Business Invitation Etiquette

Business invitations can be informal or formal. Although invitations have traditionally sent through the mail, informal invitations such as emails and phone invitations are becoming more acceptable.

Invitation Timing

For most informal occasions, it's best to invite guests three to four weeks in advance. If you choose to invite your guests by phone, remind them again in writing two weeks before the gathering.

Here are some additional guidelines to follow:

Six to eight months before an important seminar to which out-of-town executives are invited.

Four to six months before an important dinner to which out-of-town guests are invited.

Three to five weeks before a luncheon.

Four weeks before an evening reception.

Two to four weeks before a breakfast for a large group.

Two to four weeks before a cocktail party.

Two to three weeks before a tea party.

Invitation Format

On the business invitation, you will find:

  • Company logo or symbol (at the top or bottom of the invitation),

  • Names of the host,

  • Invitation phrase (any of the following, depending on your company and the occasion),

    1. "you are cordially invited to"
    2. "requests the pleasure of your company at"
    3. "requests your presence at"
    4. "invites you to" or
    5. "requests the honor of your presence."

  • Nature of the party- State whether the event is for breakfast, luncheon, or dinner, a cocktail party or some other occasion.

  • Purpose of the party- Such as to introduce someone or a new product, to honor a retiree, or to celebrate an occasion or another festive event.

  • Date and time- The date and time of the event completely written out. Never abbreviate days of the week. The most formal style is to write, "Friday, the twenty-seventh of July at six-thirty o'clock" The least formal is "Friday, July 27, at 6:00 P.M.”

  • Place- The address of where the event will be held is next. A map is typically included with the invitation if your house or the country club is difficult to find or if your guests haven't been there before.

  • Where to RSVP- The RSVP address or phone number is in the bottom left-hand corner of the invitation.

  • Special instructions- Across from the RSVP address are any special instructions such as attire, parking instructions, where the event will be held in case of rain, and so on.

  • Formal business invitations are most commonly engraved or printed in black, navy, dark gray, or brown ink on white or off-white high-quality paper. A company can use any color of paper, as long as it upholds and promotes the company's image.

    Preprinted invitations work well for most informal dinners and parties. For a casual gathering, there is no need to have invitations printed or engraved.

    With preprinted invitations, you simply fill the blanks, in neat handwriting, to tell what, where, and when the party will be and who is giving it. When using your stationery, you can follow this same format, or you may want to write a note to the person you're inviting that includes this information. It's also acceptable to include an RSVP notation and your phone number or address on the invitation.

    One helpful hint: If you send 200 invitations, you can expect about 40 people to show up.

    Responding to an Invitation

    Either use the address or phone number printed in the lower left corner of the invitation or return the RSVP card sent with the invitation.

  • If a "Please reply by" a given date is included in the invitation, be considerate enough to reply by that date.
  • If the words "Regrets only" are printed in the lower left corner of the invitation, you need only notify the host if you will not be able to attend. If your host does not hear from you, you are expected to attend.

  • Your host may have subtly suggested that you may bring someone with you by including a guest line on the RSVP card. If such a line is present, you may fill in your guest's name and business affiliation. A guest line doesn't mean that you are obligated to bring someone else. You may bring a guest if your envelope is addressed to you and"guest"or if your host otherwise suggests that it's okay for you to do so.

    Never ask to bring a guest unless the invitation states "Mr. Louis Winthorp and Guest." Most likely, the host will have only enough food and beverages for the number of people he invited. If you don't want to go to the party or dinner without that special someone, decline the invitation. Let the host know that you'd like to get together with him at a time when your friend can accompany you.