It all begins with the invitation. That piece of communication alerts potential guests to an upcoming affair, and many event planners put a great deal of time—and likely, money—into getting it just right. Which makes it all the more important to avoid commonly used phrases that, over the years, have grown cliché.
Here are six tips for avoiding cringe-worthy language and ensuring your invites engage and excite.
1. Words matter.
Some terms or phrases have become so commonplace they get used without much thought to their significance. But there's little real estate on an invitation to begin with, and potential attendees' time and attention spans are limited, so use the space wisely, cautions Steve Paster, owner of Alpine Creative Group. “The term ‘branding your event’ is overused. Events have a theme or informational content; an event is not a brand.”
Along similar lines, wedding and event planner Marcy Blum of Marcy Blum Associates says, “I could do without 'festive.' I'm not even sure what that means. I'm partial to things that are a bit more evocative, like ‘rock and roll,’ ‘glamorous,’ or ‘sparkly.'”
In some cases, phrases that may not have been very meaningful to begin with have been so overused, they've completely lost meaning. Says Kimmie Kelley Wander, the owner of Elevated Events, ”'Party With A Purpose' has been overused and should be retired. Once everyone starts using the same phrase it loses its appeal. Try to incorporate the event's theme or mission into the phrase if you're looking for a catchy phrase to grab attention.”
2. Don't be Captain Obvious.
Planners need not state the obvious, says Marc Friedland, founder and creative director of Marc Friedland Couture Communications. “You see ‘RSVP enclosed,’ that’s unnecessary because if it’s in there, you’ll see it.”
3. Be careful of fashion faux pas.
There are numerous ways to advise guests on what to wear. Be sure to select something descriptive and clear, and aim for originality. “I dislike ‘black-tie optional,'“ says Blum. “It's passive-aggressive, as in, ‘We really want you to wear a tuxedo, but if you just can’t manage it, don’t bother.'”
Just make sure the phrasing is clear, Friedland adds. “We have done 'Dress: Up!' and fancy shmancy. You don't want to be ambiguous and leave guests needing to call for additional information."
Sarah Hovis, owner of Saliho Creative, agrees. “It's time to say goodbye to made-up dress codes whose sole purpose is to tie into the event theme. 'Glam resort chic' gives an invitee zero direction in how to properly dress for the event. Will it be outside? Give guests something tangible.”
4. Be definitive on time.
Again, the best invitations, while fun and creative, are direct, says Friedland. “I don’t like to have a run of show where the invitation says, ‘cocktails at 6:30, dinner at 7:30.’ From an etiquette perspective, don’t give guests the options of which piece they want to attend. Having one arrival time is a nicer, cleaner way of doing it."
5. Never assume.
Make sure that each guest is encouraged to respond to an invitation-—whether he or she is coming to the event or not, says Lorraine Mariella, president and owner of Eventium. “We really try to steer clients away from ‘regrets only,’ not because it is old, but because it is never a good idea to assume someone is attending an event simply because they did not get back to you.”
6. Personalize and excite.
“The invitation always should come from someone,” says Friedland. “I don't like when it's written in the third person. They should say ‘I’ or ‘we would like you to attend.’ Or, if the host is a company, use the firm’s name and include the top executive. It’s more meaningful. Invitations set the tone—they should be exciting and get people engaged.”