With the wedding date set and venue booked, it's time to invite your nearest and dearest to attend the big day. All 1,900 of them if you're Prince William and Kate Middleton.
It takes a certain confidence to send your invitations by fax, Windsor-style, but luckily the UAE's list of wedding stationers is, as you might expect, pages long. A paper trail eventually leads to Natoof Design in Dubai, which has been dubbed the "haute couturier" of invitations, place cards and thank-you notes.
It would be folly to think the options end there. How about RSVP cards, seating plans, menus, location maps, VIP passes, stickers and even entrance cards for children? For many UAE weddings, says Mariam bin Natoof, the company's founder and creative director, such a range of items is not unusual, and there's more - much more.
"A chocolate box was one of the special requests we've worked on and it was designed in an elegant way with a cover and a pull-out drawer. At the back of the cover, a space was left for the names of the invitees. A custom wax seal, carrying the Arabic monogram for the bride and groom's name, was then attached to a wrapped satin ribbon around the cover. Plus, the invitation card was bilingual and carried Swarovski crystals."
With an invitation like that, the wedding promised to be a show-stopper.
"We've also created rose-cut invitations with rose pendants and labels for gifts," she says. "We would consider these couture invitations and the budget would exceed Dh15,000-Dh20,000, depending on the quantities, of course."
For brides without a bespoke budget looking to put a unique stamp on their invitations, Bin Natoof says colour is key: "I think invitations should always have at least one vibrant colour, as I believe colours represent feelings. The beauty of design nowadays is that you can combine more than one element or style in one invitation. It doesn't have to be very colourful to be considered modern and the formal card doesn't have to be plain white.
"We actually designed an invitation card for a royal family wedding in Saudi Arabia. Usually, royal invitations are very formal in terms of design and look; therefore the bride wanted to create a very colourful floral invitation for a separate group of invitees, who included her close family members and girlfriends."
Surprisingly, in an era of emails and iPads, the stationery industry has been anything but stationary in recent years. Die- and laser-cutting are in huge demand right now, Bin Natoof tells me, as "people want to show off their invitations in more innovative ways and don't just want a piece of paper any more".
One way to stand out from the crowd would be to microchip your invitations, another to send your guests customised high-security wrist bands for access to your exclusive day. Absolutely nothing is impossible, says Bin Natoof, who sources specialised products from as far afield as the US, China and the UK for her clients.
Whatever design you settle upon, when it comes to the writing of invitations, all the experts say that strict protocol must be followed. Be it traditional calligraphy or ball-point pen, let these be the rules you follow.
Formal invitations should be written in the third person, avoiding all punctuation except after courtesy titles such as Mr. and Dr. Apart from those, abbreviations should be avoided, so always spell in full such words as "street", months and days of the week. And last, but by no means least, ideally invitations should be sent up to three months in advance and certainly no later than six weeks before the big day.
For more information go to www.natoof.com or call 050 993 0095.
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