Bridal 2001
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An invitation to creativity
Art stores, artisans help couples design their announcements

by Jocelyn Dong

When Mountain View residents Sofia Pinelli and Clifford McKenzie walked into University Art Center in Palo Alto last month, they didn't mean to buck tradition. The two, young and in love, just wanted to make their own wedding invitations. And so, over the course of an hour, they got started, picking out handmade papers, tissue and envelopes with which to announce their good news.

Tips on invitations
What some in the highest echelons of society might consider a glaring breach of etiquette--forgoing traditional engraved invitations in favor of hand-crafted creations--Pinelli, McKenzie and numerous other bridal couples are seeing as a stand for uniqueness--and proper money management.

"It had to do with individuality," McKenzie says. "That's the biggest thing."

"Money is definitely an issue," adds Pinelli. "It's much cheaper if you do it yourself."

While couples have traditionally gone to stationers to order engraved wedding invitations, these days, art stores and artisans are also seeing wedding business come their way. In response, they are stocking a range of unique papers, envelopes, ribbons and pre-packaged invitation sets. At Accent Arts on California Avenue in Palo Alto, the store's owner, Gil, carries handmade papers from Nepal, machine-produced Italian stationery sets with response cards and envelopes, Japanese rice paper and even sheets of papyrus cloth.

As in all art projects, the creative options are as vast and varied as the couples getting hitched. Some couples choose to print their invitations on a laser printer, while others buy special papers and then take them to a printer. More ambitious brides and grooms learn calligraphy and handwrite their invitations.

Of course, the choice of paper texture and colors depends on the type of wedding the couple is planning. Some brides and grooms go for elegance, says Gil, whereas "if it's just the 16 guys from your dot-com, it's a whole 'nother thing." He picks up a piece of fake leopard fur and makes up the wording for a hypothetical invitation: "<\p>'The beast has been tamed. George is getting married.'<\p>"

"The invitation sets the mood," says groom-to-be McKenzie. "It forms the idea of what the day is going to be like."

To help couples come up with ideas of what they want, University Art Center provides a sample book of invitations. Samples range from the simple--a postcard in an envelope--to the fancy--a multi-piece invitation printed on vellum and hand-made papers and tied together with organza ribbon. Do-it-yourself invitations "are for people who want to do something different, who want to do something creative and arty," says Gloria Acevedo-Cooney, gift department manager of University Art Center.

In addition to individuality, cost also drives couples to make their own announcements. Acevedo-Cooney estimates that hand-made invitations might run $750 for 150 pieces, whereas engraved invitations can cost from $1,000-$3,000, or more, for the same quantity, depending on how fancy they are.

Both Martha Stewart and the Silicon Valley technology culture have had something to do with the increased interest in personalized wedding invitations, says Inja Vitero, owner of Inja Ink, a local calligraphy business.

"Martha Stewart has had a far-reaching effect" through the articles and photographs of calligraphic invitations in her magazine, says Vitero.

"There's a return to classic design," Vitero continues, and calligraphy hearkens back to that era of style and personalization.

One barometer of interest is the number of calls she's been getting asking her to address invitations. "People work at computers all day. There's an appreciation for things done by hand in this age of e-mail and printed labels. It's nice to see ink on paper for a special occasion," says Vitero.

For most jobs, Vitero creates a master invitation and brings it to a press for printing. On occasion, for quantities of 45 or fewer, she'll handwrite each invitation. "I like one-of-a-kind invitations," Vitero says. "On fine quality paper, there's the sense of 'This was written for you.'<\p>"

Vitero's fees begin at $500 for about 100 invitations and can go to more than $1,000. Additional services, including handwork and illustrations, cost more.

Back at University Art Center, Pinelli and McKenzie eventually narrowed down their choices. They opted for an off-white handmade paper with real ferns and flowers petals, natural-colored tissue paper and machine-produced cornflower-blue paper. While they'd arrived at the store thinking of creating something simple--a single card in an envelope--they chose a more complex design, based on something they've seen in the sample book.

"The temptation definitely kicked in," says Pinelli. "It's like, 'Oh, look at what you could do. It's not going to be as boring as I thought.' I didn't expect they'd have so many options."

For more information on the shops and artists mentioned here, contact:

Accent Arts
392 California Ave., Palo Alto
424-1044

Inja Ink (calligraphy)
P.O. Box 1157, Palo Alto, CA 94302
365-4369

University Art Center
267 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto
328-3500