Now that the basics are out of the way, it's time to have some fun and design your unique wedding invitations! The invitation is the first glimpse your guests will get of your special even; a successful design will have them long for the day they can finally join you to celebrate.

DIY versus the professionals
Wedding stationery is available from many different outlets – specialist wedding stationers, department stores, bridal boutiques, printers, artists, graphic designers and on the Internet.

Some offer ready-made designs or can print a design you come up with while others offer brides a complete consultation to help them achieve stationery that is unique in every aspect.

Today, more and more couples consider making their stationery themselves. You can easily find all the necessary materials including CDs with great templates to help you start. The obvious advantage is that your invitations are sure to match your wedding and your style. But unless your keep your design extremely simple, the DIY option might not be the best.

It can be tedious and very time-consuming – making the first five invitations is fun but by the time you get to the 50th, you've had enough!

If you don't want to start from scratch but are still ready to put your shoulder to the wheel, pre-cut designer invitations could be the right choice for you. The results are sure to look impressive for about half the price charged by a professional and half the time spent working on your kitchen table! Alternatively, you could go DIY but let the professionals do part of the job.

Why not let them do the prinking, and then cut and assemble the invitations yourself to save on cost.
Having your invitations made entirely by a professional is a much more relaxed experience – no messy supplies or long hours spent fighting with your home printer. The quality of the end product will outdo anything you can make on your kitchen table, but professional results come with professional rates and it might cost you a bit more.

Out with the old, in with the new
Whether you choose to go with home made or professional invitations, you still need to decide on a design.

When you're great Auntie Maude got married, she would have had a hard time making her wedding invitation stand out form the rest – black ink, embossed printing, and a standard-sized piece of white or ecru paper were the only acceptable options. Today the etiquette is much more flexible and the rule is basically that there is no rule.

Invitations come in all shapes, sizes and colours and reflect the unique personality of each couple.

Spice up your invitations
Once you have chosen an attractive design, your invitation may still call for an extra little something before it's really perfect. This is where embellishments come in.

There are many ideas you can try: ribbons, raffia, rope, feathers, fabric, dried or pressed flowers and foliage, beads, crystals, wire, wooden shapes, tassels, stickers or shells. Be as creative as you like – the more your invitation stands out the more excited your guests will be.

A little piece of advice though: think carefully about the materials you're going to use as your invitations are likely to undergo some rough handling before arriving to their destination.

Dried flowers or shells on your invitations are unlikely to arrive undamaged unless you send them in a special envelope, box or hand deliver them.

Don't leave your envelopes in the lurch
Embellishments can also make a significant difference to your envelopes. How about lining your envelopes with a beautiful soft paper or filling the envelope with scented pot-pourri or gold or silver foil hearts?
Confetti or glitter are a nice touch, or cut out your own cellophane shapes – butterflies, hearts or flowers.
Your envelopes could also be dressed with ribbon, raffia, organza or whatever material you have used on your invitation. And don't forget about the back of the envelope. Consider sealing your envelopes with a wax seal or stickers.

Stamp of approval
Depending on what is available at the time, you may be able to choose from tow or more different postage stamp designs to find one that looks best on your stationery. For a truly personal 'look', you can get your own photograph printed on a stamp with a wedding design.
It will certainly give your guests something to talk about!

Get inspired!

Here are a few unique design ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

• Hearts
• Flowers
• Cherubs
• Champagne bottle or glasses
• A take on your wedding theme e.g. starfish or seashell
• A motif that heralds your honeymoon destination e.g. a palm tree or tropical theme
• A portrait, photograph or caricature of the bride and groom
• Chinese lucky symbols
• A striking insignia incorporating the first letter of each of your names
• An aspect of nature e.g. butterflies
• The wording of your invitation arranged to form a pattern or picture
• An attractive pattern e.g. check, swirls, candy stripes, geometrical shapes