An Invitation to a Wedding

The pile of invitations ready for the post.

"The wedding will be more traditional than a 'traditional' wedding..."

How do you set about planning a wedding that is recognisable to people as being a 'wedding' but harks back to earlier time periods, and so revives some of the more authentic customs? Much of what we expect of a 'traditional' wedding is in fact relatively modern, or Victorian in date.

The first task is to get people there - on the right date and time. A modern wedding involves invitations, whether the formal stiff card with raised ink, that can sit upon your mantelpiece to show your visitors how important and busy you are, or the more informal jokey kind of more recent years.

For much of history the local community would have all been invited or expected to attend a marriage celebration anyway, so invitations were superfluous. A town crier, or 'bellman', may have helped spread the word as well. It was only the aristocracy who had need of creating a physical invitation as they wanted to spread the word further afield in order to invite particular people of note. Letters were written to individuals inviting them to attend a wedding.

This technique continued well into the 19th century. Letters were sent out to relatives and friends inviting them to a wedding, and so we wanted to replicate this process with as strong an 18th century character as possible.

We have based our invitations on a surviving letter from 1814, written by an Ann Palmer to her uncle and aunt, inviting them to her daughter Ann's wedding. The text is delightfully polite and descriptive – as was typical of the period:

Dear Uncle & Aunt Cook

You have already been made acquainted with the fact that our Dear Ann expects to exchange her situation from the single, to the Married Life, it only remains for one to inform you (Providence permitting) she will be Married on Thursday Evening, the 27th of October at 7 Oclock.

She desires one to say that she hopes you will both be here. Come down in the morning, and spend the day, it would give her great pleasure if she could come up to see you, before the time, but is not certain it will be in her power – at all events let nothing prevent you **** from Certainly being here.

Having adapted Ann Palmer's text, we needed a suitable paper for the letter, and we found a fabulous company in Ireland who create a whole range of authentic handmade papers. Griffen Mill provided us with some of their 'Fernhurst 80 gm' paper, which is handmade using the same techniques as those in the 18th century. It is a ‘laid’ paper and so the watermark lines are from the wire sieve onto which the paper pulp is spread out (modern laid paper still artificially replicates this feature). This paper is made from a combination of cotton and hemp.

The font that we have used was created by Pia Frauss and is based upon the handwriting of Jane Austin, so gives an authentic 18th century look to the letters. We did have to opt for a slightly clearer font for most of the addresses, as the Post Office may not have liked Jane’s handwriting!

The result is quite satisfying. Hopefully our guests will enjoy receiving the carefully folded and sealed missives in the post, invoking a time when letters were hopefully more exciting than bank statements and charity requests.

There is plenty of work to be done on the dress, music, venue, food, toasts... all of which will continue to be more traditional than 'traditional'!

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