Telephones, fax machines, cell phones and emails have all facilitated communication and made postal letters, telegrams and official invitations a thing of the past.
Only wedding invitations have made it through the digital age unscathed, sustaining their status as the formal way to tell someone you’re getting married, and that they’re invited to the wedding.
Hundreds of people from all walks of life descend on the outlets in the Attaba district, which houses the biggest market for wedding cards in the capital.
A ten-minute walk from Attaba metro station, the market is located in Harit El Warak, an old alley that is well-known for selling all paper products.
According to card shop owners, this is the peak season for the business. Apparently, the end of Ramadan is a high time for card-sellers because most Muslims choose not to tie the knot during the holy month and usually postpone their weddings until after Eid. Another busy time for cards is the Christmas and New Year holiday season.
Outlets selling wedding cards can also be found in Heliopolis, Mohandiseen and in shopping malls, but most obtain their supplies from Attaba, where you will be spoilt for choice amid a wide range of collections. These vary in shape and design, from traditional cards to wedding invitations rolled like scrolls, kept in decorative boxes, in vases or in small bags.
The prices range between LE 1 to LE 40 for a single card, depending on the design, the type of paper and other complementary items.
According to Ezz El Din outlet located on El Geish Street, the card could cost more if the design uses metal, glass or leather objects that are added on in special workshops in Khan El Khalili.
The bulk of these cards are imported from Syria, Italy and Turkey. Unfortunately, the few that are made in Egypt do not come up to the standards of the refined customers.
Ezz El Din said, “The Syrains are said to have been the ones who introduced wedding cards to Egypt. The industry is so well-established in Syria and for decades we have imported the cards from there.
“Many investors think it’s a costly industry that isn’t worthwhile in terms of return. But, the wedding is perhaps the only occasion to which you invite friends, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances with whom you can’t use word of mouth.
Ahmed El Falah, of Al Quds for Wedding and Personal Cards located on Mohamed Ali Street, said, “How can you be sure that each of your invitees has an e-mail account? How can you ensure his internet is not down or his computer isn’t broken?
“Even if invitees have their email accounts, I don’t think decorum-wise he or she would consider your wedding invitation without an actual card, said Mohamed Samir, of Mode Cards, the biggest outlet in Alexandria.
“The wedding card is a reflection of your taste, social status and outlook on life. In Alexandria, Italian and Turkish cards do better than in Cairo. These are high-quality items and only people with refined taste would opt for them. In Cairo, only one or two shops deal in them, he added.
Ezz El Din explained, “All sorts of people come to us; some look for quality and don’t care about money. Others are looking for any cheap card to serve the purpose.
Catalogues upon catalogues of wedding cards are available. According to Mohamed Alaa, of El Shaimaa Wedding Cards, many Arab nationals from Sudan and Saudi Arabia come to buy their cards from Cairo where it is cheaper.
“Some finicky couples browse through the catalogues and end up not liking anything. Finally, they provide us with the design and we print it, but we can’t ensure the quality will be as good as the imported ones, said Alaa.
For many couples, the card is a memory that they will treasure for a lifetime. Some of the designs are so pretty, personal or funky, guests also tend to keep a collection of wedding invitations.
“Some people don’t really care, Ezz El Din said. “They just trash the cards. One time a newlywed told me that he stepped on one of his [own] wedding cards while walking down Harit El Warak.