Behind The Scene | In The Event Design-Stationery Designer, Sophie Dugan

Meeting with awesome people has been a huge motivation for me to start my wedding photography career. It not only allows me to get to know a couple and to capture their special moments, but also gives me the opportunity to work with some most talented wedding vendors around the world (my dream!).

Last Saturday, I had a chance to speak with Sophie, a Rhode Island based Graphic Designer living by the sea with her husband. She is the owner and stationery designer of In The Event Design.  As soon as I saw her work on Instagram, I fell in love at first sight and I know I need to let more people see these! So, I asked her to share her stories and some creative insights with us and she did!

In The Event Design

Instagram

How did you get into the wedding industry specifically?

From a young age I have always loved creative activities, from writing and drawing with gel pens to painting (yes, I was obsessed) and sketching on tracing paper (wish I knew what vellum was at the age of 10). I started college studying interior design, but my creative curiosity pulled me to graphic design. Fast forward 20 years, as a graphic designer I quickly fell in love all over again with paper, watercolors, texture, typography and graphic elements, and of course blending them all together in my work. It wasn’t until my very own wedding when my paper obsession turned into a stationery passion. 

I was never the girl who had my wedding day planned out. In fact, I never really put much thought into it until the day… well months after I said “YES!” to my now husband. At the time I had no idea what my wedding would turn out to be, what our color palette would be, or where to even begin in the planning process. But one thing I did know for sure was that I was going to jump in and design our wedding invitations. It was one of the first things I thought of after getting engaged. I am happy to say, more than a year later I am a graphic designer and wedding & event stationer. 

After all, I design love stories sealed in an envelope!

What sets you apart from other stationery designers?

I offer both semi custom and full custom stationery. I started my business with a focus in semi custom stationery for all events, wedding stationery just so happened to take off immediately. I originally created a few collections, but found that I was getting more requests for custom invites. Clients were more interested in invitations with a personal touch. It had me thinking and re-evaluating my business model. I learned so much from my first bulk of clients. While I still offer semi custom stationery, my focus is mostly on full custom suites. My goal is to create passionate stationery that truly tells YOUR story! My hope is that they are loved so much that your guests won’t want to trash your invitations once the big day has come and gone. 

A few points that I think set me apart:

  • I value the relationships with my clients. I strive to make their wedding visions come to life through their wedding stationery. Whether they come to me early in the process needing save the dates or way late in the planning, reaching out for Day Of Stationery. Either way, I’m so honored they chose me & put their trust in me. 
  • PERSONALITY! That is exactly what I try to capture when I dive into any client invitations. The goal here is to create something that is totally 100% their personality and their love story. All I can ask is that it shines so brightly through the invitations we create together. 
  • I offer three different print techniques. Digital printing also known as flat printing (you’ll likely hear me use the term flat printing more often than digital), Foil or Letterpress printing. It is really customizable with the ability to mix and match print techniques. 
  • All communication with me is 100% focused on my clients needs. Whether it be emails, phone calls, facetimes, text messages, zoom calls, or in person one on one creative meetings. I am super flexible, as long as it is during my office hours I will be there to help. During non office hours, I am available by appointment only. 
  • I am very transparent in my process from the very beginning of capturing a lead to booking a client, all the way through to the end of our invitation process. I explain everything and stay in full communication.
  • I offer different packages that are driven by all types of clients: The hands-on client who wants to be a huge part of the design and planning. Once the design and printing are completed, this package allows the client to finish the last details such as addressing, postage stamping and mailing on their own. The client who wants all of the glitz & glamour, this includes designing, printing, address printing on all envelopes, add on items such as vellum wraps, wax seals, belly bands, etc. And lastly, the hands-off client, who is willing to put their trust in me to complete their invitations for THE BEST DAY EVER. This includes design, printing, addressing, postage stamps and mailing out to guests at the post office. 
  • One on one attention. I use a client scheduling calendar so that I can stay focused on my clients, give all the attention that is deserved and successfully stay on track with our timeline.

