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Lauren here, a member of Noteworthy Paper & Press’s retail team. I can hardly believe it, but it’s March (!!!), which means a number of things, least of all that the sun is shyly showing itself here in Missoula, Montana, and our custom team is knee-deep in wedding invitation planning and design!

Though the meaning of “wedding season” has changed in the time of COVID, Noteworthy’s attention to your vision—for your wedding day, and for the invitation suite that comes before it—has not changed. In 2015, in “the before times,” I worked with Noteworthy to design and print my sister’s wedding invitations, and it’s been a joy to see how the custom team has grown and how they’ve adapted and remained flexible amidst this and last year’s wedding cancellations and postponements. 

I sat down with our Custom Sales Manager, Raven Streissguth, Graphic Designer, Amber M. Flaherty, and Noteworthy co-owner, Amy Dolan to chat about the custom process and what you should consider when thinking about wedding invitation suites.

From left to right: Custom Sales Manager Raven Streissguth, Wholesale Fulfillment Associate and Printer's Apprentice Dani Turner, Graphic Designer Amber M. Flaherty, Lead Printer Robin Graf, and Noteworthy co-owner Amy Dolan.

First thing’s first. When you reach out to Noteworthy, you’ll be directed to Raven, who is one of many resident English majors at Noteworthy and who will be the person to gauge what exactly you’re looking for. Her title might be better understood as “project manager” or “liaison,” but her job, put simply, is to translate your needs for our designers and printers.

Now, you’re probably thinking, Translate? We’re all talking about the same things, aren’t we? Well, yes. But often a couple’s language for what they want and need might not be the same language our team uses, so part of Raven’s job is to understand what you want and make sure our team understands it, too. When you say, “rustic,” do you mean river cabin or glamping adventure? When you say, “elegant,” do you mean spare, text-based, and contemporary? Or maybe you mean water-colored florals and brush script? When you say “embossing,” do you actually mean “letterpress”? Raven makes sure everyone begins, and remains, on the same page.

The best thing you can do—for our custom team
and for yourselves—is to have some ideas about your wedding day on-hand when you meet with Raven for your first consultation. She admits that “inspiration images have become non-negotiable,” and I was pleasantly surprised to hear both Raven and Amber talk about these ideas and images in terms of feelings: how couples want their guests to feel at the wedding and how they want to feel at the wedding. Amber admits, “It’s all about the vibe. Vibe and verbiage.” Raven laughs but says it again, both in jest and matter-of-factly, “It’s all about the vibe.”

Pinterest and Instagram are great online resources for these initial ideas. And to be clear, we’re not talking about just seeing other invitation designs. What the custom team wants to see is florals, dresses, place settings, textures, scenery. All of these elements will give insight into the feeling of your day. We also have an abundance of invitation and paper samples in-store! Don’t think that you have to come up with inspiration swatches that present each and every component of your suite, either. That’s where working with a designer comes in handy. Amber is able to absorb your inspiration ideas, as few or as many as they may be, and produce a suite that feels cohesive and true to both your vision and your vibe. 

Before Amber begins her designer’s dance—which includes graphic design, definitely, but also includes illustrations, sketches, watercolors, and more—Raven will outline Noteworthy’s expectations and process for you. On the Noteworthy timeline, you can expect to receive a cost estimate within three to five days after your initial consultation.
Note: Raven meets with our clients over the phone, on video calls, as well as in-person and socially distanced in our shop. 

After you have approved the estimate, and before any design work begins, you will be expected to put down a 50% deposit and asked to sign a contract, which outlines the terms of your specific agreement with Noteworthy, as well as our process and our procedures—details like the number of proofing rounds a couple can go through before additional costs are incurred. (Curious? The answer is three!) 

Raven will also send along a “details questionnaire,” which requests from each couple the specific text information that Noteworthy will need to build the suite. These are the less romantic and sexy details of wedding planning and invitation design, but they’re important to the timeline and the suite’s success, so they’re important to state here. You can also read through a number of wedding invitation FAQs on our website here.

Once this information is gathered, the design process can begin. This, too, is a dance—many conversations between Amber, Raven, and each couple take place, re: colors, fonts, illustrations, layout, and additional suite components. You want to add a feather to the suite, tie it with string? Sure thing. A gold, wax seal? On it. As a Noteworthy employee who is in the shop during many of Raven’s initial consultations and while both Amber and Raven assemble many of the final suites, I am constantly in awe of the lengths the custom team can—and does!—go to in order to give Noteworthy clients exactly what they’re looking for. 

