There’s a saying we keep repeating to our couples, and now we’ll repeat it here, because it’s that important: there is nothing more important to the success of your wedding experience than hiring a high-quality vendor team. I repeat: do yourselves the biggest favor of life and treat yourself to the vendor you want to go with but is $1,000 more expensive than the one you don’t love but who is good enough. And then figure out how you can make up that $1,000 so it’s not even a thing (true story: any time I want a splurge item, I figure out what I currently have that I can sell so I can treat myself to the thing I want. You would be SHOCKED at what Ikea furniture can go for in facebook yard sales). Because, friends, the truth is if you’re doing things like reading wedding planners’ blogs and scouring Instagram for inspiration, you care about your wedding. And if you care about your wedding, you should care about investing in the people – often times a large team of people – who are the right fit to bring it to life, seamlessly.
Some of the most important work we do here at TLT is pairing the right vendor partners with the right couple. We consider all kinds of factors when deciding who to pair with who: the vendor partner’s creative style, their working style, how they go about executing their portion of a wedding day, and cost, to name a few. The truth is this: there are tons of each type of wedding vendor out there – a lot of them are doing brilliant work; many of them are not. Being good at marketing yourself on Instagram and being good at the work you’re doing are vastly different things.
In this new series, our monthly #VendorsWeLove posts share Q&As with some of our favorite vendors in specific process areas. The folks we’re featuring are ones who are doing incredible work for their couples, and who we recommend wholeheartedly and unequivocally. The goal here is to let you guys peer in, too, and appreciate (as much as we do) the incredible artistry and creative passions of the talented folks we’re lucky enough to partner with to bring our clients’ dreams to life!
First up, we chatted with Whitney and Sam of Gus & Ruby Letterpress. Not only are these two incredibly, incredibly talented designers, they’re pretty boss at running a business and – the cherry on top – they’re really wonderful people and just generally pleasant to be around. In addition to designing and printing custom wedding stationery, Sam and Whitney have two brick and mortar shops – one in Portsmouth, NH and one in Portland, ME (read about their story here!) Working with them brings us so much joy, and we hope you love them as much as we do!
Q: Take us back to the beginning. How did you get into stationery design?
Whitney and I met working in advertising. We both have backgrounds in design and bonded over our love of our dogs and also our passion for designing for people, rather than big corporations. Whitney is a 3rd generation letterpress printer so we started out printing on an antique (circa 1894!) press that had been owned by her grandfather. Originally, we were just designing and printing for friends and family but quickly realized that people were loving what we were doing and that there were many couples out there looking for a more personal experience with wedding stationery. Now, almost 10 years later, we have 2 brick and mortar stores and a print studio with several presses where we still design and lovingly print each and every custom design by hand.
Q: What’s the difference between custom stationery design (what you do) and pre-made design (something like Minted)?
Everything is different! Pre-made designs keep you within strict lines (font A or B, blue text or black, etc.) whereas working with us means exploring and collaborating on every aspect of a wedding suite – from fonts and colors to patterns and textures and materials. The smallest details can make the biggest impression and no part of a love-story is too small to inspire design that truly reflects a couples’ life, event and passions. And, perhaps the biggest difference is that you get to work with real, live, human and artist. We’re here to chat about ideas, offer advice, laugh over in-law fiascos (we all have them!) and provide that human experience and relationship that can make a wedding “task” into a wedding joy.
Q: What lights your fire? What makes you come alive?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, love stories make us weak in the knees! It is truly an honor to get to know each and every one of our couples and help them translate their story, their lives and their visions for their wedding day into paper. We absolutely adore hearing about how they met, the proposal, their dreams for the feeling of the wedding and all the fun details in between (show us your dogs! tell us about your favorite meal! let’s gush over flower arrangements together!). Most of our clients become true friends by the time we are done working together. We are so grateful to get the chance to create beauty for couples’ around one of the biggest days of their lives.
Q: Describe your style in five words or less.
