Hitchner with Honey of a Thousand Flowers floral as featured on OnceWed; Rylee Hitchner Photo; Laurie Arons event design, photographed by Jose Villa with Sarah Winward florals and Paula LeDuc catering; Erich McVey as featured on OnceWed

Emily Riggs gown, 2017, photographed by Corbin Gurkin; Mariel Hannah Photo; Rylee Hitchner with Honey of a Thousand Flowers floral as featured on OnceWed; Rylee Hitchner Photo; Laurie Arons event design, photographed by Jose Villa with Sarah Winward florals and Paula LeDuc catering; Erich McVey as featured on OnceWed

Organic

You might be an organic bride if you picture _____ for your wedding day:

  • intimate wedding of under 100 people
  • poetic readings and emotional music
  • a ceremony and reception inspired by nature or your surroundings
  • film photography
  • candle-light
  • focus on foraged florals or lots of greenery
  • handmade details and handmade favors
  • locally designed dress

Are you thinking of a honeymoon in:

  • your own backyard
  • Europe

Are you drawn to:

  • nature
  • simplicity
  • expressions of love

If so, what kind of invitation suite is right for you? Focus on elements that really speak to you and your values. Perhaps that handmade touches like hand-written envelopes and handmade paper. Perhaps it is including a sprig of rosemary in every invitation suite. Perhaps it's dyeing your own ribbon to wrap the invitations in.

Suites you may be interested in: any suite on handmade paper or custom design

The History of Wedding Invitations

Kelsey Carpenter

 1954 wedding invitation of my grandmother

1954 wedding invitation of my grandmother

When we think about wedding invitations today, we jump right in - ordering photo Save the Dates and contacting an invitation designer who is well versed in Illustrator and Graphic Design. We may not be sure how they craft our perfect invite, but with their help we get our wording sent off, images and motifs approved, and a couple months later our guests send in an RSVP. There's little to remind us of what wedding invitations used to be until we start looking at invitation wording (which is often very formal, strict, and sometimes feels antiquated). Perhaps a glimpse back happens when you consider invitation addressing (write out the apartment without abbreviations or nix the woman's name on the envelope "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith"), but that's usually as far as your look-back goes. On to planning the signature cocktails.

But, before you jet off to cleverly name the "Hers" Moscow Mule, there's a whole world of interesting information out there about wedding invites. A lover of nostalgia and paper-history, I can't help but share. It's all the more interesting when you consider calligraphy's origins are deep and not just limited to today's Instagraming modern scripters.

Did you know that prior to the invention of the Gutenberg press, there was a town crier that announced you were getting married? Someone literally walked through the streets screaming out the news - like a talking newspaper that you caught the news from while tossing out your chamber pots or scrubbing clothes on stones. Ya know, normal 1400s things.

If you could HEAR the wedding announcement, you could attend. Try to plan that wedding - there's no entree selection RSVP cards with that method or "no kids please" ceremonies.

In the middle ages, basically no one could read, so wedding invites (if they had been scripted and sent out) would have looked like pieces of art and been unreadable by your guests. Calligraphy was a skill that the monks alone had mastered and nobility (with the gift of literacy) would commission their work by monks. Those hand-calligraphed pieces could be sent out to other nobility.

In the 1600s, printed type (pressing lead type onto paper) came about and those town criers lost their jobs. Newspapers could be distributed that announced information like weddings. Blame the 1600s for newspaper wedding announcements. 

All hail the mid-1600s when someone figured out how to engrave. Engraving is a method alive today and is usually your most expensive method of printing. How curious it was the only method back in the day. Engraving is not only gorgeous, but really cool. Engraving back then meant an artist or calligrapher would hand-write text in reverse (image that, fellow designers) on a metal plate using carving tools and then that metal plate would be pressed into paper with extreme force to make the "engraving" or impression. Because text was smudgy as heck, you'd then lay a sheet of tissue paper over the engraving to protect smudging and off they went! The neatest thing? This is still used today. Ever received a formal invite with tissue paper laying over the invite? That's why! Smudge-free and from the 1640s.

