Experts: The Lady of Note

Invitations are just paper, right? Wrong. Local stationer Arlene Cronk explains why the right design makes all the difference.


Photograph by David Yellen

AN INVITATION is just another letter like a wedding gown is just another dress. And as with your attire, the process of finding the right one can be fraught with challenges. Why is such a little thing so important? According to Arlene Cronk, a 20-year industry veteran who owns Invitations & Company in the city, it marks the start of the wedding itself. “This is where the excitement begins,” she says. “You want people to say, ‘There’s no way I’m missing this!'” Here, she explains how to pick the right combination of pieces without driving yourself bonkers.

It seems like a simple thing: You let people know you’re getting married, and they say whether they’re coming. But what else can an invitation accomplish?

The best invitations reflect the soul of the couple — and the style of the wedding itself. If it’s a Saturday night at the Boston Harbor Hotel or the Four Seasons, you don’t want the casual-looking invite you’d use for a beach wedding. Otherwise there’s a disconnect, like wearing sneakers with a ball gown.

When should you start thinking about wedding invitations? As soon as you get engaged?
It’s best to visit a stationer about six to seven months before the wedding. Save-the-date cards need to go out six to nine months in advance, and invites should go out eight weeks prior to the event — six weeks at the very latest.

How long does it usually take for couples to find the one?
Don’t expect to get it squared away during your lunch break. Give yourself a few hours to browse, and take some time afterward to think about it. I worked with one couple for six months to create an invitation in three different languages that featured an original oil painting of the couple created by the groom. Obviously, that took some time and planning.

But most stationers have books and books of invitation designs! How do you narrow down the choices quickly?

I ask couples what kinds of things appeal to them, what wedding invitations they’ve seen and liked (or didn’t). The conversation can go beyond stationery; I might even ask what type of furniture they like. My job is to help them zero in on what reflects their style and spirit.

Are people still sending confetti in a tube? What are today’s hot styles?

Ha! Well, it used to be white or cream with formal script and centered text — end of story. But color is big today. Chocolate brown and light blue were very popular a few years ago, then chocolate and pink, then lavender. Now, instead of chocolate, we’re seeing gray and taupe with an accent color. Black-and-white brocade is hot now, too — it’s a vintage, damask look. Custom is also big. Today’s couples want something that’s one-of-a-kind.