Introduction: Vintage Inspired DIY Wedding Invitations

To set the tone for our entire DIY wedding {and the rest of our forever} our first foot forward as a couple was our invitation.  We designed it to resemble a packet of items one might find buried amongst the family heirlooms in their grandmother's attic.  It had all the necessary makings of a modern invitation: date, time, {our venue wasn't yet secured}, URL of our wedding website for RSVP purposes, dress code, etc. but was striking in its delivery of this information.

Everything was created from found materials, items destined for landfills, and otherwise inexpensive goodies salvaged from thrift shops, flea markets, and Craigslist in an effort to be more sustainable.  We were very adamant about making our own decisions on every detail of our wedding and not relying on conventions to dictate what would become our traditions.  In fact, we bucked a few traditions entirely, opting to buy a full-sized Frogger arcade cabinet in lieu of fancy napkins.

Our invitation "artifacts" garnered such responses from friends, family, and even strangers on the internet that were simply remarkable and we are proud to share them with the world.

Entering this contest will be our first Instructable and we take it as a good sign that the contest wraps up on our anniversary. :)

Good luck to everyone who enters and congratulations to all the couples, new and old!

{to replicate ours, but should be adjusted according to the contents of your packet}

*access to a copy machine or laser printer
*recycled paper
*recycled cardstock
*ample amounts of tea and coffee
*iron and ironing board
*digital camera or scanned photographs of yourself
*photo editing software {free & online :: and }
*airmail envelopes
*old stamps
*vintage pinochle decks
*45 singles
*rubber craft stamp of a postmark
*rubber craft stamp of a decorative border
*brown ink pad
*black ink pad
*glue stick
*brown paper
*hemp twine

Step 1: Dying in Tea - Quick Overview

Many of the items in the invitations were dyed with tea or coffee.  If you are going to be dyeing printed material, only laser printing will survive the dyeing process because other inks will run, bleed, or wash off entirely.  Everything we printed for this purpose was printed on a copy machine and dyed after printing {we didn't try dyeing before printing, but judging from how paper reacts to being saturated and dried, it doesn't seem like an optimal process}.

10 or so teabags or about 2 cups of coffee grounds were added to 4 or 5 inches of extremely hot water in a big Rubbermaid tub.  We added papers one at a time to make sure each side was covered by the tea, then waited for about ten minutes, depending on the material dyed at the time - some take longer to get a great color.  Do some experimenting with each new material.  We used green tea for just about everything. 

Being very careful, we reached in to grab the papers and let them stick to the side walls of the tub to drip dry a bit.  If you want a more speckled look, sprinkle some instant coffee granules on the wet paper at this point. It will absorb into little blotches that dry beautifully! Then, using an old towel to avoid staining our ironing board, we ironed them completely dry and mostly flat.  We found that if you let them dry on their own, they get too wrinkly.

It is a good idea to get a big dictionary and press the items overnight to finish the look.

(PearlZenith also has an Instructable for a more detailed look at this type of dying process - )

Step 2: The Letter / Envelope

The actual "invitation" portion of our little packet was created to look like an old letter.  On one side, we wrote a mostly fictional letter from a young man to his mother describing how he met the woman of his dreams and had intent to marry her.  On the reverse, we wrote, in more traditional language, the ceremony/reception details.  We printed one copy, then photocopied this along with the engagement ring.  We printed so that the final result would be half an 8.5 x 11 piece of recycled paper.  After cutting, we folded each letter BEFORE dyeing so the creases would darken more where the fibers were broken.  Each letter was dyed in green tea.  After drying and pressing, we used a rubber stamp design and brown pigment ink to make a stationary mark at the top of the page.

Airmail envelopes like this are no longer able to be mailed, so tracking enough down was quite a process. An outlet store provided most, and a wanted post on Craigslist had enough responses from people who had most of a box in their stationery drawer to round out what we needed.  Each envelope was dyed using the same process, but this will ruin the glue portion of the envelope, so have a plan ahead of time.  We tried two different ways to solve this - we let them dry closed and then if an envelope would open easily, we just opened it; otherwise, we opened the top with a letter opener.  We made a trip to a local stamp collector and purchased grab bags of various worthless old stamps to add to the envelopes.

The final detail necessary to complete the look was to cancel the stamp.  We bought a rubber stamp of a postmark at a craft store and then marred it a little with tweezers in order to obscure the location and date.  We stamped all our envelopes with black pigment ink and once everything was dry and flat, we popped in Season One of LOST and started collating all the letters.

