Dinner Invitation Etiquette

When preparing to ask guests to a dinner, dinner invitation etiquette comes into play. The basic rule to remember is that the more formal the dinner the fancier/more formal the invitation should be. For example, you could send computer-generated invitations or even just phone invitations for a casual “bring a dish to pass” event. However, a black tie dinner requires engraved invitations.

When creating a dinner invitation you may want to consider save the date etiquette as a companion helper. While a save the date card doesn’t replace an invitation, it does let people know up to six months ahead of time that you’re planning something special. This is a wonderful gesture particularly for people who need to request time off from work, arrange childcare, etc.

dinner invitation

In terms of wording the card should include an opening such as, “You are cordially invited to our dinner party”. The next line of the card usually gives the date, or date and time. Line 3 is the location, line four provides the host/hostess names, and the bottom left hand side of the card includes the R.S.V.P. (with periods) and a phone number.

An alternative format puts your name first in the invitation. For example, line one would read, “Miss Jennifer Masterson” followed by line two requesting the guest’s presence at the dinner. Dinner etiquette doesn’t demand one style over another so long as all the important information is included in your note.

What type of information? Dinner invitation etiquette reminds us to first let guests know what type of dress is required. Put the words formal, semi-formal, or casual in the lower right hand corner of the invitation. Alternatively, use terms like black tie, meaning long dresses or gowns and full tuxedos, or white tie – translating as an elegant gown for women and white tie, wing collars and tailcoats for men.

welcoming guest

Second, if you want people to contribute anything to the dinner party such as drinks that should also be on the invitation. BYOB signals the request for guests to bring their own beverage of choice. Potluck indicates everyone brings a dish – however, play this safe. Request specific dishes or ask that guests tell you what they’re making with the RSVP so you don’t get a lot of the same type of food (i.e. all dessert and no main dish, or all casseroles and no finger foods).

As far as addressing the invitations, dinner invitation etiquette can take two directions. You can focus on how the guest prefers to be addressed, using the courtesy guideline of practical etiquette, or you can follow formal address rules that include using Mr., Mrs., or Miss, any formal titles and fully spelled out street names and states. You want these in the mail at least two to three weeks before your dinner party. For a wedding reception, three months is best.

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