Modern-day invitation etiquette

Modern-day invitation etiquette featured image

Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, relationship milestone or major life change, designing your invitations is a great way to add a more personal touch. Not only do you get more freedom over the design, but it feels all the more special for guests to receive an invitation that has been personally created by hand (or computer!) by you. Below, we explain the invitation etiquette required for your next event and give you some design tips along the way.

While invitations have been around for a long time, in the modern age where you can send an invitation over text, email, Facebook and the mail, it’s hard to navigate the etiquette required for different types of events.

And, when it comes to creating your own invitations, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. From wedding and baby shower invitations, to intimate dinner soiree or housewarming invites, each type of party comes with its own unique set of etiquette. To ensure your guests are clear on what to expect from your event, it’s important to factor this invitation etiquette into not only the text but also the design.

Here, we explain the invitation etiquette for common types of parties, and how you can incorporate these into your designs. But, first thing's first: Invitation wording.

How do you write a party invitation?

When writing an invitation for any type of event, it’s important to make the event details as clear and simple as possible. Essential information to include in your invitation:

  • The date and time of your event
  • The address of the event
  • What time guests are expected to arrive
  • The dress code
  • What guests are expected to bring
  • The date and contact details guests should RSVP to

Invitation wording

When it comes to how you should word your invitation, it’s important to consider the tone you want your invitation to convey.

Tone can be defined as, “the general character or attitude of a place, piece of writing, situation.” If, for example, you are creating an invitation for your wedding, it’s likely that the wording you use will be slightly more formal than that of your intimate house-warming party.

Another factor to consider is how your invitation wording reflects your personality. If you're keeping your event casual, playful and relaxed, it’s best to keep your invitation wording in theme.

Whatever voice and tone you choose for your invitation you want to ensure that the important event information is still communicated clearly.

Engagement party invitation etiquette

This engagement party invitation ticks all the right boxes. It’s eye-catching, has a romantic aesthetic and reflects the couple’s unique relationship and the theme of the party. It has also been designed to be used as a coaster, which is a memorable and creative touch. By Rodrigo Calderon via Dribbble

Getting engaged is an exciting moment in any couple’s relationship and many people choose to throw a party to celebrate the special occasion. If you are creating your own engagement party invitation, there are a few design considerations to pay attention to. Firstly, your invitation should be romantic—this is a celebration of love, after all!

Design tip: Cursive and script fonts tend to evoke a romantic feel, as do muted and pastel colors. You may also want to experiment with icons like rings, hearts and cupid’s arrows, as these are emblematic of a romantic union.

This engagement party invitation has used the bow and arrow in a clever way, placing it in between the names of the couple It also uses a muted color scheme, flower border, and cursive font to create an elegant and romantic feel.

Your engagement party should also encapsulate the unique bond between you and your partner. There is no relationship exactly like yours, and this should shine through in your invitation. For example, if you bonded over your love of home-brewed beer, consider using this tidbit in your engagement party design by incorporating icons of beer glasses.

If your engagement party has a theme, this should also be reflected in the design of the invitation. For example, if it’s a sit-down dinner party, you will want to create a sophisticated and elegant design. If it’s a more casual BBQ, make sure this is communicated through colors, fonts and icons you use, as well as explicitly stating this so your guests know what to expect.

This engagement party invitation reflects the couple’s sense of humor, as well as the theme and location of the dinner, a Mexican restaurant.

When designing your engagement party invitation, it’s also important to include the following:

  • The date and time clearly displayed. An integral part of the guests arriving to the right place at the right time, is to make it easy for them to find the date and time. A common trend that many couples are opting for, is a digital invitation that links to the location on Google Maps making for a frictionless commute.
  • An RSVP date and contact. In order to ensure that you have enough food and beverages, it’s important to have a finalized list of who will be attending your engagement party. Make it easy for guests to RSVP by designing your invite with clear contact details in a visible place on the invitation.
  • The dress code. Save your guests the guessing time associated with what to wear to your soiree. Give them a rough idea of how formal the event will be. (for example, “cocktail attire” or “formal”.)
  • If the recipient's plus one is invited. Save yourself endless calls, and clearly label the names of the attendees on the invite. This will minimize any confusion as to whether children or significant others are able to come.
  • Whether or not you are expecting gifts. Whether you’re expecting gifts or not, it’s best to be clear about it. If you’ve set up a wedding gift registry, make it easy for your guests to find it. Or, if you intend on having a wishing well, mention that this will be available at the party.

