Wedding Invitations: Hark, the Bells

by Fabian Toulouse

Wedding invitations are often sent about four to six weeks before the big day. They are often ordered from a specialized printing vendor and are typically mailed in double envelopes. Some variants include a self-addressed, stamped postcard, thereby eliminating the need for a second envelope. Ultra-modern variants still simply ask the recipient to RSVP by phone. Ah, how the times are changing.

In the 14th century, weddings were announced by town criers. As literacy proliferated through out the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, invitations were used to state the engagements and weddings of upper class families. In the 16th century, weddings were announced in local gazettes and newspapers. With the advent of metal-plate engravings, a new refinement in wedding invitations had arrived.

In the 17th century, lithography altered the face of printing once again. This chemical process of engraving and printing still required hand-delivery by courier. A double envelope was used to protect the invitation from any damage. This tradition remains to this day. After World War II, invitation printing became more affordable, especially with the advent of the thermograph, also known as the poor man’s engraving method.

For a wedding it is, of course, customary to invite relatives, friends, and colleagues. It is crucial the invitations are sent in a timely fashion, approximately a month before the date, and two months if it is a destination wedding. This allows the couple to confirm the attendance and arrange the necessary seating and catered menus. The caterer must have an accurate count to provide enough food and drinks to feed the guests. Some invitation accessories may be in order – like a location map, accommodation information, and a reception card -to ensure the guests can find and prepare for the wedding.

Wedding invitations must be valued and the time of the ceremony held sacrosanct. It is essential the guests arrive on time and that only invited guests participate. Guests are expected to follow the rules of polite society and stay silent during the ceremony. As weddings are not inexpensive affairs, it is essential they proceed smoothly, without interruptions or complications.

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