Etiquette Tip of the Month

Party Invitations

With the holidays just around the corner, now is the time to begin preparations for all those upcoming parties. Your first step to successful entertaining is a properly extended invitation. Keep these tips in mind if you plan to entertain this autumn and winter: and whenever you plan to entertain.

For those special events, such as weddings and when guests must travel, do extend invitations about 60 days in advance. Extend invitations to formal events at least 30 days in advance. For informal get-togethers less notice is acceptable, about two to three weeks should suffice, although more notice is practical, especially if the party is planned during the busy holiday season.

The best parties begin the moment the guest receives their invitation. Take care in choosing the style and method in which you plan to notify your guests. The invitation should reflect the style of the event: Special and formal events traditionally require written invitations sent via regular mail, although it is increasingly popular to use the various on-line invitation services, such as Evite, for even fairly formal events. Invitations to informal events can be extended via telephone, email, fax, on-line services, or postal mail.

Whether you plan to extend the invitation in writing or orally, be sure to include all pertinent information. If inviting over the telephone, jot down your facts and read it so you’ll be sure to remember everything.

All invitations should contain:
Who: The hosts of the party
John and Mary Jones
request the pleasure of your company
What: Purpose of party
at a Holiday Dinner Party
Date: Both the day and date are helpful
on Friday, December 12, 2003
Time: Start and ending times
7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Location: Specific site of the event
At home
123 Terrific Lane
San Francisco
Attire: Any special information that will make your guests comfortable
Informal Evening Attire
Response: How and by what date to respond and to whom
Your kind response is appreciated
by Monday, December 1
to Jane Smith
415-123-4567 or

Eliminate phrases such as Regrets Only or Acceptances Only. Despite your best intentions, these phrases rarely work as desired. Guests should know they must respond to all personal invitations (See Etiquette Tip of the Month on the RSVP).

While it is tempting to utilize ever-increasing technology and use database-generated labels on social and business invitations, you should avoid this practice at all cost! Write invitations by hand or give the appearance of having each envelope personally handwritten or nicely typewritten through your printer.

Traditional etiquette for formal invitations states that each word be spelled out completely on your invitations, including Street, Apartment, and state name.

Be mindful of using the proper honorific when sending invitations and addressing the envelope. Honorific and proper titles can be abbreviated, such as Mr., Ms., Mrs., and Dr. For doctors, use M.D. or Ph.D. on the envelope and Dr. in the salutation, never both.

When addressing an envelope to a couple with one person having a higher rank and status than the other, the higher ranking person—regardless of age or gender—takes precedence over the other person. For example, Senator Dianne Feinstein would go on the top line above her husband, Mr. Richard Blum.

Couples with the same last name can be addressed together as Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jefferson. Couples with different last names may be listed on one line as Mr. Ron Hildebrand and Ms. Syndi Seid or on two separate lines as Ms. Syndi Seid (next line) Mr. Ron Hildebrand. Unmarried couples are listed on two separate lines. If you are not sure of marital status, list the names on separate lines.

Unless an invitation indicates a guest is included, only the person listed on the invitation is to attend ... Hint, hint: uninvited guests are NOT to attend. As the host, if you welcome a single friend or family member bringing a guest, and do not know that person’s name, add “and Guest” so the primary invited person will know they may extend the invitation on your behalf.

When sending a formal invitation with both an outer and inner envelope, address the outer envelope to the primary invited person at that address only, with the inner envelope stating, "Mr. John Jones and Guest".

For an informal party, address the outer envelope to include the invited person only. Add a handwritten note to the invitation extending the invitation to a guest. Just as guests should never assume they may bring an uninvited guest, the host should never assume the primary invited person will know they are welcome to bring a guest, unless the invitation is extended.

Happy Hosting!

I hope this helps address the basics on party invitations. If you have further specific questions, email me at I’d enjoy hearing from you.

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