In the Mail: A “When-to” for Wedding Invitations

The beginning of a new year marks the beginning of a new wedding season.  Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles answers some of the frequently asked questions about the most optimal timelines for ordering and sending wedding invitations. 

Congratulations! You’re getting married, you’ve locked down your dream location, and now you need to spread the word. Here are a few tips for a wrinkle-free work flow that will result in perfectly timed wedding paper.

 

When is the best time to send Save the Dates?

Save the Dates are usually sent anywhere between six and twelve months before the event. Consider sending them out on the early side if your wedding is in a location with limited flights and accommodations such as Aspen or St. Barts. If the wedding is located in New York City, six months ahead is usually fine. Be sure to include the hotel block information with the Save the Date and not later with the invitation because that’s when guests need it most. If everyone is invited to Friday night festivities and Sunday brunch, call it a “Save the Weekend” so that your lucky guests will know to book a longer weekend.

 

OK, my Save the Date is in the mail! When do I need to start the wedding invitation process?

Trusty sources say that invitations should be posted between six and eight weeks before the wedding, but here at Dempsey & Carroll, our clients generally prefer eight weeks out. Working backwards, producing fine engraved papers with hand finishes takes about six weeks and calligraphy of the envelopes takes  a minimum of two or three weeks. For design time, allow about three weeks. Faster results are certainly possible when required, but to get the most enjoyment out of the process, come to see us at least five months in advance of your big day for a stress-free, luxurious experience of a lifetime!

 

And what about the paper I need for the day of?

We usually start working on menus, welcome notes, ceremony program booklets, escort cards, and place cards right after we send the wedding invitations to print. All the paper then has a congruent feel for a perfectly polished wedding!

 

Spotlight on Leo Mascotte, Part II

Austin Ackles sat down with Creative Director, Leo Mascotte, to discuss more of his favorite Dempsey & Carroll wedding suites. 

AA: This wedding took place on a family property in Old Chatham and we drew a marvelous tree the couple was to be married beneath. (The resulting steel engraving die was a sculpture in and of itself!) What makes this wedding suite one of your favorites? 

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LM: Old Chatham’s charms, to no surprise, are notably old school.  This Columbia County hamlet oozes classic Yankee Town & Country charm, and is home to one of America’s most storied fox hunts, The Old Chatham Hunt Club.  The blind engraved tree motif could not be more inspired.  So too the navy blue and white color palette, classic and crisp, yet decidedly modern for a wedding.  These colors perfectly set the stage for this type of “Down East” event.  As does the Chevalier font, as naturally handsome as the chocolate labs I imagine sleeping under the couple’s table.

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I Would happily take odds that the weekend felt like a trip back to a cherished campus. The Groom and groomsmen in navy blazers, with Hermes ties chosen to recall shared sport. Radiant and crisp in Oscar de la Renta organza, the bride, seemed to be the source of the reception tent’s glow.  Her mother, effortlessly triumphant spending an evening at home amongst abundant flowers, planned to appear picked from the property’s gardens.

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AA: This wonderful couple was married in the bride’s grandmother’s garden just outside Melbourne, Australia. They loved the watercolors from our Mark Ingram collection (which we used for their save the dates) and they wanted to incorporate them into their wedding suite. I think the colors are delicious! 

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LM: Tasty indeed, the palette reminds me of tea at Laduree, in Paris.  The pale pistachio walled salons filled with a dazzling array of pastel tinted macaroons.  The wedding stationery is kept from getting too sweet by the underlying hint of rich ochre in the custom sand colored ink.

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Attention to detail here is remarkable.  Each piece of the extensive suite was engraved, such a wonderful and increasingly rare touch.  Rarer still, each item received edge treatment using a custom pale french pink.  The invitation is set apart by it’s exquisite beveled edge.  My favorite touch is named Henry B. the couple’s beloved Labradoodle.  He sits atop the reply card, bestowing a welcoming glance encouraging all to join.

