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Brief History of Wedding Invitations

Written by Marta Szczerba


Posted on January 06 2014

Here at Cartalia we thought it would be interesting to learn a bit about the history of the wedding invitation! So here is a brief summary for you of what we have learnt:

It all started with a town crier: before printing presses, a gentleman would walk through the streets announcing in a loud voice the wedding – traditionally, anyone within earshot became part of the celebration. Since then, the wedding invitation, which is a form of social communication, has significantly developed over the ages.
In Middle Ages, wealthy families would commission monks to hand-write their notices in beautiful calligraphy. Given the fact that illiteracy was widespread and printing or writing was expensive, wedding invitations were considered to be the privilege of the elite.


Aristocracy commissioned monks to write their wedding invitations 

The democratisation of wedding invitations happened in two stages: firstly, the mass-printing techniques starting with the invention of lithography by Alois Senefelder in 1798 enabled invitations to be produced more cheaply and hence to be afforded by the masses. Secondly, 1950s American etiquette books, written by Emily Post or Amy Vanderbilt have popularised the notion of a fine wedding stationery and generally, the use of stationery for social events. For example, Vanderbilt points out that ‘the name of a good stationery embossed under the flat of the envelope lends a certain cachet and costs nothing extra’.

Emily Post Etiquette, 1951 Cartalia Milan Wedding Stationery

Emily Post's Etiquette

 One of the recent fashions in wedding invitations is the revival of the labour-intensive technique letterpress. As The Economist notes, letterpress is usually favoured by ‘lovers of rougher aesthetic...seeking the sort of authenticity artisanal bakers did’. Letterpress technique has been popularised in the 1990s through Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine and has experienced a revival as a result of the aspirational New England lifestyle that Stewart promotes.

WESTMINSTER, one of our Atlantis invitations, produced with Letterpress technique

With Paperless Post, Facebook invites and the proliferation of wedding websites the industry is entering a new phase, but we have no doubt that Amy Vanderbilt or Emily Post would scorn this digitalisation – after all, wedding etiquette is all about the finest invitations.