Have you ever wondered what weddings used to be like before all the glitz and glam? We sure have, and we thought it would be fun to pull the main points together and share them with you.
Weddings have been a large part of English-speaking culture for a very long time. Before the invention of the moveable-type printing press in 1447, weddings were announced by the town crier (a person employed to make public announcements). Anyone who heard the announcement was welcome to attend the ceremony. People were largely illiterate in the 1400s, so this was the most efficient way to announce a wedding. Written wedding invitations were only used by England’s nobility during this time. The noble class would hire monks that were skilled in the art of calligraphy to hand-craft their wedding invitations. The invitations would be closed with a wax seal and delivered to specific invitees.
It was quite a while before the printing press would be able to print quality documents, but newspapers were regularly printed by the 1600s. It was around this time that people started to announce their weddings in the paper. Metal plate engraving was invented in 1642, which opened up the world of specific wedding invitations. Text would be reverse engraved onto a metal plate, and stamped onto paper. To prevent the invitations from smudging, a piece of tissue paper would be placed on top of the invitation–a practice that remains a tradition today.
In the early 1800s, wedding invitations took another leap forward with the invention of lithography. It was no longer necessary to engrave anything for printing, and this simpler, faster method was widely adopted by the middle class. Printed wedding invitations were generally very accessible at this time. Mail was delivered by horseback, and the outside envelope was usually damaged and stained in the process of delivery. Thus, people used double envelopes to protect the beautiful invitation and inner envelope. This is yet another traditional practice that is still used for formal weddings today.
After World War II, fine wedding stationery was made commercially available and almost all engaged couples began sending formal wedding invitations. No longer were beautiful wedding invitations reserved only for society’s elite. Today, letterpress printing is often used on formal wedding stationery. Although letterpress printing was originally designed to barely kiss the paper and leave the print flat, people now seek a deep engraved letterpress print to add to the look and feel of their wedding invitations.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be diving into the vault and showing you wedding invitations from the early 1900s to present day. We’re certainly excited to see where the world of wedding stationery has been and where it’s going next!