Has this wedding tradition gone away?

By Melissa Locker
May 20, 2019
Credit: bluestocking/Getty Images

Usually a trip to the mailbox results in a handful of bills, a reminder from your dentist that you're due for a cleaning, and if you're lucky a magazine. So, it's an exciting moment when an envelope appears with your name scrawled across it in neat calligraphy and a wedding-themed stamp in the corner. When you open the envelope, though, there's a surprise inside—a second envelope, which contains the actual wedding invitation. Why do some wedding invitations have two envelopes like they are paper-made Russian nesting dolls? The answer, of course, like so much about weddings goes back to tradition. That particular tradition dates back to the days when mail was still carried by horse and buggy.

As you may recall from history class or your grandparents' stories, back in the day, mail carriers made their rounds on horseback. That meant those precious letters, parcels, and wedding invitations were out on the dusty roads come rain or shine or sleet and there was a good chance they would show up damp or damaged or both. According to the experts at Martha Stewart's wedding site, that's when clever brides-to-be resorted to using double envelopes in the hopes of keeping their invitations clean. The outer envelope could be removed and the invitation inside was pristine.

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The mail delivery has changed quite a bit since the old days, but some brides love to keep the tradition, and still opt for two envelopes. Plus, as the folks at the wedding site The Knot point out these days, double envelopes fittingly serve a double purpose. Not only do they keep the invitation clean during the whole mailing process, but the inner envelope lets the happy couple address the invitees in a more informal way, like mom and dad instead of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It also makes it easier to include names of the kids, if they are invited to the shindig, too, as they wouldn't necessarily be included on the mailing address.

More modern-minded brides, though, may see two envelopes as a waste of paper that is bad for the environment. Brides-to-be can choose whichever version they want to send, as either will brighten up the recipient's trip to the mailbox.