Say It With Paper

If you love the elegance of a letterpress invitation or an engraved calling card, Dulles Designs has your number.

A paper invitation from Dulles Designs isn’t a piece of mail, it’s a gift. “An electronic invitation has its place in this world, but we have so much technology at our fingertips that it can be overwhelming, or just mundane,” says owner Emilie Dulles. (Yep, that Dulles: Her grandfather was a first cousin of Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles.) “When you have a beautiful, physical invitation that comes to you with carefully selected, hand-canceled postage, it carries a different weight.”

Having been involved in her family’s stationery business since childhood—she bought the company from her parents in 2010—Dulles is fluent in the language of ink, color, paper, fonts and special effects. “If you pick an oversized rectangle it’s got a level of glamour,” she says. “A square is a little more modern. Engraving offers the best saturation of color and is quite formal, while letterpress has a beautiful quality—vintage and romantic.”

She also knows etiquette—how to address invitations to unmarried couples, for example, or just the right phrasing to tell guests they need to find a babysitter. “We can help with the language on an invitation that comes from divorced or blended families,” Dulles adds, “or the wording for interfaith and multicultural weddings so that everyone feels respected and honored.”

In addition to offering a full suite of wedding stationery, from save-the-dates and menu cards to thank-you notes, Dulles can customize paper goods with personal touches, such as a motif from a family crest or a beloved heirloom, or a portrait of a favorite pet.

She also designs holiday cards, birth announcements and calling cards—which, she points out, “can’t be hacked. Calling cards are real and private.”

All this painstaking attention to detail does not come cheap, or fast. Formal invitations, which can include over-the-top touches such as laser-cut artwork and vintage postage stamps, can take months—even a year—to create and cost $2,500 to $15,000, depending on the size of the print run and level of customization. But many of Dulles’s clients say it’s worth it. “Opening a physical invitation is an elevated experience,” she says, “like watching a sommelier uncork and decant a bottle of wine. It’s a luxury not to be rushed.”

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