Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Etiquette and Wedding Invitations

In large towns and cities it became necessary to invite by written word those who were to attend the wedding ceremonies.
"The development of the wedding invitation was particularly marked. In small villages the wedding bells ringing sweetly from the church belfry were the only invitation. All the friends and neighbors gathered together to greet the bridal party. But in large towns and cities it became necessary to invite by written word those who were to attend the wedding ceremonies.

The following rare old invitation, written in 1786, was clipped by William Hone from a Cumberland (England) newspaper and incorporated by him in his famous, "Table Book." Here is an exact reproduction of the invitation:
Notice is hereby given that the marriage of Isaac Pearson with Frances Atkinson will be solemnized in due form in the parish church of Lamplugh, in Cumberland, on Tuesday next, the 30th of May inst. (1786); immediately after which the bride and bridegroom with their attendants will proceed to Lonefoot, in the said parish, where the nuptials will be celebrated by a variety of rural entertainments.

Then come one and all, at Hymen's soft call. From Whitehaven, Workington, Harington, Dean, Hail, Ponsonby, Blaming, and all places between;

From Egremont, Cockermouth, Barton, St. Bee's,
Cint, Kinnyside, Calder and parts such as these; And the country at large may flock in if they please.


Such sports there will be as have seldom been seen,
Such wrestling and fencing, and dancing between,
And races for prizes, for frolic and fun
By horses and asses and dogs will be run,
That you'll go home happy – as sure as a gun.
In a word, such a wedding can never fail to please;
For the sports of Olympus were trifles to these.

*Nota Bene- You'll please observe that the day Of this grand bridal pomp is the 30th of May,
  When 'tis hoped that the sun, to enliven the sight,Like the flambeau of Hymen, will deign to burn bright.

This specimen of an 18th century wedding invitation is doubly valuable. Not only does it reveal to us the kind of wedding invitations that were being written and publicly printed in those days, but it gives us an excellent picture of the kind of weddings that were then in vogue. Can you imagine races by dogs and horses at the modern marriage? Can you imagine fencing and wrestling and the "country at large" flocking in? 

The custom of posting invitations did not come until comparatively late. Not because posting was unknown– a royal post system existed even in ancient Persia. But for a long time a popular superstition made it an insult to send an invitation any other way than by personal messenger. Gradually this superstition passed out of favour, and soon everyone who entertained was posting invitations– recognizing this as a simple expedient toward getting guests together." – Lillian Eichler

*Nota bene is Latin. It means "note well" (effectively meaning 'please pay attention to this').

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia