Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Calligraphy, From Styles to Cost

Find out if this stationery detail is *write* for you.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Feb 29, 2024

From invitation envelopes to place cards and dinner menus, wedding calligraphy has long been a beautiful addition to any event. This traditional style of writing brings an elegant, formal look to wedding stationery suites—and even non-paper details—but what you might not realize is that a lot more work goes into it than you think. Calligraphy is an art form that takes time and practice to master, so it's especially important to work with a professional stationer (and luckily, you can find amazing pros right here using The Knot Vendor Marketplace). If you're considering calligraphy wedding invitations and want to know more, here are the main things to keep in mind.

In this article:

What Is Wedding Calligraphy?

Wedding calligraphy is a form of embellished handwriting that is traditionally done using an ink brush, pen or marker. Calligraphy looks similar to cursive handwriting in the sense that the letters are sometimes connected to each other (though not always) and words are written on a slant. The difference is that compared to cursive or plain handwriting, calligraphy generally features more decorative flourishes, such as loops, strokes, curves and serifs. Wedding calligraphy is most often used to decorate formal wedding invitations, seating charts and place cards.

"There is nothing more elegant or classic for envelopes than your guests receiving their invitation envelope with handwritten calligraphy," says Lauren K. Beth, owner of Lively House & Home, a wedding stationery company offering custom invitations and calligraphy services. "It is the most traditional way to greet your guests."

How Much Is Calligraphy for Wedding Invitations?

The cost for handwritten calligraphy services isn't one size fits all. Ultimately, the expenses will be different for everyone, depending on who you're working with and the specifics of your order.

"Calligraphy cost is highly dependent on many factors, including the years of experience of the calligrapher, the amount of time it will take to complete an order, and if materials are included in the cost," says Beth, who began writing calligraphy in 2016. She explains that wedding envelope calligraphy cost varies by region, but the price usually falls between $2.50 and $6 per envelope for the front address. The cost for place card calligraphy is slightly lower, she says, starting around $2 per card. Beth says that pricing for spot calligraphy—when only a few words (like your names, for example) are written in calligraphy—usually starts around $100. With spot calligraphy, a digital file of the calligraphy is provided and can later be added to your invitations or other stationery.

Wedding calligraphy is a time-consuming process, which is why the final bill is often higher than the average cost of wedding invitations. But it's important to remember that you're receiving handwritten items that are made to order, so it's a worthy investment.

How to Find Calligraphers Near You

If you're working with a stationery designer, they should be your first point of contact when you're looking for a calligrapher. Most stationery boutiques have a list of trusted calligraphers they work with, and they'll be able to match you with an artist who best aligns with your needs and style. Some stationers offer in-house calligraphy in addition to invitation design, or they can outsource the work so you don't have to play the middleman. And finally, filtering by location on The Knot Vendor Marketplace is an easy way to find calligraphers near you—plus, you'll be able to view samples of their work and request more information without even leaving the site.

Where to Use Wedding Calligraphy

Wedding calligraphy is most often used for envelopes, invitations and special inserts, like RSVP cards. Calligraphy isn't typically used on the entire invitation except for very formal events (it can be difficult to read—and expensive), but spot calligraphy is an increasingly popular option.

But beyond your stationery suite, calligraphy can be added to almost anything you can dream up. Seating charts, escort cards, menu cards and place cards are just a few reception details where you can include calligraphy. Wedding sign calligraphy is another popular option, such as welcome signs and custom signature cocktail signs for the bar. You can even add calligraphy to non-paper items, like inscribing guests' names onto mini sparkling wine bottles or shot glasses, seashells and more.

What to Know About Wedding Calligraphy

You'll be in good hands when working with a pro calligrapher, but if the whole process is new to you, here are the main things to know before getting started.

Wedding Calligraphy Fonts

Some wedding calligraphers have created their own typefaces and fonts by developing digitized versions of their handwriting—i.e. scripting each letter individually and scanning the letters into a design software. This is one way to get the look of calligraphy if you're working with a smaller budget, since digital calligraphy fonts tend to be more affordable than custom, handwritten items. If that sparks your interest, work with your stationery designer to choose the best calligraphy wedding fonts for your style and budget.

