The same afternoon that Emily Dodson casually posted an image of the Prayer of Saint Francis, with her own handwriting and artistic flourishes, to Instagram, a friend excitedly texted her, asking Emily to design her wedding invitations. “At the time,” says Emily, “I had no experience with calligraphy experience or paper goods, but I'd always loved writing.”
Emily called her friend to discuss the wedding details, committed to trying out a design, and insisted there’d be no hurt feelings if the bride preferred something different. To her surprise, the bride loved Emily’s work so much that she invited her to address her envelopes, as well.
The Lord was inviting Emily to examine--and share--her gifts.
Several years since, that first casual project has become a full-fledged wedding stationery business, Emily Kathryn Designs. Making beautiful use of clean white space, color, flowy script, and special touches like wax seals, her work strikes an elegant balance between modern and timeless. And the significance goes beyond looks: with her deep love for the Catholic Church, itself “ever ancient, ever new,” Emily’s designs likewise merge old and new; family tradition and history with the newness of a couple’s entrance into their vocation.
Her love for the faith is evident from the moment you glance at her feed and visit her website, but don’t stop at a short glance or scroll. Emily Kathryn Designs’ Instagram and blog are rich with resources for brides, from uplifting quotes to practical stationery tips, glimpses of her Catholic clients’ weddings, and Emily’s own spiritual reflections.
Emily on how her business developed from that first project: I had so much fun designing and lettering my friend’s suite, but it honestly felt like a one-time thing. I knew nothing about weddings or small businesses, or the fact that becoming a custom stationer & calligrapher was even possible. But one after another friends continued reaching out, asking me to design their suites, prints for their homes, or custom stationery cards.
Little by little, it went from friends to friends-of-friends and continued to grow. I now haven't had a day in the past three years when I wasn't working on at least one custom wedding suite! All along the way, I would tell people I wondered if the opportunities were "a God thing"--something that I loved to do came out of nowhere and continued growing even when I kept anticipating it would end.
The primary inspiration for my brand comes from my grandad’s old saying, “Simple is beautiful.” I always come back to this. Since my faith is central to who I am--and was also a big part of my grandad!--I find that instead of my faith playing a role in my business, it’s my business that’s playing a role in my faith. This creative outlet is a big way I find myself expressing prayer to our Father, often doodling the words he puts on my heart through scripture and hymns.
Additionally, I love that my business revolves around a sacrament! Walking with others toward their marriage constantly reminds me of the beauty of the sacrament and centers me on my own marriage, as well.
I see now how God has used my gifts to further the Church’s teachings on marriage, sacrament and love.
I've started a blog on my site, where I share practical wedding stationery advice alongside my personal growth in marriage, my understandings of Church teachings on family, my experience with NFP, and more. So it seems it has been a "God thing" after all. He's had a plan and a vision for my life that in my own small way, I can strengthen his vision for marriage, spread the Gospel, and further his Church.
When a client signs on with me--and even before that when he or she makes an inquiry--they not only meet a stationer with a passion for hand lettering, but a passion for love and marriage. They get a cheerleader who wants to learn about how their love began, how God is working through their relationship, and what they hope to encounter in their marriage. They get a designer who finds joy in the details--the handmade, family heirloom touches, rich traditions that make a wedding day speak from the heart of the couple. I specialize in custom suites and I rejoice in deeply knowing my couples so that I can bring their unique love, and the love God has for them, onto paper!
An interview with Emily
Favorite saints & devotions: Saints Therese of Lisieux, Catherine of Siena and Anthony of Padua have each been important to me at various points in my life, and I love reading about their lives (which are very different from one another!). However, throughout my entire life, my strongest devotion has been to Mary, our Mother. From watching my great-grandmother pray the rosary five times daily, to learning the Memorare from my best friend's mom--now my Confirmation sponsor--growing up, to choosing Mary as my patron saint at Confirmation, I've felt a deep love and connection to her Immaculate Heart. My faith is its strongest when I'm praying with Mary daily; I call on her often for fortitude and compassion. I admire Mary's quiet and steady trust in the Lord, and strive to embody that trait in my own life.
Favorite thing about working on weddings: I love working on weddings because I have such a strong devotion to and love for the sacrament of marriage. I have been blessed beyond belief to have grown up surrounded by beautiful examples of marriage in my parents and grandparents, among others. I believe deeply and fiercely in the graces this sacrament pours out, which I have felt tangibly in my life and even more so through the first year of my own marriage.
Marriage is the foundation of the family unit, and I feel called to preserve its sanctity because so many pillars of our culture depend on it.
Through my stationery design and calligraphy, I enjoy sharing in other couples' preparation for the sacrament, walking with them and upholding the truth that the wedding day is a rich and meaningful beginning to a calling of selflessness and sacrifice.
Best wedding day memory: It feels so hard to pick just one! If I must, I’d say our first dance at the reception. I remember swirling around, seeing the faces of so many people we loved--and also seeing a room full of beautiful surprises! My parents truly “hosted” our wedding in every sense of the word, so there were tons of special touches around the room that we hadn’t known to expect. Each of these were sweet nods to my husband and myself, our relationship, our families and our heritage. It made us feel so special and our wedding day so personal!
Favorite place I’ve traveled: Rome! I first went in third grade and again in college, when I studied art and architecture in Greece and Italy. After spending two weeks in Rome, I made a special trip back to Vatican City to say goodbye before leaving. Attending the Papal Mass at Pentecost, praying the rosary with our brothers & sisters in all different languages, and visiting the bones of St. Peter in the catacombs beneath the basilica were some top life moments for me!
Fave foods: Broccoli, my mom’s York Brownies, and homemade birthday cake.
I take my coffee...Black, all. The. Way. Almond milk cappuccino if I’m feeling fancy.
I root for the...Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers and the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks
Love means...sacrifice. Laying down your life for the good of another.