Who would’ve thought?

So, there I was browsing a plethora of generic and/or expensive wedding invitations when it occurred to me that we may just have enough time to - buy an old Adana 8x5 press, design our own wedding invitations, learn the dark art of letter press printing and proceed to print 35 unique wedding invitations and associated stationary before the end of the year.

As this is something that I have absolutely no experience of, I wanted to join this forum to understand a) how realistic this approach is, b) whether the Adana 8x5 is the right machine for the job.

Thank you so much to those that have the time to respond.


Log in to reply   22 replies so far

you will have to determine whether buying the old press is worth 35 invites. they can get quite expensive, unless you plan on doing more with the press after your invites are printed.

Thomas, congratulations on your up coming wedding.
Rather than buying a small press here’s another solution.
Find a shop or educational facility near you that offers classes and or time on their equipment. Work with a pro, design your piece and print it.
If the letterpress bug bites, then get the press and all he other accoutrements that you’ll need to print.
Knowing Briarpress if you reply with your locale I’m sure the letterpress community will post some suggested place to print.

Thomas, very good plan, buy a press, learn letterpress than print your own invitations, this should stall your wedding for at least 5 or 6 years til you learn how to print. You are truely a cleaver man, maybe my new hero.

Sounds very do-able and gratifying as long as the press is in good, working, ready-to-print order. Finding a local, if possible, to help you get started is probably wise. If it doesn’t work out you’ve still got time to hire out. 40+ years ago I printed our hand drawn invitations on a xerox copy machine (but used 100% rag (looking) paper to add some class).

More importantly… have you visited any marriage prep sites to be sure a) how realistic this approach is, b) whether your mate is the right machine for the job. Congratulations and best wishes.

To Newly-Weds-to-be Everywhere:
First of all: “Congratulations!”
Some 57 years ago this kid was planning to get married. First thing we got done were our wedding invitations. Having taken a print trade course in high school (class of 1954), and having learned some of the fundamentals of the trade working in my brother’s shop from an early age (seven), and after graduation, working full time at the trade in a small job shop.
I don’t understand anyone’s desire to print (inexperienced yet) their own wedding invitations.
This is a very important event in your lives, yet you wouldn’t think of buying a sewing machine and sewing your bridal parties gowns.
Nor would you buy an oven to bake your wedding cake.
Or would you recruit all of your nieces and nephews to get a band together to play at your wedding.
Why all the excitement to print your own wedding invitations?
Unless you have some experience at printing and/or perhaps have a knowledgeable family member or friend to assist you (or take charge of the project} leave it to a pro.
As I told the lady friend after she showed me an invitation to her mom’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, set on her computer in Brush with main lines set in all CAPS.
Quote…my words to her… “Don’t quit your day job.”
PS. One of the pre-requisites of the printing trade is it’s… stationery, not stationary!

Writ by Ye Olde crusty, bad-tempered, surly, difficult, cantankerous person, ill-tempered, usually old.
Yes, I qualify for the old part, but then with age comes wisdom!
Therefore, am I a curmudgeon!

Well stated, Stanislaus! I once encountered a (potential) customer who, complaining about the price of a four-colour wedding announcement, had the ignorance to say: “After all, it’s just typewriting.” She barely escaped. :o)

Mr. Pekala, my wife and I (with help from friends and family, of course) sewed something like 10 outfits from scratch for our wedding. I also did all the graphic design and layout work for the wedding invitation package, printed and bound most of it myself and we stuffed, sealed and mailed everything ourselves. Why shouldn’t someone do these things themselves?

Thomas, there’s some good advise in this thread. Letterpress printing can be incredibly rewarding, fun, and liberating. It can also be incredibly frustrating, dangerous and extremely expensive. If you really want to pick yourself up a small press, by all means, go to town! But it might well be worth it to do as Steve suggests and find someone experienced you could work with to make the experience as pain-free as possible. If you find you enjoyed the experience, you can always join the ranks of us obsessive, irascible oddballs who call ourselves letterpress enthusiasts. Good luck to you and congratulations!

dickg, and others:
Yes, the ITU apprenticeship program in my day was six years. Even at that a good many graduates did not hold a job for too long. Some apprenti were trained in the job shop area, others in newspaper. Then came the time to almost change your career from job to newspaper or vice-versa, and some poor guys (or gals) were lost!
Comes to mind, years ago in a small job shop, I was reprimanded by a customer for printing her wedding invitations with the second line reading:
“requests the honour of your presence at the…”
instead of following her copy:
“requests the honour of your presents at the…”
At that time my boss intervened and gave the bride-to-be a short course in the English language!
Good Night!

