Wedding Invitations: What is a backing layer?

Nothing screams luxury more than a thick, stiff invitation. Conversely, invitations that are thin and bend easily send a message of poor quality and may reflect to the invitation recipient that the event will also be sub par. Thick cover stock is one way to achieve a luxurious feel. Another is to add a backing layer to the invitation.

A backing layer is a piece of cardstock adhered to the invitation itself. The backing layer is slightly larger than the invitation so it adds a border to the piece, creating an opportunity for an additional touch of color.

My favorite cardstock to use for a backing layer is Stardream metallic. Their 105 lb. stock can be purchased precut via cutcardstock.com or envelopemall.com, among others. I recommend the backing layer be sized .375″ greater than the invitation itself. For a 5″x7″ standard invitation for example, the backing layer would be 5″x7″ and the invitation would be 4.625″x 6.625″. This will achieve a .1875″ border all around the edge of the invitation.

The invitation pictured above was digitally printed on 100 lb. matte cover stock. It is adhered to a Stardream 105 lb. lapis lazuli (metallic navy blue) backing layer. The accompanying envelopes are Stardream Antique Gold.

The Skinny on Paper Weights

Clients ask me this a lot: what is the best paper weight for my invitations? I recommend 100 lb. cover stock (also called card stock – the terms are interchangeable) or higher (higher means heavier aka thicker). BUT! There are some caveats:

DIY From Your Home Printer
If you’re printing at home with your trusty inkjet printer, check your manual to see what paper weight your printer can withstand. A lot of the basic models can do no more than 100 lb. Some can’t print anything higher than 80 lb. Some can do heavier but only with certain settings. It’s important to check this out before investing in your paper. You don’t want to be printing your invitations at 12 o’clock at night only to discover that the cardstock you bought is jamming your printer like crazy and 200 invitations have to be hand-fed through your machine one by one to get it to work (or worse, it doesn’t work at all).

Professional Printing: Brick & Mortar
Whether you’re printing through Fedex Kinko’s, or a local mom and pop, be sure to check with them first to see what paper weight their machines can handle. 130 lb. cover stock is a very nice weight. But if their machine is going to turn it into origami with accompany choking sounds, it’s good to know that ahead of time.

Professional Printing: Online
This is pretty much a no-brainer, because the printer vendor is only going to offer what they know will work with their equipment. It’s worth it to do some digging on their site (or to place a quick call) to find out what weight paper they use. Sometimes this information is hidden, usually if it’s not anything to brag about. An 80 lb. cover stock is going to bend a lot more than a 130 lb. cover stock. It will also cost less (and then the bargain you thought you were getting on printing may not end up being a bargain at all. In other words, when you’re comparison shopping printers, be sure to factor the weight of the paper to determine the quality you’re getting for the price). The more high-end you want your wedding invitations to feel, the higher the paper weight you should go with.

Add A Backing Layer
If you know ahead of time that you’re going to add a backing layer to your invitations (or if you’re going to adhere your invitation to an enclosure), save yourself some money and stick with 80 lb.cover stock for the invitation. There’s no need for a thick invitation card in this case when the backing layer will more than likely be over 100 lb. itself (the Stardream brand, for example, is 105 lb.), making the total weight of the piece more than substantial enough. Adding a backing layer is also a nice option if your printer will not handle more than an 80 lb. cover stock but your aim is for a thicker invitation. You still may want to use a higher weight cover stock with your inserts (most people do not use backs for inserts) if paper weight is important to you.