Wedding Calligraphy: The Polish For Your 30A Wedding Look
There are just some things that are immediately associated with weddings. A wedding cake is one. Letterpress printing is another. Calligraphy is as well. I got the pleasure of having Suzanne Miller from Suzanne Miller Calligraphy & Lettering as a guest on the podcast Make Your Wedding a Highlight. I had an idea that I had much to learn about what calligraphy entails as well as all the different ways you can incorporate it into your wedding. Let’s pick up the conversation about wedding calligraphy with Suzanne sharing what excites her about being a part of a couple’s wedding.
Calligraphy and Weddings: Hand-in-Hand
DJ Josh, Highlight Weddings & Events: What excites you about being a part of a couple’s big day?
Suzanne Miller, Suzanne Miller Calligraphy & Lettering: When I was in high school, I used to just go and buy wedding magazines and anything I could get my hands on. I just loved looking at the pictures and seeing the way things were styled. When it came time to plan my own wedding, I just fell completely in love with the process of picking colors and textures and really crafting a day that was special and unique to me and my husband. Calligraphy puts a polished touch on somebody’s day. It feels really special to be able to add that polish for somebody else.
DJ Josh: Calligraphy is one of those things that, when I think of it, I immediately associate it with weddings. Adding that unique touch to a couple’s day is something that, as a DJ, I feel proud to be able to do also.
As you’re working with the couple, how can they help make their experience a highlight? What can they do to set you up for success and ensure the best experience possible?
Know Your Wedding Style
Suzanne: Couples reach out to me for all sorts of reasons. Some want hand-lettered envelopes for when they send out invitations to their guests. Others contact me because they want signs, chalkboards, name cards, and things like that for their wedding day. To make sure they have the best experience with a calligrapher like me, the best thing to do would be to decide on the style wedding that you want.
I had a bride contact me this week. I loved that she told me that she was going for a boho-inspired wedding. That helps me understand the parameters that I will be working in. Boho is typically a looser style and something that has a little more fun to it when you compare a wedding style that is more formal. The direction that your wedding is headed helps me get an idea of what kind of materials to incorporate in your day. The aesthetic for your wedding may change as you get closer to the date. Having that starting point really helps me figure out the lettering style that will be appropriate for it.
DJ Josh: It sounds like there are a lot of different applications for calligraphy. Do you have a specific favorite thing you really enjoy working on for weddings?
Suzanne: Hands down, without a doubt, it’s lettering envelopes. I could sit and letter envelopes all day long if I were given the chance. There’s such a soothing and peaceful feeling for me when I sit and letter envelopes all day long.
DJ Josh: I’m sure there are some things about calligraphy that I don’t know or I may be misinformed about. What are some things that people should know about calligraphy?
Suzanne: Sure. It makes me laugh, but I think the number one thing is when people tell me, “You’re a calligrapher. You must have the most beautiful handwriting.” And that is a hundred percent not true. Good handwriting and calligraphy are completely different, sometimes mutually exclusive things. I think that sometimes calligraphers have the worst handwriting and we usually admit to that. It’s just a completely different process: handwriting versus calligraphy.
Calligraphy is, actually, all about muscle memory in your hand. It’s a set of eight basic strokes. And with those eight strokes, you can make pretty much any letter form. Once you learn what those strokes are with the pen, it’s just a matter of putting it together to form your letters. My handwriting is chicken scratch, but my calligraphy is beautiful.
Calligraphy’s Different Styles
One thing a lot of people don’t understand is that there are different pens and brushes that are used to create a completely different effect. I’m actually about to start working on a piece for a wedding. They sent me some examples to give me an idea of what they were looking for, which I loved. However, the examples they sent me were of watercolor calligraphy.
