Party Planning: Sending Out the Invites

Welcome to the 94th Metamorphosis Monday!

Holiday Party Planning:

Earlier today, I posted the Top 10 Reasons many of us give for not hosting a holiday party in our home. Over the next few days, I want to help you overcome those objections and fears. I am not a certified party planner…just got a few parties under my belt. 🙂 I’ve always worked outside the home full-time, matching my schedule to my son’s when he was in preschool, then working full-time once he was in Elementary school. So all the parties I’ve ever given were while working and usually full-time. Yes, it’s more challenging, but completely doable. Just takes a lot of planning and starting early. I’ll share what’s worked for me over the past 30 years in hopes you’ll find it helpful.

What This Will Not Be:
This will not be a tutorial on how to give a party for 250 people or a tutorial on how to give a bridal shower or a 50th wedding anniversary. And, this will not be a Miss Manners tutorial where I scare the heck out of you with lots of proper dos and don’ts. 🙂

Instead, this will be a guide to having a fun holiday party in your home for your friends and neighbors. It will be a nuts and bolts, get-down-to-it, kind of tutorial. Some of what I share will easily apply to other types of parties, too.

The Goal:
Whenever I have a party in my home, my goal is to have everything, and I do mean everything, done in advance so on the day of the party, I can be relaxed and just enjoy. 🙂 As I’ve created these posts, that’s been my goal for you, too. I want you to feel calm, confident and ready to have some fun when the doorbell starts ringing on party day.

Here’s the schedule for the next few days below. I’ve wanted to do this series of posts for ages…but wasn’t quite sure how to break it all down. So I’ve decided to just dive in and go for it.

Day 1: Invitations…Who to invite, how to send, when to send
Day 2: Getting Ready…Planning and Preparing your home for the party
Day 3: Decorating for the Party
Day 4: The Food, How to serve it…and all the other “Stuff” you’ll want to have on hand
Day 5: The Day of the Party
Day 6: After the party and answering your questions…and anything else I forgot to mention 🙂

I may need to add a day or change the order as we go along. Please be flexible in case I need to take an extra day or rearrange our schedule a bit. Now, let’s get to it!

 

Scheduling Your Party: Set Time vs Open House

When you plan your party, you can plan to have it during a set period of time, like 7:00-9:00 PM, or as an “Open House.” An Open House is usually just how it sounds…an open house where folks don’t have to arrive or leave at a set time. Instead, they can drop by, stay awhile, then leave whenever they like.

An Open House party will usually have a broader time frame, like 1:00-5:00 PM or it might even be the whole day as the mother of a friend of mine liked to do. This is a great party to have if you fear your home is not large enough to accommodate everyone you wish to invite (#3 on our Top Reasons list.) If you think your home will comfortably hold 2o-25 folks at one time, you could invite 50 to an Open House. Most likely your guests will stop by and leave at different times during the period you’ve specified on the invite, so your home won’t feel overcrowded at any one time. We will talk about some other ways to deal with bigger groups later in the week.

 

What Date to Schedule Your Party:

One of the most popular days for parties is the first and second Saturdays in December. Those are the weekends many businesses plan parties for their employees. If you plan your party for those weekends, you are bound to have a few folks who can’t come due to other commitments.

I’m not saying to never plan a party for the first or second Friday or Saturday in December, but just keep in mind, those are the two biggest weekends for holiday parties because as Christmas draws closer, folks get too busy with family and preparations to host parties. So, this means a lot of parties get scheduled those first two weekends in December. (Picking your date carefully will help with Top Reason number 7.)

Sunday afternoons are usually great for Open Houses that are scheduled during the day, like 1-5 PM. That’s also usually a very good day for neighborhood get-togethers or Cookie Exchanges. Dad’s are usually home to watch the little ones if Mom is invited to a Ladies Cookie Exchange.