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AA: How we love a perfectly-sized New England church wedding and then a celebration afterwards at a yacht club! This wedding suite is one in a series that is a variation on a very classic theme. How do you see it reinvented this time?

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LM: I love the look of this suite almost as much as I revere the venerated yacht club where it was held.  This group sets up a carefully balanced interplay of established forms set off against modern elements.  A generation ago this piece would have been printed on a folded sheet.  Today so rarely used, the foldover’s scarcity may as well predict it’s return to favor.  Here, a stiff Embassy card reflects the current currency of chic.   This nod to today is set in contrast to timeless Italian script.  For me this font remains, the unassailable definition of impeccable old school elegance.   The suite’s painted edges are left un-beveled, at once old school handcraft, and not expected.  The rich pewter ink color manages a similar duality, with Commodore worthy aplomb.

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AA: Dempsey & Carroll has this long running creative partnership with the legendary firm, Schumacher, and this is a beautiful example of our collaboration. The font here feels old and new to me at the same time. What is it that makes this invitation suite at once breezy and stately?

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LM: This celebrated print “Birds & Butterflies” was based on a hand printed 1960’s wall covering found in Schumacher’s archive.  Available as both a fabric and wallpaper it has a lovely density that never overpowers.  Set amongst charmingly drawn foliage, rendered in spare black on white, a flock of colorful creatures takes flight.

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The Open Antique Roman font almost seems to have been picked from amongst the fabric’s vines.  The letter forms have a polished yet unfussy 1930’s feel.  Designer Thomas O’Brien coined the phrase “Vintage Modern” which seems to describes this Schumacher print, the  and this this suite perfectly.  I can think of no better way to mark a marriage in Millbrook, NY.  Very top drawer.

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Spotlight on Valley & Co.

Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles sat down with Aleah and Nick of Valley & Co. to talk about some of their favorite wedding destinations on the West Coast. 

 

AA: Squeezed into just a few dozen words, can you give us the essence of Valley & Co.?
A&N: In short, we throw pretty incredible celebrations for our clients and have a ball doing so! We focus on the beauty and fun in life and incorporate realistic elements into our events. We truly love creating joy for others and Valley & Company is a reflection of our passion!

AA: Which came first, the business relationship or the life partnership?
A&N: Our relationship came before our business. We met during Aleah’s senior year in high school and Nick’s freshman year at university. Aleah followed Nick to college where we planned events with several student government organizations and some pretty impressive non-university related parties as well! You can say the rest is part of our history! We’ve been planning events together since we got together and formed our company in 2003, right after we graduated from college.

AA: You’re the masters of the best coast! What’s your single favorite thing about the mighty Pacific Northwest and the very best thing about the glorious south coast?

A&N: Oh, what a kind compliment, thank you! The Pacific Northwest is absolutely incredible. Both born and raised, there is just so much to appreciate. We love the sea and islands, the culture, the incredible food (especially Dungeness crab), and the majestic mountains. But the best thing about the mighty Pacific Northwest is the fact that you can drive out of the city to any number of spectacular places in just an hour or two. There are countless hidden gems for destination weddings that we love! California is also pretty amazing and we love events along the coast in San Diego and in the desert of Palm Springs. The year-round nature of events in California (except for the one unexpected November day mentioned below!) is special and you can’t beat the sunsets and cuisine. Our West Coast clients up and down the coast tend to share an underlying vision of wanting to create a true experience for their guests, so we put great emphasis on the setting, the local bounty and seafood and land food, great wines,, and showcasing the very best that our region and the coast has to offer.

