Etiquette: A Perfectly Proper Invitation for Every Soiree Style

From formal dinners to Bar Mitzvahs, every party comes with its own invitation etiquette. Here’s how to make sure your soiree is properly presented to potential guests.

Invitation to a Dinner to Honor a Guest
Invitation to Meet a Guest
Government & Diplomatic Invitations
Dance Invitations
Invitation to Tea
Invitations to Anniversaries
Bridal Shower Invitations
Baby Shower Invitations
Debutante Invitations
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Invitations
Commencement Invitations
Fill-in Invitations
Replying to an Invitation

Invitation to a Formal Dinner
Formal dinner invitations are properly engraved on ecru or white letter sheets. Letter sheets are single sheets of paper that fold like a book on the left hand side. (Traditional wedding invitations are done on letter sheets.)

Correspondence cards (flat, heavy, single cards) are occasionally used as well, but they are considered a little less formal. Black ink is the color of choice for formal invitations, but any conservative ink color will make a tasteful invitation.

The most formal invitations leave a space for your guests’ names to be handwritten or calligraphed. This format gives special honor to your guests.

When wording an invitation to dinner, it is important to remember that guests are invited “at a dinner” or “to a dinner”, never “for dinner” unless they are being served as the entree.

engraved personalized birthday party invitation

Invitation to a Dinner to Honor a Guest
Invitations that honor a guest follow the same rules as those for formal dinners. However, the honoree’s name is added to the invitations. This may be done in the body of the invitations or at the top. You doubly distinguish your honored guest by placing his or her name at the top of the invitations. The use of “honor” and “honour” are equally correct.

Sample #1
Please join us at home for
Cocktails, Dinner and Music
to celebrate Jeremy’s successful audition
with the Spokane Philharmonic Orchestra
Saturday, the tenth of August
at seven 0’clock

Mary and Alfred McCutcheon

Sample # 2
An Evening Under the Stars
Please join us for
Cocktails, Dinner and Dancing
Friday, the eleventh of September
at seven o’clock
Bayview Yacht Club Tampa, Florida

Lilyan and Robert Stowe

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Invitation to Meet a Guest
Invitations to meet a guest are extended when the hosts wish to introduce somebody to their friends, family and associates. The party might be held to meet a celebrity, someone new in the area or, perhaps, your daughter’s fiancé. The guidelines follow those for invitations to honor a guest.

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Government & Diplomatic Invitations
Invitations issued by government officials are engraved in black ink on ecru or white letter sheets or correspondence cards. The correct forms of address for United States government officials are included in the appendix.

Please note that government officials do not properly refer to themselves as “The Honorable”. That appellation is properly used only when they are addressed by others, such as when an envelope is addressed to them.

Protocol demands that events hosted by, or in honor of, a foreign dignitary require properly worded invitations. If the event is in honor of a dignitary, “In honour of” or “In honor of” appears at the top of the invitations.

The dignitary’s title must be properly presented. As etiquette varies so much from one country to the next, the best way to make sure that your diplomatic invitations are correct is to check with the protocol office of the appropriate consulate.

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Dance Invitations
Dance invitations follow the same format as formal invitations. The event may be mentioned in the body of the invitation by using either “at a small dance” or “at a ball”. It may also be mentioned in the lower right-hand corner simply as “Dancing”.

Sample #1
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen James McGee
request the pleasure of your company at a small dance Saturday, the sixth of November at ten o’clock in the evening The Waldorf-Astoria New York City R.s.v.p. 1040 Fifth Avenue New York, New York 10021

Sample #2
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen James McGee
request the pleasure of your company
Saturday, the sixth of November
at ten o’clock in the evening
The Waldorf-Astoria
New York City

R.s.v.p.
1040 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10021

Dancing

Sample #3
Mr. and Mrs. David Leighton Essex
request the pleasure of your company
at a dance to celebrate their
Twenty-fifth Wedding Anniversary
Saturday, the seventh of June
at eight o’clock
The Diamond Club
24 Tate Street
Chicago

Please reply (312) 555-1212

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Invitation to Tea
Invitations to a tea are usually engraved in black ink on a white or ecru card. The phrases, “At Home” or “at a tea” are used on invitations to an afternoon tea.

Sample
Mrs. John Leland Kensington
requests the pleasure of your company
at a tea
Tuesday, the thirteenth of September
from four until six o’clock
1776 Stone Drive
Birmingham, Alabama

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Invitations to Anniversaries
wedding anniversary invitation
Invitations to an event celebrating a wedding anniversary may be extended by the children of the couple, friends of the couple or by the couple themselves.

The year in which they were married and the anniversary year may appear at the top of the invitations.

While it is not strictly proper for couples to use a joint monogram, many do when issuing invitations to a party celebrating a wedding anniversary. When doing so, the larger center initial represents the couple’s surname. The initial on the left represents the wife’s initial. The one on the right is the husband’s.

The invitations may be engraved in gold for a 50th wedding anniversary, ruby red for a 40th or silver for a 25th. Since some of your guests might have difficulty reading metallic inks, you might consider engraving the dates in gold or silver and the body of the invitation in black.

Since many couples may not feel comfortable receiving gifts, a line in the lower right-hand corner reading, “No gifts, please” may be included. Other options include a separate card reading, “Your presence is the only gift that we request” or even a phone call.

