The History of Wedding Invitations

Whether it’s an elaborate, jewel encrusted, satin bowed vision of froth or a simple text message, every couple has to choose the style of their wedding invitations. But have you ever given any thought to the history of wedding invitations? How did the tradition start? How were weddings announced back in the days when your average person could not read or write? Derin Clark, on behalf of Honey Tree Publishing, has the answers:

For many couples sending a wedding invitation is not only a way of letting family and friends know about their upcoming wedding, but also their first opportunity to set the tone of the day. Often couples will ensure that the colours on the invitation will match the colours scheme they’ve chosen for their wedding, even small details like font type will be carefully selected.

While we take it for granted that we will send invitations to inform people about our happy news, in the past inviting family and friends to weddings wasn’t as simple.

Modern, clean line wedding invitations

Middle Ages

During the middle ages the majority of people could not read or write, so it was usually left to the town crier to announce an upcoming wedding. Traditionally, anyone within earshot when the wedding was being announced could attend the wedding; which meant that the couple had little control over who turned up to celebrate their nuptials.

Mainly those who could read and write at this time were members of the nobility and it was with them that the tradition of sending formal, written wedding invitations started. The invitations were usually hand written by monks skilled in the art of Calligraphy. It was normal for these invitations to include a coat of arms or personal crest and they were sealed with wax.

The Printing Press

Despite the introduction of the printing press to Britain in the late 1400s, wedding invitations were still handwritten and sent solely by the elite. This was mainly due to the fact that there were still high levels of illiteracy, plus the quality of the print from the printing press was so poor that it wasn’t suitable for wedding invitations.

At this time it became common for wedding invitations to be encased by two envelopes, the outer one protecting the inner envelope from the mud and dirt that was a common part of the delivery process, which took place either on foot or via horseback. Even today, the traditional way of sending wedding invitations is by using an inner and outer envelope, although this is becoming less popular as couple look to save money and be more environmentally friendly.

Over the next few hundred years sending wedding invitations was still only done by a wealthy few, however with the growth of newspapers it became common for couples to announce their upcoming weddings in these publications.

Heart wedding invitations

Industrial Revolution

When the industrial revolution began to have an impact on society in the 1800s more and more people began sending wedding invitations. This was because the printing quality began to improve, meaning that more people could afford to send invitations, while the numbers of people who could read and write also began to increase. In the Victorian era, class distinction was important so many couples from wealthy backgrounds would send elaborate invitations, for example including ribbons and lace, to show their wealth and social status.

Modern Invitations

It was only after the Second World War that couples from all social backgrounds could afford to send wedding invitations. The quality of print again improved at this time, while it also became cheaper to produce and send.

While the style of invitations has changed over the centuries, many of the traditions we still use today date back to previous eras. For example, many couples still use formal language on their invitations. Today, wedding invitations do much more than signify the date and time of the wedding, but also allow the couple to express their personal style, ultimately setting the tone for the day itself.

A single, modern wedding inviation

Thanks Derin, I’ll never take a wedding invite for granted again! I found some lovely designs when I paid a visit Honey Tree Publishing’s website – really cute hand drawn designs.

So what style of invite are you going to choose? I’d love to know.

Caricature of Michelle Lyndon-Dykes

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