Can you talk about more about your work process? 

Yes, I like to think that I am still smoothing out my process and growing with each new client that I am lucky enough to work with.

Here’s the whole run down of my process flow and what to expect when working with me.

Step 1. Consulting and Booking: After clients fill out my new client questionnaire, I will review and put together a price proposal that is 100% tailored to the clients needs, absolute wants and budget. I always tell my clients to start high and to add EVERYTHING they’re interested in (dream big for your wedding day!). From here we can focus on the client’s budget, take a look at what works, what doesn’t work, what is a must-have item and what can we put on the back burner. Again, the goal is for their personality to shine through, I want them to be in love with their stationery. 

Consulting and Booking Continued: Once we smooth through those nitty-gritty-details, I put my clients to work (yes, you guessed right… homework). These are the fun details that inspire and spark the creative process of the invitations: the client details questionnaire. I also encourage that we schedule a call to chit-chat about the proposal, details questionnaire and to make any revisions as needed before booking with me. When booking, I do require a design deposit fee along with the signed contract. Here they’ll go from ‘lead’ to ‘client’, and YAY! We’re on our way to creating the most beautiful wedding and event stationery. 

I can’t forget my beloved Semi-Custom Collections. If clients are booking for semi custom designs (I still offer seasonal collections) they will fill out the details questionnaire to inform me on the important must-know details for their special day: spouse A, spouse B, date, time, location, color palette, etc. I have a semi custom invitation proposal, contract and a 50% deposit that I require to be completed and submitted before receiving proof #1. So, the process is still similar, but a little less tedious. 

Step 2. Inspiration and Design Proofs: Now that I know all about my clients love story and all of the things that make their hearts beat: how they met, all of their favorite colors, design aesthetic, hobbies, date spots, etc. I am ready to spill their personalities into my designs. I will create a moodboard and provide rough designs / sketches. Once we determine the inspiration is spot on we dive into designs and start working on proofs to create an invitation suite that is a perfect reflection of spouse A and spouse B.

Step 3. Let’s Get Creative: Full hands on creating and designing the invitations: Here is where the fun starts! Once we have ironed out the maybe’s and kept the absolute yes’ we’re ready to get creative. This is where my clients get to see their invitations come to life. We’ll take care of the tweaks to ensure everything is perfect. I allow 4 proof revision phases and every revision after that (it’s rare that we get there) is an additional $50 charge until we are spot on with the clients invitation goals. At this time, the client will receive an invoice required to pay 50% of the remaining balance. I am flexible and will work with the client to set up payment plans. 

I only allow 4 revisions until I start to add an additional charge to initiate an end in the revision process. There have been clients who tend to change things with no end in sight. This allows us to keep moving forward to reaching a finished product. 

Step 4. Final Approval & Off To The Printer: You’ll receive a FINAL proof that includes all of your stationery pieces that we have been working on (from invitations to envelope addressing) will be sent to the client in the form of a digital proof. The client will have to sign off that they reviewed the proof, there are no spelling errors, typos, date / time errors, etc. Once the designs are officially signed off, they make their way to the printer. At this time, any remaining balance that is due is to be paid or the client will NOT receive their stationery in the mail once printing is complete. 

Step 5. Address, Assemble & Mail: Once the invitations arrive from the printer I take the time to look through them to make sure the order is correct. I’ll review the clients file to see which finishing option they chose. I’ll either take the time to assemble all of the stationery pieces and send all of the pretty paper pieces to post office or if the client did not hire me for this step, I will mail the invitations to the client to seal in the envelopes, add the finishing touches and mail off to their guests. 