Wedding invitation etiquette

This wedding invitation is simple, elegant and romantic, using bespoke features like an illustration of the couple to make it truly one-of-a-kind. By Mutiyani Parwanti via Behance

You made it through the engagement party and now it’s time to invite your loved ones to the main event! Many aspects of the design etiquette remain the same as the engagement party. Wedding invitations should have a romantic aesthetic and reflect your unique relationship, as well as the theme and location of the wedding.

It is clear through the use of tropical icons in the border and use of colors that this invitation is designed for a beach wedding.

However, wedding invitations are perhaps even more important than the engagement party, as they are often kept as a keepsake long after the event. For this reason, there are a few additional design considerations.

Firstly, it’s important to get the size and dimensions right. Wedding invitations are often long and slim—perhaps to signify that this is an incredibly special occasion and to set it apart from all other types of invitations.

Design tip: Consider using a template as a starting point for your wedding invitation, to ensure you have the correct dimensions.

This classic wedding invitation design is in the standard dimensions for a wedding invitation and can be easily customized with your own colors and fonts.

Beyond the design of your wedding invitation, it’s also important to consider the kind of stock you will print them on. The most popular cardstock for single, flat wedding invitation cards is 80 lb and up, as this gives a luxurious feel and helps them last longer as a keepsake. Matte finishes like cotton and linen also tend to create a more timeless effect than glossy finishes. With Canva Print, we can print and deliver your designs straight from the app in a range of stock and finishes.

Other important etiquette considerations for wedding invitations are sending them out at least 8 to 12 weeks before the wedding and including a call-to-action, or you can always send out Save the Date cards or save the date videos to give your guests even more notice. Traditionally, wedding invitations should also include personalized names of guests and the expected dress code, much like the engagement party.

When creating a wedding invitation, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Address your invitations correctly. When sending out your invitations, it’s important to clearly address those who are invited (including children). This also helps attendees assess who from the family is invited.
  • Keep the information clear and simple. When thinking about the information you need to include on your invitation, keep it simple by adding the basics: Who, what, where, and when. If you would like to provide more detail to your guests, many couples are choosing to create wedding websites that provide hotel recommendations, transport information, and gift suggestions.
  • Provide a generous RSVP deadline. When it comes to attending weddings (particularly location weddings) there are many logistics to consider. Once you’ve sent out your wedding invitations, try and provide guests with as much time to RSVP as possible.

Discover more templates for unique celebrations, like an invitation for baptism, gender reveals, and a lot more!

Children’s birthday party invitation etiquette

From the eponymous Hogwarts logo and typeface to the embossed stamp effect and faded harlequin background, the designer has truly committed to the Harry Potter theme of this children’s birthday party. By Sabrina Crespel via Behance

Birthday parties are a big deal for kids, so the invitation should be suitably fun and special. While often, it's the parents who hold onto the invitation, it’s important to ensure the design is easy to read and appropriate for children. Typically, bright colors, bold fonts, and simple icons and illustrations are suitable for kids’ birthday party invitations. However, it’s also important to consider the type of party and the age your child is turning and tailor your party invitation accordingly.

If there’s a theme for the party, it’s a great idea to incorporate this into the design of the invitation, too. For example, if your child is having a pirate-themed party, you may want to use fun icons of a shipwreck or a swashbuckling pirate—this also helps parents quickly assess the type of toys your child is interested in.

This 8th birthday party invitation incorporates the dinosaur theme into the design, as well as sticking to a simple color scheme and using a bold, sans-serif font.

Design tip: Unlike many adults, children are genuinely excited to turn another year older. So, don’t be afraid to make their age the focal point of the invitation—whether that’s through a contrasting color scheme or using a bold number icon.

This invitation brings attention to Benny turning seven through the framing of the dotted lines and the contrasting orange against the teal.

