Invitations 101

As wedding planners, we often hear from couples that they don’t want to splurge on invitations. “People just throw them away!” But we know better;  invitations set the mood for your wedding and should provide a clear indication as to the formality of the event. Think of invitations as one more element of decor since the look of the invitations should flow through to the day-of paper used. Think gorgeous escort cards, table numbers, menus and bar signage.  

With so many printing and paper options to choose from, it can be confusing and a bit intimidating! No worries. We are here to help you understand your options when it comes to designing the perfect wedding invitation.


Think of the following pieces as you consider your invitation suite.  

  • Invitation
  • RSVP card
  • Details card
  • Envelope
  • RSVP envelope
  • Optional: envelope liner, belly band or ribbon to tie inserts together


There are a number of printing techniques used for wedding invitations and it is certainly acceptable to mix techniques to get the look you want in the price range you want to spend.

Digital printing is a method that is most commonly used when it comes to general printing. In simple terms, think of a high-end printer. This form of printing produces a smooth image and is best used on standard cardstock. Because of the process, it is difficult to produce consistent results on natural or cotton papers.  The advantage of digital printing is the cost.  It is the least expensive option and it allows you to incorporate as many colors as you like for little or no additional cost.

Digital Invitation - Photography by Melissa Oholendt Photography

Offset printing (Lithography) is a process that uses ink impressions to create flat images. Although considered higher quality than digital printing, this is a budget-friendly option for brides in comparison to other methods. This option also allows brides the flexibility to pick more colors.

Lithography Invitation

Lithography Invitation

Letterpress is a classic and common technique used for wedding invitations. This method uses a printing press process. A plate is physically produced for your image - one plate per color. The plate is then pressed onto the paper producing a color impression in the paper. If a second color is used, this process is then repeated with a second plate. Because there is a cost to producing each plate and because each plate adds another step in the production process, using multiple colors increases the cost significantly.

Letterpress Invitation - Photography by Canary Grey Photography

Embossing uses a metal plate to stamp the paper to make a raised image. This process creates the opposite look of letterpress printing. This technique is best used for initials for a monogram, borders on invitations, enlarged text, or the return address on envelopes. 

Paper Embossing & Letterpress Printing

Paper Embossing & Letterpress Printing

Foil printing is similar to letterpress in that a plate is produced with the foil image. The more foil and the more spread out the foil is on the invitation the higher the cost. That said, using all foil on an invitation is still less expensive than pairing with letterpress because there is only one plate and one pass-through of the invite on the press.

Foil Invitation - Photography by Photogen, Inc.  

Engraving is the oldest form of printing. This process raises the letters and images by a using a copper plate pressed on the backside of the paper. The pressure from the plate rises creates a raised print. Next, it is coated with ink and blotted. This method is the most expensive method of printing, but is known for its timeless, formal look. Engraving is often used with black-tie weddings. 

Engraved Printing

Engraved Printing

Thermography is a technique that uses heat and a resin to create raised images and letters on paper. The heat creates a slight rise in the lettering which is why this method often visually gets confused with engraving. However, if you turn the invitation over, you will easily be able to tell since thermography has a smooth back surface. Each ink is applied individually. Hence, we recommend sticking to 1-2 colors to save cost.

Thermography Invitation

Thermography Invitation


The paper you use will certainly impact the price of your invitation suite.  Here again it is perfectly acceptable to mix papers to get your look within your budget.  Often couples will upgrade the paper for the invitation itself and then use a less expensive paper on the rsvp and details card. If you do this, be sure the colors either match exactly or use an accent color (such as blush) instead.

  • Standard card stock weights from 50 lb to 120 lb. The higher the weight of the paper, the thicker the paper. 
  • Museum board is another type of paper that is used for wedding invitations. This paper is twice as thick as standard cardstock and allows for specialty finishes such as beveled or painted edges.
  • Cotton papers have a soft, linen feel to them that definitely add a luxe factor to your suite. This paper doesn’t work well with digital printing, but looks stunning with all other printing methods.


Overwhelmed by the options and not sure how to get a gorgeous invitation within your budget?

  • Stick to one technique for the invitation suite
  • Consider using digital printing for your invitation suite
  • Limit colors with any process that involves a plate
  • Upgrade just the invitation card and digitally print RSVP and details cards


Print methods don't only apply to the invitation, but also to the finishing of the envelopes. How do you want the return address on the back flap addressed? How about the rsvp envelopes? Many of the printing options shown above work here as well.  What is your plan for guest addressing? Digital printing works well for this and enables you to incorporate different fonts and looks. It also saves you a lot of time and creates a more finished look to your invitation suite than hand addressing. Of course a classic favorite {and our personal favorite} is calligraphy. Be sure to consider all your options as calligraphy can cost less than the set up fees for some of the printing methods. 

TIP:  Don't blow your entire paper budget on the invitation suite. Remember you do need to consider the menus, bar signage, escort cards, and table numbers!

Still overwhelmed? We are happy to help you navigate the world of paper and invitations.  Contact us here.