Life's milestone events deserve full-fledged celebrations that begin with announcements that follow party invitation etiquette. Whether the invites are electronically distributed or sent through old-fashioned snail mail, following protocols makes the invited guests feel welcomed, comfortable and well informed of the event details. If you are the recipient of an invitation, it's also important to appropriately respond to the host.
Party Invitation Etiquette for the Host
Being a good host starts with the invitation. Make the event sound appealing while being clear on the details of the party.
The Write Stuff - Clarity & Creativity
Invitations can be serious or whimsical, depending on the party theme, the host and the guests. Know your audience and play to them. While your old college roommate may find pop cultural references in an invitation clever and entertaining, stodgy Aunt Phoebe will likely be put off or just plain confused by such wording. The text doesn't have to be formal and include phrases like, "requests the presence," but the tone should be conversational and have mass appeal while imparting necessary facts.
Help Your Invitees Become Guests
As is the case with many written communications (think Ikea instructions), what may seem like clear-cut facts to some are frequently misconstrued by others. A big part of party invitation etiquette is giving guests all the information they need to find the party and arrive on time.
Clearly State When and Where
Include the day of the week as well as the actual calendar date; people frequently see a date number and mistakenly pair it with the wrong day of the week. State times with AM and PM indicators after the numbers. Avoid leaving off an ending time for the party. Omitting a time to conclude the celebration may seem like an indicator that the fun will be so intense no one will want to leave but it usually just encourages hangers on. If the party is truly that successful, it will continue past the stated time on its own.
Give clear directions and, if possible, include a map. For hard copy invitations, enclosing a map is somewhat of a bother but guests appreciate the gesture, especially if they live in another town or the party venue is in a remote area. Electronic invitations benefit from links to reliable map sites like Google maps or Mapquest where guests can actually get step-by-step driving directions.
Provide Several Contact Options
Include phone numbers for landlines and cell phones as well as text message and email addresses. This allows people to contact the host from various locations with questions or responses.
Carefully Track Responses
While most people understand (or should understand) what RSVP or Regrets Only means, don't assume they will follow the correct guidelines. As the party date approaches, gently contact invitees who have not yet responded so your headcount is as accurate as possible on the day of the event.
Etiquette For The Guest
Invitees should be as proper and polite as the host in responding to an invitation.
Accept or Decline-But Don't Ignore
It's not unusual to receive an invitation to a party that you can't attend due to a scheduling conflict or simple lack of interest. If the latter is the case, the temptation to ignore the invite will be strong but is never acceptable. Whether you were invited as a courtesy, with sincerity or just because you're a relative or friend of the guest of honor, party invitation etiquette dictates that a response is required.
Unfortunately, some folks interpret RSVP to mean, "Respond if you please," when it really means, "Please respond." If you are unsure whether you can attend, let the host know and then follow up when you have a more definitive answer. Clear communications put everyone more at ease.
Regrets Only Obligations
An invitation that asks for regrets only means you only respond if you cannot attend the festivities. Again, a significant number of people have no idea what this means and treat it as an RSVP request. If you plan to attend a party and then can't make it at the last minute, it's courteous and appropriate to inform the host of your change in plans.
Some party invitations require special instructions. If you are planning a party without the knowledge of the honored guest, use clever surprise party invitation wording. Be sure to give guests plenty of time to include the event on their calendar and let you know if they can attend well ahead of the party date.