When creating a children’s birthday party invitation, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Send the invitation via mail. To avoid any schoolyard issues, send invitations in the mail, or via a phone call. Or, you can give the invitation to the parents at school pick-up.
  • Clearly state whether the party is themed. When designing your party invitation, it’s important to clearly state whether it’s a dress-up party, and if so, what the theme is. You can even go one further and provide a quick round-up sheet of costume ideas.
  • The date and time clearly displayed. Parents are busy, so you want to make sure that you’ve created visual hierarchy in your design and added the date, time and location of the birthday party in large, bold font.
  • Add your contact details. When a parent drops off their child to a birthday, give them added peace of mind by clearly displaying your name and phone number on the invite. This way, if they have any concerns, they can contact you.

Stumble upon more attention-grabbing birthday invitation templates here.

Adult’s birthday party invitation etiquette

This invitation hits the perfect balance of simplicity, sophistication and creativity for a 30th birthday party. By Dean Harding via Dribbble

When it comes to designing birthday party invitations for adults, the demographic is the most important consideration. For example, an invitation for a 21-year-old’s birthday should look quite different to that for a 60th birthday tea party!

Design tip: Try to keep in mind not only the person whose birthday it is (whether it’s yours or someone else’s) but also the audience that will be receiving it and choose the font, colors, and other design elements accordingly. Using a template that has been designed for that specific birthday can be an excellent starting point.

With a classic design and pared-back color scheme, this 21st birthday invitation is perfect for a young man taking his next step into adulthood.

Your birthday invitation should also encapsulate what kind of party it will be. If it’s a large birthday extravaganza you may want to use bold, bright colors, while a low-key brunch may call for a more muted color scheme. If the party will have a theme, this can be incorporated into the design of the invitation through the use of icons and illustrations.

The elegant cursive font and a gorgeous rose border of this design are fitting for a 60th birthday lunch.

When creating an adult’s birthday party invitation, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Give enough notice. As we get older, our calendars can become more full. Try sending out your invites at least six weeks in advance, to give people enough time to clear the calendar, or arrange for babysitters if they have children.
  • Give context. Adult birthday parties can range from a night of dancing late into the night, or an intimate dinner soiree at your friend’s home. To avoid confusion, clearly state the type of celebration you will be hosting. This will also serve as a subtle dress code.
  • The date and time clearly displayed. Make it easy for your friends to add your birthday celebration into their calendars, by specifying the start and finish time, location and date.

Dinner party invitation etiquette

The design of this dinner party invitation is simple, but the creator has added extra visual interest through the dividing lines on the invitation, patterned casing of the invitation and handwritten white text on the envelope. By Camille Styles via Pinterest

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, bring in the new season or simply to catch up with old friends, there are many reasons you might decide to throw a dinner party. This type of event has its own unique protocol which should be considered when designing your invitations.

Firstly, it’s important to determine what type of dinner it will be. Will it be a sophisticated, multi-course affair or a casual, picnic-style feast in your backyard? Both your text and design should work together to convey this through your invitation.

This invitation for a sophisticated dinner soiree can easily be repurposed with your own colors and fonts.

Design tip: While dinner parties tend to be thought of as the pinnacle of ‘adulting’, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun with your invitations. If your dinner party has a theme (for example, you’re serving a certain type of cuisine), don’t be afraid to reflect this through the design of your invitation through the colors, icons, and font you use.

With dinner party invitations, it’s customary to include the menu — to ensure your guests know what to expect and sufficiently whet their appetite! It’s also a good idea to clearly state what your guests are expected to bring along if anything.

This dinner party has a karaoke theme, so the creator has used the structure of a song as a creative way to lay out the menu, as well as a fun, bright color scheme and music-related icons.

When creating a dinner party invitation, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Ask for food requirements in advanced. Allergies and intolerances mean that dinner parties can enter dangerous territory, quickly. When asking for an RSVP to your dinner party, also ask guests to add any food requirements that they may have. This will help them enjoy the evening, and also help you to prepare in advance.
  • Provide context for the evening. For a dinner party, it’s always a nice sentiment to provide guests with some context for the evening. Whether you’re going for a casual Moroccan-themed feast, or, a fancy cocktail and tapas night, guests will be able to dress and prepare for the occasion.