Step 3: The 45

As both of us suffer/enjoy a minor addiction to vinyl, we had the idea to include a 45 record with our invitations.  We took a scan of a vintage Columbia Record and photoshopped personal touches onto the label.  We printed our version on recycled cardstock {a bit thicker, so it wouldn't curl or wrinkle} and then got the largest circle hole punch that we could find and started punching them out.  We dyed them all in coffee and set them out to dry.  You can see a pattern developing here - the house smelled like tea or coffee for weeks.

Our records were just standard 45 singles, acquired from thrift stores and eBay.  We attached the labels to the records with a gluestick {and more LOST}.  Although larger cutters are available, we couldn't find one in town and didn't want to have to order one, so we took a Sharpie to the outer edge of each existing label to accommodate the size difference.  Most labels needed two coats of the ink with plenty of time to dry between the two.  This step could be avoided with an appropriately sized circle cutter.  

Some of the newer paper sleeves for the records were also dyed, though a lot of them were actually vintage and didn't need it.

We left the other side's original label on so that our recipients could see that these were real records {and could actually be played} and even picked out favorite songs for the people we thought might actually play them.  This turned out to be quite funny when we had to veto some wedding-inappropriate song titles from being used, such as "Run Away," "Never Gonna Last," and "Better Luck Next Time."  Not exactly the message we wanted to send!

Step 4: The Ticket & Playing Card & RSVP Card

We booked Not Quite Fab , a brilliant Beatles Tribute Band to play at our reception, so to give our guests a hint of what was to come, we included a photoshopped ticket to a Beatles concert with our reception information.  Each ticket was printed on recycled marble paper, cut out, then perforated for authenticity.  We also had a sequential number stamp and individually numbered each ticket.  Some of our guests called asking if they'd need the ticket for entrance to our reception!

As hobbyist magicians and gambling enthusiasts, we knew that we wanted to include a playing card of some kind and ended up communicating our dress code this way.  Each card was taken from a box of vintage pinochle decks {chosen for their many face cards}found at the flea market and then had a small dyed piece of paper glued on the front.  Some of the back designs were just amazing, and finding vintage cards in large quantities was easier than aging our own.

An RSVP card with our website information was printed on recycled cream paper with our logo on one side and our website and phone numbers typed on the back with our antique Underwood typewriter.

Step 5: The Photostrip

Our original thought was to go to a photobooth to take these pictures, but when we were home for lunch one day from work, we decided to just do this ourselves as well.  We set up a folded fabric backdrop and dressed in some vintage clothes and posed in front of our tripod.  After a digital arrangement of the shots, we printed them on the same heavy cardstock as our record labels, cut, and dyed them, you guessed tea.

Step 6: Wrapping It Up

To round out the packages, we added a feather to the mix and then started assembling {more LOST}.  We cut brown paper to a size that would wrap around and overlap in the front and then tied off the whole thing with a length of hemp twine.  For those that were hand delivered, this was it!  For those that were mailed, it was necessary to tape down the twine with clear packaging tape, per USPS regulations seemingly banning 'brown paper packages tied up with string."

Step 7: Final Bits of Advice {& Things We'd Do Differently}

* Invest in a good paper cutter.
---------We had dumpster-dived a large one and it made this whole project a lot easier than it could have been.  You can also use the ones at FedEx Office or your local library.

* Fill your invitations with things that are significant to you.
---------You don't have to use the items we included - in fact, unless you are magic/vinyl/Beatles/typewriter enthusiasts, we suggest that you don't!  Find things that really personalize your invitations and represent you as a couple.  You could include ticket stubs, receipts from your first date, postcards from your honeymoon destination/hometowns/where you met, fabric swatches, buttons/pins, coins, bottle caps, pressed flowers, a napkin with your number and a lipstick kiss -- the possibilities are unlimited.

* Dye with various coffees and teas.
---------For authenticity, you want everything to look weathered but not the exact same color.

* Make sample swatches.
---------Make a couple swatches using your paper and varying amounts of different types of tea and coffee plus varying soak times to be sure which combination results in the look you want.  This eliminates trial and error during production...especially if you're planning on making 300 of them like we did!

* Don't stress about perfection.
---------The great thing about an aged look is that any tears or imperfections just make it look more believable.

* Be patient while things dry.
---------We lived in humid Florida at the time, so it took AGES for the paper to dry, but make sure you wait for things to be mostly dry before you iron them or risk mucking up the ink.  Also, remember that the finished, dry product will look significantly different when wet!

* Stop watching LOST after Season 4.
---------Okay, maybe Season 5.
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