Mastering party invitation etiquette

One of the most important aspects of holding any get-together is making sure your guests have all the right information. Here’s the lowdown on how to make sure they turn up with the right expectations for your event.

When to send invites?

As a general guide, for special events such as weddings or those for which guests need to travel, one to two months in advance is a good rule. If your celebration occurs during a busy period, like the Easter long weekend, make sure you lock people in well in advance. For informal gatherings like barbecues, birthdays or dinner parties, less notice is fine. About two to three weeks should do.

What type of invite?

The invitation should reflect the style of the event, so sending a slapdash email for a formal wedding may not set the right tone. If you want to create excitement for a special occasion, written invitations sent via old-school snail mail will do the trick. For pure convenience, online invitations are becoming increasingly popular and make easy invites for casual events.

Which details to include?

Keep the details concise. The traditional order on the invite is: 

  • Who: The party host/s.
  • What: Purpose of the party.
  • When: Day of the week, date and start time, as well as end time where appropriate, such as children’s parties when a pick-up is required.
  • Where: Specific location with extra details if navigation is tricky.
  • Dress: Include details if the event requires fancy dress or black tie. Keep in mind that unless it’s a wedding, traditional dress codes like smart casual, lounge suit or cocktail are rarely used and frequently ignored.
  • RSVP: The latest date and method by which guests can respond with attendance.

Want to specify gift or BYO details?

These days, it’s not uncommon to suggest guidance on gifts or BYO food and drink. So let’s say your event is a big family reunion to be held at the local park. You’d like every family representative to bring a dish. Keep the details specific (nibbles, salads, savoury or sweet) and include location info – is there refrigeration? Barbecue facilities? Seating?

Or it could be your husband’s 40th. He doesn’t expect gifts but would love his guests to bring their favourite tipple to enjoy on the night. Keep the wording and tone humble, along the lines of “No gifts please, but your favourite bottle of bubbles would be much appreciated.”

Part of the fun of holding an event is in the planning, and the invite is often the first taste of what’s to come for your guests, so whet their appetite with the right kind of temptation.