If I could give one piece of advice on designing your own wedding invitations, it's this: do not try screen printing them on a homemade press with zero experience — especially when you're short on time!
Okay, so maybe that advice is a little extreme. Screen printing is really just a matter of learning the process and being aware of the small adjustments that can greatly impact the print quality. Weddings are stressful as it is, but the design work I did for mine was probably the most nerve-racking project I've done.
The wedding design process actually started with my wife's engagement ring. When we began ring shopping, my wife and I found many gorgeous rings. But there was always something that wanted to change about each one. Our jeweler suggested making something custom, which he could actually do for the same price. He didn't need to tell me anything else— I was in. I love working on new kinds of design projects, so I started researching and sketching like a maniac.
The ring needed to look elegant and classic to match my wife's sense of style and fashion. Seeing as we're both enormous Potterheads, I needed to come up with a way to embed a Harry Potter reference into the ring itself. The trouble was figuring out how to do it subtly enough to not look cheesy but still apparent once pointed out. I ended up adding a silhouette of a Snitch between two embellished lightning bolts. It was simple and classy.
I worked on the ring for about two months making sure that my she wouldn't see anything until I proposed. Once I was done with the design, I sent our jeweler a 12-page PDF containing my 3D model from Cinema 4D, reference photos, and instructions. I was nervous. I expected him to tell me that I wanted was too ambitious and that I would have to simplify my design. But he didn't.
He sent back a CAD drawing based on my initial design and instructions. He pointed out some things I hadn't considered that would require adjusting, but assured me it was doable.
After another two months, the ring was ready.
There's always something special about seeing a final product in-hand, but this was different. This was the ring I was going to propose with, and the fact that I got to design it myself was incredible. I was in awe. And to this day, she still gets compliments on it.
Fast forward a year, our wedding date was set. Deposits were placed on our venue and decor. Our outfits were purchased. Next on the list: the invitations. To my wife's credit, the wedding colors were already established: blush pink and metallic gold. Now, the most cost-effective way to get four custom cards (yes, FOUR) per invitation with metallic ink was to screen print them ourselves. With that in mind, I started working on a design inspired by the engagement ring— even the Snitch made an appearance.
The printing process was a mess. As I mentioned earlier, there are many nuances that need consideration in screen printing: mesh count, emulsion burn times, off-contact, etc. Once I got the screens setup on the press and ink laid onto the mesh, I made my first swipe.
I was so nervous. I pulled up the arm to see that no ink passed through onto the card stock. "I'm screwed," I thought (well, maybe that wasn't the word, but you get it). This wasn't going to work, and I was out of time. I walked away in defeat. Some hours later, I came back and decided to adjust the off-contact from about a quarter-inch to an eight-inch. Another swipe. Once more, I lifted up the arm. Peaked with one eye... "It worked!"
Once I figured out the issue, printing was a breeze and surprisingly quick. Everything was systematic. My brother helped by hanging printed cards and handing me fresh cardstock. It's incredible how such a small adjustment can make such a big difference. Screen printing is more about the prep-work than it is about actually getting the ink onto the page, and I learned that the hard way.
I built a simple one-page site to capture RSVP information. Each invitation came with a passcode that determined which events our family and friends (and parents' acquaintances, and parents' acquaintances' acquaintances...) were invited to attend.
As a bonus, our video team even let me create the cover art for our wedding Blu-ray and add my own custom lower thirds to the video.
Wedding portraits by Studio Uma, final CAD drawing from Znascko's Jewelers, wedding video by Memories Films