If you really want to have your party on the first Friday or Saturday in December, get those invites out early…like last week! You still may have folks who are tied up with their company parties, etc… but you’ll have a better chance of having more folks attend those busy weekends if you get the invites out early.

 

Invitations:
Over the years, the method by which party invitations are sent has changed dramatically. Of course, there are formal invitations one can have printed for “fancy” affairs…like a 50th Wedding anniversary, but that’s not what we’ll be talking about today.

Ideally, invitations to a party should go out at least 30 days in advance of the date of the party. I’ve even read 8 weeks but frankly, I think that’s a bit too early. I doubt most folks would commit that far in advance but it would give them a heads-up about the party. Of course, that far out, they may forget about it. 🙂 If it’s 3 weeks or even 2 weeks out, go ahead and send them. Just know that some folks may have already made commitments to other holiday parties.

There are several ways to send out an invitation to a holiday party:

1. Buy pre-printed or custom printed invitations online or in a local party/gift store and mail them out
2. Use a free site/program like Evite which will e-mail your invite to everyone you specify and will even send them a reminder e-mail if they haven’t responded by a particular date
3. Hands deliver the invite to their mail box (like in the case of a neighborhood party)
4. Personally call each and every person on your list (not recommended because it sort of puts folks on the spot) Awkward. ;}

 

Pre-printed invitations where you fill in the blanks are usually inexpensive. The two shown below were invitations I sent out for previous gatherings…one for an open house we had around Christmas right after moving into our first home 30 years ago and the other for a Christmas party the following year. Yes, I saved a copy all these years in a scrapbook. 🙂

I adore receiving a party invite in the mail and really love sending them. So, if you don’t mind the postage, it’s still a fun way to do it. If you want something a little nicer than the pre-printed invites you find in gift shops, you can have some custom printed at many places online like, Announcingitdotcom.

Here’s an example from their site:

I’ve never used this site…just mentioning it to give you an idea of what’s available. There should also be stationary/party/gift stores in your community that can have them printed up for you. Another site recommended in the comments was Vistaprint.com. Thanks, Susan for that tip.

 

Via e-mail:
If would like to keep costs down as much as possible, and who doesn’t these days, Evite is completely free and a popular way to send invites. (Some help for Top Reason #4…the tight budget.)

 

Flyer, Hand-Delivered:
In my neighborhood, almost every year, someone hosts a “cookie exchange” party. I’ve hosted it a couple of times and here’s the “invite” flyer I created one year. I purchased the cute paper at Kinkos and created the invite in a word document. Then I just printed it out on the holiday paper I had purchased. This didn’t require any special program…just type up the invite and put the cute invitation paper in the printer and print away.

If you’d like to save ink, you could just print your invitation out on your printer to test the positioning and how it looks, then print one on plain paper and take it down to a copy place where you can have them print it out on your special paper. (The one below has been edited so I could post it here on the World, Wild Web. In the one below, I originally had the subdivision name in front of the word “Ladies” and my phone number was at the bottom. It’s not a bad idea to include your e-mail for RSVPs, as well.)

Once I had them printed out, I just walked around my neighborhood and stuck them in the mailboxes. Warning: Some post offices don’t like for you to do that…and technically/legally you’re not supposed to do it. But it’s ok to masking tape it to the mailbox or whatever creative method you can come up with. Just don’t do anything that will permanently damage their box. You may want to tuck it in their door. In my neighborhood, folks put flyers for events in the mailboxes all the time and the post office doesn’t seem to mind. 🙂 Probably best to do it after the mail runs if you do put it in the mailbox, though.

A party of this nature also helps with Top Reason #4…the tight budget. Normally, if you are hosting a neighborhood party in your home, you may only be expected to provide the drinks or dessert and you can ask your neighbors to bring an appetizer to share. I provided the food when I hosted this cookie party because folks were already bringing several dozen cookies and I just didn’t want to ask them to bring food, too. But it isn’t unusual for folks to bring a dish to share when it’s a neighborhood party.