It’s me, Steve, I’m back. It occurred to me these pix were available on line.
In 2011 our friends Rich and Alex, who had never printed before came to print their invites at Raleigh D’Adamo’s. Together we have over 80 years of printing experience.
I’m the one in the gold t-shirt.


I think the smiles speak for themselves. Forget the curmudgeons.

Congratulations on your accomplishments. No reason for anyone not to do things themselves if they are as qualified to do them as you folks are.
This day and age…craft shops, Home Depot Stores, Loews, Staples, auto parts retailers…it’s a do-it-yourself society.
But watch out for the do-it-your-selfer who screws up the brake job on the wife’s car!

Ah, yes, the earnest do-it-your-selfer. Where would neurosurgery and engineering (not to mention, Lawyers) be without them? :o) Certainly, many untrained people are capable of placing black marks on paper, heck, that’s what crayons are for; but as to wedding announcements? Such primitive mangling will surely give that once-in-a-lifetime joining that just-right look - won’t it? Shades of the 60s! In fact, to impart a real special flavour, Cuniform is hard to top. Clay tablets might prove unmailable though. :o)

Go for it Thomas, I bought a press, did a ton of research while restoring it over the course of a few months. I also got some guidance in person and got to print with supervision.

My first job was 150 postcards, the work was certainly not perfect in my eyes, but the client was very happy and gladly paid for the work (that is, the three hours of labour it took to print the job, plus materials).

I think printing your own wedding materials sounds like perfect motivation and if you take your time learning, you’ll end up with something special.

Good luck. :)


Lots of good advice. You see that there is no one only right answer.
Do not undertake the task just to attempt to save money.
Is the Adana a satisfactory press. The answer is maybe.

Those of us who attempt to offer advice from a distance do not know anything about you. We do not know the condition of the press. We have no idea of what the invitation will look like.
As a general rule, the small press will not print more than half the size of the chase well. You can print it in two or more parts. If you wish the now popular smash printing where you print into the paper rather than on it, the little Adana is not real good for that. But, it can be done in several passes.
I talked one bride-to-be out of buying a press and attempting to learn to print and do her wedding printing. She had a very complicated four color invitation. It was not a beginners project. I invited her to come to learn and print with me.

If you really want to print your own invitations i think the best advice would be to find a printer to work with you and print them at his shop, then if you liked printing you have the rest of your life to collect the necessary things needed to print with. Swing by my shop and i’d gladly help you, as long as you pay for materials you can print your own.

to all

There’s the story of the Canadian (or Australian) who lived in part of the country where there was only one dentist n the town.

After about 5 years, he moved to a bigger city, asked advice and went to one of the several dentists.

Sat in the chair, opened his mouth, the dentist looked around for a few minutes, then said, “Hmmm, been doing your own work?”



Where do you live? If it’s anywhere close to St. Paul, MN I’d be happy to get you started on the basics.

Send me a private message if you’re interested.



Where do you live? If it’s anywhere close to St. Paul, MN I’d be happy to get you started on the basics.

Send me a private message if you’re interested.


I printed our wedding invitations, orders of service, and menus - I had 20 years amateur printing experience. I aimed for a rather historical ‘period’ look - the mid seventeenthe cenury (1640s/50s). This was a period when everyday utiltarian printing in England was none too achieved, almost a byword for poor quality. I replicated that poor quality with great authenticity. There may be a small moral therein.

In the 12 months between our engagement and the wedding we cooked and froze food for a hundred people (four course main meal plus evening buffet, all to seventeenth century recipies), made replica 1640s clothing for all participants, and I designed and made my black silk 1640s suit and my wife’s blue dupion silk, fully boned 1640s dress. Friends formed a string quintet to play in the ceremony; a baker friend made all the breads; a friend-of-a-friend did the flowers; a friend did the photography; another friend did the two-tier cake; the local Womens’ Institute warmed and served the banquet - only the group that did the music for folk dancing was hired-in. Almost 20 years later we still speak of those 12 months as having almost destruction-tested our relationship. The wedding was a success on every count - excellent company, an excess of good food, an excess of good beer, a night of folk dancing, all in the great hall of a castle. We look back now on that year of preparation and shake our heads in disbelief at our youthful energy…

