Why We’re Wedded to Paper
Last month’s royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle reminded me of how important a role tradition plays in marriage ceremonies as well as how important it is to evolve and change.
For example, no wedding is complete without an invitation, right? It’s been the way to go since the beginning of time. This is a tradition that still seems to make incredible sense to me. Engraved script on heavy card stock literally adds weight to the message. The paper itself expresses the profound importance of the information it contains. It’s the announcement of a marriage of two people that will cascade through time as generations beget more generations. That’s what they really mean when they say, “happily ever after.”
Invitations are particularly special since they are usually the first thing wedding guests will see weeks or months before and they set the tone for the whole occasion. You can pretty much surmise what the dress code will be simply by the formality of the invitation and the weight of the card stock. They are also tangible proof for years to come of your special day.
Also, have you ever wondered why very formal wedding invitations come in two envelopes . . . one inside the other? That’s a tradition that goes back to the days when messengers on horseback delivered letters by hand. The letters would get dirty with mud (and other things) on the journey, so the first envelope was meant to protect the pristine inner envelope containing the invitation. We still carry on the tradition long after the filth is gone.
One thing that’s changed is how you respond to an invitation. Many still include a small RSVP card that the guest sends back to the wedding host. In the earlier royal wedding of William and Kate nearly a decade ago, the response card went to the Queen. For Harry and Meghan’s nuptials, guests were prompted to respond by email! Now that is modern!
Does this mean digital invitations are around the corner? I don’t think so. An email response is all about efficiency. An invitation is about ceremony and ritual – the things that appeal to the human soul. And for that, the look, the texture and even the aroma of paper satisfies a human need that digital can’t match.
But we live in less formal and less superstitious times (yes you actually can see the bride prior to the ceremony and not worry about her running off) and not everyone wants the trappings of a traditional ceremony, even if the tiara was a very important family member’s. For the rest of us mortals wanting to put our own stamp on our nuptials, there is a near infinite variety of designs for paper invitations, programs, place cards and menus to choose from. Want invitations as individual as you? You might want to see what’s on offer at Lela of New York, the stationers to Manhattan’s upper crust. Perhaps something a bit more laid back? Maybe try some of the ideas from Offbeat Bride magazine. There’s a design for every taste and budget.
Wedding invitations are just one of the milestones we mark with paper. We’re welcomed into the world with a paper certificate and we’ll leave this world with another and in between there are birth announcements, birthday cards, diplomas, passports, love letters and anniversary cards.
The stuff of life is all on paper.