Posted by Shira Savada, Real Weddings Editor
We recently visited Dempsey & Carroll's store to check in on what they've been up to, and after talking to General Manager Jonathan Arnold, I knew I needed to share his expert advice with you pronto.
A long time lover of stationery, Jonathan had read a profile of the company's owner, Lauren Marrus, in the New York Times, which piqued his interest. Jonathan consulted for the company for about a year before joining full time. He now oversees everything from sales to marketing to production. He heads the team, which includes sales consultants and a graphic designer. Dempsey & Carroll has been engraving paper since 1878.
Shira: How does engraving differ from other printing methods? Why should brides choose this method for their stationery?
Jonathan: Engraving is considered the highest quality printing method because it’s all hand-made and it provides a crisper printing impression than anything else.
If you look at the back of a piece of engraved paper, you can see the bruise--an impression left by the press's plate. The bruise on the back and the tactile feel of raised matte ink on the front of the paper are the signatures of genuine engraving, which are the elements I find most appealing. I also respect the strong tradition of craftsmanship and excellence of this art form.
The store's exterior is perfectly telling of the beautiful, high quality pieces they create. And it's "Dempsey Blue."
S: What are the three biggest etiquette faux pas you've seen?
J: First, I must preface my answer with this: no bride with Dempsey & Carroll invitations commits etiquette crimes! We make sure of that.
We often have to steer our customers away from is using their joint monogram on their invitations, as it’s considered bad luck to use them before the ceremony. For example, if Kate Smith were marrying Michael Jones and they wanted to put their joint initials "KJM" on their invitation, I would suggest the bride’s monogram only or something else entirely. (Of course, joint initials are fine for post-ceremony papers, like escort cards, menus, place cards, and thank-you notes.)
Something that is OK to do but which I really dislike is specifying “black tie” on the invitation. It used to be that the time of day dictated dress code, so saying that an evening wedding at The Pierre is black tie--on a formal invitation--seems redundant to me.
I'm a big fan of “simpler is better,” and while I understand people want to convey as much information in a single mailing as possible, the number of enclosures is sometimes out of control. Hotel reservation information, lists of activities available in the area, requests to visit the special website--they all take attention away from where you want it, on the invitation itself. Probably the greatest mistake in this area is including bridal registry information.
S: What's the largest job you've ever done?
J: Most of the weddings we handle require around 100-200 invitations, though we've occasionally done as many as 500.
S: What's the average lead time you like to have for wedding invites?
J: We like to start the process at least 4-5 months in advance. Our engraving process can take 4-8 weeks to complete, but we do, of course, have rush services available for people who are starting later than they should have.
S: Any particularly memorable projects?
J: People often think of us in a strictly traditional light, so it's nice to have clients come in who think "outside of the box" and do something a little out of the ordinary. We just recently finished a monogram inspired by a Rorschach inkblot. Also, we recently had a customer bring in a photograph of her dog, which we used to create artwork suitable for an engraving die. Once the die was complete, we made a whole suite of stationery with the dog on it--everything from correspondence cards to notepads!
S: What pieces have you seen more of or less of lately? Any trends you've noticed overall?
J: I've been noticing more brides are opting out of using both inner and outer envelopes, actually. Though using both was customary for older generations, many of today's brides feel that the inner envelope is both unnecessary and environmentally unfriendly. Lucky for our brides, our papers are 100% cotton, a renewable resource that kills no trees!
S: What is the most traditional invitation a person can have?
J: A really old-school invitation would have no r.s.v.p. line and no response card--the wording would indicate that guests should write a response on the recipient’s own personal stationery. In 2010, the most traditional invitation wording sounds boring, but in reality, these are some of the most beautiful invitation samples we have--just very simple and clear.