Saturday, September 22, 2007

Swishes, swashes and swashbuckling

by Suw on September 22, 2007

After finally getting all the right shades of paper and card to make our invitations, the next thing to get sorted was the wording and the typesetting. If you've ever bought a wedding magazine, and I pity you if you have, you'll have noticed that they tend to come with half a forest's worth of inserts, usually including at least one from a stationers advertising invitation printing. Some of those brochures even have suggestions of how to word your invitations, so I thought that it'd be a pretty easy thing to figure out.
Ok, so if you want to be traditional about these things, then there are a number of forms and rules that you have to follow. Firstly, who's hosting the wedding? The bride and groom? Bride's family? Bride, groom and both families? Bride's and groom's families? Groom's family? Divorced parents? Divorced parent who has remarried? Widowed parent? Old Uncle Tom Cobbly? All (of the above)?
We're being quite traditional in some senses, so my parents are hosting the weddings. Right, so that's:
Mr & Mrs Robert Charman
Now, do you “request the pleasure of your company” or “request the honour of your presence”? A not-so-quick Google discovered that you use “request the honour of your presence” for religious venues, and “request the pleasure of your company” for non-religious venues. Ok, so we're getting married in a public school (always feels weird saying that), ergo:
request the pleasure of your company
Except, these are for form invitations, where you're not stating the person's name. Each one of our invitations names the people invited, so:
request the pleasure of the company of
One then spells out the name of the recipient in full. I had a bit of a moment there when I was trying to figure out if it should be Mr Nigel Charman and Mrs Margaret Charman, or Mr & Mrs Nigel Charman. I ended up going with the latter, mainly for space reasons but also because it sounds a bit more formal. It is a wee bit sexist, but it is just too much to spell out everyone's name in full. The only time we broke with this male first rule was when we were inviting a friend and their (named) partner, and the friend was female. Just seemed wrong to be inviting someone we didn't know as an adjunct to someone we did!
The next bit's easy, given that my parents are hosting:
at the marriage of their daughter
I'm their daughter, I'm getting married, so no arguments there really.
Susan M….
Ok, so now we do have a problem. I don't mind my name in full, but it seems strange given that whilst Susan is my full name, my mother is the only person who uses it. Apart from immigration officials, and they don't count. Kevin preferred not to use his full name, so it becomes:
Suw Charman
Kevin Anderson

Still following me?
Then it's the date, which some people say you should spell out in full, e.g. Saturday, the sixteenth of February two thousand and eight. Now, one could slap an 'Anno Domini' in there too, just to pep things up a bit, but again, it gets a bit too wordy.
Now time for another couple of rules: The prepositions should be on a separate line:
Saturday, 16th February 2008 at 2.30 p.m.

And the date should come first. Except, of course, when it doesn't, and I've seen plenty of invitation examples where the location comes first and the date second. I can't find the guide that insisted it was the other way round, but that's what we ended up with. I also didn't put the prepositions on a separate line, because it just took up too much room. Ooh, such a rebel.
RSVP is to the Mother of the Bride, even if she did protest otherwise, and I chose to include email and phone as well as the traditional postal address.
And there we are! Done! Sort of…
Next up was the font. Again, easy enough to get ideas from samples and brochures, and my first stab at it ended up looking like it had come straight out of the pages of the Confetti stationery brochure, with a copperplate type font for everything except our names, which was done in a big swoopy calligraphic font, Edwardian Script IT.
edwardian script it
I have to say, at this stage I wasn't particularly enamoured of our invitations, so I had a chat with my friend Matt Patterson, whose arm I twisted into agreeing to have a look at my typesetting. He gave me a few tips, the main one of which was to find a font with “non-lining (old-style) figures, i.e. numbers where they're the height of lower-case letters and some of them stick up (8) and others stick down (3, 9).” Inspiration!
A few of my friends are designers or into typography, so I asked around for fonts and links, and was given a selection of suggestions to look at, some of which come pre-installed on one's Mac. For the terminally curious, my shortlist was:

