From the traditional to the
whimsical, calligraphy can be created in many shapes and styles. Whether
you choose sumptuous curves or sophisticated lines, the calligraphy on
your invitations -- and envelopes, menus, place cards, table cards, maps,
programs, guest books, wedding favors, and notes for out-of-towners --
adds a personal touch that reflects the tone of your event. To help you
find the lettering that best suits your wedding, we've collected 18 of the
most frequently used "hands," or writing styles.
By far the most popular hand, this elegant yet simple style looks good on
any paper. Italic letters slant upward to the right and are based on an
oval shape, with the width of the letters usually half of their height.
Created with a broad-tipped pen, the clean, crisp line can dress up to
announce an ultra-formal Saturday night affair or dress down to set a more
casual mood for a Sunday afternoon garden wedding. What makes this hand so
pretty is the alterations between the thick and thin lines made by the
pen. Variations are endless, and Italic can be matched easily to
complement many typefaces. (This is helpful if you want to mirror the
typeface on your invites, for example.)
2. CHANCERY ITALIC
Slightly sharper and more formal than traditional Italic. The capital
letters, like the M, C, and H in this example, are more decorative.
3. SCROLL ITALIC
One of the most formal hands, Scroll Italic is a simplified adaptation of
Spencerian (see below) and resembles cursive handwriting.
4. STRAIGHT ITALIC
This hand falls between Italic and Roman styles and is recognizable by its
vertical, rather than slanted, letters -- most noticeably in the capital E
and lowercase d in this example.
5. FLOURISHED ITALIC
This Italic is enhanced with a calligrapher's personal touch. Note the
exaggeration on the finish of the letters, as well as the slanted word
Written with a pointed pen that is hand-dipped in ink, this style uses
pressure to create delicate thick and thin lines. Traditional Copperplate
sets a romantic mood and is popular for addressing envelopes. Developed in
Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, this is a true calligraphic
hand and one of the most graceful, lending itself easily to flourishes
(it's the lettering on the Declaration of Independence). Copperplate is
also one of the most difficult alphabets for a calligrapher because of the
method of writing (the slow process of applying and releasing pressure on
the nib) and therefore tends to be the most expensive. As with Italic,
there are endless variations, and Copperplate can be matched easily to
complement many typefaces.
7. ROOK COPPERPLATE
"Rook" is hand lettering made to resemble a printed typeface. It
represents a variation on the traditional Copperplate, with a slight
difference in the capital letters (a bit more round in the accents -- see
the exaggerated curls of the capital M and lowercase n).
8. SLOOP COPPERPLATE
"Sloop" is also a term taken from printed type and shows another
variation on the traditional Copperplate. In this hand, the capital
letters have elongated curves in the accents; see the sweeping motion of
the capital M and L and the lowercase r and d.
Also called Old English or Blackhand, this is a very formal hand. Written
using a broad-tipped pen, Gothic is perfect for a theme or period wedding
and works well with similar or matching print typefaces (on your invites,
Uncial is one of the oldest styles of handwritten alphabets and is a nice
alternative to Italic. Based on Irish calligraphy, it works well with an
Irish theme. This alphabet is mostly all caps, with the letters all about
the same height and width. Uncial is very rounded and stylized, offering a
traditional yet contemporary look. Produced with a broad-tipped pen, it is
straightforward and elegant and also works well matching simple print
A very classic hand with a clear round alphabet, Roman is less formal than
its related print typeface. This hand is best suited for bridal showers
and other casual parties. Its small serifs dignify diagonal stroke letters
such as capital R as well as straight letters such as capital M and
lowercase p. The lower case is half (and sometimes a little more) the
height of the capitals. Developed by Italian scholars in the 14th century,
Roman lettering is one of the most recognized of all styles.
12. ANTIQUE ROMAN
A variation on the traditional Roman, Antique Roman has capital letters
that are much taller than the lowercase. This stately hand also has
extended vertical strokes on the ascending and descending letters; see the
capital M and S.
13. ROMAN CAPITALS
Similar to traditional Roman but in all capital letters. Roman capitals
are the foundation of our modern-day alphabet, derived from the style of
Roman scribes and stonecutters, which developed into the very common Roman
This is another example of a true historical calligraphic hand. Ornate and
flourished, Spencerian is an offshoot of Copperplate and dates back to the
18th century. Created with a pointed pen, the thick and thin lines create
sophisticated letterforms and rhythms within the script. Spencerian is
traditional, formal, and very easily matched to a printer's font.
Spencerian has many variations depending on the scribe; it is the most
varied of all the hands since there is no "set" alphabet for
calligraphers to follow.
London is hand lettering made to look like a printed typeface. Based on
the Spencerian hand, it is beautifully classic, formal, and readable. It
can be scripted with or without loops on the ascending letters, such as
the lowercase l and d.
16. ST. JAMES
St. James is also hand lettering made to look like a typeface. Based on
the Spencerian hand, St. James is refined and smooth. The ascending and
descending letters (capital M and S) are unlooped and finished quite
distinctly with a blunt stroke, creating a formal look.
An offshoot of St. James, this is also hand lettering developed to
resemble a typeface. The ascending and descending letters in Venetian
(capital G and lowercase l and y) are looped with traditional
This is an example of a hand developed by an individual calligrapher.
Calligrapher Glorie Austern created this script -- more of a handwriting
style -- using the lowercase form for capital letters. This is a style
similar to basic cursive -- it's fun and is readable, like Italic.