I was part-way through writing a post to explain different types of invitation printing when I thought it would be a fun to take a historical detour to find out how wedding invitations evolved along with technology and society. Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we?
Believe it or not, cave walls in Europe and South America could be the earliest wedding invitations, with messages that translate to simply: ‘Getting married. Bring meat.’ I think if most grooms had their way, they would still do that today.
Middle ages to 1600
Prior to the invention of the printing press, news of an impending marriage amongst the great unwashed was announced by the town crier and spread by word of mouth, so anyone within earshot was invited. Meanwhile in the noble classes it was fashionable to commission monks to painstakingly handcraft wedding invitations with beautiful calligraphy and illuminated lettering. A family crest was often included to identify the family to any illiterate guests.
The invention of the printing press brought mass communication and dramatically increased literacy rates, however the printing was of poor quality and such production was considered uncouth for wedding invitations. Typically announcements would appear in the newspaper, however in aristocratic cirlces, one would receive a handwritten invitation from the bride’s father (or, more likely, his butler).
In 1642, the process of metal plate engraving was developed, providing a production method that was of high quality and affordable for the emerging middle class. This process involves the wording being carved in reverse into a metal plate, which is then inked and pressed onto the paper. The delicate surface was protected from smudging with a sheet of tissue paper, a tradition that has continued to this day despite improved ink quality.
The industrial revolution
Lithography was invented and proved a popular method for invitation printing. Invitations were hand-delivered on horseback, so an outer envelope was used for protection, which is still popular in some areas today.
Thermography was developed as a cheaper alternative to engraving (hence it’s known as ‘poor man’s engraving’). Wedding invitations were now within everyone’s reach, and a complex social protocol was established thanks to popular etiquette experts.
The recent digital revolution and relaxing of strict etiquette opened up new possiblities for invitation design. Paradoxically, traditional printing methods such as letterpress have experienced a resurgence during the same time.
I believe we will see the continued popularity of letterpress for its unmatched depth and digital printing for its affordability and flexibility. Expect to notice more eco-friendly options as the market becomes more conscious of sustainability issues. Leaps in both technology and creativity means we’ll be seeing more printing onto materials other than paper, such as wood, cloth and plastic. I’m definitely excited to see what is yet to come!
I will explain all of those printing methods in more detail in a dedicated post, but for the moment I hope you’ve enjoyed our history lesson.
Main information source: Wikipedia.