From Tissue Paper

To Double Envelopes!

In a previous blog, we discussed the historical roots of the veil, the wedding cake and the bridal bouquet, along with wedding toasting flutes. But what about Wedding Invitations? How did people get invited to someone’s wedding before the 20th and 21st centuries? Were they even used? The short answer is ‘yes’, in one form or another. Besides wedding invitations, contemporary society has expanded the sending of invitations to wedding related functions, including rehearsal dinner invitations, bridal shower invitations, and for some couples, even engagement party invitations. But first, how did the sending of wedding invitations get started? How did the enclosed tissue paper and double envelopes start?

The History of the Wedding Invitation

Remarkably, archeologists discovered primitive wedding invitations in caves, probably by pictographs or by using early language. As recently as the 1700’s, however, friends and family members were typically invited to celebrate a couple’s nuptials by verbal invitation from a town crier. Whoever heard his loud proclamation could attend. Why verbal? Quite simply, many people couldn’t read, although wealthy, well-educated and literate families would commission monks known for their calligraphy skills to craft wedding invitations. To this day, calligraphy has remained a popular hand-written or printed conveyance of the wedding invitation, still signifying class and culture.

The Origin of the Tissue Paper

For families who were literate but could not afford to commission a calligrapher, metal plate engraving became available sometime in the 1600’s. Since these early ‘printing presses’ left ink subject to easy smudging and smearing, a form of tissue paper was put on top to prevent any smearing. Again, this tradition continues even though its usefulness has long passed as smudge prevention. Instead, tissue paper represents delicacy and class in contemporary wedding invitations.

And the Envelope Please

Long before mail service became reliable mail was delivered by stagecoach or on horseback by a hired courier or family servant. Since envelopes and paper did not always arrive in the cleanest of conditions from a long, dusty ride, a second envelope was developed to protect the invitation inside with the actual announcement. Upon reaching the destination, the courier or servant would remove the wedding invitation from the often dirty outer envelope and hand the invitation cleanly preserved in its inner envelope to the head of the house. Even in our current culture, most wedding invitations still typically have the two envelope design.

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