History of Wedding Invitations

The tradition of wedding has a history that spans across centuries. Most of these traditions have evolved along with the wedding etiquettes. But as far as wedding invitation goes, they are just as important now as they were when the first wedding occurred more than 500 years ago.

The truth is that everyone wants their wedding to be a magical affair that will reside in the hearts of all the attendees for years to come. But for these guests that magic starts when they receive their invitation. Right then and there, that little envelope holds the key to creating the whole wedding experience a memorable one. Many seem to have forgotten the importance of these invitations which is why, in this article, we are going to look at its history. Sometimes, to understand how valuable something really is, all we need to do is the look at where it came from and how it has evolved with the changing times.

The Middle Ages

Town Crier: Ancient Invitation

During this time invitations were sent out verbally by town criers, who dressed in their ornate livery, would unfold a beautiful scroll and read out the invitation loudly. Whoever heard the invitation could attend the wedding, unless, off course, the families didn’t get along with each other.

Most people didn’t know how to read or write. So the practice of sending written invitations did not exist, other than among the elites.

The hand written invitation was a luxury. When it came to the noble class, the high society people like the Kings and Queens, they would hire monks who, with their stunning calligraphy skills, would handcraft exquisite and stunning pieces of invitations. During those times it was common for elites to try to outdo each other by creating grand and highly ornate wedding invitations. Once crafted, they were then sealed with wax. Invitations, during those times, also included the family crest so that those who couldn’t read could identify where the invitation was from.


Gutenberg Printing Press
Illustration of Gutenberg and his Press

Then, with the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in 1447, literacy rate improved because of which printed invitations became much more common. But this technique of stamping ink onto the paper left images that could easily be smudged. Thus, resulting in poor invitations.

With Ludwig Von Siegen’s metal plate engraving, people fell in love with printed invitations again. This technique required the artisan to carve a message in reverse onto a metal plate. The results were elegant and beautifully engraved invitation that the upper class fell in love with.


Announce Wedding on Newspaper

In the 1600’s, the wedding started to be announced in local newspapers. Although it didn’t take the place of sending out an invitation, it did give people a chance to make their wedding public.


Lithography Printing Machine
Printing Machine for Lithography

The next attempt at mass producing wedding invitation came with the invention of lithography in 1798. In this, chemicals where used to make images, producing a much more crisper and faster result. This provided people, outside the elite clan, a fast and economical way to send out invitations. By the 19th century, most invitations were produced this way. Now, among the elite group, there were still those who preferred handcrafted invitation because anything mass produced looked cheap. But some elites were fascinated with this technology. The common man, with his aim to mimic the lifestyle of the wealthy, would soon follow suit, opting to get their wedding invitations printed as well.

These invitations were send out almost 2 weeks prior to the wedding on the hands of servants who on their horses would hand deliver the invitations to the right guests. This is where the need for an outer envelope came about. An outer envelope not only protected the inner envelope, containing the invitation, from dirt but it was also used to tell direction to the recipient’s house. Upon reaching the house, the servant was required to take out the inner envelope and deliver it to the doorman who would then deliver it to the head of the family.

Modern Time

In the 1960’s, the invention of photothermography revolutionized the wedding industry. It used heat to create raised lettering. It provided the masses a way to emulate the eye catching effects of metal engraving at a fraction of the cost.

Many of these customs that originated years ago can still be applied today. Now, the engraving is done using a computer which contains many typefaces and fonts. Some of them even mimic calligraphic letterings, which allows us to add the glamor and panache without hiring a monk, or breaking our bank. To make the invitations look more classy there are a wide variety of fine paper stocks available that you can use to print your invitations on.

So now you know the history. As you can see, an invitation showed how much of a grand affair a wedding was going to be. It was a step that people invested a lot of time to execute. Today, with the technological innovations, we can choose to follow the standard customs that were used in the past, or add our own modern spin. Your imagination is your limit today. But don’t forget the original intent of an invitation- to feel your guests welcomed and special.

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