The History of the Invitation
In the 18th century in England, handwritten social invitations were first used, by the aristocracy. Only kings and queens and other members of high society received invitations to social events. Usually the invitations were written by a butler or secretary. Having them handwritten was a sign of education. Even after the modern printing press was discovered, many aristocrats continued to have their invitations handwritten for this purpose. The handwriting itself was a work of art. Much time and planning was given for this process. Calligraphy pens were used, which gave letters dimension; there were thick and thin lines in each word.
During the last century, a less expensive version of engraving has come along, known as thermography, which is another form of raised-ink lettering. It produces this effect without actually cutting the surface of the paper the way engraving does. Instead, wet ink is applied to the paper and then a plastic powder is applied on top, giving the lettering the raised effect. This allows for the look of engraving without paying the expense.
The wording of the earliest invitations was similar to today's traditional wording, with one exception: Usually the name of each guest was printed on the invitation. We have gotten away from this practice today, but if you are having a small wedding and making your own invitations, you might consider it. Once written or printed, each invitation was placed in a protective envelope, and sealed with wax. The wax seal often represented the crest of the family. Wax seals are often still used today to convey a touch of tradition and elegance.