Levels of Formality for Invitations
Although many components of entertaining etiquette remain timeless, as technology progresses and society evolves, so must social niceties in order to keep up. In the not-so-distant past, invitations came in a limited number of formats: word of mouth; via telephone; and through the post. Now, electronic formats are being used to invite guests to all but the most of formal events, and it’s important to know what types are appropriate for which events.
Black- and White-Tie Events
Black- and white-tie weddings and celebrations call for the most formal of invitations, although digital designs for save-the-dates, engagement parties, bridal showers, and bachelor/bachelorette parties are now not only appropriate, but extremely stylish and convenient for both the sender and the recipient. Whether paper or digital, the wording for this type of correspondence should reflect the level of formality for the occasion.
Formal and Semi-formal Events
Formal and semi-formal events — which may include charitable benefits, club functions, formal dances, corporate events, and upscale parties — used to call for paper invitations, but premium electronic invitations are now acceptable as well. Digital designs can reflect the look of formal invitations, including laser- and die-cut detailing and letterpress printing, and provide easy access to details without the danger of becoming lost.
Elegant holiday, birthday, and cocktail parties are examples of the gatherings that fall beneath the “dressy” category. Paper invitations are not required, but it’s highly recommended that electronic invitations, if used, be premium.
The standard birthday party, the laid-back holiday get-together, the hosted dinner party – any gathering that suggests that guests be tastefully pulled together without the need for dressy attire – may all be heralded via electronic invitation in whichever design (premium or not) best reflects the aesthetic of the party.
Invitations to very casual gatherings – sometimes put together on short notice – can be issued by telephone or take the form of electronic invitation or email. Text messaging should be limited to last-minute, one-on-one gatherings such as meeting for coffee or grabbing lunch. Announcements made via social media come with the risk of the uninvited being made aware of their exclusion, and therefore are not recommended.