Wedding ensembles generally include the invitation, a printed envelope, a reception card, a response card. Few more complicated invitation ensembles, especially when many guests are coming from out of town, and also for very formal weddings, may have hotel information and weekend itineraries if there are other events being planned so out-of-town guests can plan properly. Some wedding ensembles also include seals which are printed extra squares or rectangle of the same stock used on the wedding invitation and printed with the return address. Seals are applied usually with tape or with glue to the main envelope on the invitation. It's a useful and decorative finish to the envelope. Sometimes they are even layered, usually at most with 2 layers of stock.
Some more formal ensembles may also include an outer and an inner envelope. The outside large envelope will be formally addressed. The outside envelope might say Mr. and Mrs. John Smith (with the address) but the inner envelope might then say Julie and John or Julie and John Smith. The inner envelope is an old tradition which calls for the outside envelope (in older days being delivered by a footman, and it might get a bit dirty during the horse or carriage ride to the recipients home) and upon arrival, the inside envelope and the contents would be taken out of the outside envelope and presented to the recipient or their staff. In today's world, of course, we don't have footmen and most of us don't have staff, but it's a fun tradition to keep alive.
Wedding invitations are normally mailed 3-4 months prior to the event. If a save-the-date is used, we would also recommend sending the announcements about 6 months prior. If the wedding is very formal and/or during a holiday weekend then we would certainly recommend sending the wedding ensembles out at least 4 months prior to the date. And we would suggest sending the save-the-dates about 9-12 months before the wedding.
When comprising the wedding text, the reply cards should request the Rsvp about 2 weeks before the wedding. This will give the bride and groom time to follow-up with anyone who has forgotten to reply, time to work on the seating arrangements for the tables, and time to confirm final numbers to the venue.
For Envelope Addressing, if it will be a nice wedding or a very formal wedding, it's important to be sure that the envelopes are addressed in a suitable, often romantic, complementary style to the invitation typestyle and the look of the invitation. More modern invitations can have a more modern font. More traditional invitations should include a more traditional typestyle.
An experienced calligrapher will often have 2 or 3 styles that they are able to do, such as a wedding script, a casual style, and a modern style. Ask your calligrapher to see samples of their style and show them a sample of your invitation so they can make a recommendation.
If a calligrapher is is either not available in your area or simply not in the budget or if they are someone who has a style you do not care for, the second choice would be computer calligraphy. There are many typestyle options in computer calligraphy. We would recommend using, preferably, a matching typestyle to the invitation or something very close. There are many local sources for computer calligraphy. And a few invitation companies also offer that service.
We would caution, no matter if you are using a hand calligrapher or computer calligraphy, that you order at least 25 extra envelopes are ordered to account for a small percentage of errors. An experienced calligrapher generally makes very few mistakes, but it can happen. And sometimes there is waste even with computer calligraphy if envelopes are not fed through the printing systems correctly or if the stylus, depending on the system being used, is not performing smoothly on the envelope stock selected. Some envelopes are shimmer stock or have a higher gloss to them and those stocks are more challenging for either resource, a hand-calligrapher or a computer calligraphy system.
As another option, if a calligrapher is not working for you and if you don't want to use computer calligraphy is to use someone with very pretty and reliable hand-writing who will either do this as a gift for you or you can settle on a price per envelope. Someone who has a lovely hand-lettering style is certainly a great option as it's the end result that matters, not whether the person doing the lettering is a true calligrapher.
We do not recommend trying to do the computer calligraphy at home. Home laser printers, for example, operate in a high heat system which can slightly melt an envelope which might already have a return address printed in thermography. Getting a smooth pass-through in a home printer is challenging at best. You'll often find a lot of wrinkles. And some wedding envelopes will actually be too thick to be fed through a home system. And we absolutely, under any circumstances, do not - we repeat - do not use computerized address labels. Those should be saved only for corporate mailings!