The message determines the medium: Dos and don’ts for event invitations

There are so many ways we can communicate with people – email, text, social media, instant message, phone calls and mailed notes. It can be confusing knowing what medium to use for event invitations. Just recently a friend received a birthday party invitation via a group text message. She thought it was a little odd that the invitation was sent via text given how casual and limited texting can be. It spurred a discussion on what is and isn’t an appropriate medium for event invitations.

How formal or casual the event is will usually dictate the kind of invitation to send. Here’s a list of different mediums and what is or isn’t appropriate for invitations.

Handwritten or printed invitations: This is the most formal way to communicate an event; therefore this type of invitation usually befits more formal events such as weddings, retirement parties, graduations and milestone birthdays or wedding anniversaries. The downside to this kind of invitation is that invitees have to take extra steps to respond, which may decrease the number of responses you receive.

Emailed Invitations: These online invitations are useful for a lot of events. Unless the event is very formal, online invitations are a great medium for most celebrations where you’re inviting several people. I like that you can track who has opened the invitation and see who is attending or can’t attend. You can also export the list into an Excel file.

Engaged couples who are more eco-conscious may prefer to send emailed wedding invitations. They should use more formal invitations that essentially look like an envelope and invitation. The ones I know of include Paperless Post. Greenvelope and Punchbowl. If the event is more casual Evites are just fine.

Email: Sending an invitation via email is best for small, more casual events such as a barbeque, sporting event gathering or dinner parties. You can’t easily design an email so it won’t look as professional or decorative, but it’s just fine if you are inviting friends who know you. The other downside is you can’t easily track online who is or isn’t attending. An etiquette tip, if those on your invite list don’t know each other, put their email addresses in the BCC field to protect their email address privacy. It also looks nicer than having all of the email addresses in the To field.

Facebook events: This is my least favorite way to invite people to an event. For people who aren’t regularly on Facebook it’s easy to miss an event invitation. And, even when you are a regular user, it’s easy to miss invitations. If you want to guarantee people receive your invitation I suggest not using Facebook. It’s also very casual and your invitees can see who has been invited. If you’d rather keep the guest list private use an emailed invitation and hide the guest list.

Phone calls: If you’re inviting a very small group of friends or family members a phone call would be fine. But, what a phone call lacks is a way for your invitees to easily find the event details. Therefore, a phone invitation is best if the event is more spontaneous.

Texting: Texting is really not a good way to invite a group of people to an event. It’s a very informal and intrusive way to communicate. It’s also not meant for long messages. And, when you send a group message if an invitee responds the rest of the group will get the message. This could lead to invitees being inundated with text messages they don’t want to receive. My friend was right to think that the birthday invitation she received via text was a medium miss. However, if you’re inviting one or two people to get together for a more spur of the moment gathering, a text is fine. If the invitees don’t know each other, send separate texts to them to protect their privacy and prevent replies to everyone.

When planning an event, always think carefully about the way you want to invite people. Your invitation will either be happily received or cursed which could impact the attendance.

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