First impressions are everything, so the wording of your event's invitation is paramount. It is your guests' first introduction to the event and sets the tone. To make the appropriate impact, consider carefully the mood of the event, and include all relevant information. A formal awards luncheon calls for an air of sophistication and impeccable invitation etiquette.
Gather the essential information first: the name or title of the host; the title of the event; the honoree or honorees, if known; the date, time and location of the event; and RSVP contact information. If the host is an organization, list the formal title (e.g., The Rotary Club of Baltimore City). If the host or hosts are individuals, list their full names. Honorifics such as "Dr." or "Mrs." are optional. If the host holds a relevant, official title, include it below the name line. At the bottom, list a contact person for the RSVP and a phone number. If you are using response cards, list "Response card enclosed."
Each piece of information should appear on a separate line. There are two common variations of a formal invitation. "The Stanford University Alumni Association / requests the pleasure of your company / at a luncheon / in honor of the 2011 Outstanding Young Alumni / Friday, the twenty-fourth of June / at eleven o'clock / in the Grand Ballroom / The Club / 444 McCaw Drive / Palo Alto, California / Response card enclosed." The other variation would read, "The Harvard University Alumni Association / cordially invites you / to a luncheon."
Attention to Detail
There are a few details that easily go unnoticed by the sender, but are glaring errors to the etiquette-savvy. First, no punctuation belongs in the wording of the invitation, aside from periods and apostrophes in titles and the comma separating the day and date. Phrases should not be separated by commas or periods, and the invitation should not end with a period. Also, the time should give the hour followed by "o'clock." The words "lunch" or "dinner" indicate the time of day. For a more general invitation with no indicator, include "in the afternoon," etc. The date should also be spelled out for very formal invitations.
Telling your guests what to wear is generally considered poor form, yet many still prefer to include "black tie" or "business casual dress" on the invitation. The tone of the invitation should indicate the dress. One exception is military functions, where dress differs for service members and civilians. Also avoid listing a cutoff date for responses. Guests should respond in a timely fashion, but make room in the plans to account for those who respond late or not at all.
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