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What Would They Know? Elly Hartley of Elly Hartley Designs

by | Stationery Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

Elly Hartley Designs

Wedding stationery has come a long way in a short space of time. Remember the days of fabric, button and lace embellishments which were an integral part of the design? Now the emphasis is on design, paper stock and of course gorgeous lettering. Creating the perfect wedding suite is the joy for Elly of Elly Hartley Designs – after all the wedding invitation gives your guests the first taste of the celebration to come. From floral and feminine to simple and elegant, the invitation can be as unique as you are – let your imagination run wild and Elly will pull it into a design you’ll love!

How did your stationery design journey begin?

It began a little over a year ago (I’m such an industry baby!). I spent about 6 months prior to that researching stationery suites, paper, printers, designs, and put together approximately 20 stationery suites which would be my “readymade” collection. I wasn’t really expecting it to take off the way it did, but in about 6 months I’d become an Etsy Award Finalist for New Talent, had been named a “Top 10” wedding stationer in Brisbane by The Knot and met so many amazing people! I’ve been very fortunate to come so far in such a short amount of time.

Have you always been creative?

I want to say yes but I don’t think I was that into Art at school haha and that’s like the clincher, isn’t it? Everyone thinks you can paint or draw – I can’t do either! My twin sister Bree is amazing at painting though. I always really liked doing crafty things outside of school. I remember doing a collage of an Orca Whale with torn up magazine pieces for my Mum as a present when I was little and she still has it! Thanks Mum :)

Terri Hanlon Photography

Image by Terri Hanlon Photography

What is it that you particularly love about designing wedding stationery? 

I love meeting brides and hearing about their wedding and their stories of how they met their “one”. I love love and always have so it makes sense to me to be in this industry. I love seeing the end result of the stationery incorporated into wedding days. I know it’s one of the minor details, but when it’s all matching and laid out with signage and table stationery, it can look so amazing. It’s rare that the stationery is featured in wedding photos, but when it is, it just looks so complete and perfect.

Do you find that custom design is more popular than standard designs with couples as they seek to personalize their weddings?

I think it really depends on what they’re after. I have had a few brides see one of my ready-made suites and luckily, it’s already exactly what they’re after, but a wedding theme, colour palette and creative feel is so individual that I find custom made a lot more popular and I love seeing ideas and coming up with an individual suite that suits their theme. It’s pretty special to have a one of a kind stationery for your day.

ADA_1 Elly Hartley Designs 3

Image by When Elephant Met Zebra

What is the starting point for designing a custom invitation suite?

The internet is my best friend! There’s so many places for wedding inspiration and I whole heartedly condone saving/pinning/screenshotting everything that you want for your wedding. It’s much easier, as a designer, for a bride to come to me with 20 images of other stationery/colour palettes/font choices/wedding themes and styling of things she’s seen around the internet that she likes so we have a starting point. I’ve had a few that describe what they want in words, but I’m a visual person so images are so much better for a general direction. It also eliminates the need for a lot of changes or the dreaded “that’s not what I want” feedback, which, thankfully, I haven’t heard yet!

Should the couple approach you with set ideas? Or do you work best off a loose folio of ideas that you can then adapt to a special design?

Either works for me really. Sometimes they know exactly what they want and even have an image of something very close to it, which makes my job a lot easier but I also like the whole brainstorming process I miss out on in those cases – the creative side of it. Bringing together ideas and colours and images, that part can be really exciting and can be a nice surprise when it’s met with “oh my god, it’s better than I ever imagined!” (that’s a direct quote) haha.

What do you use as your design influences, or do you find inspiration all around you, or from the couple themselves?

I’m a graphic designer by day, that’s my full time job, and I work with a lot of creative people there. I also get to work on wedding ads when our star traffic coordinator Jess allocates them to me. I also read a lot of wedding blogs, look through pinterest and I LOVE instagram. I follow so many great instagrams. They’re always updating with shoots they’ve done or weddings they’ve held or inspirational pictures.

Do certain types of paper look better with particular designs?

Absolutely. KW Doggett have such an amazing range of paper and I’m lucky when brides want to go all out with the paper, though I find most of the time they’re more focused on the design rather than the paper. Kraft or brown paper is so popular for the rustic theme at the moment. I really like thick cotton card, usually used for letterpress, but the look and feel is so luxurious.