AA: Can you tell us about an impossible to foresee (or just plain weird) logistical challenge and how you overcame it?
A&N: One November in San Diego we had a beautiful wedding planned on the rooftop of a beautiful hotel perched above the busy boardwalk in Pacific Beach. An unexpected and unprecedented storm came rolling in rather quickly, dumping torrential rain and gale force winds on our just-installed tent. As we were setting up the chairs, the tent (properly weighted!) started to take flight up and over the balcony, with weights and all. Nick and some of the crew quickly pulled down the tent and slashed the ceiling to let air through. They held it down until it could be taken away. We all worked extremely fast to move the ceremony into the beautiful restaurant below and dinner on the terrace protected by glass doors. Luckily as the ceremony was underway the skies parted and the sun came out, but that was the most unexpected weather incident we’ve ever encountered! Our team was swift on our feet and was so professional and cool under the pressure! It reminded us that there can never be enough back-up plans (this summer in Washington we rolled out a Plan J!). Foreseeing any potential issue before it can arise and already having a solution in place is a large part of our job.

AA: Please think back a few years: Are the any materials or themes that you were employing regularly that have completely dropped from your current repertoire? 

A&N: We love a good classically beautiful wedding with fresh and modern touches that reflect our couples. With that said, we are seeing a departure from too rustic, overly glam, and anything that can possibly look dated even a few years down the road. Our clients tend to want an extremely personal celebration that has roots in pure beauty, so we start from scratch working in details that truly mean something to them, like a special patterned china, an altar built with logs from the bride’s family home, traditions through toasts and activities, and a menu and drink experience that is expressive of them and their backgrounds. It’s refreshing and exciting that so many of today’s couples want to create their wedding vision with a totally blank canvas!

 

AA: And now for some fun: You’re stranded on a desert island with 100 other people. Thankfully, a couple of your fellow castaways have fallen in love and are getting married. You have no supplies. What five items do you wish you had and, if it’s not obvious, why?

A&N: What a great thought!

We would wish for:

  • a stereo to provide music for the celebration
  • a pallet of champagne
  • a fishing pole to catch fish to feed all of the guests a lighter to make a roaring fire (Nick’s answer)
  • a sewing kit to fashion décor from palm fronds (Aleah’s answer)

Spotlight on Leo Mascotte

Austin Ackles sat down with Creative Director, Leo Mascotte, to discuss some of his favorite Dempsey & Carroll wedding suites. 

AA: This wedding took place in beautiful Lake Bluff, on the shores of Lake Michigan, just outside of Chicago. How do you feel that location is reflected in these designs?

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LM: Beautiful indeed.  No less an authority on the American scene than F. Scott Fitzgerald  “Once I thought that Lake Forest was the most glamorous place in the world. Maybe it was.”  Chicago’s Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are, to my mind, the most beautiful, and most American suburbs in the country.  Architectural treasures abound.  One finds the work of Howard Van Doren Shaw, Henry Ives Cobb and Frank Lloyd Wright.  But it is David Adler’s work that makes this place like no other.  He designed the original club house of the venerable club, Shoreacres, where the ceremony and reception took place.

This wedding stationery, like Adler’s work, is informed by, and respectful of, a rich heritage, drawing on a comprehensive understanding of tradition and precedent.  It is however, uniquely American and modern in the way it modulates a purely formal model.

The decision to use handwritten calligraphy, in this marvelous crisp style, arrives at a similar easy going elegance.  The seeming effortlessness of the text is balanced by the formality of timeless hand engraving.  The beveled edges, and rounded corners riff on the expected, introducing a note of cool aqua, repeated by the lovely tissue liner.  Assured, and impeccable, the suite’s offhand, jazz age cool finds no better expression than its opening flourish.

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AA: By comparison, this suite for a Fishers Island wedding feels so edified while still retaining an airiness.

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LM: An airiness which shows that less can be splendidly more.  The understated élan of this invitation and stationery suite could not be more appropriate to the wedding’s location.  Set at the north eastern end of Long Island Sound, just off the Connecticut coast, this tiny strip of New York state is a world apart.   Prized for its pristine beauty, privacy and remove, Fisher’s Island is timeless.

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The epitome of old school, east coast, Summer as a verb propriety.