Traditional wording was really an origin of this time and each guests formal name would be engraved onto the invitation at the top (ultra-customized). 

In the 1800s, like everything else, the Industrial Revolution changed it all. Easier, cheaper, mass printing methods emerged and there sprung up the idea of mass-market wedding invitations. The invites still couldn't go by post and were often delivered on horseback (what an entrance!). This is where the idea of outer envelopes emerged. The outer envelope protected your inner invitation and inner envelope from damage whilst on horseback. Today many brides use inner and outer envelopes and it's considered very formal. Nice to know it came from an issue with horse dirt getting all over your pretty goods.

It's post WWII and Emily Post pops up and tells every person they need appropriate etiquette wedding invites. Thanks Emily! Thermography enters the scene which allows raised type (like engraving but much cheaper) and now everyone can have a pretty and less expensive invite. Thermography is referred to as "poor man's engraving" which is understandable considering the insane engraving prices. 

Today we've bucked basically all tradition and people are ordering wacky and non-traditional designs off of Minted and emailing out their RSVP cards or their entire invitation, but everything has it's roots in the original traditions. Maybe you don't have a town crier, but most brides like a gorgeous invite and some formal addressing that harkens back to horseback delivery times.

If you're still reading and curious, here are a few Emily Post circa 1922 advice for your invites:

All formal invitations, whether they are to be engraved or to be written by hand (and their acceptances and regrets) are invariably in the third person, and good usage permits of no deviation from this form.
— Emily Post Etiquette, Chapter XI
 Invitation with hand-addressing to the guest on the invite

Invitation with hand-addressing to the guest on the invite

The invitation to the ceremony is engraved on the front sheet of white note-paper. The smartest, at present, is that with a raised margin—or plate mark. At the top of the sheet the crest (if the family of the bride has the right to use one) is embossed without color. Otherwise the invitation bears no device. The engraving may be in script, block, shaded block, or old English. The invitation to the ceremony should always request “the honour” of your “presence,” and never the “pleasure” of your “company.” (Honour is spelled in the old-fashioned way, with a “u” instead of “honor.”)
— Emily Post Etiquette, Chapter XI
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No variation is permissible in the form of a wedding invitation. Whether fifty guests are to be invited or five thousand, the paper, the engraving and the wording, and the double envelope are precisely the same.
— Emily Post Etiquette, Chapter XI
Engraved pew cards are ordered only for very big weddings where twenty or more pews are to be reserved. The more usual custom—at all small and many big weddings—is for the mother of the bride, and the mother of the bridegroom each to write on her personal visiting card:
— Emily Post Etiquette, Chapter XI
The Train Card

If the wedding is to be in the country, a train card is enclosed:
A special train will leave Grand Central
Station at 12:45 P.M., arriving at Ridgefield at
2:45. Returning, train will leave Ridgefield at
5:10 P.M., arriving New York at 7.02 P.M.
Show this card at the gate.
— Emily Post Etiquette, Chapter XI
 William and Kate's Royal invitation

William and Kate's Royal invitation

THE WRITTEN WEDDING INVITATION

If a wedding is to be so small that no invitations are engraved, the notes of invitation should be personally written by the bride:

Sally Dear:
Our wedding is to be on Thursday the tenth at half-past twelve, Christ Church Chantry. Of course we want you and Jack and the children! And we want all of you to come afterward to Aunt Mary’s, for a bite to eat and to wish us luck.
Affectionately,

Helen.
— Emily Post Etiquette, Chapter XI
 1895 wedding invitation

1895 wedding invitation

Flat-Lays: How to Style Wedding Invitation Suites

Kelsey Carpenter

howtophotographaninvitationsuite

You can't have a wedding without the guests receiving an invitation to the day, and unless that guest is being invited by email alone (relatively uncommon), the bride will likely have a paper copy of her invitation suite. A photographer should always make sure to photograph those details and the bride should always make sure to provide her paper goods to her photographer. The paper ephemera associated with a wedding can be as important as (and even as expensive as) a wedding dress or a wedding band. If you're shelling out for gorgeous scripting and pretty papers, it'd be a shame if a photographer missed this part of your big day. Invitations also set the tone for your event. To include the paper as book-ends to your wedding album and coverage is only natural.