TomEmily Elly Hartley Designs 5

Image by Elly Hartley Designs

What are some of the newer papers and finishes we can choose from?

Foils and letterpress are so hot at the moment, and for good reason, they look incredible! Copper foil on black paper looks amazing. I just had some letterpress business cards with pearl foiling printed from Brisbane’s Bespoke Press and they’re magical. If you’ve got the budget for letterpress or foil, it can take your stationery to a whole new level.

Are there any designs you are more drawn to creating?

ALL THE FLORAL. Honestly, I love flowers and everything about them. I wanted to be a florist once! I once had a bride say to me “we don’t really like floral” and I was thinking “I am definitely the wrong person to say that to” haha. I mean, I love designing in general, so if you don’t want flowers, of course I’ll run with that, but I really love creating pretty things. In my opinion, you can never have too much floral!

How often do you come up with new designs (for your ready made selections)? How long does it take to perfect the design?

I honestly haven’t had any time to create any new ones since my launch in June 2014. I don’t think many people realise how long design time actually takes. It can be quite a time consuming process from concept stage to a finished product. You have to look at patterns, textures, fonts, sizes, if you’re going to print on the front and back, layout, and also take into consideration things like name lengths (what if someone has a really long last name?) all these things have to be taken into consideration. It would probably take me about 4-6 weeks to come up with a new readymade suite and create all the promo shots for it as well.

Elly Hartley Designs - gold 1

Image by Elly Hartley Designs

How much personalization of the stationery suite can be included if ordering from your readymade selection?

Most of the time it’s just inserting the correct information for your wedding, however I can also do font and colour changes. If it’s too involved and too much of a change, I’d ask for them to change the order to a custom order rather than a readymade.

What time frame is needed when ordering stationery from you?

I have a full time 9-5 job so I can only work on orders at night time and also on the weekend. Some weekends I’m out of town. I think a lot of people are so used to immediate response times these days but I’m a one-woman business and sometimes that’s impossible. I also have a medical condition that means I need a lot of rest so sometimes I also don’t have the energy to do any design work that day, especially after coming home from my full time job. I try my best though because I really love what I do and I want to provide the best service I can.

Do the trends in stationery follow for example, trends in florals or wedding styles? Are there any standouts (trends) for this year?

I have never been a trendy, stylish or fashionable person haha. So if I’m out of the loop, that’s why. But I find a lot of brides are so on-trend that I don’t really have to be. In saying that, you can’t help BUT notice the trends when you’re perusing the bridal sites. A lot of boho is prevalent at the moment, modern calligraphy is HUGE, I have never seen anything like it. If I could do it, I would, but I just don’t have the talent for it, I get Floralovely Calligraphy to handle all that for me (she did my logo). Also peonies look to be the most loved floral at the moment. All trends which I love, by the way, that’s probably why they’re trends! Everyones loves them, they’re all amazing in their own right.

Any special places in QLD you’d recommend to us to visit?

I am so in love with the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. It’s always been my favourite local-ish type of place. I also love Port Douglas. I spent my 30th birthday there (eek, I just gave away my old!) and it was like home to me. It was so relaxed and beautiful. I would definitely go back, mostly because Cyclone Ita decided to pay a visit when I was there! And just a quick tip for any brides looking for a destination wedding, there’s an amazing little chapel called St Mary’s By The Sea up there, right on the cape, nestled in amongst palm trees. It’s gorgeous.

Terri Hanlon Photography

Image by Terri Hanlon Photography

Favourite place to holiday?

My boyfriend Eric and I just came back from a holiday in Fiji and it was absolutely the best holiday I’ve ever been on. Fiji is spectacular. The people are so nice! We stayed on the Coral Coast at the Fiji Hideaway Resort and Spa and waking up, 20 metres from the bright blue waters every morning was heaven. I miss it so much. We’ll definitely be going back! The resort we stayed at also holds weddings in this beautiful traditional Fijian bure and I can only imagine the photos would be incredible. The resort also has two resort cats that wander around and pay you a visit (I’m a mad cat person, my rescue cat Minnie is absolutely the best thing in fur) and was also one of my most favourite things. I’m lucky enough to be designing a suite for a bride who’s getting married in Fiji next year! They are definitely photos I will be requesting when the weddings over!

Thank you Elly for sharing your story. To find out more about Elly Hartley Designs visit the website or Elly’s Etsy shop.

