Wedding Invitations – The History Behind Them

Wedding invitations – lovely to receive and exciting to get a glimpse of the style of the wedding. But where did they originate? They are a formal letter extending an invitation to the recipient to attend the wedding.

Before the printing press

Before the moveable-type printing press was invented in 1447 the Town Crier would announce your wedding. He was a man with a booming voice who would walk the streets announcing the days news. If you were within earshot you were invited!

Wedding Invitationos - Town Crier

The practice of sending written invitations was started by the nobility in the middle ages. Illiteracy was commonplace with the lower classes. Wealthy and prestigious families would commission monks, who were masters of calligraphy, to hand write their wedding invitations. The individual’s coat of arms or personal crest were often on these invitations and would be sealed with wax.

wedding invitations - calligraphy

The 1600s

Although the printing press had been invented, the quality of the print was not good enough for stylish wedding invitations. Newspapers were becoming common at this time and the tradition of announcing weddings in them became established.

Metal-plate engraving was invented in 1642 and this meant that higher quality wedding invitations were more achievable for the middle classes. The text was engraved by hand in reverse onto metal plates using carving tools. The plate was then used to print on heavy invitation card.

Late 1700s

In 1798 lithography was invented making it possible to produce sharp and distinctive inking without the requirement for engraving. This opened the doors for the mass-market in wedding invitations.

The postal system was pretty unreliable at this time so wedding invitations were still delivered by hand on horseback. To protect the invitation en route a double envelope system was used. Some people still do this despite the modern postal system largely being more reliable. However to my mind this is unnecessary and a waste of natural resources and money. Having said that, I am a big fan of pocketfold wedding invitations. How many times have you received an invitation that has one or more information sheets included that then go missing just when you need them? Pocketfold invitations mean that information need not get lost by falling behind a radiator, or accidentally ending up in the bin!

Wedding invitations - A6 pocketfold

A6 pocketfold invitations available from

Wedding invitations - 15cm square pocket

15cm square pocket invitation available from

World War 11 to present day

With the development of thermography printed wedding invitations were increasingly within the reach of ordinary folks. It is a less expensive method of achieving raised type than engraving, although it lacks the fineness of engraving.

Letterpress printing is becoming popular again for wedding invitations. It’s a process that can leave a deep impression in the card which gives a luxurious feel to the invitation.

With laser and inkjet printers giving a high quality finish and a plethora of fonts available, the world’s your oyster these days as far as style is concerned. I have over 10,000 fonts available (I know, ever so slightly nerdy!). Whilst some of them are not remotely suitable for most wedding invitations there’s bound to be something to suit. Most home printers are not capable of taking heavy card. But there’s nothing to stop you from designing your invitations and getting them printed by a professional. The printer here can handle up to 300 gsm card which is a good weight, and we have printed brides own artwork. Alternatively if you’re looking for ultra heavy card we have a couple of companies that we trust to print for us.

New trends for wedding invitations

Laser engraving can be used to dramatic effect. Your invitation wording can be engraved onto acrylic, metal or wood. How about sending your invitation printed onto a tea towel to send guests? Having a beach wedding? Send a message in a bottle as your invitation! Save the dates are often sent as a fridge magnet – why not the invitation on a jumbo magnet?

Wedding invitationso - message in a bottle

Lasercut invitations are beautiful and becoming popular. I have sourced a company outside the UK who cut them to order in a wide range of colours.

Wedding invitations - navy lasercut pocket

Navy lasercut wedding invitations available from

Another very luxurious option is to use a padded silk or velvet covered box or folder to present your invitation in.

Wedding invitations - padded silk box

Padded silk boxed wedding invitations available from

Wedding invitations - padded silk/velvet folder

Black velvet covered invitation folder available from

Who sends the wedding invitations?

Traditionally the hosts of the wedding in Western culture would be the bride’s parents. It was therefore their duty to issue the invitation. These days however weddings are often co-hosted by the couple getting married and/or the groom’s parents.


The formal wording on wedding invitations has changed little over the ages. Typically written using third-person language to request the honour or pleasure of the recipient’s presence. However things are becoming less formal, and certainly some types of wedding suit a more relaxed wording. For example, a woodland or festival style wedding would suit a less formal wording.