The very first impression you make on your wedding guests isn't when you're walking down the aisle, but rather when you send out your announcements, save the dates or invitations. Your wedding stationery is at the front line of the most important event of your life. From your choice of paper, design, font and every other little detail included in that critical little envelope or mailer, your guests are getting their first real look at your wedding style. You're not only letting them know the fancy little details, you're setting the tone for your big event.

Because wedding stationery is such an essential aspect of your planning process, and because we're also in the midst of invite season, Maharani Weddings reached out to Andaleeb Firdosy - Creative Director and Founder of Atelier Azure, a luxury stationery and event accessory boutique in Southern California. We got some unique insight on her design process and why she loves what she does, plus we asked her all you need to know about the business of sending out your invites! Check out the interview after the jump!

MW: What is your favorite part about creating stationery?  

Andaleeb: "I'm obsessed with paper- which may or may not be a healthy trait in a person!

I love hearing each bride's unique story and learning about all the different traditions surrounding weddings. Beyond culture there is also family tradition and all the fusion traditions that people do now that are so much fun!

I also think, from craft to culture, invitations are a deep rooted and ancient tradition, and it's so rewarding to help keep it alive through our work."

MW: When a bride comes to you, does she usually know what she wants, or do you mostly collaborate with her on a final design?

Andaleeb: "It's always a collaboration. We love doing completely custom invitations, but even for our pre-designed collections we rarely have clients that want exactly what they see in a sample or a picture, and everything we have is infinitely customizable.

The invitation is often the lead for the rest of the wedding style so we often create style boards and examples that help set the tone for the wedding design."

MW: I love the laser cuts I've seen in your work. What is that process like, and does something of that detail require more time?

Andaleeb: "Laser cutting is one of my personal favorites.  My grandfather was a furniture designer and worked with teak - he often incorporated latticework.  I've found a connection to his work through laser cutting. It also reminds me of palaces and step wells I visited as a child, and for my clients, the look really modernizes something ancient and romantic and kind of handmade.

Design for laser cutting is much more challenging than design for printing. Each part of the design has to be perfectly connected and have the right amount of balance between positive and negative- otherwise the whole thing will fall apart once it's cut. In production, laser cutting requires a lot of manual labor- as each piece is positioned and loaded by hand. The laser bed must be cleared and reloaded for each one. In addition, it's a delicate piece of equipment."

MW: What is the most unique request you've ever received from a bride?

Andaleeb: "Just last month we had a bride with a very unusual request that really added to the guest experience. She wanted to have champagne served in vintage flutes as place cards for a Mediterranean themed wedding. We brought the idea to life with an embossed & laser cut sea shell that accented the rim of each glass and was printed with guest names and table numbers on opal finished shimmer paper. Each guest was served champagne as they entered the wedding. The detailed shell perched on the rim of the glass helped them find their table.
We sometimes get to work with decorators who come up with unique ideas. I simply love these collaborations and I hope to do more in the future. Right now, I am working on laser cut wood panels designed for the actual Mandap with a nod to the invitation design itself."

MW: Are there any general rules, or big no no's, when it comes to what information and/or material is included in an invite?

Andaleeb: "There are no rules. Ultimately your wedding invitation is yours and you can say anything  you like on it.
That said, here are some guidelines.
1. Consider your main insert "sacred"- be very selective about the text, include words that are emotive and keep the logistics to a minimum. The more space there is on your main invitation insert, the more elegant your invitation will be. An additional insert for detailed times & accommodations, registry or gift info, parking and any other logistics is a great solution. 

2. In western culture, it's a big faux pas to mention gifts on your invitation. For South Asian families who have large weddings it can be a practical necessity- especially when requesting "no boxed gifts" ( so a moving truck doesn't need to be rented to transport the gifts home). I do suggest being as subtle about it as possible. People will notice and most people do not bring boxed gifts anyway. Try to avoid placing this info on your main card. The folio, your logistics insert or the web site are all great places to make the gift information clear without being tacky.

3. Including blessings, the names of deceased or living grandparents and relatives is such a beautiful tradition among South Asians. Give this information its due credit by highlighting it on the inside of the folio or on a beautiful and special tribute insert. 

MW: Save the Dates and wedding invites are the first impressions a bride makes on her guests in regards to her event. How important is it to make sure they put out something of quality?

Andaleeb"I'd say it's critical. This is the one place your names and your family names will be written with the date and venue of the event. It documents and announces the most important moment in your life and as you say- "sets the tone for your event."
Details are so important when it comes to a fantastic event and the guest experience. Receiving a beautiful invitation in mail or in person, opening it and feeling absolutely thrilled about the news of the marriage and about attending the event is a guest experience that is really priceless. When your guests come to your wedding having had that experience they are more likely to really enjoy it!"

MW: Can you give our brides some tips on wedding stationery? When should they start the process of designing/ordering? How far in advance do they send out their 'save the dates' and invites? Any other useful tips?

Anadaleeb: "Order early! Even if you don't have the venue details and guest count set up, reach out and talk to us. The text and final guest count will not be required right away, but getting the order booked is important. Luxe finishes take time. Rush orders mean limited options and additional expenses. An ideal amount of lead time is 3 months for custom work, and 6 weeks to 2 months for invitations from our collection. We can absolutely do things quicker- but anything under a month to print will incur rush fees."

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Hope you found these expert industry tips useful, Maharanis! Visit Atelier Azure for a look at their complete line of amazing wedding stationery. We'll see you tomorrow!

Invitations & Wedding Stationery: Azure Couture Event Stationery