Party Invitation Etiquette

Quick tips on how to invite people to your social event

addressing and mailing party invitations

The Spruce / Margot Cavin 

Are you planning any type of event that requires sending invitations? If so, these tips might help you with the wording and tone. Whether it's a formal dinner party that requires people to dress up in their finest attire, an outdoor children's birthday party where guests may wear jeans, a bat mitzvah that calls for dressy attire, a brunch party with your closest friends, or a baby christening where you expect people to wear church clothes, you'll need to follow a few simple guidelines.

Basic Information for All Invitations

There are some things that all invitations should include. You'll want to let your guests know the purpose of the event (if there is one), the time (start and end), the place, special instructions (for example, costume party), and style (formal or casual). You should also ask your guests to RSVP so you are better able to plan.

Here are some other things you may want to include in your invitation:

  • Whether or not your guest may bring someone else
  • Special instructions specific to the event (i.e., flashlight for a children's nighttime spotlight tag game)
  • If it's a children's party, whether or not you want the parents to stick around or drop off their child
  • Type of food being served in case of allergies
  • Request for allergy or food sensitivity information
  • Dress code

Formal Event Invitations

For a formal event, you want the invitation to match the tone. This is why many people will have them engraved or handwrite them. You may or may not use formal wording.

Here is an example:

Elizabeth Jewell and Gabriella Daniels
request the pleasure of Judith Walker's company
at dinner
on Saturday, February eighteenth
at seven o'clock
7 Evenstar Place

The above example uses a formal tone. However, if you are more comfortable with "invite you to" rather than "request the pleasure of," that's fine.

Casual Event Invitations

When inviting someone to a casual get-together, you may choose a more conversational tone. Another option is to state the facts. Whichever you choose, you'll want the same basic information.

Here is an example of a casual invitation:

Hazel is turning eight, so come and celebrate with us!
Where: Bounce-and-Jump Trampoline Center at 123 Main Street
When: Saturday, February 18
Time: 2
4 PM
Wear comfortable clothes and socks
Phone: 123-555-1111
Please RSVP by Thursday, February 16
We hope to see you there!

An invitation that simply states the facts may be something like this:

What: Jimmy's 8th birthday party
Where: 1234 Summerhouse Street
When: Saturday, March 11
Phone: 555-123-4567
Please RSVP by Thursday, March 9

What Not to Include on the Invitation

You don't need to include anything other than what is listed on one of the above invitations. However, if you don't want to receive gifts, you may use a simple statement such as "No gifts, please," or "In lieu of a gift, please donate to the local animal shelter." Or if the event is a fundraiser, you may state that.

Although many brides and grooms like to include the name of their gift registries on the invitation, it isn't the proper thing to do. Instead, you may ask a close friend or relative to provide that information separately. Never ask for money in the invitation because it's crass and can be very off-putting.

Before Sending the Invitation

Check your guest list. You need to make sure you have enough invitations and a few extras. After all, someone from your original list may not be able to attend, giving you a spot for someone else you would like to invite.

Whether you use professionally printed invitations or you handwrite them yourself, make sure you proofread them before you put them in the mail or hand-deliver them. That is quite a bit easier than having to call everyone to correct a date, time, or address after they are mailed.

When You Receive an Invitation

Remember that not everyone knows the proper etiquette of sending an invitation, so don't get too upset if you receive one that doesn't follow these guidelines. If you're unclear about anything on the card, contact the person who sent it and clarify what you need to know.

If the event is something you're not familiar with, please ask questions in a straightforward way. For example, if you've never been to a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, you might ask if there are any special requirements or traditions you need to follow.

Maintain a positive attitude when you send the RSVP to accept or decline the invitation. If you go, forget about the host's faux pas and have fun. After all, the party is a celebration, and you were honored with an invitation.

Edited by Debby Mayne