Refined, varied, cohesive, bold, personal.
Q: Something we often tell our couples is that their wedding invitation is one of the only tangible things they’ll take away from their wedding day. What are your thoughts on the common expression “It’s just paper!” when couples are choosing their stationery?
We generally think that the “it’s just….” argument is a bit of a losing battle with weddings – the whole thing is just a 6 hour affair and if you put every aspect of a wedding up against that checkpoint, what is “worth” the cost? Instead, we urge clients to remember that the experience of wedding planning is part of the joy and should be as important as the wedding itself. The joy of collaborating, gushing about your love story, connecting with professionals who truly care about you and your fiance – that is part of the serious joy and beauty of a wedding! If you aren’t enjoying the planning, you’re doing it wrong.We want our couples to love the process, get excited about design and feel heard and cared for by our team. And, in the end, our goal is to provide them with paper elements that reflect them and that give their guests a glimpse of what is to come with the whole event. Oftentimes, it’s wedding invitations that have the longest shelf life, anyways. No other element is in your guest’s hands longer than save the dates and invitations. Invitations are often saved for generations. Many of our clients mention having seen their parents’ and grandparents’ invitations and how much they loved being able to get a glimpse into their story. These keepsakes are the things that are woven into your lifetime tale – so make them count!
Q: How can a couple spend conservatively on their wedding stationery and still come away with something they love?
Don’t forget that good design doesn’t have to mean lots of bells & whistles. In fact, there is real talent and creativity in editing. Lots of colors and jazzy liners can’t make up for poor typesetting skills; conversely, some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful work we’ve done is super refined – single color letterpress on gorgeous, textural cotton paper can be a real WOW. Invest in good bones: good typesetting/typography, quality materials/paper and a print technique that shows that all off (for us – that’s letterpress and foil stamping!) and let those things do the heavy lifting of design.
Q: What do you love the most about working in this industry?
Getting to collaborate with other creative professionals to bring a couple’s vision to life. There is nothing more satisfying than bouncing around color palettes with a wedding planner, being inspired by a florist to add texture and chatting pattern with a cake decorator all in the name of creating cohesive beauty for a couple on their wedding day.
Q: If you had to pick a favorite color combination, what would it be?
At the moment, we’re loving some non-traditional takes on an autumn palettes: think deep navy, slate blues, rust reds, copper, dusty greens, almost-black-dark plummy purples, etc.
1. Find a stationer who is a boss designer but who also has the business aspect of wedding stationery down. There are many people who are fabulous artists/designers, but really can’t handle the project management aspect of working with clients (emails, invoicing, timelines). Wedding planning is fun but it’s a lot of moving parts and you don’t want to (and shouldn’t have to) struggle with communication or timelines from any of your vendors!
2. Remember to view portfolios of examples of the quality of their work, rather than examples of the types of design they can do. A good designer is doing work reflective of their clients (so what you see is only representative of who they’ve had the pleasure of working with so far). In the end, they’ll be creating something totally custom for you and what you are looking for so as long as they have the design chops, it’s OK if you don’t see that style already done! Most designers love the chance to show their skill and try something new.
3. Choose vendors you genuinely like to chat with and be around, and who feel flexible and easy going. You’ll be exchanging lots of emails and phone calls with these people!
Q: What’s the most fun project you’ve ever undertaken?
Oh man. Hardest question! We’ve had so many fun projects, all fun for different reasons. I guess, if I’m being honest, the most fun project I personally have done in the recent past was working on my own wedding invitations. It was such a blast getting to be the client after years of being on the other side. Collaborating with Whitney and watching her genius as she undertook the major task of designing for her bestie/business partner and ultimate paper snob (no small feat) was inspiring. She’s incredible and totally nailed my vision right away. And, the whole process gave me real insight into the pain points and pleasures of the system from the perspective of the bride & groom. I think I’m a better stationer now – I truly do know what it’s like and what pressures/questions/wacky ideas couples are dealing with.