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How inviting

By Kirsten Valle

Posted: Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010

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Photo by Critsey Rowe

Kirsten Valle is a business reporter for the Observer. She can be reached at kvalle@charlotteobserver.com.

Read more "Getting to 'I do.'"

There's nothing like putting something in writing to make it feel real. Whether it's an assignment for work making its way from a fuzzy idea to the front page of the newspaper, or negotiations with a wedding vendor crawling from concept to contract, it sometimes takes seeing it in print to tell you there's no turning back.

We've gotten little glimpses of this throughout the wedding planning process. My mom teared up, for instance, a while back when the caterer's contract came in with our names at the top, followed by our date and the word "wedding." And I felt a strange mix of pride and excitement and anxiety recently when I looked at our wedding band's Web site and under July 10 on the schedule page it said, "Charlotte, N.C. - wedding." (That's us!) But the latest example, and the most significant so far, came last weekend when we ordered invitations. This is the part where the details come together, the time and place translated into scrolled type on an ecru card, the information about our wedding prepared for the world (or 200 or so guests) to see.

The process began long before the actual order, when our packet of samples - invitations, save-the-dates, envelopes and thank-you cards in ever color and motif and typestyle you could imagine - arrived in the mail. I sifted through the stack of samples a few dozen times with Reese, my parents, my roommate and probably a few others before ruling out most of them. Too contemporary. Too traditional. Too flimsy. Too boring.

Like most wedding-related decisions I've encountered thus far, there were more choices than we fathomed. One brand of paper, I learned, comes in ecru with peach undertones. Another is ivory with yellow undertones. Eggshell and white are options, too. There are cards with panels and triple panels. Invitations that fold in half. Envelopes with linings and without. Engraving, thermography and letterpress. Embossing, monograms and colored ink.

And do you want to know the worst part? This stuff began to matter. Forget the fact that I've never looked at a friend's wedding invitation for more than maybe a minute. (Sorry, guys.) And the fact that I've never kept said invitations after the event. (Sorry again.) I've never judged a person or her wedding by the invitations. And I've always said that if I had to sacrifice some style or spending in one area, it would be the invitations. But there I was, agonizing over the font, feeling offended when my parents said they liked the tri-panel better than the plain card I'd been eyeing, examining the types of paper closely enough to see what the stationery shop meant by "peach undertones."

I realized a couple things in the end. For one, invitations do say something about the wedding. They set the tone for the formality and conventionality of the affair. And for that reason, all those things I just mentioned do matter. But at the same time, I realized that those things don't really matter that much. Because once you decide what you want those invitations to say about your wedding, you can kind of fudge the rest.

For instance, I wanted a clean, classic, formal look, which meant an ivory card with black script. But I didn't need the most expensive paper the shop offered to achieve that look. I chose the next level down, which looked and felt exactly the same to me (although I'm by no means a cardstock connoisseur). And while I wanted the invitations, response cards and reception cards to be engraved, I opted for the cheaper thermography for things like return addresses on the main envelopes and my parents' address on the response envelopes.

With those decisions out of the way, I sat down the other evening on the phone with my mom and navigated the order form. I filled in the easy part first: quantity, typestyle, paper type. Response cards and reception cards - check. Extra envelopes, in case I mess up the calligraphy (which I'm doing myself - that will be another blog entry in itself, I'm sure) - big check. Then, the wording. "Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Valle request the honour of your presence..." I stepped back to look at the order form. Someday in the near future, I'll come home to a box of invitations with our names on them, for the first time ever. In print.

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