Housewarming party invitation etiquette

This invitation uses the common housewarming symbols in a creative way, looping the key through the house-shaped invite. Using a QR code on the back is also a clever way to direct guests to the registry without taking up too much space. Marla Leuer via Behance

So, you’ve moved into a new house and you’re ready to make it feel more like a home by celebrating with your loved ones. Before you start designing your invitation, decide what type of housewarming party you want to have. Whether it’s an informal BBQ, raging house party or a sit-down dinner, make sure you make it abundantly clear through the design and text of your invitation. Otherwise, you might end up with house guests who refuse to leave at midnight, when all you really want is to go to bed!

From the text used to the icons of the animals and warm color scheme, every aspect of this invitation makes it apparent that the housewarming party is a BBQ in the backyard.

Design tip: Houses and keys are common motifs in housewarming party invitations. You can experiment with these by using icons and illustrations or even creating your invitation in the shape of one!

This housewarming invitation uses the recurring motif of the key, not only in their text but also in the eye-catching larger icon and smaller icons used in the corner.

When creating a housewarming party invitation, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Make it clear what guests are expected to bring. If you would like the guest to bring snacks, or beverages to your housewarming, don’t assume that they will. Instead, create a cute sentence asking them to bring a small culinary contribution to the party.
  • Include your gift registry on the housewarming invitation. If you would like gifts for your housewarming but have a particular taste, it’s best to navigate your guests with a gift registry and include this on your invitation.

Christmas party invitation etiquette

This ugly sweater Christmas party invitation deviates from the usual red/green festive color scheme and uses a electric blue to add an extra element of visual interest. Via Venngage

If you’re getting into the festive spirit year by holding your own Christmas gathering, you may want to consider creating your own invitations. However, people celebrate the holidays in many different ways, so it’s important to decide what you want your party to be before you start designing your invite.

This simple yet effective Christmas party invitation clearly communicates what the event will involve.

Will it be a casual Christmas Eve dinner, an Ugly Sweater party or a sit-down roast lunch? The answer to this question should guide your design.

Design tip: While red and green are considered the ‘official’ colors of Christmas, don’t be afraid to experiment with different shades and tints to give your invitation some personal flair.

Instead of using the usual primary colors of red and green, this Christmas party invitation opts for variations of black, white, and gold to create a more chic feel.

When creating a Christmas party invitation, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Use the appropriate language. Before wording your invite, take a moment to assess whether the party is a work function or a personal one. This will help inform the language you use on the invitation.
  • Be culturally sensitive. It’s important to keep in mind that not all cultures celebrate Christmas. So, if you are inviting guests from a range of other religions it can be more culturally sensitive to keep your phrasing general—for example, using ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’
  • Confirm the logistics. If you will be doing Secret Santa or any other type of gift swap, ensure you include this on your invitation, too.

Funeral invitation etiquette

OW Pictures via Dribbble

Nobody ever really wants to create an invite for a funeral but is a good opportunity to commemorate the loss of a loved one. While there is no “correct way” to invite guests to a funeral, some people opt to invite people over the phone and then send details in the form of a print or digital invite, that can then be shared on.

The most important considerations when it comes to designing funeral invitations are respect and sensitivity. This is a serious and solemn event, so bright colors generally aren’t appropriate. Instead, it’s better to opt for more muted colors like black, blue and white.

Flowers are a visual expression of love, sympathy, and respect, so these are commonly used in funeral invitations like this one.

Of course, it’s also important to ensure that the invitation celebrates the person in all their uniqueness. So, if you knew the deceased personally, you may want to consider their personal tastes and preferences when designing the invitation to their funeral.

Design tip: Funeral invitations are often kept by guests as a keepsake to honor their memory. Photographs can add a more personal touch, such as a beloved image of the deceased or a landscape that they loved.

The background of this template could easily be swapped out with an image of a landscape the person loved, whether that’s a specific beach, a mountain or their hometown.

When creating a funeral or memorial invitation, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Use appropriate language. When thinking about the words to use on your invitation, choose a nurturing and respectful language. Phrases such as, “In memory of” and “honoring the life of”.
  • Keep the design simple. Unlike other events, a funeral invitation needs to communicate the basic information, while also paying homage to who the memorial is being held for. While adding a touch of personality is important, it’s best to keep your funeral invitation simple and elegant.

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