I know that’s A LOTTT to take in… Let me summarize that for you RQ (real quick… if you know me, you know that I love to abbreviate)

#1. One on one consultation and booking process

#2. Mood boards, Inspiration, design aesthetic, color palette ideas – Proofs

#3. Diving into designing invitations / event stationery – Proofs and revisions 

#4. Final approval & off to the printer 

#5. Addressing, assembling and sending to guests  

Who is your ideal clients?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have an ideal client because every one of my clients are so different from one another and that is truly the best part. They’ve all been so great to work with. Just as they learn from me, I learn so much from them. The clients themselves set each other apart just based on their own story, needs, interests, etc. I will say, my favorite clients to work with are the ones who like to dive into creativity and put their trust in me to let out all of my creative outbursts. 

Where do you usually get your inspiration?

Other stationers and creatives inspire me. They drive me to dig deeper into my creative passion. I have my own design aesthetic and favorite textures, patterns, etc. and I tend to thrive off sage green, watercolor elements, rustic farmhouse feels and clean design. When working with clients my focus is 100% on them, their story is my inspiration. Once I get down to the nitty-gritty details and I pull it all out of them. I start to think of potential color palettes that may work for them, themes, food, places, etc. For example, if a client is having a summer wedding by the ocean in Newport, R.I. I’m immediately drawn to the beauty of Newport and I incorporate that along with their personalities into their stories.

Can you briefly describe your work in one sentence?

Ha-ha, as you can imagine my creative mind is running… I’ll shorten it by saying clean & unique design aesthetic, organized and detail oriented.

What piece of advice would you share with your future couples?

This can be super overwhelming, trust me I know! But looking back, it’s one of those processes where you really have to enjoy every single moment! Sounds cliche, but I mean it! Don’t be afraid to come into this process with your walls down, or letting your budget stop you from reaching your invitation goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want even if you don’t know the ‘design lingo’, get your hands dirty and let your true self shine. After all, the invitations are a sneak peek of what your big day is going to be. It’s your love story.

What a typical wedding timeline for clients to start working on their wedding and event stationery?  

Custom invitations take a bit longer as the process is way more tedious than working with semi custom invitations or most other invitations that clients may find browsing an online shop. This is because a lot more time needs to go into capturing your story and personality when semi custom and online shops are using pre-made templates. Below is a timeline that I like to reference for all of my clients:

12 Months – Order Save The Dates

10 – 8 Months – Mail out Save The Dates to guests

6 Months – Consult and booking for custom stationery suites (I require a deposit)

5 Months – Artwork for invitations starts – created

4 Months – Tweak out the maybes and finalize the yes’
                  – Finalize digital proofs, a signature is required
                  – Sent to the printer and envelopes and add on items will be ordered

3 Months – Assemble and finalize finishing touches

8 Weeks (6 at the absolute min) – Mail out to wedding guests via USPS

5 Weeks  – Order day of stationery (if any)

4 & 3 Weeks – Finalize, print and Mail to client or wedding planner for day of wedding

YAY, IT’S YOUR WEDDING DAY! 

What are some fun facts about you that clients should know to get to know you a bit better prior to booking?

  • I was born in Romania and adopted as a newborn baby. Along with my brother, Eric. It’s on my bucket list to visit one day… talk about a must-do!
  • I’ve always had a creative side since I was a little girl, but I could never find my niche until after college.  
  • I grew up in Rhode Island and I do NOT like seafood. It drives my husband bananas, lol!
  • I begggged my husband for a dog literally since the day we started dating. in April of this year we finally adopted the most precious Bernese Mountain Dog, Harper (now 8 months old) and she absolutely runs my life, I’m smitten… and lets be real, so is my husband.
  • I have a super soft spot for Hallmark Christmas Movies (okay, yes it’s an obsession).
  • I cry like a baby every time I watch The Choice! It’s one of my favorite movies! Actually when I watched it for the first time with my besties, they yelled at the same time, Charleston has to be your bachelorette destination… At the time we thought that’s where it was filmed. Oops! Long story short, we went to Charleston, fell in love and I talk about moving there quite often!
  • My husband and I wrote our own vows for our wedding… talk about getting personal!
  • I am ridiculously obsessed with my Jeep! Weird, I know!

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