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Bridal Shower Invitations
bridal shower invitation
The modern bridal shower is a throwback to the days when a bride brought her dowry to the marriage. Provided by her father, the dowry made her more attractive to potential husbands and gave the newly married couple the material goods and finances needed to help them start their new lives together.

Modern bridal showers, attended by family and friends, allow today’s brides and grooms the basic necessities to furnish their new homes.

Invitations to bridal showers are usually fun and informal. Bridal showers are hosted by one or more of the bride’s friends, never by a member of her family. The hostesses’ names appear at the top of the invitations.

Many showers have themes such as linens, kitchen and lingerie. For older brides, themes might include golf, tennis, garden and travel. When a shower has a theme, the theme is mentioned in either the lower left- or lower right-hand corner.

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Baby Shower Invitations
The guidelines for baby showers are similar to those for bridal showers.

Sample
Janet Russell
cordially invites you
to a surprise baby shower in honour of
Margaret McQuinn
on Thursday, November 7th
at 7 o’clock
14 Briarwood Court
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Debutante Invitations
Young women are traditionally presented to society at a debutante ball. They may be presented at a private ball or along with other young women at a mass ball, or cotillion.

Due to the expenses involved, group balls are much more prevalent. There are a series of events leading up to the debutante ball including dinners, teas, tea-dances, and small dances.

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Bar/Bat Mitzvah Invitations

bat mitzvah invitation“Bar mitzvah” and “bat mitzvah” mean son of the commandments and daughter of the commandments respectively. A bar mitzvah is a boy who, upon reaching the age of 13, has attained the age of religious duty and responsibility. Bar mitzvah is also the name of the religious ceremony that is performed to recognize the attainment of religious maturity.

A bat mitzvah (Hebrew) or a bas mitzvah (Yiddish) is a girl who achieves religious maturity, also at the age of 13.

While there is no standard etiquette for a bar or bat mitzvah invitation, it should be remembered that these are sacred religious ceremonies. The invitations should be tasteful and conservative in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion.

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Commencement Invitations
Commencement invitations are sent on behalf of a school or university, inviting family and friends to the graduation ceremony.

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Fill-in Invitations

fill-in invitationsFill-in or skeleton invitations are personalized invitations that leave blank the areas for some of the information, such as the event, date and time. They are usually ordered in large quantities and are used as the occasion arises. The “missing” information is filled in by hand.

Fill-in invitations may also be purchased over-the-counter without any personalization.

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Replying to an Invitation
engraved wedding invitation reply cardReply cards are sent with invitations in order to give recipients an easy and convenient way to respond. They should be returned promptly. Your name, preceded by your title is written in following the “M” in the space provided (that is what the “M” is for). If you will be attending the event, the space between “will” and “attend” is left blank. If you will not be attending, write “not” in that space.

Should you receive an invitation sans the aforementioned “easy and convenient” response card, here is how to both formally and informally reply to an invitation.

Formal Replies
Replies to formal invitations should be sent within three days of your receipt of the invitation or before the reply date given on the invitation. They are handwritten in black ink on the first page of ecru or white letter sheets. (Letter sheets have a fold along the left-hand side, like formal wedding invitations.)

The replies are written in the third person and follow the format of the invitation. They are sent to the persons issuing the invitation. If more than one name or couple are listed, the replies are sent to whomever is listed first on the invitation.

Acceptances repeat the date and time. Regrets repeat just the date and may include a brief reason for not being able to accept. Mentioning the event is optional. If you do mention the event use “on” before the date. Otherwise, use “for”.

Invitations from the White House always take precedence over other invitations. The only acceptable excuses for refusing invitations from the White House are illness, a death in the family, a wedding in the family and being out of the country.

ACCEPTANCE
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor Randall Carr
accept with pleasure
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Travis
to dinner
on Saturday, the sixth of June
at six o’clock

REGRET
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor Randall Carr
regret that because of a previous commitment
they are unable to accept
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Travis
for Saturday, the sixth of June

ACCEPTANCE WITH CHILDREN
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor Randall Carr
Esta, Janice, Barbara
accept with pleasure

WIFE ACCEPTS, HUSBAND REGRETS
Mrs. Taylor Randall Carr
accepts with pleasure
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Travis
to dinner
for Saturday, the sixth of June
at six o’clock
Mr. Taylor Randall Carr
regrets that he is unable to accept
due to a previous commitment

Informal Replies
Replies to informal invitations should be as formal or informal as the closeness of your relationship to the host or hostess dictates. For example, a reply sent to your mother should be a lot less formal than one sent to somebody you just met.

If you are sending a regret, you should briefly state the reason. Replies should be made within three days and can be written on informals, fold-over notes or even calling cards. If you use your calling cards, be sure to send them in an envelope that is large enough to mail.

ACCEPTANCE
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor Randall Carr
accept with pleasure
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Bolton
for Saturday, the sixth of June
at six o’clock

REGRET
Mr. and Mrs. Taylor Randall Carr
regret that because of a previous engagement
they are unable to accept
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Travis
for Saturday, the sixth of June

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Have more questions about invitation etiquette? Email our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com.

One thought on “Etiquette: A Perfectly Proper Invitation for Every Soiree Style

  1. Pingback: In Celebration Of: Engraving «

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