In order to do watercolor, you use a watercolor paintbrush. The process is the same. You’re making the same letter strokes with the same finesse. But you have to use a completely different tool. I asked them, “Since the examples are watercolor, you want me to do this in watercolor, right?” Their response was, “Oh no, no. Not watercolor. We want it to look like a crisp pin.” A crisp pen is a completely different tool with a completely different process. This kind of misunderstanding is, unfortunately, somewhat common.
Early this year, I was able to hold a calligraphy workshop. Part of that workshop included learning what those eight basic strokes are. The way that we practiced those strokes was by using a brush-tipped pen. That’s what most people think of when they think of calligraphy. And that’s definitely what I used when I started my journey to learn the art of calligraphy.
Nib & Ink Calligraphy
But when I do envelopes, that’s a completely different process. I use something called nib and ink calligraphy. That’s the traditional, old school, you have to dip the pen in a vile of ink and shake it off to get it ready. With nib and ink calligraphy, there are different things we have to do to prepare the pens to work correctly. Compared to brush calligraphy, dipped pen calligraphy is a completely different process. And that’s part of the disconnect. There are so many different ways to produce calligraphy.
Whenever I create something on a hard, flat surface, like a sign, I use a style called faux calligraphy. You’re basically faking it because calligraphy is a mixture of thick and thin lines. The problem you run into is you can’t do that with a paint marker. You have to manually produce thick and thin lines by hand as opposed to allowing the pen to do it. If you just want to learn for fun, brush calligraphy is probably the way to go. But in order to do what I’m doing, I have had to learn many different forms.
DJ Josh: That’s surprising to me that calligraphy has so many different styles. I didn’t know that. In the world of calligraphy, are there any trends that you’ve noticed that are starting to become more common and popular?
Suzanne: Definitely. Even since I started just a couple of years ago I’ve noticed that weddings, as an industry, go through different seasons. When I got married, rustic weddings were extremely popular. They’re still popular, as I make a lot of signs in that style for events. But there’s been this transition to a more polished look. I’m currently making a lot of acrylic signs. Acrylic signs are so neat and versatile in what you can do with them. I see people using them for menus and seating charts. You can use them as a welcome sign for your guests at your wedding as well.
DJ Josh: Nice. Do you play around with color? Is that something that you incorporate in your work?
Suzanne: I do. I just recently finished up a wedding where the bride wanted to use a Jade green for her envelopes, which is something that’s different. It turned out so beautiful. Anytime you do something like that people can tell that you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into your wedding.
Ways To Incorporate Calligraphy
DJ Josh: What are some things that you wished couples would incorporate more in terms of calligraphy?
Suzanne: Hmm, that’s a great question. Because they’re my favorite I really wish that people used envelope calligraphy a little more often. I think for so many people it’s kind of an afterthought. Your wedding invitations are going to usually be the first thing that your guest sees in relation to your wedding. I realize calligraphy is not a necessity. You can have an absolutely beautiful wedding without calligraphy. It’s a luxury item. Because of that, not everyone’s going to have it and that’s perfectly fine. But that’s also what makes it special: not everyone incorporates it into their wedding or even considers it.
Having your invitation envelopes calligraphed sets them apart and helps to set the tone right away for what your wedding is going to look and feel like for your guests. When people see that their name and their address is beautifully written on an envelope, it makes them feel special. It’s a way to make your guests feel special. They know that they were thought of and seen.
Suzanne, that’s such an important thing in today, especially as we have had to be more socially distant due to the current pandemic. Thank you for sharing about calligraphy as well as all the pretty pictures! It’s hard to explain it but when I see calligraphed upon arriving at a wedding reception site, it serves as a reminder that there is going to be a wedding today. It’s not that I forgot. It just adds the extra polish to what will be an exceptional night celebrating two lives that are coming together.
Thanks so much for being on the podcast! Her episode will be next week! This week’s episode featured Jamie Cooper from Fancy Events. We talked about Planning Your Destination Wedding. You can also find the blog featuring her wedding design style.
As always, here’s to couples wherever they are in the wedding planning process. Here’s to making all of those weddings a highlight.