Have you glanced at your parents’ wedding invitation? Or your grandparents’? It’s a whole world apart from what you see in your mailbox today. The style, the lettering, the conventions… they’re all different. Today, things are grander, quirkier, more colourful, less traditional and, we’ll say it, inviting to look at.
Maybe we should take a moment to reflect on how things changed with something so fundamental to a wedding. Where did the custom of sending out letters end and how did the age of quirk dawn?
It all started with the Middle Ages. A town crier would go around, walking through the streets with an important scroll of parchment in his hand. He would ascend the steps of the town towers or pedestals at the town centers, and announce the betrothal in a loud, carrying voice. As more and more people became literate, some of the noble and wealthier families started to pay monks to write invitations in intricate calligraphy, along with the family crest on top. They would then send these out with a seal of wax so reminiscent of period movies we all watch and enjoy.
But with the dawn on the 17th century, the printing press was rolled into the world. Invitations then became accessible to middle class households. Printed invitations would be sent to families, bearing the names of guests on the piece of paper. It is believed that the final invite was topped with tissue paper to protect the card from smudges.
As the world embraced this practice, India too, thanks to the British Raj, welcomed the tradition with much enthusiasm. It was first the Indian royalty, the merchants and landlords, who were eager to partake of this colonial practice before it became popular across the country. They contained no poetry, no prose, just plain text that named the wedding party, and bore the guest’s name on the front.
Soon, however, wedding invitations grew to become an artist’s delight. They started to carry richer, more vivid colours such as gold and red. The emphasis shifted from merely naming the couple and the guests, to providing design and art. Some extravagant cards even went so far as to be studded with tiny semi-precious stones as a way to show off the family’s financial worth. Though the invitation followed the conventional “flip and open” mantra, they had turned a whole lot more innovative than before!
Today, bold is in. Invitations come in all forms – boxed, flower-shaped, musical cards, scrolls, and even booklets! Poetry is often inscribed inside the invite, telling the story of the couple’s whirlwind romance, or else just heralding in a new start to their lives ahead. Illustrations, theme-based paintings and even caricatures have found a place on our wedding invitations!
So what will your card look like? A throwback to the minimal 50s, or an embrace of the eclectic present? A combination of vintage and varied, perhaps, to bring out your own unique persona. Whatever it is, it will have its place in wedding card history.