From her cottage-style studio in Alamo Heights, Meredith Bell Alvarez displays a medley of wedding stationery that she has lovingly crafted.
An invitation for a reception at an opulent historic hotel features ornate gold frame patterned borders and a gold script font with prominent flourishes. Another invitation printed on translucent vellum paper showcases watercolor images of a deep orange sunset and verdant green cacti that the bride painted to represent her family ranch.
No two wedding invitations are ever the same for Alvarez, owner of Bell Papel, a name that means beautiful paper and reflects her maiden name. For nearly 15 years, she has designed and produced invitations and other printed items exclusively tailored for each couple.
“The invitation is the first glimpse that family and friends have of the wedding,” she says. “I try to capture what is unique about the bride and groom and infuse their personal touches into every single piece.”
Where the couple has lived or traveled, the architectural features of their wedding venue, the bouquet flowers, and of course, the color scheme of the wedding are all characteristics that could inspire Alvarez’s invitation design. Bringing artistic and graphic design experience she acquired in Chicago and New York City and her friendly and down-to-earth demeanor, she consults with brides and grooms in her cozy studio.
“I ask couples to bring photos of their venue, the wedding gown or anything else that shows what they want their wedding day to look like,” she says. “I also learn about their priorities and budget. From there, we explore the possibilities.”
Some considerations include the font style, the paper material and thickness, and the printing method, such as letterpress, digital, foil stamping and engraving. Intricate die cut patterns, colorful waxed seals featuring customized graphics and ribbon accents can add a touch of personalization.
“You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have something beautiful created for you,” Alvarez says. “I want to give couples as much as possible on their wish list.”
When designing the invitation suite, Alvarez is mindful of how the size, color and placement of each piece will be presented in the envelope.
“The entire package, including the invitation, reception card, response card and details card should all make a pretty first impression when the recipient opens the envelope,” she says. “Envelope liner enhancements such as floral patterns for a garden ceremony, palm trees for a beach wedding and green velvet for a ritzy ballroom reception go a long way in creating visual interest.”
In addition to invitations, Bell Papel creates signage for the ceremony and reception, menus, table numbers, place cards, thank you cards as well as finishing touches such as napkins, ceremony fans and party favors. Digital and calligraphy addressing and invitation suite assembly and mailing are also available.
Regarding invitation wording and etiquette, Alvarez guides couples on what’s conventional as well as when it’s appropriate to stray from the rules. After all, no two weddings are the same.
“Our motto is that we design beautiful paper for life’s beautiful days. So much planning goes into making the wedding special, so the invitation should be special, too,” she says.
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