Exactly What Are Double Wedding Envelopes?

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Why 2 Envelopes? A Quick Rundown of Traditional Double Wedding Envelopes

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Wedding invitations enclosed in two envelopes – you may have seen it, may have heard of it, maybe both, but did you ever wonder why one invitation needs two envelopes?

The quick answer is, it’s a tradition thing – it’s classic wedding etiquette, it’s a formality. In today’s day and age, some prefer two envelopes, some do not. But whatever your preference is, in this video and post, we give you a quick rundown on traditional double wedding envelopes:

  • A brief history lesson on where the tradition comes from
  • What a set consists of
  • How to arrange invites inside of them
  • How to properly address them

Never again will you wonder what that mysterious second envelope is for!


A Tradition Dating Back to the Rigorous Mailing Process of the Industrial Revolution Era

The double wedding envelope tradition dates back to soon after the Industrial Revolution (ca. 1800) and the invention of lithography. Lithography is a printing process in which chemicals are used to accept and print ink, instead of the labor and time-intensive processes of calligraphy (elegant handwriting) or engraving (carving) which had been two popular methods before.

double wedding envelope quote

Lithography was a cheap printing technique that allowed wedding invitation producers to market their products to the then-burgeoning middle class. Delivery of these newly-minted invitations would prove to be problematic, however, as the postal service of the time was still unreliable.

Thus, two envelopes were used: an inner one, unsealed (for the sake of courtesy), and an outer one, addressed and used to protect the inner from the rigors of travel.

Elizabeth Post, in her etiquette book Emily Post On Weddings (1994, Harper-Collins, New York), elaborates:

The use of two envelopes is a tradition that probably goes back to when invitations where delivered by hand. For politeness the envelopes were left unsealed. Later, when mail services, began, the unsealed envelopes were inserted into larger ones that could be sealed. A practical reason for using two envelopes today is that the names of family members, escorts of your invited guests and children can be listed on the inner envelope.

Double Envelopes in Modern Times – Still Practical, Still Nice

Since the modern U.S. Postal Service requires a return address on all first-class or better mail, the “sanctity” of the inner envelope (and thus, the invitation) can be preserved by the outer one. You can affix stamps to and print the mailing and return addresses on the outer envelope, and avoid marring the more personal inner envelope.

As you can see, the tradition of the double wedding envelope is in place for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Double envelopes add class and flair to your wedding ensemble.

Double Envelopes – What’s in a Set?

As mentioned above, a double envelope set consists of two envelopes that fit perfectly together – an outer mailing envelope, and a slightly smaller inner envelope.

Outer Mailing Envelope

  • Withstands rigors of mailing
  • Gum seal for closing
  • Formally addressed and return addressed for mailing

Inner Envelope

  • Protected from mailing scuffs, dirt, debris
  • Often lined (outer envelopes are left unlined since they will be marked up then tossed)
  • Holds all the invitation “stuff” – invite, response, directions, etc.
  • No gum seal – left open for courtesy
  • Informally addressed

How to Stuff Them – It’s Simple!

Properly arranging a wedding invitation using traditional double wedding envelopes is easy! Place the invitation, response items, direction cards, etc. inside of the inner envelope, close it up, flip it around so the informal address faces out, and place it in the outer! See below:

proper way to stuff double wedding envelopes

How to Properly Address – Outers Formal, Inners Personal/Informal

Outer Envelope – Formally Addressed for Mail
Outer envelopes are formally addressed and return addressed for mailing purposes. For example:

Mr. and Mrs. Daren Bradshaw
12 Cheshire Lane
Marlborough, Massachusetts 01742

Outer Envelope – Informal
Inner envelopes are more personal and informal. They include just names, no address. They also include guests and children, if applicable. For example:

Daren and Priscilla Bradshaw

— or —

Daren Bradshaw and Guest

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