Amy, who is an accomplished graphic designer and has been designing wedding invitations since 2002, oversees the custom team for every project. When she and Taylor Valliant opened the brand’s brick and mortar shop in 2008, custom designs were an extremely important part of their business model, and they remain so today—which is all to say that Noteworthy’s custom team is made up of experts in the constantly-growing field of wedding suite design, and they’ve been doing it longer than almost anyone else in the industry! 

Next up in our process: a design board is created. Readers, receiving a wedding suite design board is enormously exciting! A design board is an electronic file that lays out the components of your suite, including inspiration images, a color palette, and Amber’s initial sketches for the design’s individual pieces. Noteworthy requests approval at this stage of the process to ensure that the overall vision is correct, that Raven has translated your vision to Amber correctly. Once the design board gets approved, Amber begins designing each piece of the suite to the design board’s specifications, creating a first proof—which is, again, very exciting!

Once a proof is approved—whether it be the first, second, or third—Amber sends the design files to Raven; Raven then works with our individual vendors to secure the right paper, envelopes, and other features, readying the suite for printing and assembly. Noteworthy does offer assembly and mailing services, and if you choose this option (roughly 70-75% of couples do), you’ll be asked to create a spreadsheet of your guest list, which will then be used once the suite is printed and readied for the USPS. Raven elaborates on this idea: “We suggest couples get ten extra invitations printed, and we always, whether a couple asks or not, send an invitation to them, too, so that they receive it in the mail as their guests would.”

I asked Amber and Raven about the wedding invitation trends they’re seeing this year. Amber is quick to answer. “We’re seeing a ton of monograms and duograms right now. Last year, 2020, was the year of re-dos.” She gives me the in: I want to know how the custom team adapted to the many wedding postponements and cancellations that happened when the world shut down. 

“Maybe because the world is so crazy right now,” Raven continues, “people are keeping their designs really simple—a lot of text-based designs. But it’s actually been really lovely. People have been really understanding. It’s been collaborative. They would like our help, and they are appreciative of our help and any guidance we can give them. In the beginning, it was learning together. What does that verbiage look like? ‘What do you suggest?’ I don’t know. Let me look into that.” She continues. “But a lot of clients come to us because they know the Noteworthy brand, our style. They love what they see in our in-house work, so their suites become variations on that style.”

And what exactly is the Noteworthy style? As I previously stated, Noteworthy’s reach has expanded a great deal since the store opened over a decade ago, but our aesthetic, in custom but also in wholesale, has been defined and clarified in that time. “We draw inspiration from our environment,” Amy says. “We attract, and we’ve been trying to attract, clients who are in line with a ‘Brides of the Rocky Mountain West’ aesthetic. We get you. We see you. We
are you. We have a deep love of the outdoors, and for our national parks, and it’s important to us that our love—and your love, as well as that sense of place—comes across in our custom and wholesale designs.” In 2008, the custom client base consisted mostly of Missoula couples; but now, in 2021, our clients reach far beyond our little mountain town.

When I was hired-on at Noteworthy in October of 2020, the custom team was still navigating pandemic-shaped changes—and they still are: couples updating their suites to include postponement dates, cancellations, COVID plans, and in some cases, completely changing their wedding suites to wedding announcements or (and this actually happened!) Christmas card suites. Which is to say that our team of experts has been, and will be, working closely with you to make sure that your invitation suite is in line with your overall aesthetic, within your timeline, all the while remaining flexible and understanding. From inspiration boards to assembly and mailing services, postponements and cancellations, our custom team will work with you every step of the way. The only thing you need worry about is making it down the aisle! 

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Lauren R. Korn is a retail sales associate at Noteworthy Paper & Press. She received her B.A. in English (Creative Writing; Literature; and Literature & the Environment), with a minor in Wilderness Studies, at the University of Montana in Missoula. She received her M.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada. Lauren is the current Director of the Montana Book Festival and the host and co-producer of Montana Public Radio’s literature-based interview program and podcast, The Write Question.

Raven Streissguth is Noteworthy Paper & Press’ custom sales manager. She is a native to Washington state and grew up thirty minutes outside of Seattle in the (once) small town of North Bend. Growing up on outlaw country, camping trips, and skiing, she was bound to find her way to Montana—eventually. In 2008, Raven attended the University of Montana, majoring in English: Creative Writing and in Women & Gender Studies. She has tried on a colorful range of professional hats, from real estate administration to legal assistant.

Amber M. Flaherty is a graphic designer working as a full-time member of Noteworthy Paper & Press’ custom team. She spends her days creating custom stationery, including wedding invitations, business cards, and more. Amber was born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1983 but has spent the majority of her life living in and exploring the western landscape. She graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with her A.A. and from the University of Montana with her B.F.A. in sculpture.