The marvelous font born of this storied way of life.  Chevalier lets the hand of the engraver shine within its handsome block forms.  An unexpected polish comes from the Oxford Gray ink.  It softens letter forms that would have felt rigid rendered in a darker tone.  But it is the white space that I find most compelling.  Calling to mind trim sails, tennis attire, and freshly pressed linen collars, this suite announces with an insider’s whisper.  The subtle edge treatment, like the family silver, manages to shine, not shimmer.  The reception card is my favorite piece, am certain that the smart glint of it’s sterling trim won it pride of place on many a mantle.  I would have tucked it just so, to remind all who saw it: black tie, naturally.

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AA: For oceanfront nuptials at the storied Breakers in Palm Beach, this family with impeccable taste wanted to push their boundaries. How do you think these invitations (our largest, Empire size) strike a balance between boldness and refined taste?

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LM: Is there a request more fully aligned with this location?  A theatrical, larger than life, tropical aesthetic has defined Palm Beach from its beginning. Built in 1925, The Breakers tile roofed, Mediterranean Revival, Neo-Moorish stage set world defines Palm Beach.  From the shops of Worth Avenue, to The Everglades Club, from Doris Duke’s Mar-a-Lago to The Bath and Tennis Club, Palm Beach’s heart beats Lilly Pulitzer pink and acid green.  All this sumptuous extravagance walks a resort town  tight rope of good taste, tipping it’s hat to the staid conservatism of the East Coast cities from which America’s uber-posh winter resort draws its crowd of swells.

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The suite takes up this theme, playing in a key that all but glitters with gold.  The sheen of the tissue lined envelopes sets the tone.  This matte midas touch is echoed in the ink, a tone that harmonizes beautifully with the bold sweeping forms of the Bickham font.  Gleaming hand applied leaf shimmers, setting off precious and pains-takingly hand beveled edges and eased corners.  The blind engraved, marital monogram, is set apart.  Like an orchestra’s rest, the matte white silence the suite’s largest motif makes for a lily that is impeccably un-gilded.

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Spotlight on Danielle Couick

Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles met with event planner Danielle Couick of Magnolia Bluebird for drinks at charming Orsay on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

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AA: Magnolia Bluebird is such a pretty name. How did you come to choose it?

DC: Thank you! Magnolia Bluebird was supposed to be a bed and breakfast somewhere in my far off future. When the opportunity came for me to start my own planning firm, it seemed like such a natural fit. I am from the South and entertaining is just a way of life. My grandmother hosted often and had a magnificent way of making you feel as though you were the only person in the room, even if you were amongst 200. She taught me how to make centerpieces using the leaves of her magnolia tree which to me has become a symbol of gracious hospitality and reminder to be present in all that you do. She also taught me that entertaining should be comfortable and a reflection of you. Anytime I entertain you can count on a bowl of French onion dip and Ruffles somewhere in the spread. It is such a simple and basic thing, but such a great reminder of the lessons I learned growing up. And don’t let anyone tell you they don’t love chips and dip.

Bluebird is from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and is a song I sang often as a child. It is about following your dreams and owning what is beyond the known. The longer I’ve been in this business the more I learn that my needs and dreams are constantly changing, growing and adapting. There is something really powerful in knowing that I will never reach the top, that there is always an opportunity to learn more, create more and that I am trusted to take incredibly calculated risks.

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AA: You’re based in the Washington D.C. area. How far flung have you worked?

DC: We currently do a fair amount of planning and design work on the East Coast but have also designed weddings as far South as the US Virgin Islands. I have also been a speaker all over the country which is always fun! We are always open for a new adventure.

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AA: And were there any special challenges you had to overcome?

DC: Working in the USVI I quickly learned that accessibility was one of my biggest obstacles. What may be a basic staple and available at the ready stateside (candles… for example) are not so easily obtained (at least not without huge markup or lead time). Floral also has a high rate of spoilage due to shipping and travel timing. We were going for a more classic look for this particular wedding and did not want to use tropical botanicals. For example, a bouquet that costs $300 stateside could easily see a price tag of $500-600 there. We ended up flying a lot of our needs, linens, candles, centerpiece elements, details, etc. to ensure they arrived safely and on time and due to limited resources on the islands.

