The History of Wedding Invitations – Announcing the Big Day through the Ages
Just about everyone can relate to this.
You’re going through the mail, stacking the bills on one side and the junk mail on the other side when all of the sudden you come across your name delicately scrawled in perfect handwriting across a soft pink or blue envelope.
Thinking that it could be a letter from your Great Aunt May, and hoping desperately that this isn’t just a ploy by a collection company to make you feel bright and cheery before dropping a lawsuit in your lap, you open the envelope very carefully.
And there it is.
More calligraphy, maybe some ribbons, and a picture of Angels singing praises. You open the cover and find out that your best friend is about to marry the guy of your dreams. The best part is that they want you to come and watch the happy event.
Maybe your experience isn’t exactly like that. But you get the point.
For hundreds of years people have been both shocked and amazed by the delicate beauty that comes with perfectly made wedding invitations. But what did they do before the great Protestant Revolution and the printing press made junk mail and pizza flyers a reality?
If you’ve ever wondered about the history or wedding invitations, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve collected some facts about the history of this particular art form that you might find very interesting. And since weddings are supposed to be happy occasions, I’ll try to keep the reading light for your enjoyment.
It’s always best to start at the beginning.
Early Wedding Invitations
The earliest wedding invitations were found as cave paintings in Bulgaria that, when translated, said simply, “Grog Getting Married. Bring Meat.”
Ok, so maybe that isn’t exactly true, but considering the wedding tradition is something which humans have participated in since the dawn of mankind, it’s certainly possible, isn’t it?
Actually, in the early days before mass print advertising and the Internet, it was common for weddings to be announced by word of mouth. Often weddings were announced by a town crier or other suitable loudmouth. Town Criers were 12th century versions of Brian Williams who would earn their pay by announcing the daily news from a street corner.
Anyone within earshot of the town crier when he made his wedding pitch was automatically invited to the happy wedding and forced to go out and buy toasters for the new bride and groom.
During the Dark Ages of Europe it became common for unburned witches (namely everyone still up and walking) to catch the Plague and die horrible deaths. Because of this, literacy rates were extremely low. With all the burning and disease-catching, there was simply not enough time in a serf’s day to pick up a book and learn to read.
However, the nobility of the day still needed to marry off their sons and daughters, and they needed a way to announce it to the world. As a result, family crests and coats of arms became a way for the upper crust of society to announce their important engagements.
Now it is important to note that not every person during the Dark Ages of Europe was a plague victim or unrepentant heretic. There were also religious monks, who knew how to read and write so that they could make those little pamphlets about Jesus to be dropped at bus stations and airport terminals.
It became the height of fashion to pay huge sums of money in order to have these monks craft hand-drawn and illuminated wedding invitations for the special day. The invitations were then dropped off directly to the intended guests by a horse courier.
Martin Luther and his Protestant Reformation brought about sweeping changes in the literacy rates of Europe. One of the main things Luther did was to translate many Holy Scriptures from Latin into more common languages such as English and French and teach the common folk how to read them.
In this way, he didn’t have to drop his pamphlets about Jesus just at the airports and bus terminals. He could go from house to house at the crack of dawn and hand them out individually!
With literacy rates growing steadily, man read about light bulbs and left the Dark Ages altogether. He was now well on his way to The Age of Enlightenment. At the same time, it became proper tradition for more and more people to use paper invitations to invite people to their weddings.
Now, hundreds of people could be reached and invited to the wedding and forced to buy toasters.
Today, weddings styles and wedding invitations are limited only by the size of your wallet. Many people still like the idea of traditional wedding invitations, though, so common invitations often come in double envelopes with beautiful calligraphy. Many people opt for traditional wedding invitation text also, so a common invitation might look like this:
John and Jane Getting Married. Bring Meat.
Formal wedding traditions have greatly relaxed over the years, and because of this some religious traditions have also relaxed. Some people even enjoy the idea of mixing different religions and traditions together and coming up with completely new ceremonies on their own.
Although a tempting idea, this is generally not recommended simply because you could end up in a situation where you have several different gods arguing with each other over who brought the holiest toaster.
These days wedding invitations need not even look like invitations. They can be boxes of chocolates or personal letters to your guests. They could be hand delivered or tied to a brick and thrown through a bay window. Again, the possibilities are nearly endless.
It is interesting to note that the tradition of having the bride and her family be responsible for the wedding and invitation arrangements has pretty much remained unchanged since the beginning of time.
This could be because a wedding is about a union between a man and woman, but it is also about a day when a woman can throw the party of her dreams and be the complete center of everyone’s attention for one night.
On the other hand, it could just as easily be that a wedding planned by a man would probably involve a lot of beer and some kind of sporting event, and no self respecting bride would ever allow her wedding to be turned into a “Kegger”.
Whatever the case, this tradition is still common today. Wedding invitations should be mailed from the bride’s home or a suitable base of operations. In this way, maximum toaster-to-guest ratios can be maintained.
Hopefully, you now have some insight into the history of wedding invitations. Weddings and funerals are mankind’s oldest traditions, and with good reason. While funerals may be how we say goodbye to those we love, with weddings we bring the people we love closer together.