Elegant dinner party? Go for an over-sized card on heavy stock and use a stylized script font. Come-as-you-are wine-tasting? Try an organic paper and a raffia bow. Guests feel comfortable when they know what to expect from a party and the invitation helps to establish that expectation. In addition to offering details about time and place, the feel of the piece—think paper, colors, fonts, and embellishments like ribbon or beads —give guests a good idea if they’ll be attending a casual get-together or a more formal dressed-up event.
High-impact custom-made invitations don’t have to cost a fortune by the way. Hosts have lots of options for purchasing well-designed and reasonably-priced invitations online. A number of sites allow you to upload photos and offer quick turn-around. The opportunity to buy in bulk also makes this an attractive option especially if you’re hosting a large party. You might think of adding someone to your guest list at the last minute plus it’s handy to have extras in case an envelope gets ripped or invitations are returned in the mail.
There are also advantages to ordering invitations from your local stationary shop. They can offer more personalized service than internet retailers and if you’re having a hard time selecting an invitation, an experienced salesperson can help you find just the right piece for your event.
Technology Meets the Traditional Invitation
Evites have gained popularity in recent years. Simple, free, and green-friendly they’re great for the technologically comfortable host and hostess. Punch in your party particulars, select a theme, and press send. The site collects your responses and sends out reminders. If you want to know who’s coming and who hasn’t yet responded, simply log on to the site to find out.
For the host who prefers a more personal touch but still wants help managing her guest list, a host of businesses have cropped up in recent years that will set up event telephone mailboxes with recorded messages. When guests call they hear a message that says, “Welcome to the Smith Holiday Bash” and they can record their reply. The firm tracks the replies and can compile the messages on a CD if the host wishes to keep them. These services also include things like reminder calls and the option to have a live operator available to speak with guests and offer information about things like directions and hotel reservations. Event websites can be set up to provide guests up-to-the-minute information about everything from weather conditions to directions any time of day. These services take the hassle out of tracking replies and help hosts maintain accurate numbers which is helpful for planning catering and equipment rentals. Plus, they save the cost of stamps and reply cards.
The Well-Crafted Invitation
The folks at Crane & Co., manufacturers of fine stationary for over two centuries, point out that etiquette, or the guidelines that help us make each other feel welcome and comfortable, begins with common sense. Every invitation must include basics like date, time, and place no matter how formal, or informal, your event will be. Additional information about dress is also helpful for events where guests will feel out of place if they are dressed improperly. Black tie, cocktail, or costume parties in particular should include some information about appropriate dress.
It is also becoming more acceptable to note on an invitation if you prefer that gifts not be given at your event. Keep it simple. “No gifts please” in a smaller size font near the RSVP line will do the trick. And remember to be considerate to your guests by sending out your invitations early, in some cases four to six weeks in advance, especially if guests will have to travel to join you.
Répondez, S’il Vous Plaît
A host’s invitation to “Répondez, s’il vous plaît,” or “Respond please,” is not just a suggestion, it’s an obligation for the well-mannered guest. Think of it this way: after you spend time deciding on a theme and selecting an invitation and you’re working hard to throw the perfect party, would you like to be left hanging? Probably not.
The Emily Post Institute reminds us that we should reply to an invitation within a day or two of receiving it and offers the following guidelines for how to respond appropriately.
If the invitation:
…asks for an RSVP but contains no response card: send a handwritten response to the host at the return address on the envelope.
…includes a response card: fill it in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope.
…offers a phone number: telephone and make sure to speak to someone in person even if you have to call back several times—answering machines can be unreliable.
…offers an email address: you may accept or decline electronically.
…asks for regrets only: reply only if you cannot attend. If your host doesn’t hear from you, he is expecting you!
…does not request a reply: call! It is always polite to let someone know your intentions.
By the way, never ask a host if you may bring an additional guest no matter what the circumstance is. The Emily Post Institute points out that invitations are extended to the people the party-giver wants to include, and no one else.
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “A friend is a present you give yourself.” When we invite people to share our special events we are indeed giving ourselves a gift—of fellowship and fun, of conversation and comfort—and it all begins with those simple words, “Won’t you join us?”