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The Evolving History of the Wedding Invitation

Throughout history, the wedding invitation has changed drastically. What was once a lengthy tome into a couple's beginning and wedding plans has turned into a rather informal tone that covers the basics without costing a fortune to mail and then be read by the recipient.

Modern Day Invitations

Today, it is becoming more and more acceptable to send email invitations to all potential wedding guests. Perhaps we are moving ahead with the times to quickly. Maybe we are not. Regardless, it is intriguing to look at where wedding invitations started.

The Town Crier

In times long past, way before the 18th century, families hired town criers to announce weddings in public. Whoever heard the town crier's announcement was then invited in the celebrations. Of course, this meant that any local riff-raff could then attend a wedding without issue. This was a problem that needed to cease.

The Beginning of Wedding Invitations

In the early 1700s, the format changed. Only royalty and the elite sent out wedding invitations. Skilled calligraphers were hired to write news of a betrothed couples upcoming wedding. The invitations and announcements were written on parchment scrolls before being rolled up and sealed with wax. Not everyone was literate in that day and age, so they could not sign their own documents. The wax seal was an individual family's signature. If you could not afford the calligrapher, it was obviously apparent that you were not royalty. No one desired attending a commoner's wedding.

The Creation of the Metal Plate

It was not long before the metal plate was designed. This engraved plate was engraved in a mirror-image format and then covered in ink. The plate pressed hard onto a sheet of paper and left a raised impression of the image below. A sheet of tissue paper was then placed over the writing to keep the ink from smearing. This is why tissue paper is often included in wedding invitations today. Though the ink no longer smears, the tradition remains.

Handwritten and Engraved Invitations

Handwritten or engraved invitations were used throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It was not until the 1800s that cotton fiber paper and stationery became available. At that point, the mail system was unreliable. Families would write notes to their relatives and have them hand-delivered. A man would be hired to ride on horseback and take the wedding invitation notes to family members. Unfortunately, most of these deliverymen would snoop and view the contents.

This led to the birth of the inner and outer envelopes. It kept snooping eyes away from the envelope contents. It also posed a new problem. The woman of the house could not touch mail that had been touched by unclean hands. Therefore, the butler or maid would open the outer envelope wearing gloves. The inner envelope was then placed onto a tray and delivered to the addressee.

This method lasted until well into the 20th century when the mail system advanced and proved itself reliable. Despite the changes, many traditions of history remained. The inner and outer envelopes and sheets of tissue paper continue to find their way into modern day wedding invitations.

 
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