Printed vs. Handwritten Calligraphy

Similar to digital calligraphy typefaces, some artists specialize in printed calligraphy, which is done using technology (like an iPad and a stylus) rather than traditional ink, pointed pens and paper. This is especially common for modern calligraphy styles, which are more fluid and open to the artist's own creative interpretation. Through the design software or app, the calligrapher can do almost anything they'd do using real ink, like switching pens and brushes or adding thick and thin strokes to letters. The finished products are then printed or embossed onto paper or other materials from digital files. With this option, you'll need to cover the cost of any printed materials on top of labor costs, but there may not be as high of a charge for supplies compared to handwritten calligraphy.

How Long Wedding Calligraphy Takes

"Calligraphy is an art and takes much more time than you'd expect," says Beth. "Because of that, we are also often booked months in advance. Many calligraphers also design wedding stationery, and thus, our services are booked much further in advance, as calligraphy is part of our complete wedding stationery suite services." Beth recommends contacting a calligrapher as soon as you've hired a wedding stationer, especially if there's a specific artist you want to work with. "Every calligrapher's style is very personal," she says. "If you are drawn to a certain calligrapher and they are booked, it would be hard to find someone to replicate it!"

The general rule of thumb is to send your wedding invitations roughly six to eight weeks before the wedding, which means you need to give your calligrapher plenty of notice so they have time to work their magic. "A typical 100 envelope order for me is around five days of work for me," says Beth. "Other calligraphers are faster or slower—it completely depends on the individual." On top of making sure the calligrapher has enough time to work without being rushed, you'll also want to leave time to review proofs and discuss changes if needed. And if you're requesting wedding calligraphy for day-of items like place cards or wedding favor tags, ask your calligrapher about how far in advance they'll need the names on your final RSVP list.

Wedding Calligraphy Styles

When you work with a calligrapher, you'll look through examples of the different scripts and hand lettering styles that they offer. Keep in mind that like any artist, each calligrapher is different—some lean very traditional, while others work in a more contemporary style. The best way to figure out what you like is to spend time reviewing a variety of portfolios and styles before moving forward.

"The main calligraphy styles are traditional copperplate or Spencerian," says Beth. "This is most likely what you think of what you think of calligraphy. This type of calligraphy has beautiful flourishes that really stand out." Both of these calligraphy styles have been around for a few centuries, which is why they have such a ceremonial, sophisticated look (think: Bridgerton-esque levels of formality). The styles follow strict rules about loop length, letter slant and stroke thickness, but all of those details are ultimately what makes them so impressive.

On the other hand, Beth says that modern calligraphy is a little more relaxed and very personal to the individual calligrapher. "My style tends to lean towards a very modern version of copperplate," she says. "It is looser and follows fewer calligraphy rules, but it still feels like calligraphy." Modern calligraphy is ideal for a wider range of occasions and levels of formality, especially if you pair it with a streamlined, sans-serif typeface to balance old and new.

Choosing a Wedding Calligrapher

Taking a good look at any wedding calligrapher's portfolio and reviews are the two most important things when you're making a decision. You don't have to work with a wedding calligrapher near you, although if you do choose a local vendor, you'll have the benefit of potentially meeting in person to review samples instead of handling everything online or through the mail. Once you've narrowed down a shortlist of calligraphers, you can start reaching out to ask about availability and pricing quotes. Include your wedding date, approximate guest count, a quick summary of your wedding style and the services you're interested in (envelope addressing, wedding invitation calligraphy, escort card labeling, etc.) so your calligrapher can provide a more accurate quote and timeline. If everything looks good, it's time to reserve your spot by signing a contract and settling any necessary deposits. Then comes the fun part: you can start working together on the specifics of your designs.

Calligraphy Envelope Addressing

Imagine how your guests will feel when they open their mailboxes to find your wedding invitation addressed to them and see their name handwritten in calligraphy. It's not every day that people receive such fancy mail, which is why calligraphy is so special if you're looking for little ways to elevate your wedding experience. "Adding handwritten details to your invitations and day-of paper is an incredible way to personalize your wedding for you and your guests," says Beth.

To make life easier for your calligrapher when they're writing the envelopes, you'll need to spend some time preparing and formatting your final invite list, along with everyone's addresses. Your calligrapher's exact process will vary, but most will request a spreadsheet or table with each line item (title, first name, last name, street address, city, state, zip code) in a separate column for every guest or party. If you're ordering escort cards or place cards, you'll probably be asked to do something similar. Once you've shared your final guest list and signed off on the design, the only thing to do is wait—but we promise the anticipation will all be worth it in the end.

Up Next
  • Retro pink and orange wedding invitation suite
    Your Guide to a Complete Wedding Invitation Suite