Wedding Invitations, a Brief History
Paperia | October 2014
As a modern bride pouring over thick invitation catalogs, wording guidelines, and etiquette rulebooks, have you ever stopped to wonder – why?
In other words, how did the style, form, and convention of wedding invitations come to be?
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the evolution of the invite…
During the Middle Ages, weddings and other important social affairs were announced by a Town Crier, a man walking through the streets proclaiming news in a loud voice. As literacy grew, noble families began commissioning monks to hand write invitations in formal calligraphy, affix the family coat of arms, and seal with wax.
In the mid-17th century, advances in printing gave way to metal-plate engraving, and high quality wedding invitations became accessible to the emerging middle class. Engraving involves the transfer of hand-carved text from a metal plate to a card. Each guest’s name was individually printed on the invitation, and the final card was topped with tissue paper to protect from smudging.
During the Industrial Revolution, the invention of lithography, which produced sharp inking without engraving, created a mass market for wedding invitations. Invitations were typically delivered by hand or horseback due to the unreliable postal system, so a double envelope was used to protect the contents.
After World War II, thermography was developed, a technique which created the raised type without the expense of engraving. Rapid social growth during this time period expanded the middle class, and prominent social figures such as Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post emerged to advise the masses on appropriate social etiquette.
Since then, other printing methods – such as letterpress and laser engraving – have gained popularity. However, as styles and tastes continue to evolve, we still see formal wedding invitations being sent with tissue paper and double envelopes, paying homage to earlier times and traditions.
With continued technological advances and artistic innovation, we are sure to witness continued changes in the art of social correspondence.
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