As owner of the stationery boutique The Scribbler, Ginny Hutchinson deals in sharing people’s most significant life events with the most important people in their lives. “To be trusted to help them at major life points — births, weddings, celebrations and deaths — is a true blessing to me,” she says. Through her nearly 10 years of helping clients share the joy of announcing new babies, the excitement around weddings and parties, the mixed emotions of moving and even the sorrow of losing loved ones, lots of things have changed in the stationery world, while some things, tried and true, remain the same.

“The most significant change in stationery since the invention of the envelope is, of course, the internet, with email, Twitter, texts, you name it. We love new ‘stuff’ and are creatures of convenience in this new digital world. The impact [from technology] on how we communicate with one another is immeasurable,” says Ginny’s colleague Peter Hopkins, historian at Crane & Co. fine stationery. With roots dating back to the American Revolution, Crane & Co. has printed stationery for American presidents, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Queen Elizabeth and is even the predominant supplier of paper for American currency. Needless to say, this Crane historian knows his stuff.

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Crane & Co. printed these exquisite invitations for the 1886 inauguration ceremony of the Statue of Liberty. Note that at the bottom, it reads, “An early answer is requested.” Turns out that people not RSVP’ing is timeless! Image: Crane & Co.

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Advances in technology have allowed for gorgeous laser-cut pieces like this delicate floral lace wrap. Image: Crane & Co.

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A suite of presidential stationery at left is stately, elegant and timeless. More modern iterations, at right, clearly incorporate bolder colors, fonts and graphics. Images: Crane & Co.

We’ve teamed up with Ginny and Peter to compare old-school and new-school stationery, to see how stationery has changed over the years and how it’s stayed the same, and learn the one thing that both stationery experts agree makes a paper correspondence the most impactful and memorable.

Old-School vs. New-School Stationery

Wedding Invitations

“When I got married in 1987, there was not much variety at all with wedding invitations,” says Ginny. “It was just black ink on ivory paper and maybe an embossed cross or family crest.” From metallic engraved accents and laser-cut overlays to bold colors and playful graphics, things have certainly changed.

Old-School Wedding Stationery

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This wedding invitation is the epitome of traditional, simplistic elegance, and, while it was the go-to option for brides of the past, it is still a popular theme chosen for today’s more traditional brides. Image: Crane & Co.

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While this is clearly not a wedding invitation, this invitation to the inauguration of President Roosevelt from Ginny’s family collection follows the traditional invitation layout that weddings would have, with the large presidential seal replacing a cross or family crest.

New-School Wedding Stationery

Invitations

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This wedding invitation incorporates color, metallic lettering and a modernized calligraphy font.

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This wedding suite takes the traditional wedding layout and updates it with a modern font and subtle hints of color.

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Exuding a Gatsby-esque glamour, this square card with engraved gold confetti and sleek capitalized lettering makes a bold statement.

Rehearsal Dinner Invitation

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Black and gray invitations, which are becoming more and more common, lend a formal tone to the event at hand.

Save-the-Dates

Relatively new to the stationery world, save-the-dates are now de rigueur. The moment you are engaged, every savvy bride-to-be knows that if she wants all of her loved ones to witness her big day, she needs to set a date and send her save-the-date cards.

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Foregoing any color or graphics, this charming save-the-date card has a romantic Old-World charm.

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Engagement photos are commonly seen on today’s save-the-dates.

Post-Toast Party Invitation

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The “post-toast” party follows the rehearsal dinner, and is an opportunity for a laid-back cocktail celebration with those arriving later in the evening as well as other friends and family not in the immediate wedding party.

Holiday Cards

Holiday cards once got their personality from the handwritten messages on them, but in this day of Instagrammable moments, our smiling mugs largely speak for themselves.

Old-School Holiday Cards

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In keeping with the dignity of his office, General Pershing’s holiday greeting in 1939 is no-nonsense. Image: Crane & Co.

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“This holiday card from the Roosevelts in 1942 is actually kind of interesting to me, because it is kind of modern,” says Ginny. The laid-back, seemingly candid photo and capitalized font borders on cutting-edge style for the time. Image: Crane & Co.

New-School Holiday Cards

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Color photos that cover the card, often on both sides, are a staple of modern-day holiday card style.

RELATED: Make Your Holiday Card the Envy of All Who Receive One

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And, of course, you can’t go wrong when featuring dogs and kids!

Moving Announcements

Old-school moving announcements were, for the most part, subdued in style and had a stately tone. That regal air has shifted to a more familiar and humorous tone peppered with clever art and tag lines.

Old-School Moving Announcements

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A tasteful rendering of a gate or a key are old-school graphics classically used to announce a move.

