Have you ever found yourself saying something like this as you received an invitation and prepared to go to an event hosted by someone else?
“What am I supposed to wear?” “I’ll pack a snack just in case.” “Wait a second! THEY won’t be there, will they?”
I know I certainly have what I call invitation induced anxiety. Let’s be real with ourselves, no matter how confident, self aware, or flexible we are, we have all been in a situation where we see these very invitations and are left feeling a little uneasy. Your guests’ first feelings about your event start at the invitation, but if we step back, it is often the part of the event given the least amount of thought. What could it look like if we still kept invitations simple, but worded them in a way that would give our guests a full picture of what to expect instead of knots in their stomach from not knowing?
Here is an example of a typical invitation and then the same invite with just a little bit more information that could completely change how a guest might feel about coming to your event.
Common wording for an invitation:
You’re invited to a cookout at our house this Friday at 7:00 pm.
RSVP to Kayty by Thursday night.
Join us for a night to kick off summer.
We’re excited to see you there!
Then let’s look at the difference between that example and this one:
You’re invited to a cookout at our house with our friends from the
neighborhood this Friday at 7:00 pm.
Hamburgers and chicken kabobs will be provided.
Bring a side salad to share.
Gluten-free buns and dessert available for my gluten-free guests!
Dress comfortably and be ready to play yard games!
As I read those, I can almost feel the difference in my bones! Do you know what I mean? While the first one is written kindly, it leaves so many things unsaid. The second invitation speaks to an array of the most common worries people have before arriving.
We have come up with four components that every invitation needs to have to set your event up for success from first glance. Let’s take a look at how to break them down in your own invitations.
Relationships are complicated; some of us shout “amen” to that more than others. Either way, it’s something we need to be aware of as hosts. While difficult relationship dynamics is a topic for a whole other post, it’s important to let your guests know who will be in attendance so they can be prepared before arriving. Knowing who is coming will allow guests to emotionally prepare for tension, mentally prepare for conversation, or maybe even decide that coming is not the best decision given the relational circumstances. Also picture this, you are a new friend to the host and you don’t know their community. Having an idea of who will be there will give you insight as to whether you will be the only new one to the crew or one of others!
Here are a few lines that can help your guests know who to anticipate seeing when they arrive:
know each other! I thought it would be a great way to get out and make
some new friends!
our family to celebrate Sadie’s first birthday. Everyone we love in one
Have you ever showed up to a party entirely underdressed? Living on the coast, I often think of beach gatherings with this in mind; just because an event is being held on the sand does not always mean swimming will be expected. Sharing activities with guests helps people, especially those with social anxieties, know if there will be built-in ice breakers or if they have to have conversation starters in their back pocket. Knowing the activities also helps guests know how to dress and what to pack. For example, if there is swimming they will know to come with a beach bag in tow. Activities also can make or break whether or not a guest wants to come. Say, for example, I’m planning a girls night and the activity is candle making. Some friends who have sensitivities to scent can determine early if it’s not for them and wait for the next one.
Here are a few lines that can help your guests know what activities to expect at your gathering:
FOOD. While I hope you find all of these easy to adopt, addressing food in an invitation is debatably the most important item on this list. How many times have you packed a snack ‘just in case’ OR left hungry because you thought dinner was involved but…wasn’t? While you don’t have to disclose your whole menu, it’s important to use wording that lets guests know if they can expect a meal, just a snack, or maybe even just dessert and coffee. Now let’s talk to the point of special diet guests; hang with me! It’s hospitality in 2022 friends, you are going to have a guest with dietary restrictions. Those guests spend so much energy preparing for meals and trying to grasp whether or not they can make it work or if they have to bring along an emergency side dish. I happen to be gluten-free and dairy-free. One night we were headed to a friend’s house and I decided to be ‘flexible’ thinking there MUST be something I was able to eat. That night the host decided to serve lasagna and bread. While it was a wonderful meal, I literally was unable to eat both things, making for an uncomfortable situation for both of us involved. Of course they were gracious but here’s how to make your guests feel at ease:
This could be the plot for so many movie scenes! Either someone shows up to a party in a costume and it’s…not a costume party. Or someone arrives in a swimsuit but there won’t be any swimming. One way or another, this can end up cringy for everyone involved. The best way to help your guests dress for the occasion is by using words that state the dress code WITH the activity. For example: “Come dressed comfortably and ready to play yard games” or “Dress in your best for this black tie wedding celebration.” If it doesn’t feel natural to include it, you can always write something creatively simple like “Dress-pectations: Business Casual.” I have heard that these restrictions can feel off-putting to communicate. However, on behalf of our entire Gather community, I can tell you with confidence…YOUR GUESTS WANT TO KNOW!
Here’s what it comes down to: your invitations don’t need to be any longer or any more complicated, just a bit more intentional. Think of it like four (intentionally written) sentences. These components come together in a way that communicates feelings of excitement and confidence in the event before it has even started. In fact, I would almost go as far to say that you may just start a ripple effect and get a few thank you’s for detailed clarity along the way!
Ready to start writing your invitations? It’s your turn! Easy enough, right?