RSVP vs Regrets Only:
If you would like to know how many folks to expect so you know how much food you’ll need, you can put an “RSVP by date” on your invite. RSVP is an abbreviation of the French phrase “Répondez s’il vous plaît.” The translation means, “reply, if you please”. When you add that to the bottom of your invite, the recipient of the invite should reply either “yes” or “no.”

You can list your phone number and/or your e-mail as the contact for the RSVP. That will make it convenient for everyone. I don’t recommend a “Regrets Only” option because folks tend to not bother to call if they are not coming. It’s just the way it is.

If you haven’t given a party in a while or have never given a party before…sit down. I have some bad news for you. Etiquette has all but vanished over the last 20 years in regards to the art of the RSVP. Back twenty years ago,when I sent out party invites, people actually RSVP’d back…they really did. Now, you’re lucky if half the folks you invite take time to reply. 🙁 And some folks, will RSVP, “yes” and cancel out the last day after you’ve already cooked for X number of folks. 🙁 Maybe it’s a lack of teaching our children some basic rules of etiquette…not sure.

In any case, be prepared that a couple of days before the party you will most likely have to call some folks who haven’t gotten back to you. Also, on the day of the party, you may get 2-3 calls from folks who are canceling out. Don’t take it personally and don’t let it dampen your spirits.

If you suspect their reason for canceling is made up and not real, you may want to think twice about inviting them again. I usually give folks two chances. If they cancel out the day of the party on two different occasions, and the reason sounds “made-up” I don’t invite them again. I usually find that it’s folks who don’t give or have never given a party before that tend to do this. They really don’t have any understanding of the planning and preparation that goes into giving a party.

If you’re planning a neighborhood party where folks are all bringing food with them…it may not be as disconcerting when they don’t show or don’t call until the last minute. But in cases where you are preparing or buying all the food, you need to know and it’s perfectly ok for you to call and ask if they will be coming if they haven’t RSVP’d back. I’ve never had anyone be rude when I’ve called or e-mailed them a few days before a party to verify if they were coming. They are usually apologetic and will give you an answer “yes” or “no” at that time.

Who to Invite:
Well, that’s entirely up to you. 🙂 You obviously don’t want to invite folks who you know don’t like each other or folks who in the past have disrupted a party or made others uncomfortable.

I have to share this funny story. A few years back when I was too young to be a Red Hat, I was a Pink Hat and a member of a Red Hat Club. (Yep, they have Pink Hats, too.) I threw a Christmas party and invited my Red Hat group and a bunch of my friends from my Sunday School class. It turned out, I had around 10-12 folks from each group attend the party. I think I had around 20-22 total.

Anyway, about 30 minutes into the party, I realized that every single person in my dining room was from my SS class and every single person in my family room was from my Red Hat Club…they had all naturally gravitated to the folks they already knew. And let me tell you, neither of these groups of ladies is shy one bit! These are some fun ladies! I had never anticipated this situation. 🙂 I gently tried to get the Red Hats into the dining room to eat, but they just kept talking and visiting with each other. LOL

Finally, I pulled everyone together in the family room for the ornament exchange. After that, everyone was talking up a storm and really had fun getting to know one another. 🙂 So when you are planning your party list, it’s nice to have a good mix…not a large number of folks from two separate groups or you could end up with two separate parties going on. 🙂

Additional tips:
How to make sure those invited know this is a party for the adults only:
If you are at the age where most of your friends have small children, you may want to mention somewhere on your invite that the party is for “Adults Only.” I wouldn’t word it, “No Children.” That sounds a bit harsh. So, instead of stating it as a negative, just state that it’s a party for the adults only. Most folks know that a party scheduled in the evening is just for adults, but if you have a friend who you’re pretty sure will bring his/her children, you may want to call them in advance and just casually try to mention that this party is for just the “grown-ups” this time. This tends to be more of a problem with weddings than with parties in the home.