New-School Moving Announcements

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The infusion of clever twists and a touch of humor characterize modern-day moving announcements. Image: Crane & Co.

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These days, moving announcement options are creative with some in the shape of paper planes and others featuring moving materials. Image: Pinterest

Sympathy Acknowledgements

“Sympathy acknowledgements are so personal. You’ve lost somebody, and in the South, we are so lucky. People are so thoughtful, and there’s an outpouring of people doing all sorts of things — whether they come to a service, bring food, send a memorial to the deceased’s church or donate to a cause that was important to them. Having lost really important people in my life, I believe writing these acknowledgments is very personal and part of the grieving process,” says Ginny. They are usually a bordered card or folded note with a cross or family crest at the top. The family doesn’t have to write anything, but Ginny says people will often put some sort of message on the inside that says something like, “Your gift to [the nonprofit] would have meant so much to my dad. We are blessed to be surrounded with friends like you during such a difficult time.”

Old-School Sympathy Acknowledgements

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“This really looks just like what we would do today,” says Ginny of Jackie Kennedy’s sympathy card, which is appropriately subdued and graceful. Image: Crane & Co.

New-School Sympathy Acknowledgements

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Clearly, sympathy acknowledgements have stayed largely the same over the years. Image: Crane & Co.

Celebration Invitations

Similar to the traditional layout of wedding invitations, old-school party invites were mostly calligraphy on white. That format has blossomed and morphed into a canvas for colorful, art-forward creations, especially when it comes to celebrations marking personal milestones. These days, it’s almost as if the card reflects the personality of the sender.

Old-School Celebration Invitations

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This invitation to a 50th anniversary celebration of Thomas Edison and the invention of the light bulb features a font that we would now describe as antiquated. Image: Crane & Co.

RELATED: Dinner with Friends: Party Etiquette & Entertaining Tips from a Southern Expert

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Again, this invitation from President and Mrs. Bush to a dinner in honor of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip echoes the standard formal invitation with a crest or seal at the top and elegant calligraphy below. Image: Crane & Co.

New-School Celebration Invitations

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This fabulous bat mitzvah invitation features fun colors, variety in font style and size, and gilded accents.

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A child’s birthday party invitation features an oversized, crayon-esque graphic.

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Modern invitations play with size and scale, using lettering as an artistic element.

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Through font style, color and graphics, one can convey a sense of personality in their invitations. We get a sense for Chani’s aesthetic through her unique invitation here.

While technology has allowed for many of the great advances in stationery over the years, Crane Historian Peter Hopkins says something has been lost along the way in how we express thanks, sympathy, congratulations or plain old “thinking of you” correspondence, due in large part to emails and texting. Ginny agrees, saying, “The written word is just so very personal. In a day when we all text and rely on social media, spending time to stop and handwrite a personal note creates or continues a more personal connection.”

Peter adds, “For speed and convenience, we many times sacrifice the foundations of any lasting relationship — courtesy, respect and affection. It takes very little of each to post on Facebook or upload a photo to Instagram. What lasting impact could this possibly have on a relationship? Basically, we’re merely broadcasting rather than focusing on sincere communication. But when you take five minutes to stop your day and concentrate only on the person to whom you are writing, the impact to both you and the recipient is immeasurable. What is being communicated very clearly is courtesy, respect and affection.”

There’s also something almost visceral about seeing a loved one’s handwriting; it stirs something in our souls. Perhaps it’s the imperfections and personality of the human hand, a subtle reminder of a shared experience or of that person’s singular personality. “I have letters from my parents, grandparents and siblings, and I love seeing their handwriting and sentiments from many years ago. A text or an email just does not carry the same weight, and while I have special notes tucked in my Bible or in keepsake boxes, printing out a great email pales in comparison and will never replace the power of the written note.”

Thank you to Ginny Hutchinson of The Scribbler and Peter Hopkins of Crane & Co. for sharing their stationery insights and expertise. 

CREDITS

Gold confetti invitation: Bella Figura
Gray rehearsal dinner invitation with gold foil: Arzberger Stationers
Old World save-the-date (Mary Beth and Chase): Bella Figura
Photo save-the-date: The Scribbler
Post-toast invitations: The Scribbler custom
New-school holiday cards: The Scribbler
Old-school moving announcements: Crane & Co.
Bat mitzvah celebration invitation: Smock Paper
Bright aqua luncheon invitation: Arzberger Stationers

The Scribbler is located in downtown Homewood at 2919 Linden Ave., Homewood, AL 35209. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Appointments for custom invitations are recommended when possible. For more information, call (205) 271-8135 or visit scribblerpink.com.

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