I know what you're thinking, wedding stationery is, by default, romantic! And you're absolutely correct. But for this post, we're going to look at some ways to take the romance vibes to the next level!
But what we'll be looking at today are ways to double down on the romance factor and have your guests swooning as soon as they open the envelope to your wedding suite! We'll be covering colours, motifs, fonts and materials, and taking some interesting trips throughout history to look at the origins and meanings behind some of the most common romantic themes, such as the language of flowers and the different meanings of coloured roses!
Setting pulses racing for thousands of years we have...
Ah red, the colour of passion, the colour of good fortune, the colour of danger... eh?
Yep, colours have picked up some very different meanings over time and location! And red's a biggie. But when it comes to the romance factor, it's right up there. Do you think you can get away from the colour red on Valentine's Day? No.
If we think of heart shapes, hearts pump blood, and blood is red. Red is a fundamental part of the human condition and we're hard-wired to associate it with health (having a rosy complexion for example) and beauty. The history of tinting lips red dates back thousands of years, and while it used to be more of a wealth and status thing, it's never too big a leap from wealth and power to hottie status (for example, commissioning a portrait of your mistress *cough* Charles II and Nell Gwyn *cough*).
There will be many who say that your wedding suite shouldn't be entirely red. I say a great suite is the result of masterful design, and that's nothing to do with colour choice. If red is your hands down favourite colour (or your favourite sports team happens to be branded red), just so long as you're careful about tones and techniques, this is more than doable. But, if you love red and you think an entire suite might be overkill, you can achieve beautiful results by letting red accents and embellishments make a statement for you.
Pink is such a great, versatile colour. From barely there pastels that can work as a neutral for a colour palette to hot pinks that turn the dial up on the vibrant-o-meter, pink has a lot to offer.
What's that I hear you say? "But it's so girly!" I have two things to say to this:
If you can't embrace your feminine side when it comes to your wedding stationery, when can you?
It hasn't always been seen as a girl's colour...
"Whaaaat?" That's right! Associating colours with gender didn't really become a thing until the mid-19th century, and back then it was thought that pink was the 'manlier' colour as it was closer to red. The girls got the 'softer' blue as it was more closely associated with the Virgin Mary. It wasn't until shortly after WWII that the colours flipped for genders, and blue was seen as the 'manlier' colour. Mind. Blown.
Detour aside, pink can work for you in countless ways for your wedding stationery. You can print on to pink paper, use pink ink, wax seals, ribbons, envelopes, liners... the world is your oyster so long as you carefully balance this hue! And by carefully balanced I mean don't think you'll get away with doing everything in magenta and cerise. It will look a lot.
If bold colours are your jam, check out my other blog article on choosing monochromatic colour schemes. I take you through some ideas to offset intense hues but still keep lashings of colour in your wedding suite!
Plums & Damsons
Or in layman's terms, purple. If you're still on team "pink is too girly" or "red is too much", I invite you to consider the array of purples at your disposal. While not really in the romance category, it has a long and luxe history and can lean into reds and pinks if that's your choice of shade.
As for our mini-history lesson: purple has long been associated with royalty. Due to the difficulty in producing the dye, it was massively expensive, and generally, only the nobility could afford it. In the olden days, the dye was produced by harvesting some sort of snail mucus (ick) and it took an age to harvest even a small quantity of dye. Hence the expense. But today we look to purple and think of creativity and whimsy, magic and mystery.
And it doesn't have to be the Cadbury's shade of purple or nothing at all. Plum and damson shades are duskier and somewhat more subtle in tone. Because they have an earthier quality, they can be used in large amounts and a variety of shades — loads of drama and lots of depth.
Common signs and symbols that are sure to up the romance factor!
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Most likely, Juliet, but would it still pack a visual punch?
The association of roses with love and romance dates way back to ancient Greek and Roman times, with various stories talking about Goddesses and cupids and all those sorts of romantic shenanigans.
The language of flowers has also been around for thousands of years, but the popularity of Floriography rocketed in the Victorian era. Even the colours of roses were assigned specific meanings, meaning subtly coded messages could be exchanged between lovers!
Just a few meanings are:
Red rose: love, I love you
Pink rose: grace, happiness, gentleness
Orange rose: desire, enthusiasm
Lavender rose: love at first sight
White rose: purity, innocence, reverence, a new beginning, a fresh start
Deep, dark crimson rose: mourning
Yellow rose: jealousy, infidelity
Coral rose: friendship, modesty, sympathy
While it's interesting to note the different meanings from the past for particular colours, don't let that stop you from having any colour you fancy! The last three colours on that list certainly sound like a massive downer, but they're my favourite coloured roses!
Wow, that seems like a lazy subheading. The thing is, while roses certainly are in the popular consciousness as the most romantic flower, Floriography shows that there are plenty of other flowers with romance at their heart!
Daisy: innocence, loyal love
Tulip: perfect love
Carnation: love, fascination
Dahlia: a lasting bond, commitment
Chrysanthemum: happiness, longevity, love
Peony: prosperity, good luck, a happy life
Calla lily: beauty, innocence, magnificence, purity
So while roses may well have the market cornered on Valentine's Day, don't for a second think that's the only romantic flower. There are bunches of them! And yes, that pun was intended.
Even Kate took a leaf from the handbook of Floriography when she married Willaim. Her bouquet included:
Lily of the Valley: trustworthy, purity of heart and sweetness
Sweet William: perfection and gallantry (and it even has William in the name!)
Myrtle: hope and love
Hyacinth: sport or play and constancy
And if the approach is good enough for a princess, it's good enough for you too!
