Wedding Calligraphy with a Flourish

Sure, you could print your wedding invitations on your home printer and call it a day. But when you want that extra touch of elegance, hand-written calligraphy is the answer. From the first Save the Dates, your wedding correspondences set the tone for your invitees. The quality of the paper, the color of the ink, and–most importantly–the style of the writing are what let your friends and family know exactly what kind of wedding they will be attending.

Good calligraphy is more than just a writing style. Ornate letters can be accomplished by any computer with a flamboyant font. Calligraphy done by hand, however, is an art.

Each letter can be custom-tailored not only to the specific letters around it, but to the shape of the paper and graphic design; even to the theme of the wedding. For a carnival-themed wedding, for example, the capital letters can be drawn to look like circus tents and admittance tickets.

For a destination wedding, the letters can take on the appearance of graceful palm trees and ocean waves. Good calligraphy is more than simple illustration, too; it remains clear and readable, but it evokes a specific mood. 

Creating a Calligraphic Theme

For some weddings, a style of calligraphy can be a theme in and of itself. Taking a style of writing and weaving it through your invitations and thank-you notes will set the beginning and conclusion of your celebration in style. But the same calligraphy can be used to unify the elements of your wedding day as it unfolds. Try writing your vows in calligraphic style. (After the ceremony, you can frame them on your wall!)

Large-format calligraphy makes beautiful banners to decorate your wedding location. Use the same style of writing for signs directing guests around your venue (coat check, restrooms, and reception seating are just a few ideas).

Small, delicate calligraphy on labels can inform your guests whether buffet options are gluten-free, spicy, or vegetarian. Use it to label your seating cards and your favor tags. You can even bring the same calligraphy into your wedding cake icing! 

Setting a Calligraphy Budget

Custom-written calligraphy can get expensive. Some artists charge upwards of five dollars for each handwritten envelope. If you’re looking for a way to get the calligraphic effect without a budget-crushing bill, there are a few options to cut costs.

Spring for a one-time fee to get a custom stamp made. That way, you can mark repetitive information (such as your return address for mailing envelopes, or a short message for wedding favor tags) without incurring a handwritten cost each time.

Since you’re hiring a live person to do your calligraphy, keep in mind that the harder you make the job, the more the job will cost.

Give your calligrapher as much advance time as possible to avoid encountering rush fees. (The average job takes a few weeks, but a large guest list or complicated request takes more time. Talented calligraphers may also have a waiting list for new jobs.)

Make sure you communicate very clearly and confirm the exact spelling and wording before pen touches paper so you won’t have to pay for do-overs.

Finding the Right Calligrapher

Like any wedding vendor, calligraphers in your area can be found in online directories or through word of mouth. If you see beautiful lettering you admire, regardless of whether the content is wedding-related, inquire who penned it. Talented calligraphers often work with a variety of clients from engaged couples to upscale grocery stores; once you’re looking for beautiful writing, you’ll start to see it everywhere.

If you’re having trouble hiring artists in your price range, you may be able to get a deal by scouting local art schools. Beware, though, when hiring anyone without a solid portfolio of work. If the calligrapher doesn’t already have samples of writing similar to the style you desire, don’t sign a contract until you’re sure that she can provide them.

It’s not enough to just see a few nicely-shaped letters; calligraphy depends on large-scale consistency. If the lettering at the beginning doesn’t perfectly match the lettering at the end of the project, the entire effect is sloppy.

Once you select the artist you want to work with, it’s time to finalize the details of the project. Decide what format you will use to present the calligrapher with your information–paper printouts, spreadsheets, address books, and shared online documents are popular options, although your calligrapher might have a preferred format.

Avoid using handwritten lists to ensure that the calligrapher sees the proper spelling for all names. Agree in writing whether revisions or additions will cost extra. Ask whether the calligrapher plans on including your project in her portfolio, and if so, whether your guests’ names and addresses will be published online (this is entirely up to you, but should be confirmed in writing ahead of time).

Leave yourself plenty of time to review the completed project to ensure that any misspellings are rectified, since even experienced calligraphers have been known to make a mistake.

In the case of wedding invitations and announcements, you’ll also need the extra time to stuff papers into the envelopes. You might also want to take some time to admire the calligraphy before you send it off. You’ve commissioned a one-of-a-kind work of art, and your wedding is off to a lavish start!