AA: Can you name a dream location you’d love to design for but have not yet had the opportunity?

DC: If we are talking dream world, then I would have to say The Palace of Versailles. The Hall of Mirrors is completely breathtaking. The views, the gardens, the detail, the inspiration… all of it. The intention with which the palace was designed and built, the artisans that crafted every detail, the sheer expanse and the meticulous effort to which it is maintained. There are so many elements about The Palace that resonate with elements that we value so strongly.

 

AA: We were at a recent Engage! conference together and a planner we both know and admire screamed about too many requests for clusters of chandeliers in trees. Would you mind sharing a pet peeve of yours?

DC: Ha! Yes, chandeliers in trees… this is a trend I don’t mind so much if it makes sense. I have more peeves when it comes to etiquette but trend wise, I have to admit that if I never see another mason jar again I would be alright and I am not sure how many more ways we can reinvent a S’more. I also think “naked cakes” are lacking. Icing is just so delicious and a beautifully finished and detailed cake can be a work of art. I would also love to see less blush and gold this year. I am craving color and curated detail.

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AA: And then what do you see trending that you can’t get enough of?

DC: Expecting the unexpected. I love creating experiences for our clients and guests. This can be done in so many different ways. Entertainment, food and beverage, lighting and mood, delightful details. Our guests and clients are smart. They attend weddings, galas and a variety of other events so creating surprise and delight is really important and often a very fun challenge to stretch our creative ideas.

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AA: You are expert at making a neutral color palette exciting but also excel at incorporating rich, vibrant color. What color do you plan on using more of?

DC: Thank you! You won’t see a lot of “blush and bashful” in our portfolio. I have always loved color and there is such a brilliant psychology behind the choices. In addition to weddings we also design a fair amount of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs so I think that is one reason we look for fresh palettes across the board. This year I am hearing a lot of requests for aubergine & shades of purple, strawberry & burgundy and pops of color infused into shades of neutrals. I am very excited about a wedding we have coming up this spring where we have designed a gradient color palette that flows from pastel for the ceremony to a bolder version for the reception into neon for the after party.

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AA: When you’re choosing your own personal destination for some down time, what is your ideal?

DC: My husband and I are constantly on the move and our vacations are no exception. We typically select a locale that will allow for 24-48 hours of R&R just to recharge a bit and then we are ready to explore. We look for culture, great food and I typically look for historical and architectural significance. Some of our favorite destinations have been US road trips, the rainforest and forts of Puerto Rico, London and France.

Real Wedding: Helen & Bryan

Real Wedding: Helen & Bryan

Old Lyme, Connecticut

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Lauren Sozmen of Loli Events has collaborated with Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles for several celebrations and this time the wedding invitations would be just as spectacular as those before.

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The ceremony was held at Old Lyme’s stately First Congregational Church after which festivities carried on into the night in and around a vast, glowing, flag-crowned tent. Guests would wander the grounds and skirt the water’s edges in proximity of where the fabled Connecticut River empties into the Long Island Sound.

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To set the tone, our airy Empire invitation, engraved in elegant Baron Gray ink with edges painted in emerald green on perfectly heavy cotton stock. An undeniably classic combination though with a spunky contemporary script font and vibrant painted edges, these invitations would be miles from staid.

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It may be the rigors of Soul Cycle during the week but, come the weekend, Helen and Bryan’s preference is to bicycle on scenic country roads. We created a new motif with two bikes that was used on the envelope of the save the date. Later, Lauren brilliantly adapted the motif for charming wooden swizzle sticks and amusing cocktail napkins.

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Congratulations, wonderful couple, Helen and Bryan!

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Lauren Sozmen, Loli Events

Photography by Shannen Natasha Weddings