Invitation etiquette

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Invitation etiquette

Entertaining is not just about the event itself. It’s also about the excitement that builds beforehand. The invitations you send out, for example, can create a mood even before the event begins. The way in which you notify your guests about the who, what, where and when of your upcoming shindig can really create a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Letting people know about your event can be done in person, on the phone, via e-mail or through a printed invitation. “The invite sets the tone for the event,” says Terry Kirshenbaum, owner of Invitation House in Coquitlam, BC. “When you take the time to send [an invitation], people really appreciate the attention to detail and it makes people want to attend.”

Keran Jones, invitation expert and owner of Papermarché in Toronto, agrees. “When extending invitations to the ceremonies of life, (weddings, baptisms, special birthdays, etc) honour your friends and families by sending a beautiful printed invitation. Save the e-mails for Friday night get-togethers.”

If professionally printed invites are out of your budget, don’t forget about fill-in invitation packages available at stationery and card shops. Here are some areas to pay attention to when sending invitations.

1 Phrasing the invitation
On the invite include the type of event, the host or hostess’ name, location, time, date and, if necessary, a dress code. Let guests know whether you’ll be serving a light lunch or full dinner and whether the event is potluck or BYOB.

2 Addressing invitations
If you’d like someone to attend but know that they can’t make it, sending them an invitation lets them know you’re still thinking of them. When inviting married couples with the same last name, write “Mr. and Mrs. David Smith” on the envelope. When the woman has kept her maiden name, write “Mrs. Barbara Jones and Mr. David Smith.” For same-sex couples, write their names in alphabetical order and, for couples that don’t live together, write both names out and mail it to the friend you are closest to. In all cases, use titles such as Mr., Dr., Jr., etc. When inviting a friend and a guest whose name you don’t know, write “and guest” after their name.  Names of guests, including children, should be written in full. Children above 18, including those who live in the same house as their parents, should be given their own invitation.

3 Other bits and pieces inside the envelope
Include maps if the location name isn’t sufficient for your guests. RSVP cards are not a must but if you want to hear back from your guests, you should include one with a stamped envelope. Be sure to include U.S postage for your American guests. In some cultures, it’s necessary to write the number of guests invited on the RSVP card itself. When it comes to including gift registry information, include it on a separate card or sheet of paper.4 Set the tone of your event
Coordinate your decor with the nature of the event. A fancy event deserves a fancy card, just as a picnic deserves something fun and light-hearted.

5 Timing is everything
Order your invitations as soon as possible; a particular design may not be available right away, and the more customized your invite is, chances are, the longer it will take to make. Some companies can print invitations in two weeks but more time will save both parties stress. To be safe, expect the invites to come back in a month.

For weddings and other big events, mail invitations six to eight weeks in advance, and eight to 10 weeks for overseas guests. For smaller events, three to six weeks is enough time. But as Darcia Moskaluk-Rutkay of Invitations by Design warns, send invites too early and people will either forget to reply or worse, forget entirely. Remember to include an RSVP deadline and an option to reply via email, telephone or mail.
6 Think about type
Plain white labels on envelopes can look impersonal. Use decorative labels instead for a more exciting look. Hiring a calligrapher can be costly, so use a font that resembles calligraphy or, if you don’t have very many invitations to send and you have good penmanship, consider hand-writing them yourself.


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Invitation etiquette