by Heather Wiese-Alexander | Photography by Danielle Sabol
Summertime is fast approaching and our dreams of summer get-togethers are on the horizon. But if you’ve ever thrown a party, formal or last minute, then you know effortlessly getting friends together is easier said than done. Especially if you want to do it the right way – i.e., by following all of those etiquette rules your mom tried to beat into your head. Good news, our resident etiquette and entertaining expert, Heather Wiese-Alexander of invitation destination bell’INVITO, has got the 411 on how to entertain this summer so you can start planning.
Have an Angle
“Summertime is the season for feeling slammed. Heat, summer-break activities and vacations all leave us needing a recharge. For some, a party is just the ticket. For others, it seems even more draining. If you plan to entertain this summer, your first obstacle as a host is to entice guests with a reason to commit to your gathering among all their other commitments. Your guests want to know up front what your angle is—simply the reason for the party. State this on your invite, front and center. The stated reason should not be complicated and it should be clear. If your reason is simply that you want to entertain, fantastic!!
However, you might have an easier time tempting potential guests with an interesting motive for the memory-making. For some inspiration, here are my 5 favorite reasons to throw a summertime bash:
- Dining al fresco with some new recipes to try out.
- Viewing party for an anticipated episode or film.
- A patriotic holiday party. You’ve got three to choose from!
- Intimate home concert.
- Celebrating a milestone.
Say What’s Up
The mood of your party should be introduced from the get-go. If your besties are gathering up for a casual party, an evite may very well be adequate. Viewing parties and sporting events are perfect for issuing a casual evite invitation. If you expect people to come overdressed for a dinner party, cocktails or some other soiree of sorts, start with a paper invitation. The amount of time your guests plan to spend at your party also heavily depends on what they understand from the invitation. Essentially, the type of invitation you issue is the first clue your guests get as to what they should expect and what is expected of them. Think your words don’t matter? The visual cues mixed with the words you choose mean everything. What novice hosts tend to miss is that there is an established jargon for experienced party-goers. Initial communications not only set the tone, but affect the outcome of the event. Here is what you’re telling guests with the information you put out there:
WHO – Guests want to know who is hosting and who the party is for. This information should be clear to recipients on any form of invitation.
WHAT – This is your angle information. Simplicity and clarity are key to keeping guests from arriving frustrated or put-out altogether due to lack of communication. Here are some examples of clearly stated information and why guests need it:
- If you are seating guests for a meal: use the terms brunch, luncheon, or dinner. Pro tip: adding the term “seated” is amateurish. A proper meal is naturally served to seated guests. Also, guests know this is not come-and- go, and they should plan to arrive ready to eat. Similarly, if they cannot commit to staying for the meal or must arrive late, the guest must check with the host to see if this is acceptable due to the fact that seating and meal preparations are being provided for every guest.
- If you are not seating guests for a meal, but you expect guests to come and stay awhile during the mealtime hours:
- “heavy hors d’oeuvres” means some guests will stay and graze for a while and others might come by either before or after their meal.
- “sips and bites” means it’s come-and- go and the food you serve will be light.
- “cocktails” means you are serving alcoholic beverages. These are served earlier in the evening as an aperitif, so the party is typically over by 8pm
- Other creative wording during a mealtime of day, such as “bevs and bites,” should be clear enough to tell guests if they should expect to be fed a full meal. Guest not being fed a full meal are not obligated to stay the duration of the party. The implication is they can come and go.
- Use similar logic for brunches and other parties taking place during traditional dining hours.
- If guests should be present for a presentation but are not being fed a meal, the time of the presentation should be on the invitation.
WHEN – Tell guests the day, date and time of the event. Saturday, June 25 is never with a “th,”however Saturday, the 25th of June is. Mind your grammar.
WHERE – The three elements that tell guests how to dress are the What, When, and Where. Never include a zip code on an invitation, however a street address is always welcome and helpful.
ATTIRE – Writing attire information on an invitation is, frankly, 2nd tier etiquette. However, it’s not necessarily a bad idea in some cases. If you choose to include attire, remember two things: suggest, don’t direct; and be clear about what you mean in one or two words. If you are going so far as to be helpful to guests about attire, then clear, commonly understood terms are the best way to be helpful.
Make a list of what you need to continue the mood you set with your invitation. Don’t get in over your head. A party isn’t enjoyable for guests when the host is too busy or too stressed to participate. If you plan to use help from friends, ask them before you issue the invitations—not the day of the party. Never underestimate the vibe-altering importance of your list and schedule. I have the week-of and the day-of planned out so that my mood stays zen all the way up to the last guest leaving. My typical list includes:
- Where fresh flowers are needed
- The menu, where the food comes from and where it will be placed
- The music or other entertainment & when it needs to start
- My personal goals for the day-of (ie: mani/pedi, by when I need to be ready, where the dogs are going, etc.)
- A schedule for myself for the day-of the party.”