A retired event planner dishes on invitation etiquette.
People often ask me for invitation etiquette since I am a retired party planner. They don’t realize that “Invitation Bewilderment” is the reason I quit the industry!
# Mazel Tov! Six people in the witness protection program are now coming to your simcha!
Nevertheless, I will now clarify confusion and offer some of my unique tips!
Well?? – To expedite the sluggish way most people RSVP (or the “Not At All” way!) put an asterisk at the bottom that states, “*If you do not reply by (insert date), please bring your own chair and a kosher sandwich.” (That oughta get ‘em!)
Mystery – Ever receive an RSVP response card that’s entirely blank? The person opened it, read it, and inserted it inside the stamped, addressed envelope with the notion that you practice mental telepathy. Or maybe they checked, “Will Attend” and simply wrote “6” under “Number of Guests” without disclosing their name. Mazel Tov! Six people in the witness protection program are now coming to your simcha! Or perhaps the adhesive is cheap and the card fell out during postal handling, delivering you an empty envelope. How to avoid these frustrating scenarios? Using pencil, lightly number the backs of all the response envelopes and when something cryptic gets delivered, you can refer to your master key where you’ll have written guest names and their specific linking numbers. Note: Some party savvy people (like my Grandma Ida) have caught on to this system and will ask, “Nu? How come I got #127? What? I didn’t even make your Top-10 invitees?” Maybe instead of numbers we should use names of food to correspond to the guest names. Everyone loves to eat and nobody gets offended.
Themes: Lots of weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs have themes but beware of writing something limiting like, “Please come dressed in pink!” because it’s a Pink Elephant theme. Unless you’re hoping for a mostly female event, it’s best not to make mention of this. Instead just surprise guests by handing out pink floppy ears and trunks for them to wear. (Sounds delightful, but I’m sorry I can’t attend – I’ll be scheduling my wisdom teeth surgery for that day.)
Proofread: Not just for typos because a lot of times the words are correctly spelled but are simply in the (unfortunate) wrong place. For instance my son’s Bar Mitzvah invitation swapped two crucial words and looked like this:
“Number of Adults _____ Number of Chicken _______”
And then below it asked:
“Preference for: Beef____ Children____ Fish____”
Understandably, our meal choices upset a lot of vegetarians. And children’s advocates.
Jewish Standard Time: This needs to stop being a thing. In other words don’t put “6:30 pm wedding ceremony” and then jubilantly think to yourself “Aha! I’m not really starting the ceremony until 8:00 pm, but now I’m tricking my friends (who like to come fashionably late) into arriving on time.” No. Just no. This isn’t the episode on I Love Lucy where Ricky teaches her a lesson in time management. Simply write, “Ceremony to begin promptly at 8:00 pm.” And then make sure that happens!
Expectations: It’s always a nice touch to insert into the invitations (of your non-Jewish friends) an explanation of what they should anticipate at your simcha. Once again, proofreading this insert is crucial. A word can be spelled correctly but have a different meaning than you intend. A hostess thought she was helping female guests with modesty by writing, “Avoid bear arms and shoulders during the ceremony!” An entire family stressed over grizzlies roaming the synagogue.
Clarity: If you’re using Evite or another online invitation service, (and it’s not really considered a faux pas to do so these days!) make your RSVP choices straightforward like, “Yes, No, or Maybe.” Evite, in particular, gives you a choice of cutesy variations and if you choose their “Shakespearian” style your guests will be stymied between, “To Be” or “Not to be” or “That is the question!” Besides not knowing if they just told you they were coming or going, some guests might show up reenacting Macbeth and that could be gruesome! Or boring.
I am happy to report that I took my own advice in number 2 (above) and when Grandma Ida called to lament, “So what am I? Chopped Liver?” I simply referenced my master key guest list and said, “Sure enough Grandma, you actually are!”
And now I cordially invite you to leave a comment below. You don't even need to RSVP beforehand. Best of all, it's an "All You Can Say" buffet. "Kosher style" 😉