The Wedding Invitation Dilemma…

As a wedding planner, I am asked for advice on a multitude of wedding-related decisions, but one recurring theme is: “what should we do for invitations?” Two decades ago, the answer would have been simple and straightforward: have them designed and printed in a stationery store. Period.

Obviously, that has changed – there is now so much more to choose from! In recent years, many of my clients have opted for online invitations (an unthinkable breach of etiquette still not too long ago…) which have become attractive and very convenient AND increasingly accepted. Be it Paperless Post or (my favorite) Greenvelope – the option of including all necessary information and even photos and music into a wedding invitation, and to integrate RSVPs and meal choices in that same process, is definitely attractive.

But even clients who choose printed invitations have a decision to make – and that is: custom or template?

Honestly, the foremost consideration here is price. Custom invitations are expensive – no wonder, considering how much talent, creativity and work go in there! Here are a few examples from previous weddings of mine and from styled photoshoots.

Custom invitation suite by Ruby the Fox, beautiful floral motif, tied with leather string
Custom invitation suite for nature lovers, getting married in the Redwoods – by the very talented mother of the groom

Custom invitations for a styled photoshoot by Monks of Age Calligraphy

Custom table numbers for clients from Southern China, showing classical painterly motifs from their native country, by A Day Like No Other

Custom invitation for styled photoshoot, by Hyegraph San Francisco

So, now you see the whole range of custom invitations – from traditional to modern, from romantic to whimsical… Is it possible to achieve a similar effect with online templates? You will be surprised – even I as a real “design purist” have to admit that YES, it is possible to achieve something quite unique and beautiful by using premade designs and customizing them. My all-time go-to website for this purpose is with its myriad options, some of which I will show you in the following – real ones that have been used for previous weddings that I designed. (And the best thing: you, the clients, can get discounts at as well!). Here we go:

Beautiful floral motif – one could use a folding style and a matching ribbon to achieve a similar look as in the first custom invitation I showed above
A rustic style for an outdoor wedding in Big Sur
An invitation suite that I designed from a minted template for a wedding in the style
of the South of France
A shuttle sign based on a minted design for a Chinese wedding
An alternative design by for the same photoshoot for that I used the Hyegraph custom design instead – also Letterpress and quite close

Well… impressed? I hope that’ll give everyone a lot to think about, AND a lot to choose from!

Canyon Ranch – my Discovery of the Year!

Lately, I had to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area for work and needed a hotel to stay. Someone recommended Canyon Ranch in Woodside, and to my great embarrassment, I had not heard of it before despite the fact that I had lived close by for fourteen years. I decided to give it a try – and I am so happy that I did!

Canyon Ranch is different from any hotel I have known so far – it is actually a wellness retreat, geared at the relaxation of body and mind. Hidden behind a dark, solid metal gate, you would never guess what’s beyond: a true oasis of peace and tranquillity with all the creature comforts you can imagine.

The entrance to the hotel already sets the tone: a grey, three-story siding-clad building that literally melds into the surrounding Redwood Forest, respectful to undisturbed nature; a modern, streamlined water feature displaying the hotel name, accompanied by the gentle sounds of splashing water – nothing fancy or frilly that might distract from the simplicity and tranquillity that is the guiding principle of this experience.

My room was located in one of several “tree houses” – small cabin-like structures built right into the forest, some clinging to a steep incline, supported by stilts (like mine) which house two units on top of each other and balconies hovering among the tree tops.

You really feel you are in a tree house. All you hear is birdsong and the rustling of the wind in the leaves. Peace and quiet.

My room itself was an interior design marvel illustrating just that – peace and quiet. Simple shapes, balanced proportions, quiet colors and top-notch materials: all came together to form the perfect cocoon to calm down and relax.

As a designer myself, I was delighted. Every little detail was – just right. A joy for the eye as much as for the soul.

A backdrop of an enormously enlarged wood slice, a comfy bed with down pillows, bedding of all natural materials, a dimmable bedside lamp, a juxtaposition of textures (stingray skin and glass top on the bedside table!) – I could go on and on. I also had a beautiful leather sofa with a cuddly sheepskin cushion – again, clean lines, great comfort and a contrast of textures. The same for my bathroom with a big soaking tub, modern, minimalist fixtures and oh-so-fragrant toiletries…

In the words of Apple founder Steve Jobs: “Simplicity is the utmost sophistication.”

Wrapped up in the most comfortable and soft hotel robe, I did my work lounging with a view of the forest. It was as close to the full retreat experience as I could get!

Then it was dinnertime. Did I already mention that all meals are included? So easy – a short walk to the dining room and terrace in the golden light of the sunset…

Meals are served either on the terrace or in the adjacent dining room; either at a table or while sitting around a fire table (in this case, you’ll dine from a wooden tray on your knees – they’ve thought of everything!) – whatever you feel like. And while I am on a continuous strict diet, I had to relent while at Canyon Ranch: their food is just heavenly, and it would have been a sin not to enjoy it! Food is a big part of the “feel good” experience, and mealtime brings together the guests for leisurely conversation.

A few delicious examples:

Corn ravioli in an artistic presentation…

Maitake mushrooms with greens and nuts…

… everything served in beautiful ceramic bowls in the soothing soft shades of grey that dominate the whole property. Talk of design!!

Next morning, my breakfast was just as fantastic…

I chose the freshly pressed orange juice (best juice I ever had!), coffee and blueberry pancakes…

… outside on the patio, with a glorious view. What a way to start the day! The other guests (the ones who did not have to work!) went off to nature hikes, yoga and massages or headed to the state-of-the-art gym. I allowed myself 30 minutes of hard swim in the spectacular pool – after all, I had to work off all those delicious calories, right?!

In short – I loved it. I will definitely be back – but in addition, this would be a fantastic location for an intimate wedding, a quiet bachelorette party, a “Mini Moon,” a spa day (and night) for bride and bridesmaids, and a wonderful place for wedding guests to stay. With 43 guest rooms, Canyon Ranch can definitely accommodate enough out-of-town guests and the newlyweds themselves – with regenerating activities for everyone. Meditation, yoga, painting, fitness, kayaking, Tai Chi, Ikebana – guests will be entertained and at the same time achieve perfect relaxation. There are patios with views of the forest which would be the perfect spot to say “I Do” in an unforgettable setting. The food would be equally spectacular. There would be a wedding cake and dancing. What else could you desire…?

So now you understand why I am calling Canyon Ranch my personal discovery of the year. Do go and experience it yourselves. You will come back a believer, I guarantee it!