Headshot courtesy of Elly Hartley Designs.

The Importance of Engagement Photographs

by | Wisdom, Wise Words


gm photographics
Find me on Ms Polka Dot's Directory


Becoming engaged is one of the most exciting times in your life. Capturing this special time with photography is something every couple should do.

Unless you and your fiancé are professional models, it is unlikely you will have had much experience in front of a camera.  Trust us when we say the average wedding day produces 900+ photographs, and you will be in most of them!

For couples who are looking for a wedding photographer in the future, at gm photographics, we find an engagement shoot is a great way to get comfortable in front of the camera and work out what feels and looks good for you. It’s also a great way to get to know your photographer and build a rapport with them so you can relax and feel totally confident on your wedding day. Not to mention it’s a great way to have fun with your fiancé, and get some great shots of the two of you!


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If you are wondering about great locations for your wedding photography, your engagement shoot offers an opportunity to visit these locations, see how they photograph and work out your travel times. Alternatively if you want to save those locations for the wedding day, then explore some new locations and have a totally different look and feel for your engagement portraits.



We suggest giving some thought to the style of photography you like and how you want to be portrayed. Bring along your engagement ring box so we can capture some beautiful details for you or anything that was significant from your engagement date. Think about theming your engagement shoot. For example; balloons and love signs…anything that will help to personalise your shoot and make it truly unique to you as a couple. We also love including your pets. They make a great addition to the shoot and can really help to animate you in your photographs.

Consider having professional makeup applied before your shoot. Natural makeup has a greater longevity in photographs. Also consider having a hair stylist blow dry or style your hair for the shoot. It is important you love the way you both look so you will love your photos.


We encourage our couples to create a Pinterest board of some of their favourite photos for both their engagement and wedding day shoots. This gives us great insight and helps us capture the best photographs for you. Following Instagram will also help you see a variety of different images and give you some added inspiration.

Many of our couples are looking for special items from their shoot for their wedding – including save the date cards or custom designed guest signing books as well as a range of frames that can be displayed at the ceremony or reception. These all act as very special keepsakes after your wedding and will look amazing in your new home together.



We suggest having your engagement photography as soon as possible after you are engaged – try not to leave it and book it too close to your wedding. It is such a special time that passes quickly. Give yourself time before the wedding to enjoy and soak up the moment of being engaged. It will also give you time to think about and order the special items you will need for your big day. Engagement photos can be great birthday or Christmas presents for your parents too !


LRT081All images via gmphotographics

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Ms Chinoiserie Says: I love the idea of creating a Pinterest board; it really helps your photographer understand your vision!

About gm photographics: Our handpicked team of photographers have an innate ability to connect and capture. With a photo-journalistic style, we absolutely love what we do! Together with our dedicated in-house creative team, we’ll help you plan the perfect shoot and ensure it flows flawlessly. Our award-winning photography is all about you. Your wedding. Your family. Your special someone.

Vendor’s Favourites – Grain and Co.

by | Vendor's Favourite, Wisdom


Grain and Co.


Oh, where do I start! I am crushing on so many gorgeous pieces at the moment….I love them all!

1. Australian Beaches. Best place to live! Image via Thala Beach Lodge via Luxury Honeymoons – Thala Beach Lodge, Port Douglas

2. Succulents. I’m really into succulents at the moment! I love the colours. Image by Lil Elements

3. & 4. Samantha Wills Jewellery. Love, love, love!!!! Images via Samantha Wills

5. Decadent Cakes!  My first love would have to be the semi naked cake….I love the simplicity and rustic look of this cake and you can add your own personal touch by choosing a few of your favourite flowers or fresh fruit to complement your style or theme. Cake and image via Kashaya & Co

6. Fresh Florals. I’m just loving beautiful fresh florals too…. I just can’t resist picking up a bunch of fresh peonies or white roses. Image by Lil Elements


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Ms Chinoiserie Says: Love, love, love your selection too! Succulents are often overlooked – but are one of my favourites too; their colours are so pretty!

About Grain and Co.: Specialising in wooden cake and cupcake toppers – and so much more – we take the up most care to ensure each piece is designed, made and hand finished to perfection. We are inspired by everything in this beautiful world and love to surround ourselves with amazing raw talent. Working together with world-class food stylists, bloggers, bakers and illustrators has opened our eyes up to endless possibilities!

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