Wedding Invitation Designer’s Life (Pulling Back the Curtain)
I’m peeling back the layers for you to know more about a wedding invitation designer’s life and the path that has led me here.
Michelle Obama, ” When you are the first of anything, the bar feels like it’s placed higher. You don’t have room to make mistakes.”
I totally relate to what Michelle Obama said above. As a wedding invitation designer, at times it feels incredibly lonely.
I’m Pakistani. A Muslim woman. Wearing a hijab. On top of all of that, I’m British, and for twelve years I have been living abroad based in Saudi Arabia. As a family we later returned to England, yet starting a small business whilst being based in Saudi Arabia was challenging and fraught with isolation at the best of times!
Photography by Passionate Wedding
With all of that weighed in the balance I feel as though I am the first of many things in this predominantly white wedding industry. I do feel as though the bar is placed higher for me. Success is harder to reach. Do I know the right people, or mix in the right circles? No – I don’t know them. Did I have contacts? Not at all. Did I know other wedding invitation designers or calligraphers, no. Could I go to the right parties, the Engage Summit or networking events? Right out of my comfort zone. Mixing with a large room of strangers is quite intimidating for me.
With the amount of competition out there, in the wedding industry, I also feel as though there are zero room for mistakes. I have to over deliver again and again. Many times I have been taken advantage of and walked all over. I am trying to get better at drawing a line with this.
Photography by, Auras Studios
Remembering back when I started out, about three years ago. Brimming with eagerness to show my worth. I came across another calligrapher who had worked with Saks Fifth Avenue and came across her whilst listening to her on a podcast. I for some bizarre reason thought that I would take a chance and reach out to her. This was quite naive on my part to say the least!
After sending a very polite little email asking if she could offer me any pearls of wisdom along my journey, guess what she said?
I was quite shocked, when after looking around on my IG and website, she must have found a few photos of me and remarked…. Go to the mosque and ask them for help.
Shaking it off, I knew that I couldn’t let people like that hold me back. I had come this far. Push through a voice inside me felt.
Photography by, Auras Studios
How did my journey as a wedding invitation designer and illustrator start?
I started my creative journey as a wedding invitation designer three years ago. Without a doubt, I thought my journey would be simple. Straightforward. Wildly successful. Maximum, I thought it would take 3-4 months. The sales would start rolling in, because my work was so unique. It had to stand out. Business was easy! Or so I thought. Now, that feels like a lifetime ago.
Photography by, Auras Studios
Why become a wedding invitation designer?
I remember being giddy with joy and thinking that Eva Longaria is getting married and I want to make her wedding invitations. Imagine that. I certainly didn’t ever think that I would be a wedding invitation designer. I never even dreamt of this, or thought it was within my realm of possibility.
How did it all start?
It’s quite a long story.
My husband and I with our two sons have been living abroad in Saudi Arabia for a whopping 12 years. We were building a holiday home in Portugal and knew that we would move there eventually, once our boys had grown up and flew the coup, so to speak. Yet very soon we will be moving back to England so that we can support our sons as they prepare for college and GCSE’s.
I wanted to have a long term plan. My husband and I both needed to start our own businesses, or have some sort of a revenue source to be able to live out there. Having no clue what I would be doing in the future, I was of course anxious to be in Portugal with no way of being able to teach. At that moment, I was at the time doing a teachers training course to teach adults. Later we also settled on the idea of using our villa that we are building as an air b n b. However that was going to take a few years to complete!
The moment of revelation
On the spur of the moment one day, one of my closest friends spoke about here sister in Washington. She was a wedding venue stylist, which meant that she didn’t plan weddings, but she designed the wedding decor within the wedding venue.
As soon as she spoke those words, a spark went off inside me.
At that point in my life (to stop myself from going crazy) I had been teaching, KG, Year 3 and year 4. I have always been very creative and being able to play with design, in anyway possible has always inspired me. Especially during my students art lessons.
Always looking up with great admiration to those friends of mine who achieve academically and become doctors or lawyers, I had always wanted to be one of those achievers.
Yet academics wasn’t for me. To be creative was to be free.
Being creative has always been natural for me. When I’m in the right zone and inspiration is flowing, designs seem to spring out from my hands. It’s a way that I seek solace from the world (see this small mini watercolour project that I enjoyed taking on only for a week) and it helps me to feel as though I’ve made some sort of progress for the day.
Becoming a wedding invitation designer came later
At first, I wanted to be a wedding planner. It was the perfect job. I’m really quick on my feet and can style table really quickly. I knew so many French-Portuguese, that would during the summer marry in Portugal and I thought that I could plan their weddings. In hindsight, it became too much of a logistical nightmare to arrange, especially while I was in the Gulf region.
One day while I was surfing through galaxy of Pinterest, I somehow came across a stationery designer who hand painted all of her designs. It was such a revelation to me. This was it. I was meant to do this all along. It had just never shown up in this way before.
Following on, I spent the next two years designing constantly. The first range of designs that I illustrated within my first 6 months are now all thrown away. They were pretty awful. I knew that I had something to offer. I had that confidence inside me that I was a considerably good designer. However my designs were not yet refined enough and it took time!
Stationery by Crimson Letters. Photography by Marni Wishart
I carried on doing consistent styled shoots and editorials. Over the 3 years I have collaborated in about 25 inspiration styled shoots for weddings, for the sole purpose of building my brand and portfolio. Here are some of the lessons that I learnt from doing those shoots!
Here are some of the editorials that I am the most proud of:
Don’t turn your hobby into your career UNLESS it’s a side venture
I’m going to go in the opposite direction of the masses of advice that is out there, saying that you should make your passion your career.
If you have a hobby and love it for what it is, keep it that way. Really.
Launching a business and trying to get that business to grow takes not only an insane amount of passion, but it tests you and challenges you to meet your greatest fears head on.
There will be many times that you will – or at least I did -question yourself as to whether it’s all worth it.
Business can be a feast or famine. You can literally go for months and month without any enquiries, any promise or a whisper of work. Only to then at the desperation of it all promise to reduce your rates so low, just enough to cover your costs, that you end up seething with resentment that you took it on. Believe me, it is just not enough to start a few social media accounts and expect the orders to start rolling in.
You stand a much better chance of success if you develop your business on the side of having a full, or a part time job. You’ll have some sort of an income coming in which will stop you from feeling so desperate, and you need that support in the early years.
I hope you enjoyed reading this little bio and that it will inspire you. If you’re from a minority, or just finding it hard to overcome a specific set of challenges, know that you are not alone. If I can do it, you can do it. Keep working away and developing day by day. If you have the talent, you can create a side business for yourself. It takes guts. Determination and sheer dedication.
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