Invitations are a useful tool in setting the scene for your dinner party so that it is clear from the outset what kind of an occasion you will be hosting. Besides including factual information, you will be able set the tone by the way you word and issue the invitations. Do all of this well ahead so that they can be sent out in good time and have the best chance of your guests being available.
So important and yet can easily be forgotten when thinking about all the other stuff you need to include! Imagine opening a fabulous invitation with all the information except who has sent it, it’s like when you get a Christmas card with no signature, lovely thought but where did it come from?
Guests will need to know what exactly they have been invited to, and this is where you can be quite clever in setting the tone. Assuming you have decided that you will be hosting a fine dining evening, then guests will need to know this, so don’t just say come to dinner, tell them what to expect. If you have a theme for the evening, now is a good time to let them know so they can tailor their gifts and outfits appropriately. It is excruciating to be in the dark when planning what to wear or how to prepare when you are not sure quite what you are going to.
About a minimum of 4 weeks ahead and primarily on a good day for you, however it is always good to take into consideration anything you are aware of pertaining to your guests. For example colleagues who travel a lot on business will not be at their best the night before they set off or indeed the evening they return, you need guests who are lively and can do justice to your hard work, not dashing off to pack their bags before the coffee has been served or falling asleep over the dessert.
Usually in the evening and again primarily at a good time for you. It will need to be late enough for you, yet early enough for the guests. Give yourself time to make sure you have got the kids safely catered for but not so much that guests get too hungry and unable to resist a quick snack before they set off and be too full to savour your delicious food. It is best to set the time of arrival at least 30 minutes before you intend to serve the first course, giving enough time for tardy arrivals and leisurely welcome drinks.
This will more than likely be at your home and if all your guests are familiar with where you live, then you wont need to be over formal and give them the address! However if someone has not visited you before, you will need to include not only this but also directions of how to find it.
As mentioned before, guests like to know that they will be wearing the right thing when they arrive. If they know what they are coming to and you have indicated the dress code, much agonising over the outfit can be avoided. Again assuming it is fine dining, then you will be able to say that dress should smart and people will know not to turn up in shorts and a novelty T-shirt.
Fine dining at home will inevitably mean a more formal type of invitation and you could do with knowing fairly promptly who can make it. That way if people can’t come, you will be able to invite your reserves without them feeling as though you have! So be bold and ask for a reply by a certain date, not too far ahead, after all people are either available nor not when they receive the invitation so they ought to be able to give you a pretty speedy response.
Do not fall into the trap of saying something like ‘regrets only’ or ‘no need to respond if you can make it’ as that leaves you uncertain, so much better to have a definite confirmation from every one.
In very formal situations you could include a response card with a stamped addressed envelope but this would not usually be the way to go for a dinner party at your home. You wouldn’t want the guests to be put off and pretend they were busy on that day!
These days there are lots of ways you can issue invitations, gone are the days of formal ‘At Home’ cards and copper plate writing in the third person.
By phone: this is speedy and you can usually get an immediate response but you will need to have all your essentials at your finger tips so that you don’t forget anything and start chatting. You can also give vital information in an informal way such as ‘ I thought we would try a fine dining experience, so it would be a chance for us all to get our glad rags on’
By text: not a good idea at all for this kind of occasion, best left for casual barbies or buffets
By email: often a good compromise between speed and formality, you can even find templates on the web to help you ( eg www.Smilebox.com).
All that is really necessary though is to include the information you would put in a written invitation but just get it out more easily
By post: the most formal of all and this may be what you want in getting the message across about the style of the evening. You can hand write or print on cards or posh paper but never ever resort to a leaf torn form a ring pad, but then you wouldn’t have done that anyway would you? You can also buy printed invitation pads that you just fill in the relevant information but this would probably not set the right tone for a fine dining experience so better to leave it for birthday parties or picnics.
The very formal invitation in the third person will usually be a bit over the top, although could be called for if the meal is in honour of someone special, or is for important people that you don’t know. You wouldn’t really want to use it for your dinner party otherwise.
More appropriate would be something like:
We would like to invite you to dinner at home on (date) with drinks at ( time) for dinner at (time).
The theme for the evening will be (eg. Fine dining) with a dress code (eg. smart, party outfits, cocktail dresses, glad rags, Sunday best).
We do hope you will be able to make it, and if you can let me know by(date) that would be great.
Email – as appropriate
You can find endless examples online, it just depends on personal taste and what you feel would be most appropriate for your occasion.
At the end of the day just think about how you would feel to get the invitation you have decided upon and see if it seems right, if not, why not? and amend it accordingly.