Most invitations, even lovingly and intricately constructed ones, are often thrown away after the wedding. After all the love and care you’ve put into crafting yours, wouldn’t you like them to come to a better end? If you want to give your wedding some DIY flair, make your own invitations from scratch.
If you infuse the paper with wildflower seeds, the invites can be buried whole and sprout a new, beautiful reminder of your wedding come spring. Better yet, these invitations double as bonus, pre-wedding party favors, since your guests can use them to decorate their own yards.
The first paper, made in ancient Egypt, came from mashing water, hemp, cloth, and mulberry bark together to dry in sheets in the sun. Lucky you, however, can skip a few steps and save yourself time by turning to–you guessed it–paper.
Whatever paper you have on hand can be mashed and dried in a similar process, and will give you instant, artisan-quality paper along the lines of anything you’d find in a high-end shop.
Selecting Your Materials
You can use construction paper, computer paper, newspaper, magazines, paper bags, bathroom tissue, light cardboard and egg cartons (soak these in water first), paper napkins, or any other recycled paper you have in quantity. Check with nearby offices, grocery stores, or other businesses that go through a heavy volume of paper products. They are usually only too happy to give you their recycling.
When choosing your paper, keep in mind that the materials you use will influence the type of paper you create. Tissue paper will give you fine, delicate paper, whereas heavier stock will give you a denser product.
If you’ll be printing on your paper, you’ll want a sturdier texture than if you’ll be doing hand-calligraphy. Mix and match types of paper for a variety of textures.
Your paper source will also determine your paper’s color. The more writing on your paper (as in newsprint), the darker shade your final paper will be. This will limit your choice of inks, so make a few trial batches to see what color you like. You can also dye the paper with a few drops of food coloring added to your mash.
Keep in mind that the final product is meant to be planted in the ground, so steer away from anything with toxic inks (vegetable-based color is best), harsh chemicals (non-bleached paper is safest), or plastic coatings.
You don’t want to get panicked phone calls later because your grandmother planted your invite next to her prize tomatoes.
The Paper-Making Process
The best part about making paper from scratch is you can add anything you want to the pulp. Experiment with fun textures. You can include whole dried flowers, leaves, ferns, or any other biodegradable object. You can even add dried, very thin slices of lemon or tangerine for a pleasant scent. Dried rose petals, jasmine, and lavender will also scent your paper, as well as adding a few drops of essential oils, such as peppermint or cinnamon.
Just remember to completely dry any additives and press them flat (between the pages of a book works nicely) before adding them to your paper, or their appearance might change in the final product.
This process can get a little messy, so it’s best done outside or over a large sink or tub. After soaking any extra-sturdy paper to get it soft, rip your paper into chunks and blend it in a kitchen blender with some warm water. After half a minute or so, it will become a smooth pulp. Continue blending until the paper and water are uniformly blended.
Next, you’ll need to prepare a frame for your paper, which can be as simple as using an old window screen. Cut the screen to the size of paper you want, and staple it tautly over a wooden frame. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look pretty; no one else will ever see this part.
Find a bucket that’s big enough to fully immerse your screen-and-wood frame, and fill it partially with water. The more water you use, the thinner your paper will be. Add the pulp from your blender (you’ll probably have to fill the blender several times to get the desired ratio, if you want your paper reasonably thick).
Before immersing your frame in the bucket, add a few teaspoons of liquid starch to the mixture. This will help your paper absorb the right amount of ink for legible printing. This is also the stage where you will drop your texturing or scenting additives, such as flower petals. But most importantly– this is also where you’ll add your wildflower seeds!
If your seeds float, you won’t have trouble scooping them onto the frame with the rest of the pulp. Sprinkle them into the bucket a little at a time to make sure your invitations all get enough. If your seeds (or other additives) sink, you can lightly sprinkle them into the bucket once your frame is already in the water.
Now it’s time to strain your mixture through the screen. Lower the frame into the bucket, swirl it gently, and lift it when there is an even layer of pulp on top. This is an approximation of how your paper will look, so adjust your ratio of pulp-to-water accordingly, and move around any dried flowers or leaves until they’re in pleasing positions.
Let the excess water drip out of the frame, and flip it (gently) upside-down onto a piece of fabric that’s a little larger than your frame. Flannel or felt are good materials for this; look for anything soft and absorbent, and beware of any dyes that could rub off on your paper. (For this reason, light colored fabric is best.)
Now take a large, dry sponge and press the back of the mold, wringing out the water periodically to get the mold as dry as possible. After a few passes with the sponge, you’re ready to remove the frame.
Lift it carefully by one edge, so that the moist paper doesn’t come up with it. You should be left with a sheet of paper sitting on the fabric. If you mess up any parts at this stage, you can gently press the paper back into place.
Once you have a stack of paper sheets ready, pile them evenly on top of each other and press any remaining water out of the stack by applying pressure between two firm, flat surfaces. (Baking sheets work wonderfully, since they are flat and smooth.
Hang the pressed, flat sheets with clothespins to dry, or lay them on a clean, flat surface in the sun. After they are completely dry, they should peel easily off the fabric backing and they will be ready for your chosen text. Screen-printing and woodblock printing work well if you want to avoid the tedium of hand-writing.
Obtaining Wildflower Seeds
Ideally, you want to imbue your invitations with flowers that won’t require any effort on your guests’ part to grow. Keep this in mind and choose local wildflowers, which will already be adapted to the environment and won’t need any extra watering or care.
For example, if you live in the Northeast, consider a mix of calendula, chrysanthemum, cornflower, baby’s breath, and black-eyed Susan. If you live in the South, try Kentucky lady’s slipper, wild geranium, purple passion flower, or painted trillium.
Live in the Midwest? Try shasta daisy, purple coneflower, wild sunflower, lemon mint, and evening primrose; whereas mountainous Western US regions will do well with a mix of African daisy, California poppy, blue flax, red poppy, and prairie coneflower.
You can buy seeds individually, or order them online in pre-mixed batches for your region and season. Ask your local garden supply store or nursery which types of flowers are best for you.
Although making your own invitations is time-consuming, your guests will appreciate the extra effort you put into making their experience interactive and beautiful.
You can also buy cards embedded with flower seeds ready-made, although you will need to confirm that the flowers are a good match for your area.