Coming up next:
Getting Ready: Planning, cleaning and preparing your home for the big day

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Comments

  1. What a great post! Since going back to work full time, I do find us entertaining less. I think we value the time we spend with friends so much, since its not as much. Your post is very inspiring and loved reading your tips.
    Wendy

  2. Andrea @ Simple Organized Living says

    Such wonderful entertaining ideas. Unfortunately, my hubby and I are moving the day after Christmas…which means no entertaining or decorating for me this year.

  3. Timely and wonderful post, Susan!

    Thanks so much for hosting!

  4. Jess @ Frugal with a Flourish says

    Fantastic post!! Great tips and perfect timing! Thanks for hosting!

  5. Happy Cottage Quilter says

    Thanks so much for all the wonderful hints for party season. I am looking forward to hearing all of your advice. We've recently moved and would love to host some kind of Christmas party. So the timing is great.

    Jocelyn
    http://justalittlesouthernhospitality.blogspot.com

  6. Hi Susan! Now only you would think to do this for us! We have lots of parties at our home during the holidays and I know it does scare some folks. These are great tips and I'm looking forward to all you have to say so I can maybe learn a new tip!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 🙂

  7. thank you! great post!

    Mary

  8. Glenda/MidSouth says

    I am on the run – Just wanted to say thanks for hosting again this week. I will be back to read your entire post.
    Enjoy your evening.

  9. Susan (My Place to Yours) says

    Great suggestions — and yes it is REALLY SAD how people no longer RSVP… Another great source for inexpensive but fun invitations is Vistaprint.com. They have actual invitations (folded or flat), but I often use their postcards (regular and extra large sizes) for flat cards when I need 50 or more. You can get free envelopes with them if I want to use envelopes — or save postage and send as postcards. Get on their email list and receive offers OFTEN for FREE (pay shipping only) postcards, notecards, etc.

  10. Confessions of a Plate Addict says

    Hi Susan! What a fabulous idea to give us party planning tips! I already know that you are a great hostess! 🙂 Have a wonderful week!…hugs…Debbie

  11. Great idea for a post! It is party time. My husbands family is at least 25 people, just immediate family, and all my children are born on the holidays! So this is my birthday party primer. LOL Thanks for hosting.
    Sherry

  12. Lavender Cottage says

    Great practical ideas for hosting. It is so annoying that manners for things like an RSVP have gone out the window.
    We experienced frustration over this for a daughter's wedding and the stamps were on the envelopes to return – it can't get much easier.

  13. Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy says

    Hi Susan,

    What a great post! I love how you teach and encourage through your blog.

    We have held a Christmas party for our employees the past several years, but I think this year we will take everybody to a restaurant instead. It will be easier and cheaper in the long run in this instance.

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to link up to M.M.

    Take care, and have a great week.

    Kathy Matthews

  14. ♥ Calamity Anne ♥ says

    Great tips for hosting a Holiday party!!! Also, thanks for hosting another party!

  15. the cape on the corner says

    what helpful tips! hosting a party is such a stresser!

  16. Great tips, Susan! Thanks…Christine

  17. I am debating whether or not we will host our usual Boxing Day (Dec. 26 to you Americans) open house.
    Now that I am working full time I don't know how I would get all this done as it is quite the undertaking to have it all ready for the day after Christmas.
    Inspire me Susan.

  18. I'm so excited that you're doing these posts on party planning. Great idea!

  19. This is such a great idea for a series of posts. I really appreciate them and look forward to the rest of them. This first one was really helpful. Thanks!

  20. Glenda/MidSouth says

    Great read – Thanks so much for this post !! I could type a long response, but I think it will be easier to say – those who do not understand what RSVP means – Google it!!!! Respond – I will be there or I will not be there. Don't change your mind and not inform the Host/Hostess of the event. I am sure you can tell that I have had to deal with this before.
    Makes my BP go up!! 😀 Again – Thanks Susan for this post.
    Have a great week.
    Glenda

  21. We moved to NC in 2004 but we haven't set roots yet. I miss entertaining and holiday parties so much.

    Great tips.

