If you are anything like me at all, when planning your wedding you want your guests to open their mailbox one day and be delighted that there’s some “fun mail” in there, mixed in with the typical sea of bills and junk. While it is just essentially a way to tell a person they are invited to your wedding, and provide them with details they need to attend, it’s also the first impression your guests will have of your event. You want to set the tone and let them know what to expect. Luckily today we all have access to some way of printing and quickly sending out invites. That hasn’t always been the case. Have you ever wondered how wedding invitations got their start? Maybe it’s just me, but I did some digging and wanted to share my findings. Here’s a brief history of the wedding invitation.
It’s hard to imagine, but there was indeed a time before the printing press existed. Before 1447 when that came about, English weddings were typically announced via a town crier. Can you imagine? Someone roaming the streets yelling your wedding is happening, and anyone within earshot was expected to be a part of the celebration. I imagine the modern day equivalent being a post on social media and anyone who sees it is invited. Please don’t do that.
The Birth of the Wedding Crest and Wax Seals
Something a little more eloquent to think about is the fact that our use of wax seals and wedding monograms and crests originated with nobility and monks who were masters of calligraphy. In the Middle Ages, most people still couldn’t read or write, so only the nobility sent out physical invitations. They would commission monks to do calligraphy and hand write their invitations, which at this time typically included a Coat of Arms and a wax seal.
Protective Tissue Paper
In 1642, the printing method of engraving came about, which helped the up and coming middle class have access to printed invitations. Someone would have to hand carve the text onto the metal plates BACKWARDS, you guys, then it would be printed. Invitations at this time were typically more detailed, even including each guest’s name on the invitation itself. A piece of tissue paper would be used to protect the text during transportation. This is where our sheet of vellum or tissue paper came from. Some brides choose to use a protective sheet for aesthetics, tradition, or to actually protect the print. Most brides don’t go this route in modern day but it’s always an option!
One Envelope or Two?
During the Industrial Revolution, lithography came about and made mass market printing available. Once you had your invitations beautifully printed and buttoned up, they would still have to be hand delivered via horseback. Very romantic but also a cause for concern when they would be delivered tattered and beaten. People started using a double envelope situation to help protect the invitation inside. Today, bride’s can go a more formal route is to address the outer envelope, and put the individual guests names on the inner envelope. This way you can indicate on the inner envelope if kids or a guest are included in the invitation.
The Emergence of “Etiquette” and “Fine Wedding Stationery”
Right after World War II, economic growth enabled common populations to mimic the materialism of the upper class and more people were able to easily produce quality invitations. Along with economic growth and surge of desire to be like the elite, around this time the queens of etiquette also came about. Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post were dictating proper etiquette and everyone was drinking it up. We still do today!
With developments like thermography, printing became even more affordable, giving even more people the ability to send out printed invitations. Today, whether you have a modest budget or a fat one, you can send out tasteful wedding invitations to your would-be guests, ultimately gathering all of your most treasured people to help you celebrate your special day.
If you don’t have very much worked into your wedding budget for stationery, don’t fret. There are affordable options available and work with your stationer or printer to help you decide what the best route is for you. More to come on that topic another day!