Custom Stationery 101: FAQ About My Custom Design Process

When a potential SJM Bride first contacts me, or when I meet a new friend or vendor and explain to them what I do as a custom wedding stationer and artist, I often receive many of the same questions. So, I thought it would be fun to share the most frequently asked questions about my custom design process for custom wedding stationery here with y'all today, in case you have been wondering the same thing!

FAQ About My Custom Design Process as A Wedding Stationer and Artist by Simply Jessica Marie

photo by abigail malone photography


That is hands down the question I receive most often, and is completely understandable and a wonderful chance for me to explain my process! The simple answer? Nope, I do not hand paint each and every invitation, response card, and accommodations card! Custom paintings each take about 2-5 hours from start to finish depending on complexity, so I would only be able to work with one or two brides per year if I hand painted each piece!

While I do not hand paint the watercolor illustrations for custom wedding stationery, I do hand calligraph certain elements! Any "spot" calligraphy (ex: the bride and groom's names on the invitation piece) are only done once and then formatted for print along with the remainder of the suite. However, certain calligraphy elements such as guest addressing on envelopes or custom calligraphy vows and love letters are all done by hand, since each piece is unique!


While I do not paint each piece, I do create all custom artwork myself! My process always follows the same format: 

Once I welcome a new bride into the SJM Bride family, I send her a questionnaire to get to know all of the little details not only about her wedding, but also about her love story, her hobbies, her and her fiancé's favorite thing to do on a date night, their favorite things to eat and drink, etc. I truly love getting to know all about them, because it helps me personalize their invitation suite and accurately portray their unique personalities and love story as a couple - which is what I strive to do in order to create true heirloom designs!

Custom Design Look Book for Wedding Invitations by Simply Jessica Marie

photo by the sc stockshop

After I have gotten to know my sweet couple better, I create a custom design look book with three main design details I have pulled from their inspiration, and ideas on how we can infuse them into their wedding designs. I never include pictures of other stationery designs as I stray from ever copying another artist's work. Rather, I include inspiration pictures of florals my bride is considering using in her bouquet, linens that have gorgeous patterns for inspiration, vintage china that has beautiful texture, bridesmaids dresses that have just the right hue of dusty rose for her suite, etc.

The design look book also includes my suggested color palette, my recommendation on a font to use for the body of her designs to accompany my custom calligraphy, well as wording options for her invitation and response cards with varying levels of formality, and envelope color options. We take time to chat through each page of this design look book together, and come up with a visual idea for how to approach her custom suite before any design work even begins!

Custom Sketches for Wedding Invitations by Simply Jessica Marie

Once we have our visual strategy, I begin creating initial concept sketches! I hand sketch each element of her save the dates and invitation suite, from the portrait from their engagement session I will turn into an artistic element for their save the dates, the floral border we will use to surround their invitations, the calligraphy of the Bible verse from their reading during their ceremony that we will turn into an art print on the back of their invitations for their guests to keep and frame to the custom map we will include on their accommodations card to show guests their favorite spots in town to dine and visit. Everything gets sketched first, and sent to my bride to review. I offer three free rounds of revisions to the sketches, in order to both truly ensure her vision is accurately captured and also to keep our design process timely and within schedule!

Custom Watercolor Paintings for Wedding Invitations by Simply Jessica Marie

photo by the sc stockshop

After we have our sketches perfected, I begin painting! This is the fun part, I truly love showing my brides how their designs come to life with paint. I hand paint each design by hand once, and then scan it in to be cleaned up and formatted for print. I take all of the various design elements I have painted, and create the overall layout for each piece in their invitation suite. I add in the floral border, wedding crest, custom calligraphy, and wording details to ensure the layout is both aesthetically pleasing and provides all of the pertinent information while capturing my bride's vision. 

Custom Wedding Invitations Preview by Simply Jessica Marie

photo by the sc stockshop

Once all of the pieces are formatted, I send my bride her first digital design proof! Rather than sending a simple PDF, I love laying out her designs on an SC Stockshop photo to showcase how her invitation suite will look in real life. I include all of her printed pieces, as well as any envelopes, envelope printing, envelope liners etc. to showcase the full suite as a whole. After my bride has had a chance to review her digital proof, we sometimes go through one or two rounds of revisions to the wording or general layout to ensure everything is perfect and ready for print! Revisions to digital proofs are also limited to three rounds, and only minimal revisions can be made to the painted elements. This stage is mostly for wording edits, for scaling the size of the floral border, or for slightly editing colors! 