    Thanks for hosting Met Monday.

    Janet

  22. Susan,

    This is a wonderful, informative post! Thank you for taking the time to put this together and sharing it with us. You've got some great ideas.

    Nancy

  23. Years ago, we hit on a great holiday party idea that we did for about 3 or 4 years. We had a LOT of theater friends and they were a super group to entertain. No one was too shy to sing, or play charades. They all pretty much knew each other so it didn't separate into little groups of friends. Everyone always had a great time and didn't want to go home! When we moved out of the area (actually across country), most of those friends were most upset that we were leaving because the party wouldn't be happening anymore! It was great. I miss it (and them!)

    If you want more detail I'd be happy to share. 🙂

  24. Susan! That is too funny! My hubby and I were just planning our Open House we are going to host for our neighbors! It will be the first since we have moved in and we are so excited. Thanks for these great tips and encouragement!
    Vanessa

  25. Cass @ That Old House says

    Great party planning advice. I've got 32 years of party planning under my belt, but there's always something new to learn. Thanks!
    Cass

  26. laurie @ bargain hunting says

    Susan, this is a great idea for a series of posts. I can use all of the help I can get when planning a party! Thanks for the suggestions, and thanks for hosting. laurie

  27. Kim @ Second Time Furniture says

    What a fabulous series you just started! Can't wait to hear what's next! Thanks for hosting the party, too! 🙂

  28. I am looking forward to your holiday party planning posts. I haven't had a party at Christmas in a long time and you may have just inspired me to do one this year!

  29. Great party tips!!!
    Thanks for hosting 🙂
    Jenny
    http://www.simcoestreet.blogspot.com

  30. Excellent post. I can't wait to read more.

  31. Linda (Nina's Nest) says

    Hi Susan, Thanks so much for hosting this party. Looking forward to the "party info". I always enjoy your blog. Linda

  32. Loved this. I had my twincesses the first week in December. Leave it to me to forever be throwing a birthday party during the busiest party weeks of the season! LOL. Hopefully an afternoon lunch will make it easier to attend. Can't wait for your more tips. Such fun! THANKS

  33. Gloria (The Little Red House with the White Porch) says

    Great party tips, Susan, and that was a funny story about the two separate parties going on in your dining room and living room!
    Best,
    Gloria

  34. WOW!!!! Susan you are the greatest!!! Thanks so much for sharing such wonderful ideas with those of us that need a little help with entertaining. So many times I want to do something special for friends then I get overwhelmed and it does not get done. I am looking forward to more of your wonderful tips!!! I think you should write a book!!!
    Hugs
    Katherine S.

  35. would you please share how your ornament exchange game works? I'm so curious!!

  36. Cleaning is always the bug-a-boo for me. I don't want to do it till the last minute so it "stays" that way, so I'm rushing around or barking at the children.

  37. bcp.....My Life says

    Thank you, Susan! This almost makes me want to have a party! Our entertaining now is limited to extended family and holidays. I have had some wonderful Open Houses, etc. in years past. Thanks again.
    bcp

  38. This is a wonderful topic and so well timed for me. My son is graduating from university in December and I wanted to host a gathering in his honor, so your tips are going to be well studied by me!

  39. Great tips Susan. I am taking notes and getting excited about the idea!
    You are very inspiring! Thanks.

  40. Hi Susan,
    I think, when this serie of parety posts is ready, a sourge of party events will went through the world. I have never seen such nice tipps for hosting a party and I will read all of your posts. This is so usefull, thank you so much.
    Greetings, Johanna

  41. Sherri Cassara says

    How fun! My excuse is #3 – house too small, where would people sit! I took the plunge last year and invited a few clients over for a more intimate and casual party – it was a nice way to get my feet wet! I am looking forward to seeing your ideas!

