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What is the proper invitation etiquette?
When planning a dinner party, proper invitation etiquette should be one of the most important considerations. It conveys exactly what kind of party you are giving and ensures that your plans result in an enjoyable evening for all.
Cathleen Hanson, who is one of the owners and founders of the International School of Protocol, which teaches proper etiquette to children, adults, educators, and businesses, gives this advice: "When you are sending out an invitation, there are so many ways to do it. However, keep in mind that the more formal the event, the more formal the invitation. So, let's talk about informal first. You have an idea that you want to have a party. It's absolutely fine to call people up, and say 'I am having a party in a week. Can you come?' For an informal invitation you may do something like this:
You are cordially invited for dinner
On Friday, October 7th
At the bottom left, you say RSVP or please reply, and you can list your phone number.
If you want to get more formal, you can send out an invitation on a correspondence card. You can get correspondence cards from any stationery store. There are many different kinds of correspondence cards. The more formal the party means the more formal your style of the card. The less formal is going to have a less formal border style. If you are planning a more formal event, you want to use your name with its honorific. In my case, it would be 'Ms. Cathleen A. Hanson'. The format should be as follows:
Name (Ms. Cathleen Hanson)
Requests the pleasure of your company for
The event (dinner)
Date line (Friday, the seventh of October)
Time (at seven o'clock)
Then, in the bottom left hand corner, include 'Favor of reply is requested.' That's your more formal invitation. The most formal invitation you would have engraved."
Another thing you have to think about is how to address people when sending them an invite. Cathleen says that it depends on how the people prefer to be addressed. Some people prefer to be addressed with their husband's name - "Mr. & Mrs. Robert Boon". Some people would prefer to have their name as well - "Mr. Robert and Mrs. Virginia Boon". Sometimes, the woman would have a higher title than the man - "Dr. & Mr. Lee". Or, it could be "Dr. Cynthia Lee and Mr. Douglas Perry". A couple that is not married would have their names on separate lines.
Depending on the type of dinner party you have planned, invitation etiquette suggests that you should list any dress required of the guests in the lower right hand corner of the invitation. "Semiformal" usually means that a man or woman can choose a more laid-back outfit, such as dress slacks instead of a dress or suit. "Black Tie" or "Formal" usually signifies tuxedoes for the men and dresses for the women. "White Tie" is the most formal evening wear. It means, just what its name implies, for a man - white tie, wing collar and tailcoat. For a woman, a long elegant gown should be worn. White tie is advised for only the most diplomatic or dramatic occasions. If you go too far in your dress code people may not feel comfortable enough to enjoy themselves.
If you want others to bring their own drinks to the dinner party, you can put "BYOB" on the invitation. This stands for "bring your own bottle" and guests can bring a favorite drink of their choice to share. If you are planning a potluck, you can also put this on the invite. It is advisable to assign specific dishes for people to bring, so that you don't end up with a lot of side casseroles and no main courses or vice-versa.
When your invitations are all ready to be sent out, make sure to mail them two to three weeks in advance of the dinner party. This gives people plenty of time to check their schedule, rearrange plans, and notify you with their intentions to attend or decline the invitation.