Origin of Invitations

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Invitations to social events were said to be used by the aristocracy in England and France probably beginning in the 18th century. The kings, queens, lords, ladies, dukes and duchesses would invite their peers to their social events with handwritten announcements of the event. These were written by the wife, butler, or secretary. Writing was a mark of education. Even after the printing press, the aristocracy hand wrote invitations since “mass production” would be in bad taste.

In old England, wedding invitations were usually announced to the public by bidders, and anyone within earshot became part of the celebration. In the 18th century, people began publishing wedding invitations in the newspaper, and in Wales, bidding letters were sent to announce upcoming nuptials. Native Indians summoned guests via smoke signals, sometimes accompanied by a birch bark inscription.

In the Middle Ages, nearly everyone was illiterate; therefore writing anything was considered laborious. The cote d’armes (coat of arms), or personal crest, was born out of the need to identify a person, as one’s signature does today, and it was affixed to all objects and papers of import. Today, the family crest is still the hallmark of class and individuality, and often appears at the top of a formal wedding invitation.

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Sources:
The History of the Social Invitation. http://www.invitationsetc.com/m1_eh.htm
The History of the Wedding Invitation. http://www.weddingchannel.com

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