5 Tips: Hiring A Calligrapher For Your Wedding
I was recently talking to a planner friend about my process as a calligrapher and how I educate my brides about design, paper types, printing methods, and timeline. She actually told me it was so informative that it needed to be a blog post! 2 years later, here we are! Just kidding, it was like, last month. I hope these tips are helpful when thinking about hiring a calligrapher for your wedding. I love connecting with you guys (learning and veteran calligraphers, planners, designers, and couples), so please slide into my Instagram DMs, e-mail me or send me a message with any calligraphy questions. Read on to see my 5 tips for hiring the right calligrapher for your wedding.
1. Their work should make you feel something.
There are many different styles of calligraphy and they are all a little different. I think of calligraphy like a fingerprint. Each artist has their own style and aesthetic--preppy, traditional, modern, low key illegible, loopy, full of flourishes, copperplate, organic and fine art are just a few that come to mind. Every calligrapher will not be right for you and that’s OK. When hiring a calligrapher for your wedding invitations, day of paper goods, and envelope calligraphy, consider their body of work and your gut feeling when you browse their portfolio. Do you envision your names and venue in their writing? Invitations are personal and they set the tone for your wedding. They are often an heirloom that is kept once the wedding is over and passed down through generations. Your invitations should say something about you and give your guests a feeling of what is to come.
A good way to gauge whether or not a calligrapher is a good fit for you is to notice if you have pinned images of their work to your wedding Pinterest or inspiration boards. When I get an inquiry from a bride/groom that includes a photo of another calligrapher’s work, I may help them identify that work and direct them to the original artist or even refer them to a calligrapher with a similar style. Do not to hire someone to replicate another calligrapher’s work--the look will never be just right. Bridal portraits are some of my favorite wedding day shots and so are the detail shots. Beautiful, personal paper really elevates a wedding. Hire the calligrapher who’s style speaks directly to you and that will align with the overall aesthetic of your wedding.
2. They should have a strong understanding of the design and print process.
A calligrapher with design and printing experience can educate you about different printing methods, cost and the overall process. If you love handmade paper, hire a calligrapher whose portfolio is full of handmade paper suites. Many commercial printers will not digitally print on handmade paper because it jams up their machines. At Shotgunning for Love Letters, digital print on handmade paper suites are printed in house to achieve the desired look. If you love letterpress, make sure your calligrapher has letterpress experience. Letterpress files are set up differently than digital files and artwork must be vectorized. Same goes for printing in gold foil. A shiny gold look is achieved by printing in foil. Printing gold using a digital method ends up looking matte and sort of brown.
3. Hire someone with experience.
Everyone starts somewhere. When I took on my first envelope addressing client, I knew a lot less than I know today. An experienced calligrapher will have a strong understanding of the materials they’re working with and not all paper is created equal. Some paper will allow ink to bleed, others will “catch” the calligraphy nib, making it nearly impossible to write on and some paper (cough, cough--metallics) promote smudges. Some inks are easier to smudge as well. I prefer to use a bleed-proof ink that will stand up better to weather and the trauma of the United States Postal Service. Your calligrapher should be able to comfortably answer these questions and guide you towards picking the best envelopes, paper, and inks for your stationery.
An experienced calligrapher always proofreads their work to make sure there are few to no errors on your envelopes and they also have a plan in place if an error does occur (whether it’s the calligrapher’s error, an address provided incorrectly, or envelopes lost by USPS). Mistakes happen, but there will be fewer of them with a calligrapher that has had more practice and experience. It may be appealing to hire a calligrapher offering envelopes for $1/each on Etsy, but consider their style, skill level and experience before making a purchase.
4. Order extra materials.
I recommend ordering 20% extra when purchasing envelopes or place cards. This accounts for human error, whether by the calligrapher, post office, and even last minute add on guests (see: Uncle Joe's new girlfriend that wasn't invited).
5. Book your calligrapher in advance.
Calligraphers are booked up to 6 months or more at a time with the busiest seasons being spring and summer. If there is a calligrapher you’re dying to work with, send them a message because it’s possible their calendar will be reserved with other projects and you can often sign a contract or put a deposit down ahead of time to reserve a space for your wedding. Not only is it smart to reserve a vendor you love, but it’s especially important to get started early if you plan to incorporate specialty materials for your wedding such as handmade paper, agate stones, and other custom made items. Custom designs such as a wedding suite can take 8-12 weeks from start to finish before they head to the printer. Artwork has to be hand drawn and digitized, proofed and approved. Handmade paper has to be made from scratch. I encourage my couples to have handmade paper ordered 1.5 months before calligraphy is set to begin. Once the paper arrives, the calligraphy process can take 3-4 weeks. Be mindful of your timeline because rush fees range from 20-50% of your total project.
I hope these tips were helpful and informative. Please reach out or comment below with any questions!