Ah, here’s Hudson with the post…

Did you get one of these?

Me neither.  And I’m glad.

I’m guessing I was much more comfortable watching the BBC’s live coverage of the royal wedding at 3 am this morning with my husband than most of the people in Westminster Abbey. We had cake and tea in our jammies. We also had a much better view.

Image courtesy of the BBC, masters of architectural and event photography.

Much better view.

Still, I did wonder what it would have been like to get one of those unique invitations in the mail. Especially if you weren’t expecting it. I really liked hearing that the Middleton family invited their own neighborhood friends, like their butcher and their grocer. Can you imagine the surprise when they opened their invitations? What a delightful way to share joy.

Want a little  wedding tradition trivia while we’re celebrating today? Have you ever wondered why wedding invitations come with two envelopes?  What is this second envelope is for?

There is a reason. (You knew there had to be.) It all has to do with the workings of a fine household and the job of this guy:

Image courtesy of life.com

We’ll call him “Hudson”, because he is a butler. All butlers are properly addressed by their last names while on duty. (If you know why I chose the name “Hudson” for my example, extra points to you for your discriminating tv viewing choices!)

Before the use of trucks and cars, the mail (or “the post” if you are British) was carried by hand and by horseback riders…on mostly unpaved roads, through every kind of weather. In short, a letter from your grandmother in the next town could arrive looking like it had been through a war. Covered in mud, ink smeared (which was easy to do anyway with old ink), with who knows how many grubby working class fingerprints all over it.

So, what does Hudson do? Does he just take this dirty envelope and hand it off the his finely dressed employers?  No sir, he does not. He opens the dirty outer envelope, discards it and then takes the mail:

Image courtesy of thefullwiki.com

on a pristine silver tray, with a clean letter opener to his employers. It looks a little bit like this:

Image courtesy of thefullwiki.com

Now Sir or Madam can open their own mail, privately, easily and safe in the knowledge that only the sender and Hudson have touched the clean inner envelope. (This is also why the inner envelope is only ever labeled with a name, not a street address.) This care and courtesy of the mail within fine households became the standard for well-mannered correspondence. Today’s formal wedding invitations are one of the last hold-overs of this older etiquette. (Unless you still have your newspapers ironed before you read them. Hudson is a whiz at that chore, too.)

Want your own silver mail tray?  Linked here is a great deal on a classic design:

(Hudson not included.)

Have you received a double-enveloped wedding invitation recently? If you are married, did you use two envelopes for your wedding invitation? Do you like modern wedding invitations or do you prefer more traditional invitations with all of the extra paperwork.

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Posted on April 29, 2011, in Decor, Lifestyle. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I got up early to watch it live, too. I guess my invitation got lost in the mail. Oh well. I enjoyed it from my living room just fine.

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