Making Your Wedding Invitations While Deployed In Iraq

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Coleen Klender's wedding invitationA U.S. Army nurse serving in Iraq, Coleen Klender is looking forward to returning home and getting married this July. In part 1 of our e-mail interview she wrote to me about the challenge of making her homemade wedding invitations while on deployment. Using LCI Paper’s 8 1/2 x 14 Vinum Red Heavy Textured Card Stock and items from other suppliers, she made an invitation ensemble unique to her and her fiance’s personalities. After receiving Coleen’s actual invitation in the mail, we followed up with another e-mail interview. You’ll learn exactly how she put the invitations together and her reason for each creative decision. Part 2 of our interview starts now.

Thanks for sending me a finished copy of your handmade wedding invitation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an invitation with so much thought, creativity, and effort put into it.

We just thought we would send you a finished copy because sometimes, things look so much better in person than pictures can justify! Yes, the invitations were a little time consuming, but it was so much fun to make them; the time doesn’t seem like anything! The most challenging thing about creating a design when you are in Iraq is that there isn’t a local craft store to try different things, so in my mind, I had to think about different things I wanted to try, then order all the stuff and work with it. There wasn’t a lot of time to order and then wait for products, so I ordered a bunch of stuff and made it work!!

Tell me about the mailing and response card envelopes. They look like they’re made out of paper bag material.

Yes, the envelopes are brown Kraft envelopes. Because Jeremy and I are more informal, when I decided to make our invitations, I actually worked backwords in the design concept. I chose the envelope first, then conformed both cards size and other elements of the cards to the brown Kraft paper.

You really surprised me with the hand addressed mailing envelope complete with a large “L” cutout for LCI Paper Company. I assume you made letter cutouts for all your envelopes using guest initials. You also have an “L” cutout on the right “door” flap of your invitation. How did you cut all these?

I only wish I was in the U.S. for this element of the design, because I would have used my Cricut! But, I cut every one of them out by hand…216 L’s for the invitations/response cards (the L was for Love and Lochabay, and 108 other letters, depending on the invitee’s last name. Yes, it took…a while, but so far, everyone has enjoyed receiving their special envelope It worked out great because I was able to use the scrap pieces that came from cutting out the invitations to make all the letters.

Using the red wax envelope seal is a nice touch, giving the envelope an extra bit of romance.

I just think that wax seals are SO cool! The seal and wax came from Letterseals. What is cool about these is that the wax can be ordered in sticks that you put into a hot glue gun, so with very little practice, it wasn’t hard to master a pretty nice looking wax seal.

Tell me about the other embellishments you used-the chiffon ribbon and the metal heart jewel.

Jeremy & Coleen beach wedding stampI knew I wanted a charm on the front, and the organza ribbon added that wedding touch to the invitation. The floating heart charms came from Oriental Trading and the organza ribbon from The stamps on the outer envelope–it’s hard to see from the picture, but it is a picture of the beach with our names written in the sand–came from When I saw those, I had to have them!

Tell me how you made your 4 panel folding invitation backing card. What inspired you to make an invitation with this type of format? I’m really interested in your interlocking heart gate. How did you design and then cut the hearts?

At first I was going to have the invite be heart shaped and then open up, but it just didn’t suit what I was going for. So I just kept playing with different ideas that eventually evolved into the flaps interlocking into a tiny heart. It would have been so nice to be at home where I could have cut them out on a machine, so each card isn’t perfect, but it worked. I bought a little paper cutter online (and when I got it, it wasn’t exactly ‘square’, lol) and used an X-acto knife to cut the heart shapes by hand, then the straight edges on the paper cutter. Once the shape of the card was designed and it worked, I just decided where I wanted to go and thought of what we wanted to say on the invitations to our guests.

Coleen Klender's wedding invitation open

I love the informal invitation wording of your contact card where you write, “Call us or email us if you have any questions or just to say hi!” On the invitation card, you write, “Casual attire.” Some of the text of the RSVP and Registry cards also goes outside the border lines These are just a few of the many things that makes this invitation so personal to you and Jeremy. Tell me more about the personality that you put into your wording.

Jeremy and I are just fun, regular people. One of the reasons we chose a beach wedding was so it could be informal and relaxed and so everyone would be free to be themselves, wear what they want, and have fun. The invitations were meant to be whimsical and informal, but still have a blend of our “just regular”‘ and “it’s a wedding” all rolled into one! Because I am from Michigan and we are both in the military, we were expecting that because of the distance, many people we invited would not be able to come. We still wanted to share our happy news with them via the invitation, so one flap was dedicated to our contact information. So even if they couldn’t come, it would still be great to hear from them. To our surprise and delight, there are many friends and family who are going to be making the trip to join us in Texas on our wedding day! So it makes me happy we went the extra mile with our invitations to show them how much we care that they are there with us. Even the people who’ve had to decline have thanked us for sending our invitation to them, and that makes us just as happy to hear!

You hand-wrote your envelopes. Did you try to find a font that matches your handwriting?

I am a certified font junkie. Yes…I had to write all the envelopes by hand. And if my printer would have taken the envelopes, believe you/me, they would have been printed! This is what took the longest and was the worst part, actually. And yes, I chose a font that was whimsical to match the cartoon quality of the drawing. All of the printed wording on the card is also in the same font, which I then wrote by hand on the envelopes. The name of the font is called Grenouille, and came from one of the free font sites.

In our first interview, you mentioned your artwork–that you drew characters of you and Jeremy and his kids. Finally I see the artwork in front of me and I think it’s beautiful. Everyone who’s seen it in the office is impressed. Did you scan the art and then print out copies for your invitations? How did you become the artist you are today?

I did some trial drawings until I got what I was after, and then scanned the pencil drawing into Adobe Illustrator CS4. You can create layers, so over the pencil scan did a black outline drawing, then just deleted the scan, so you get a nice crisp drawing. That part takes a while! After that, I just played with color and kept printing copies until it looked good enough for what I needed! You can’t be too picky in Iraq. I wouldn’t say the drawing is a characterture, more a cartoon representation of us. The point was to be fun and visually interesting to look at.

I have been interested in art my whole life. My first artistic achievement was when my grandpa taught me to write my name when I was three, and I took a permanent blue marker and wrote my name on everything I could get to–backs of chairs, under the table, and our front door. They tried umpteen times to paint over it, but my name always bled through! When I get out of the Army, I hope to pursue running my own business, possibly offering whimsical style invitations for special occasions and other artistic offerings. Art, in any form, is a great way to reach out to people. I love being able to be sparked by artistic inspiration around me and then execute it in my own style. Like most artistic people, a day without being able to do what you love wasn’t really a day!

It has been great to be able to share our story with you at LCI and other people who read the blog. I am hooked on the blog now, too! I enjoy reading about the processes other people use and how they arrived at their final product.

SPC Klender, Coleen
14th Combat Support Hospital, Baghdad, Iraq

We thank Coleen for her service and for sharing her wedding invitations with us and we wish Coleen and Jeremy the very best as they return home for their wedding. Do you have questions or comments for Coleen regarding her invitations and her experience making them in Iraq? Post a comment!

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One Comment

  1. Emily Ganley says:

    You should do this for a living. I am trying to replicate this look- with our own twists…and failing miserably. Thank you for inspiring me