Inspiration strikes

I was honored to recieve a request from my two friends, Jake and Shanna, to design “save-the-date” invitations for their wedding. Having been present for their proposal among other friends, I was so excited to continue my support on the journey to their big day.

In my years of knowing them, I figured they would gravitate toward something more understated. When they sent me some of their favorite invitations for inspiration, I instantly felt more confident in my ability to deliver something they felt was theirs.

Yikes. This is embarrassing. We can't find the file that's supposed to be here.
The inspiration they provided.

First draft

My mind was racing with ideas. I quickly got to sketching how to rough things out on the page, and wondering how I could make it feel really personal.

I think it would be fun to incorporate olb and kaiwi? :)


Naturally, I couldn’t forget to include their sweet and only slightly awkward cats—Olive and Kairi. The first draft featured their signature meows:

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Olive (brrrp)
Yikes. This is embarrassing. We can't find the file that's supposed to be here.
Kairi (yow)

I liked the idea of adding a border to the design to help frame everything, but I didn’t love ones which were strictly rectangular. To create something more playful and loose, I landed on this border that loops at the corners. It almost reminds me of a pillow or an ornate picture frame, which ended up being a motif I used in later drafts.


This was a good start, but the invitation needed something a little better to grab peoples’ attention. Jake and Shanna loved the handmade vibe of the inspiration pictures, and the illustrations within them stood out to me.

They feel like those doodles a schoolmate would draw on your things. The sketches that end up on your homework, your locker, and your arm that time you fell asleep in class. Memories tattooed on three-whole-punch, wide-ruled paper. It’s fitting, then, that Jake and Shanna have been together since middle school.

Putting a ring on it

The primary illustration was naturally wedding related. We landed on a simple illustration of the rings that took a few passes to get right. We were also sure to make them look like the real deal, complete with Shanna’s marquise-cut stone.

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Variations of the ring illustration. The final product at the bottom left.

Something just wasn’t quite working with the vertical orientation of the rings, so we pivoted to a more dynamic angle which instantly brought a lot more life to the illustration.

Family portraits

While only sketched out for the first draft, Kairi and Olive were here to stay. However, they needed a new home on the page now that their spotlight was taken by the rings.

Since the venue for the big day is the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Shanna had the great idea of including some ornate picture frames to tie everything together with the theme. The perfect place to draw in some portraits of two distinguished cats.

This, too, took a couple of passes to get right. It was difficult to come up with frames that eluded to something ornate, while not actually involving a high level of detail. I didn’t want to draw attention away from the main illustration.

Tying the knot

While bows are kind of in vogue at the moment, they really are timeless. Their inclusion on a wedding invitation also feels quite appropriate, so we went for it.

could we do a bow? :) Jake vibes with bows


I threw together a few options. We all loved the really flowy black ribbon, but felt that it weighed down the layout when at the top of the page. We instead went with our second favorite because it called less attention to itself while still adding the flair we were looking for.

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Bow and ribbon options, featuring our first choice (top middle) and the ribbon selected for the invitation (bottom left, with the heart knot).

Finally, the bow was integrated with the top border, giving more room for the textual content to breathe.

Final draft

With all of these elements put together, here’s what made its way into loved ones’ mailboxes:

Starting a new page

Although the reverse side of the invitation had to be changed last minute, I figured I’d show off what work was done before this change. Comparatively simpler than the front, I opted to utilize the same motif used for the border and picture frames, displaying a portrait of Jake and Shanna as if it was in a museum.

They sent over a couple of pictures from their engagement shoot, and we determined that the above photo was the right pick for the invitation.

I’m so grateful for the chance to help my friends through one of the many steps it takes to prepare for a wedding. Though this was just a mere checkbox in the wedding planner, I’m privileged and humbled that I could contribute something special to an event so dear. I wish them all the best :)