Wedding invitations didn’t always contain pop-up flowers or the words “Mr. and Mrs.” in embossed letters. To dive into the fascinating story of how wedding invitations changed through the ages, we must investigate some ancient manuscripts and practices. Below are some of the notable highlights.
Minimalistic and Lead
First, we must look at the earliest surviving letter from ancient Greece, which was that of a worker in the northern Black Sea during fifth century B.C. The design seems to have been minimal, since the letter was written on a simple thin sheet of lead. There is no opening or closing, unlike the dramatic envelope tearing that we have today. In ancient Greece, this type of minimalism was especially strong when it came to wedding invitation letters, as epitomized by their short notices. For example, one letter simply states:
Dionysios asks you to dinner on the occasion of his children’s marriage in the house of Ischyrion – tomorrow, which is the 30th from the ninth hour.
Theon, son of Origenes, invites you to the wedding of his sister – tomorrow, which is the 9th of Tubi from the eighth hour.
Despite such simplistic designs, receiving a Save the Date seems to have mattered a great deal socially, as there was even a contemporary myth about Eris (the goddess of discord) being refused admittance to a wedding banquet because she didn’t have an invitation.
Printed and Tinted
Believe it or not, town criers were the primary way of making wedding announcements for most during the early and high Middle Ages, since many were illiterate. (The wealthy put family crests on the letters to accommodate such guests.) In 1440, however, German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg came up with the printing press, revolutionizing letterpress forever. (Yes, Chinese and Korean printing methods did exist, but they lacked a metal alloy that melted and cooled speedily.) This innovation enabled many Renaissance writers to publish books in the vernacular and the Protestant Reformers to make the Bible uncensored, both of which encouraged people of all socioeconomic strata to become literate. Printed works could now have color illustrations and pages with as many as 42 lines of type. With the rise of capitalism, the emerging middle class employed the mezzotint technology, which enabled engraving via pricking a metal plate with little holes designed to hold ink. To prevent smudging, a tissue paper would be placed on the engraving, a practice which is common even for wedding invitations today.
Two Revolutions Later
After the Industrial Revolution, wedding invitation design became even more specialized. Thanks to lithography, or the act of creating ink impressions via a special stone, the mass production of printed works took off. Still, the postal system wasn’t quite what it was today, which meant people had to send invitations on horseback. As precautions against inclement weather, the invitations were sealed twice; the outer envelope took the beating, preserving the integrity of the inner envelope. After the Internet revolutionized the commercial world, RSVP cards became even more personalized. Today, online retailers that specialize in stationery receive all kinds of requests for customizations.
Thanks to all the advances in wedding invitation design technology, making a card in an Art-Deco-styled format or with a thermographic typeface is not difficult today. If you’re interested in getting that perfectly styled wedding invitation, simply let Forever Friends lend a hand today!