History of The Wedding Invitation

by Fred Showker

wedding, greeting, shower, baby, announcements, invitationsBefore 1447 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, wedding were announced by the local town crier, walking the streets yelling out for all to hear. Some aspects of "greetings" or "announcements" have remained the same -- while the overall art has changed dramatically.

Before the printing press, the noble were the only ones who used paper invitations, hand calligraphy crafted by monks skilled in the art. The invitation was sealed with a wax seal carrying the crest of the family. Then around 1798 lithography was invented and the possibility of producing sharp inking without engraving, and the mass market for wedding invitations emerged.

You know the reason for double envelopes originated because they were delivered by horse, so to keep the inside invitation and envelope clean, the double envelope standard was created. While we don’t have to deliver by horse today, the United States Postal Service can be just as dirty, which is why many brides still choose the age old double envelope.

Shortly after World War II, the world was caught up in industrial growth, and the new nobility of the country appeared. It was during this period that thermography was developed with a cost effectiveness that allowed a way for everyone to afford beautiful invitations. Engraving and letterpress were the printing choices of the wealthy, and continued through the ages, with letterpress making a resurgence in the past few years. Offset printing, as well as laser engraving has been gaining in popularity due to the popular use of multiple ink colors, extreme graphics, the use of wood veneer, acrylic and metal for creating invitations.

The other printing methods help with cost effectiveness and still allows for creative pieces to be created. Colors of ink have high variation between the different printing types. Most all companies will have color swatches for customers to view, and you can pantone colors as well. The most notable differences are in metallics. Silver thermography for example will have a blue/green, flat appearance, gold more of a yellow/green color, and copper looks more like a reddish brown. It is just important you are aware that colors are dependent on printing process types.

Today’s brides like colored ink, elaborate design and layered paper choices, but they want it to cost nothing. In order to help with that budget mind, printing choices are important and as a designer can help you to create a masterpiece at low cost. So understanding is important. The details of the printing processes, coupled with how and why they would be used are listed below:

There are basically five different print types: flat print, silk screening, thermography, letterpress and engraving. While there are some newer processes coming into play, using mediums other than paper, these are your main working choices.

Flat Print/Offset

Flat print is the most common form of print. It is important to remember price is directly related to the printing type. Anytime you are printing on a lighter paper stock or copy paper, around 65lb, you will be using flat print. This is mainly printed on ink jet or laser printers. Flat print is great for using multicolored graphics, but nearly always needs to be darker than the paper stock. White ink can not be used on flat print, the ink bleeds into the paper and becomes invisible. If you want to have a light ink on dark paper without high cost then silk screening would be your better choice.

Some companies will also do what is called a reverse out, giving the appearance of white ink by using white paper and then coloring in the design blocking out the pieces you want to come through as white - giving the impression that white lettering was used.


Where flat print cannot be used on dark colored paper stock, silk screening can. It is similar in look and feel to flat print, but depending on the company and processing techniques it can have a slight raise and waxy feel like that of thermography. Silk screening uses a high pressured machine to shoot ink on the paper, repeatedly, layering the ink on the paper. Examples of silkscreen printing


The number one most popular form of printing today, most economical and a very beautiful end product. The look of thermography is similar to engraving, and many people cannot tell the difference if they do not know what to look for. Thermography was made to mimic engraving, it is a powder lain on top of the paper, using a heat process and a disposable plate, it gives a raised feeling to the touch and has a shiny almost waxy sheen.

Similar to flat print, you cannot use thermographic inks on dark colored paper. The nature of the thermographic inks are transparent and therefore disappear. You can however use multiple ink colors. It requires you have to do multiple runs on the printing press for each ink color you use. It increases the cost for each press run. Examples of Themography printing


Letterpress like engraving and thermography uses a plate, the difference being is that the plate is made with your motifs and/or text, then pressed into the card stock. The indention of the plate places your ink and design on the paper and creates your custom invitation. New plates are made for every invitation and can be kept on file for future use or keepsakes. Letterpress printing is definitely one of the most beautiful, because of the graphic capability and feel of the final product. Because of the letterpress process, the indentation of the paper requires that the paper have high content of cotton.

Also many companies use a very thick cardstock for letterpress printing, 220lbs, making for a very heavy invitation and increasing mailing costs. The paper however is very soft and just a beautiful work of art. Examples of Letterpress printing


Engraving is the oldest form of printing and the process is the opposite of letterpress. The plate used in engraving is pressed up from the back of the paper, and ink and paper become one. Like letterpress, engraving allows you to create beautiful graphics, high detail graphics, multicolor graphics, and inks that touch and cross each other. Engraving normally uses 96lb card stock and cost is comparable to letterpress. Examples of Engraving

Invitation Choices

Contemporary, classic, destination, themed or a custom design all can be created with graphic designers, or using pre-created motifs available from the printing vendors. Many modern invitations today reflect popular design trends, using ink color combinations, damask prints, creative wraps, layering paper, and other design motifs. Classic, simple and traditional invitations are still very popular and very elegant.

Choices of fonts can give an invitation the look of hand calligraphy, it can be laid out to allow the bride and groom names to stand out from the other text, and allows customers to reflect their style. Some people prefer block style typeface, some love script, and yet others want it to have a fun relaxed feel. You can create the definite feel of the invitations by the choice of the font.

With many brides today choosing destination wedding locations, this is a complete new market for invitation design. Reflecting the destination choice on the invitation can be done in many ways. Perhaps a light blue card stock to reflect the water, or snowflakes to create a winter wonderland setting, allowing graphics and ink colors to bring your invitation to life.

Pocket invitations are quite popular in today’s society. They allow the bride to showcase her beautiful invitation, and bring all the other details to her guests in a polished, unique presentation.

Whatever choice the bride makes on graphics, colors, paper, rhinestones, ribbon and print style, there is nothing that cannot be created today. So let your imagination be free, let your creativity rise to new heights, and dare to dream the impossible dream.

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Olivia Nicholas

Olivia Nicholas is a writer and blogger. She is always happy to share her passion for life and experiences through her work, and in her spare time works as a freelance writer for Storkie

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