After I receive the final "YES, I absolutely LOVE everything!!" message from my bride, and she has approved all of the wording, spelling, grammar, and layout, we send her designs to print! 


Another wonderful question! While many stationers do offer in-house printing, I do not. If I am being completely transparent, I am an artist - I am not trained in the skills of printing and production of stationery. I leave that to the pros, to ensure that all of my bride's designs are printed at a professional quality on the most gorgeous paper imaginable! Also, my personal printer is mostly used for scanning in my artwork and printing shipping labels, not for printing high quality stationery! 

I work with a wonderful family run printer who I have had a partnership with for the past two years. Since they are family run, I am able to call them and speak to the same two ladies each time I have a question about paper types, production turnaround, color matching, and any other questions pertaining to the printing of my bride's design! Having this close relationship ensures that the designs are treated with the utmost quality and care, as I wouldn't dream of providing anything less!

Custom Calligraphy Love Letters on Deckled Edge Paper by Simply Jessica Marie | Abigail Malone Photography

photo by abigail malone photography

While I mostly design with digital, flat print methods, I also do have a partnership with an amazing letterpress printing and foil stamping company! I also have a third company who I adore using for custom finishing details, such as edge deckling (the romantic hand-torn look) and edge painting (one of my favorite ways to add a pop of color!!). I love working with these sweet folks for any of my brides who are interested in fine print and finishing methods. 


Since the nature of my work is so custom, and each sweet couple is looking for something completely unique to them, I do not currently have a pricing guide with a sheet of pricing for each detail and quantity. Once you fill out the details in my Custom Design Questionnaire here, I will send you a follow up email and begin creating a custom price proposal specific to you, your wedding, and your unique quantity, design, and printing/finishing interests! 

I am in the process of creating a Custom Wedding Stationery Guide to be released soon, which will include a few pages that detail standard pricing for a quantity of 100 save the dates, invitation suites, and day-of details in a variety of print methods!


Since each of my custom designs are specific to each of my couples and their unique personalities and love stories, I do not offer replications or imitations of previous designs to be used on new designs. In order to create heirloom pieces for all of my clients, I start from scratch for every design in order to completely personalize it to you, your style, and your story! 

Similarly, I do not offer imitations of other designers' work to be replicated in my style. If you have an invitation suite that you love that you found in a magazine, on Instagram, or on Pinterest, you can show it to me for reference. However, we will simply take a look at the design and see what it is that is truly drawing you to that piece - is it the shade of blue that you love, the composition of the floral border, the envelope color choice? We are all visual people, so I completely understand if you have inspiration images for reference! But know that we will always create something 100% unique to you, since you deserve custom pieces, darling! 


Nine times out of ten, the answer will be yes! If you are interested in having me create something unique, such as custom wood signage for your ceremony, custom koozies to use as favors, custom t-shirts for you and your bridesmaids to wear while getting ready, custom snapchat filters for your guests to use, custom linens utilizing your watercolor floral pattern to be used during your reception as napkins or table linens - I guarantee that I can most likely bring that idea to life for you! I either have created similar items but am waiting to add them to my portfolio until my bride's wedding has taken place and has been photographed or has been published on a blog, or I have yet to create that exact piece but have a connection with a vendor who I can partner with to bring your idea to life!

Watercolor Floral and Brush Calligraphy Scroll Backdrop for Wedding Ceremony by Simply Jessica Marie | Annmarie Swift Photography

photo by annmarie swift photography

I love working with new mediums and creating unique designs, so do not think that your options are limited simply to paper! Bring on all of the fun escort and place card ideas, day-of details, and wedding favors - let's have some fun getting creative, friend! 

Custom Watercolor Wedding Artist Simply Jessica Marie | Live Wedding Painting | Abigail Malone Photography

photo by abigail malone photography

These are just a handful of the most frequently asked questions I get asked about my custom design process as a wedding stationer and artist. If you have any other questions, I would be happy to answer them for you! Leave a comment here, and I'll make sure to provide you with all of the details!

If you are interested in beginning your custom wedding stationery design process with me, I would love to hear more about you, your sweetie, and your wedding! Please complete the Custom Design Questionnaire on this page, and I will be in touch shortly after reviewing your responses. I can't wait to get to know you two better soon, and create beautiful heirloom wedding stationery for y'all to cherish for years to come!