Printing your own wedding stationery without prior experience or owning equipment? It will certainly not be the cheap or easy option but the equipment you buy may at least hold its value if you buy wisely - unless you are permanently bitten by the amateur printing bug and retain it. Design stationary that is ‘different’ from the standard commercial stationary so that people (including you) do not automatically make comparisons. Consider preparing the designs on a computer and having polymer line blocks made - this would save acquiring type - but learning the rudiments of composition is in my estimation at least 50% of the pleasure of amateur printing and you would miss that delight. If a month or so before the wedding your printing is not meeting your expectations, then turn the job over to a commercial printer. But don’t despair - you can always keep practising and print the birth announcements for your first child, or invitations to your 10th wedding anniversay party, or whatever later event that coincides with your printing reaching a standard that you are truly satisfied with. From this admittedly rather flippant advice you may understand that amateur printing is about continuously learning and improving but there always being a margin for further improvement (and buying more type!).

With careful design, an Adana eight-five should cope.

UK based, I presume? Get in touch with the British [amateur] Printing Society; there may be a local branch near you.

The Free Presse

Stored food?

I presume there is available a service which could handle that amount of food, frozen. Quite a thought.



You can print your own invitations. It will probably end up costing you more money in the end, but you’ll know the basics of printing and own a press. If that sounds like a deal to you, do it. Find a local class or mentor though. Tell us where you’re located and someone will almost certainly offer to help.

There are a lot of people on this site who spent a lifetime learning their trade. They are rightly very proud of their skill. They seem conflicted though, as many recent posts indicate.

On the one hand, I suspect the old printers are glad to see a revival of their craft, and a few of the old presses being restored and saved from the scrap man. And now there is a whole generation of printers hungry for the knowledge in their heads. Enter Briar press.

On the other hand, all of the newbies think as soon as they put ink on paper, they’re printers. Some of the real printers on this site take offense to this. Some get very grumpy indeed.

I don’t presume to know you, but I suspect that if you’re thinking of buying a press and posting here, you’ll do just fine. Make sure you have enough time (and maybe a backup plan), and make sure to get help. I can’t see why anyone would discourage you from joining the rest of us in this absurd hobby/profession.

Good luck.

@ Alan Nankivel: we used our regular domestic freezer, a second one we bought specially for the year leading up to the wedding, and various friends’ freezers. But not everything was frozen:

1st remove [course]: rabbit and vegetable stew was made on the day though the rabbits had been jointed and frozen months previously, winter vegetable and chestnut soup was made on the day though the chestunts and vegetables had been frozen when in season, rolls and bread were made the previous day by a baker friend;

2nd remove: raised (i.e. hot water and suet crust) game pies with venison dumplings in the pies were made when game had been in season and frozen, nut and vegetable pies were also made long in advance and frozen, clapshot (mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes mixed together) and vegetables were cooked on the day;

3rd remove: fruit pies were made when the various fruits were in season and frozen, fruit fools were made on the day, cream was bought fresh;

4th remove: biscuits and marzipan fruit were made a few days ahead of time, coffee was made on the day;

(interval of a few hours for dancing)

5th remove (savoury buffet): goose and ham raised pies were made months in advance when goose (almost only available at Christmas in the UK) was available and frozen; pickles and chutneys were made months in advance when the various vegetables were in season and to allow the flavours to mature; quiches and pates were made a few days ahead of time; cheeses were bought a few days ahead of time, oatcakes were made a few days ahead of time, rolls and bread were made the previous day by a baker friend, salads were made on the day.

6th remove (sweet buffet): fruit pies were made when the various fruits were in season and frozen, fruit fools were made on the day, cream was bought fresh, biscuits and cakes were made a few days ahead of time.

(further dancing)

The two-tier iced wedding cake was made by a friend a couple of weeks ahead of time as heavy traditional fruitcake made with spirits needs that length of time to mature.

Beer was bought from our local brewery a week ahead of time and I tapped the casks the previous day to give time for the sediment to settle.

Wines were bought in bulk months ahead of time and the modern labels replaced with pseudo-seventeenth century labels that I printed to the same authentically poor standard as everything else printed for the wedding.

There were sufficient leftovers from the 5th and 6th removes (i.e. the savoury and sweet buffets) and beer and wines for all the guests to have another buffet the following day, and for us to eat leftovers for the following week.

All printing was undertaken on a replica of an English wooden common press, using faces appropriate to the mid seventeenth century, and replica laid paper. Printing extended over a year, mostly at public events in castles and historic houses that we used to exhibit and demonstrate the press at.

And gee, I thought I made some progress today by cutting paper for my next APA bundle piece. :) Neil