  42. I just mailed my invites, a week later than I would of liked, due to illness. I feel Christmas party invites have to be mailed out early, so many conflicts!
    I did do a save the date via email when I saw I was going to be delayed in getting them out!
    LOL about the 2 groups not mixing.
    I did a New Years Day Brunch with 2 sets of neighbors. Though they were cordial to each other, they def stuck together. Men don't like game etc so I just had to go with it. I introduced everyone…they only live 3 miles from each other, but!
    They all seemed to enjoy themselves , but I would have liked more socialization between groups!
    Sometimes you have to let things go!
    Now this next party, oh boy…a lot of diff groups, friends and family, and kids!

  43. Susan, I had to read and then come back to this post for a second read and study. It was GREAT. I love your tips and thoughts.

    I've probably told you this before, put I think you should write articles for magazines. Your stuff is the type of stuff I like to read.

  44. Cassie {Hi Sugarplum!} says

    This is a great post…super helpful! Can't wait to read all week!

  45. VERY well written, Susan! Helpful & clear concise information at just the right time.

    BTW, nothing frosts me more than someone not responding to an RSVP!!!! I'm not as nice as you. I don't give them a second chance to do it to me.

  46. Elizabeth and Gary says

    Hi Susan,
    This is my first time linking to your Metamorphosis Monday…I have also become a follower. Your home is beautiful and so charming. I enjoy reading your blog.
    Have a sweet day and hugs, Elizabeth

  47. ~Country Lady~ says

    You are so very helpful. Thank you for this post. It is the season for the parties to begin. Lots of excellent info here. You are so appreciated, and thank you for being a Fabulous Hostess each week for this inspirational Met Monday! I'm looking forward to visiting the links provided in today's Met Monday!! It's always a pleasure.

  48. Hi Susan:
    I am actually giving an English Afternoon Tea tomorrow for a group of friends. All the baking is in the freezer and I only have to prepare the fresh sandwiches (minus crusts of course), tomorrow morning. When in England this year, I purchased Cream Horn moulds, so they are on the menu.
    This was originally planned as an outdoor event, but various people catching the virus which went around, including myself, prevented that so it is now indoors.
    A lovely book caled Afternoon Tea Serenade offers different menus from each of the well known hotels througouth the world and also a dvd to play during the meal.
    So pinkies out as one holds their china cup!! 🙂

  49. Lady Katherine says

    This a great post, I did laugh a lot, for I never have anyone to RSVP, they just show up! Is it a Southern Thing, or a Manners thing? lol I do so miss having cookie exchanges, and adore the ornament exchange! Maybe if my new adventure comes about I will get to have many more parties. lol Great Post Susan!

  50. Hi Susan! Thank you so much for all the party tips!

  51. Kristin @ My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia says

    WOW! Thanks so much for so much info, perfect for the holidays

  52. Marie @ Sally Lee by the Sea says

    So much great information for the upcoming Holidays – thanks so much.

  53. Leslie @ Farm Fresh Fun says

    I love to party but can always use the reminder to get organized…Great tips! This is my first time joining your great parties here… Longtime lurker on your beautiful blog and new follower. Thanks for hosting!
    hugs,
    Leslie

  54. Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) says

    Hi Susan, I always enjoy seeing lists and ideas for hostessing and organizing! Your post reminds me of how hard it once was when I was just married and trying to host all the families for holidays, and worrying for weeks ahead! It is truly a case of practice makes perfect–the more parties you give, the easier it gets! Looking forward to your ideas over the next few days. Linda

  55. Sherry @ No Minimalist Here says

    Hi Susan, I really enjoyed reading this post. I can relate to the RSVP thing. I recently hosted a surprise birthday party for my son. Out of 26 invites I got only 5RSVP! My DIL and I had to get on the phone three days before the party and contact everyone. We ended up with 22 guest but it was like pulling teeth to get people to respond.
    Hugs, Sherry

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