Even during COVID, when simchas were put on hold or downsized into a virtual celebration, selecting an invitation is still an important component of event planning. E-mailed invites are popular and easy to send without postage and return envelopes these days, but for those opting for a more traditional invitation that comes in the mail to be saved as a keepsake, a well-designed paper invitation wins out. In some cases, a paper invitation received before the pandemic was followed with postponement or future save-the-date cards.
The AJT spoke to two locally Jewish-owned businesses that specialize in making simcha invitations and cards that sparkle with good taste and creativity while manifesting their client’s personalities and preferences into the designs.
Meet native Atlantan Jackie Garson Howard, owner of Paces Papers by Jackie. Since 1974, she has worked with many Jewish families, some of whom spanned three generations. Customers navigated through her portfolio of designer invitations or collaborated with her or her graphic designers and illustrators to find a favorite look for their simcha invitations.
Howard works with the bride or a parent with their bat or bar mitzvah child to select the particular papers, textures and colors they like best, along with the exact envelope lining and even kind of stamp to use for mailing. Although USPS stopped offering custom stamps last summer, Howard continues to work very closely with her clients to select the stamp that, like an accessory, enhances the invitation. Most importantly, she and her team are very knowledgeable about weight and size and how that affects postage costs.
The beauty of handmade papers and ribbons comes through with printing methods such as letterpress, thermography, engraving and lithography. In addition, added touches such as professional handwriting services to address invitations are often suggested.
Howard shares a few tips with the AJT:
1. For brides, if you want to have your fiancé involved, he’s got to be there from the beginning, and before decisions are made so you don’t get your heart hurt.
2. Don’t just use black ink for the addressing on the outside envelope; consider the color of the printed invitation and use that color on the envelope’s front.
3. If you plan to hire a professional to address your envelopes for a bar or bat mitzvah invitation, consider using handwriting services versus calligraphy.
4. Include the child’s Hebrew name under their English name for bar/bat mitzvah invitations. Create a personal logo, a distinctive look that speaks to your personal brand and what you love.
Paces Papers is more than a custom design and fine stationery boutique. Because of its close relationship with clients and ultimately generations of Atlanta families, it is often an extension of the event planning team. As Howard reminds her clients, the invitation is your very first impression. This was even more evident during the pandemic. As weddings and other social events that had been months in the planning began to unravel as the reality of COVID set in, brides and event planners called Paces Papers seeking guidance on the appropriate etiquette to follow to essentially “uninvite” guests to an event that was now either postponed indefinitely or canceled altogether.
Robin Zusmann, who has owned Paper Matters for 20 years, specializes in custom- designed invitations. She spends time consulting with customers to learn their style, favorite colors and budget before creating their personalized invitation. During COVID, clients set up on-site consultation appointments at her Dunwoody location using CDC guidelines or met virtually, as needed. In addition to traditional paper invitations, she also prints on acrylic, wood, fabric, and other materials.
One of Zusmann’s Atlanta bat mitzvah invitations incorporated a striking black Atlanta skyline in the design while another used a camp theme printed on handmade paper that looked like wood. In addition to invitations, Paper Matters can order the coordinating pieces that go with the event such as napkins, kippot, thank you notes, favors, programs, and menus. Zusmann said that in our electronic age, it’s encouraging to see that handwritten thank you notes are still being used by those celebrating simchas to show appreciation for their gifts.
She recommended sending out “save the date” cards six to eight months prior to big events to let guests plan ahead and make travel arrangements. Another suggestion is to send an electronic replica of your wedding or mitzvah invitation a week prior to your event with the Zoom link if any or all of your service plans are virtual.
Regardless of whether your event is smaller than originally planned or had to be postponed because of COVID, there are experienced designers in Jewish Atlanta offering a variety of choices and advice to help make the invitation component of your simcha meaningful and memorable.