Yes, hearts are also in the mainstream as a symbol chock full of love and romance, with a long history!
The heart-shaped symbol we know today does not have the most romantic origins. It was first used to represent the silphium seed pod. What on earth is silphium? It was a herb prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans; a type of giant fennel grown along the coast of North Africa way back when. It was important as a medicine, a spice, and more importantly, a contraceptive. The last point is how it got associated with love (and hanky panky in general). And that's back to ~500 BC! We know this as the pod symbol was cast onto coins from that era, and Julius Caesar had a stash of silphium pods in the official treasury. From there we jump to Medieval art, where heart shapes were used to show strong feelings of love, devotion and all those good things.
Either way, if your heart's fluttering, or if it's pounding, or quivering, or skipping a beat... the shape we know and love has a very long history, and it amazes me that it's still as relevant and meaningful now as it ever was.
Fonts are the unspoken heroes of giving your stationery its sweet and dulcet tone of voice!
Script fonts bring a personal touch to your wedding suite, and give a touch of elegance and grace. There are many different script fonts available and they generally fall into two categories, formal and casual.
Formal script fonts take their appearance more directly from traditional calligraphy, whether Copperplate (also referred to as English Roundhand in some circles) or Spencerian. Such fonts include French Script and Snell Roundhand. These are seen frequently in traditional-style wedding suites.
Casual script fonts are more closely aligned to either modern or brush calligraphy, but some variants look like handwriting (just nicer). There is a massive variety to choose from in this category, and it's entirely dependent on what you like the look of! Some fonts of note in this style are Amalfi Coast or Dream Catcher.
Classic Serif Fonts
While script fonts are sure to up the style game to your suite, it's important to note that not everything should be set in them as it's a pain for your guests to try and read through when these fonts are used heavily. With this in mind, you could consider some classic serif fonts. No, we're not talking about dusty old Times New Roman. Didot (French origin) and Bodoni (Italian origin) are great options for a classic serif font. They're brilliantly designed (they must be to remain relevant a couple of hundred years after their creation), and they're unobtrusive enough to work along with a bunch of different decorative fonts and themes.
While not a font, you should definitely consider calligraphy for your wedding suite! While you might not want to get the entire thing done in calligraphy, you can have your names and maybe even the titles for different cards you will enclose with your suite in a bespoke hand. This will give an elevated feel to your suite and will be unique to you! Not only that, but if you get a monogram designed as well, this is something you'll be able to use throughout your entire married life together.
Texture to take the romance right to the tips of your fingers!
While some simple cord or twine will do the trick to keep your wedding suite in its proper order while in transit, a length of silk ribbon is the way to up the romance factor!
Silk causes a variety of ethical dilemmas for some couples. The first is if either of the pair is vegan. With strict views about animal-based products, I recommend a bamboo-based ribbon. Heavier than traditional silk, it takes the colour just as well and has a fantastic 'flappy' quality to it. I have no other way of describing it! The other stems from if there are any harmful chemicals used in the dying process. While there's no doubt that some mass-produced ribbons may use these, any ribbon used in my suites are from small batches made by artisans in the UK, and all of the dyes use botanical ingredients. This gives you a more subtle colour across a range of hues and shades.
And aside from bamboo silk, traditional silk comes in a bunch of textures! From gauze to sheer to habotai, there's bound to be something that fits the unique vibe of your wedding suite! And why not match it to your bouquets and buttons on your wedding day? Swoon!
It's not just for your grandma's doilies!
The legends of where lace originated from are so delightful. One telling says that the detailing was inspired by the spray from a mermaid splashing her tail in the sea! So cute!
In the real world, lace originates in Venice around the sixteenth century. In its truest form, it is an intricate, labour-intensive artform - not the terrible mass-manufactured stuff you're likely to see nowadays. Made from silk, cotton or linen, there are two traditional ways of making lace; bobbin (made with multiple threads) or needle (made with a single thread). Either way, due to it being hard to make and therefore expensive, it was seen as de rigueur back in the day.
There are two sides to the spread of lace, though. On the one hand, skilled lacemakers did the rounds of various European courts where their craft was admired and patronised. On the other hand, lacemaking was seen as a 'proper' pastime for women and a genteel way to occupy the ladies of a household or a religious order.
Nowadays, the romance factor for lace is high due to it making an appearance everywhere from lingerie to wedding veils. Lace is also recognised as a keepsake, something to be kept and cherished for generations as a rare and beautiful piece of art.
While we're talking about lace, even though I've added it under the materials section, it could easily have gone under the motif section too. As a physical item, you could use a length of thin lace to tie your suite together, or wrap your invitations in a larger piece and then tie it off with some silk ribbon (romantic material combo bonus!). As a motif, use some intricate lace patterning as a background for something printed or use a laser-cut lace pattern on a vellum wrap for a modern take on this romantic material.
Not something that is widely seen as romantic... until you add it to your wedding suite! Soft fluffy textures and dreamy ruffled edges. You can add as much or as little as you like to your wedding suite, and the result will be the same every time - maximum romance and maximum 'oooooh' factor.
I hope I've inspired your inner romantic with the ideas shared above!
One of the key takeaways here is the deep love and appreciation of that which is unique. The appeal of handmade paper, aside from the physical aspects I've already gone over, is its unique nature. Handmade pieces, from skilled artisans, always give that touch of something extra special to a wedding suite. And that is true in turn for the likes of botanically dyed silk, much laboured over lace, all the way up to bespoke calligraphy and letterpress printing.