People have always wanted to celebrate important events with family and friends, but it wasn’t always as easy as it is today to inform them of those events.
The Colonial Period and Victorian Era
In the early 1600s, as newspapers began to appear throughout Europe and in the American colonies, wedding announcements began appearing almost immediately.
Alois Senefelder, an Austrian actor and playwright, invented lithography in 1796. Using a greasy, acid-resistant ink, he found that he could transfer a printed image onto a flat, smooth limestone. He could then transfer that image to paper by pressing it against the stone. He continued his experiments until he had developed a workable lithographic printing press. This invention is important in the history of printing in general, but especially as it relates to wedding invitations, as it radically reduced the amount of time and expense involved in creating a finished invite. For the first time in history, wedding invitations became affordable to classes other than the nobility and extremely wealthy. By 1837, techniques were developed to even allow multiple colors to be printed using lithography.
During the 19th century, most wedding invitations began to be printed this way, though some were still hand-crafted. Invitations were mailed two weeks before the wedding, in double envelopes. Postal systems were still in their infancy and posted letters were often subjected to some pretty rough handling. The outer envelope, containing the recipients’ addresses and the required postage, was removed by a servant so that the invite could be delivered to the master of the house in a clean, presentable inner envelope.
As invitations became accessible to people of more modest means, budgets became more of a concern. Sometimes large weddings were planned, but the reception party had to be a bit more intimate. This gave rise to the addition of reception cards in the invitation package, included with those invitations where the guest was also invited to the reception. Most weddings at this time took place in churches, so to insure enough seating for those invited, pew cards, directing the guest to their reserved pews, were included, especially where the church was small. Only those guests presenting pew cards were admitted to the wedding ceremony.