But so often, an invitation suite is captured sloppily, or even worse, not captured at all. So here are a few tips on how to style invitation suites and how to make sure you get those pretty paper details captured!

Tools you'll need:

  • A camera (iPhone works fine for social media shares, but for any professional photographs you'll need a DSLR or film camera). I personally use a Canon T-series DSLR.
  • Styling board or neutral surface without a distracting background. My favorite styling board is the Heirloom Bindery 2-Color Styling board. I chose French Blue and Light Linen.
  • Vintage stamps or pretty Forever stamps. I love Verde Studio on Etsy.
  • Props! Silk ribbon, florals, greenery, or wax seals make lovely additions to an invitation suite. 
  • Natural lighting. Photograph in natural lighting, but not direct sunlight. Minimize shadows and deliver as much light as possible using reflectors or simply a white sheet of poster board/cardboard/or large white sheet of paper. No need to use flash!
calligraphyinvitationsuite

Mistake #1: Crowding your image with too pieces

Don't fall prey to the idea that you need to capture every single piece in one photo. Simplicity helps draw the eye to individual pieces and can create an emotive image. A crowded image, like the one above, is so busy, that the eye doesn't know where to look. 

Mistake #2: Using too many props or props that don't make sense

This is similar to mistake number 1 (overcrowding), but applies specifically to prop usage. In the image above the following props were used: silk ribbon spool; vintage stamps; rings; petals, flowers, wax seal stick, wax sealer. Using each of these props doesn't make a lot of sense for the narrative of the image. A wax sealer is pretty, but the invite doesn't have any wax added to it so the wax seal feels out of place. The ribbon would be better used alone or tied around a piece. Vintage stamps make a lot of sense as the envelopes do feature vintage stamps. A flower always makes sense and is lovely but has more impact alone.

Mistake #3: Crooked paper goods

This is a big pet peeve of any OCD and Type A bride and calligrapher out there. Crooked pieces in the image makes everything look sloppy and unprofessional. use a ruler or a sheet of paper with a straight edge to make sure you're styling everything straight across the board. With your camera parallel to the styling board (held above it and held straight) you'll avoid a lot of angle issues that make paper appear crooked when it isn't.

Mistake #4: Covering up script or design with items like petals or rings

A bride's wedding dress is commonly hung and photographed on a beautiful hanger with gorgeous lighting for her wedding album. When a photographer photographs an invitation suite, often they lay rings over the invitation suite and petals and obscure the art. Calligraphy and invitation design are as much art as a wedding dress. Don't cover them up with other pieces! Let them shine.

how to style an invite suite flat lay

Tip #1: Keep it simple

Using less props and props that make sense makes everything stand out more! Make sure you're thinking about the flat lay as a story rather than just a last minute shot. Everything in the image should contribute to the story of the wedding and the invitation suite.

Tip #2: Evenly space out your styled goods

Evenly spaced goods makes each piece stand out (can you sense a theme). With the image above, my eye is drawn immediately to the invitation and pretty envelope addressing rather than scanning an overcrowded image, trying to find something to visually focus on.

Tip #3: Capture texture

Be sure to capture texture if the paper goods are textural. A lot of decision making, cost, and thought goes into the feel of a paper suite. Not capturing the texture is ignoring an entire piece of the invitation suite that was likely very important to the bride!

Tip #4: Capture all of the day-of goods in addition to the invitation suite

Don't forget to photograph: vow books, vows, place cards, programs and more! Each paper good contributes to the beautiful day and deserves to be photographed!

Want to practice? I sell practice suites in the shop!