  • Aquiline
  • Aquiline Two
  • Blackmoor LET
  • Casablanca Antique
  • Dominican
  • Goudy Old Style
  • Hoefler Text
  • IM FELL DW Pica
  • IM FELL English
  • IM FELL French Canon
  • IM FELL Three Line Pica
  • JSL Ancient
  • Lucida Blackletter
  • Ludovicos
  • Xenippa
  • Zapfino
  • Monotype Corsiva

a bunch of fonts
There are some really nice fonts here, some of them with that sort of 17th century feel, which is appropriate given that the wedding has a very light 'somewhere in the middle of the last millennium' feel to it (I wouldn't go as far as to say “theme” because there's no way I can get MrA into doublet and hose, let alone a codpiece).
One thing I learnt is that Hoefler Text has all these really cool ligatures that you can enable:
That really got me going. Swashes! That long archaic s that looks like an f but with only half the crossbar, if anything. Trouble is, whilst Hoefler Text is nice, it's not exactly quite as old-style as I would like. I did experimental invitations with Aquiline, IM FELL English and Ludovicos instead, and after quite a bit of faffing about, decided on a mix of Aquiline and Aquiline Two for the main body of the invitation, with IM FELL English for the RSVP address – at low point sizes, Aquiline and Aquiline Two really don't work.
And it turns out that Aquiline has a nice long archaic s too. Question is, when do you use a long s, and when do you use a short one? I ended up on Andrew West's blog, BabelStone, reading two posts that he wrote last year: The Long and the Short of the Letter S, and The Rules for Long S. Both are really fascinating and worth a read. They conclude that the rules for the use of a long s are:

* short s is always used at the end of a word
* short s is always used before an apostrophe (e.g. clos'd, us'd, and in French books words like s'il and s'e?øt)
* short s is always used before 'f' (e.g. ?øatisfaction, misfortune, transfu?øe, transfix, transfer, succe?øsful)
* short s is sometimes used before 'b' (e.g. husband, Shaftsbury)
* short s is sometimes used before 'k' (e.g. ask, risk, skin, skill)
* long s is used before a hyphen at line break (e.g. nece?ø-?øary, plea?ø-ed), even when it would normally be a short s (e.g. Shaft?ø-bury in a book where Shaftsbury is normal)
* long s is maintained in abbreviations such as Gene?ø. for Gene?øis

OK! That's easy!
Having added in the long s in the appropriate places, I then started to think that the wording needed a bit of work – it just seemed a bit flat and uninspired. Obviously you can't faff around too much with things like time and date – they are what they are – but you can have a bit of fun with the rest of it. We ended up, after much agonising, with:
Mi?øter & Mi?øtre?øs Robert Charman
reque?øt the plea?øure of the company of
Mr & Mrs Nigel Charman
on the occa?øsion of the marriage of their daughter
Mi?øs Suw Charman
Mi?øter Kevin Anderson
etc. etc.

Now we come to capitalisation. In modern English, we don't capitalise all that much, really, and the trend in colloquial writing seems to be to capitalise less and less. But I remember, years ago, seeing a reproduction of Shakespeare's First Folio, and he seemed to capitalise all over the place! It was explained to me at the time by my actor friend that this was to emphasise the key words, so that the actors could more easily remember their lines. I've done a bit of a Google to try to find out if that's true and if there were rules about capitalisation in Elizabethan English, but have so far been unsuccessful (although if there's anyone around who knows about these things, I'm still curious!).
In the end, I decided on capitalising the words that looked important. Then there was a bit of … well, quite a lot of … fiddling with the kerning and leading, and eventually we ended up with:
All we have to do now is finish putting them together and get them in the post. Turns out there are a whole bunch of conventions about how you write envelopes but, well, frankly? Bugger that.

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