Entertaining 101: How to Decide Who to Invite to a Party And How To Do It

Valeria Nekhim

Wedding-Invitations-A-Day-to-RememberHosting a party—be it a wedding or an intimate dinner at home is no simple feat, and one that involves a fair share of planning. Plus, ever-changing technology—awesome as it—can make knowing what’s appropriate in terms of etiquette a bit confusing. Can you send a wedding invite via Twitter for instance? FYI: no you can’t.
Luckily there’s no need to panic because modern-day etiquette “rules” aren’t nearly as stringent as they were in the past and actually leave ample room for hosts to be flexible. With that in mind, we’ve assembled the essential tips to make the preliminary stages of planning a party—i.e. putting together a guest list and knowing what type of invitations to send and when to send them—a breeze. Just remember, it will all (hopefully) be worth it in the end, because the satisfaction that comes with throwing an amazing party is really an extraordinary feeling.

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Intimate Dinner
Guest List: The smaller the gathering, the more important it is to have the right mix of people. While some say it’s good to invite people with plenty in common, others maintain the conversation is more interesting if guests have diverse backgrounds and opposing views. Take some time to think about what each of your guests can bring to the table so to speak, but ultimately follow your instinct.
If you’re the one making the meal for the evening and won’t be having wait staff, be sure not to invite more diners than you can manage cooking for and serving on your own, and of course factor in the size of your space and what you’re willing to spend. Keep in mind: as hostess, you can and should enjoy yourself too.
Picking an Invitation: With websites like Paperless Post, it’s easy for party hosts to customize beautiful e-invites, and for guests to RSVP. Emilypost.com has several tips for successful e-vitations, such as turning off the feature that lets guests see who else is invited, especially if the individuals don’t know each other. In addition, be sure to treat it as you would a regular invitation and include who’s hosting, what kind of party it is, why the party is being thrown (if there’s a reason), when and where it is (including maps if necessary), and RSVP details.
When to send the invitation: Etiquette experts suggest three to six weeks for a formal dinner party, and a few days to three weeks for an informal soirée.
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Cocktail Party
Guest List: A cocktail party can be appropriate for numerous occasions including birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, engagements, charity events, etc. Often the type of cocktail will help you decide whom to invite, but such isn’t always the case. Like with a wedding, start out by deciding what sort of of vibe you want for the evening which will make it easier to decide on a location. Perhaps you want to host a more laid back cocktail affair at your home, or maybe you want a night of dancing, so you need a venue that allows for it.
Once you know the size of the space, and whether your guests will be seated most of the time, or if they’ll be roaming or dancing, you’ll have a much better idea of how many people you can invite. You want your guests to have a great time, therefore it’s vital to consider their comfort. As is the case with any party, knowing your budget is crucial and has a major impact on head count, especially if you’ll need to hire extra hands.
Depending on your budget and the mood you’re seeking, you should decide whether you want to serve inexpensive refreshments and food for a lot of people, or more gourmet garb for a select group of friends. And though a cocktail party is larger than an intimate dinner, you should still think about whether your guests will mesh well (no enemies please!), and most importantly—if you want them to be a part of your celebration.
Picking an Invitation: An email invitation is perfectly fine, just be prepared to follow up via phone if you don’t get an RSVP. Moreover, if you’re sending e-vites, use the medium to send out a reminder about the event a couple of days prior. Try to avoid inviting people via a Facebook event, as invitees can easily miss it, and it’s really only best for very large scale events.
When to send the invitation: One to four weeks, depending on how important the event is.
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Guest List: When deciding whom to invite to a wedding, the future husband and wife have to first agree on what’s the most they’re willing to spend according to lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, since caterers charge by the head. Something to keep in mind is a buffet costs less per person than a formal seated meal. The next step is for both the couple and their families to make a list of family and friends that absolutely must be in attendance. The couple should then decide what mood they’re seeking. For example, do they envision a more intimate affair, or a bigger, festive party, and what kind of setting would they ideally want (garden, ballroom etc.), and of course whether their budget will allow for it.
Once a preliminary list of non-negotiable guests has been made and the mood and budget agreed upon, it’s easier to see if invites can be extended to work colleagues and significant others. Protocol dictates the wives and husbands of guests must be invited, and usually a couple that’s living together, engaged or not, is generally treated like a married couple. As for whether to invite other guests with a plus one, it’s always a much appreciated gesture if you have the space and the monetary means. Once a finalized list is in place, it’s time to pick invitations.
Picking an Invitation: The type of invitation selected should be a reflection of the style, tone and formality of the event, and all the details should be easy to understand. For less formal weddings, e-mail invitations are acceptable (yes times are changing!) but only if all guests have an e-mail (for instance, grandparents might not). Still, keep in mind many experts don’t think e-mail should ever be used when wedding invitations are concerned. The online destination for everything wedding related, The Knot, recommends using good old-fashioned paper because it’s more special.
When to send the invitation: The Knot, says invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks in advance to give guests enough time to clear their schedules and make travel arrangements if need be. If it’s a destination wedding, it’s best to send invites out three months prior. Further, to help ensure a good turn out, it’s wise to send a save-the-date card six to eight months ahead of the wedding date.
Now go on and have fun!
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