A Brief History of Wedding Stationery

A Brief History of Wedding Stationery

Stationery has been used throughout history for centuries; even during the rise of electronic media.  As a modern bride pouring over countless invitations, wording and etiquette guidelines, you might be asking yourself, why? How did the convention of wedding invitations come to be? Let’s take a moment to review the evolution of the invitation…

Before the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, around 1440, weddings were announced via the town crier.  The town crier was a man who would walk through the streets shouting the news of the day, accompanied by the ringing of a large hand held bell.

“Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Be it known to all hearers that Elizabeth Mey Bourchier and Oliver Cromwell are to be married at four-o’clock on Saturday the twentieth of May. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! God save the Queen.”

In this day and age, most people were illiterate, so anyone that heard the town crier announce the news of a forthcoming marriage was invited to the celebration. Talk about a party!

With the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, the literacy rate began to rise and led to the initial creation of printed invitations. Although the early printing presses often resulted in smudgy invitations (ah!), this new technology solidly established the tradition of announcing weddings in the local newspapers, beginning the initial written invitation.

Even with the printing press, the social etiquette of sending wedding invitations only began to gain popularity amongst wealthy families around the beginning of the 18th century. Families would commission monks, skilled in the art of calligraphy, to hand craft their notices.  Most documents often carried the Coat of Arms or personal crest of the individual and were sealed with wax.

It was the duty of the household staff to deliver invitations on horseback. The invitation would be sent in an inner envelope, encased with an outer envelope. Because letter delivery was done in any weather, the outer envelope protected the inner envelope from getting wet or dirty. Upon arrival, the outer envelope would be discarded and the guest/guests would be presented with the pristine inner envelope containing the wedding invitation. Hence the classic double envelope tradition!

This tradition continued largely until the foundation of the modern day postal system. Following the Second World War, the real beginning of commercially printed wedding invitations began and more affordable options were brought to the market as new technologies and techniques, such as thermography, with its raised lettering, brought appealing and affordable wedding invitations to everyone. This is about the same time that prominent social figures, Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post emerged to advise the masses on the appropriate social etiquette.

Many of the customs that began in history long ago still apply today.  Although 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.

Still have questions on where to begin with wedding invitations? Look no further than our stationery stylists! We’d be happy to help you design your dream invitations and share some other interesting history facts along the way .


Leave Comment