Holiday parties: who to invite and how to do it


FREDERICTION (CUP) — It’s that time of year again. People are starting to have parties, get-togethers, dinners and glittering evenings of fun. If you’re like me, you’ll be navigating to the nearest soirée through heaps of homework and rivers of reading. But don’t fret! You can make it through the end of the semester (and fit in an event or two) without an all-systems meltdown.

What if you’re the one throwing the party? Give your invitees due notice. The amount of notice you should give depends on the level of pomp you’re planning to unleash. For a carefully planned-out party, such as a big Christmas dinner or a New Year’s Eve party, hosts should give their guests up to a month of notice. For casual dinners with close friends, a week is usually long enough.

Once you’ve decided on your invitees, try to issue the invitation in the same way to each person. So, if you’re planning on calling or texting your friends, do so for everyone. If you’re giving out paper invitations, make sure everyone gets one. If you were to give paper invitations to most of your guests, and then email only a couple others, those who got the email could potentially feel like an afterthought, which is not the way you want your invitees to feel.

When it comes to the information given with the invitation, you should include the name of the host and the type of occasion, as well as when and where your guests should show up.

As host, you can add additional information to the invitations. You can ask your guests to RSVP or send regrets only, or you can add dressing instructions. If you receive an invitation that says, “regrets only,” you only need to contact the host if you are unable to attend. If your invitation says RSVP, your host wants to hear whether you’re planning to attend or not. If you are issuing an RSVP or regrets only invitation, make sure you include the contact information for where the guests should direct their reply.

Dressing instructions tell the guest how everyone will be attired. You might see “business casual,” “dressy casual,” “festive attire,” “black-tie” or, if you’re really fancy, “white tie.” A quick Google search will give you an indication of what sorts of outfit choices correspond to each phrase.


When you get an invitation, you are obligated to reply to the host promptly. If you are unsure if you will be able to attend, let the host know this right away, and if you have an idea of when you will find out, convey that information, too. It can be costly for a host to prepare for your company only to find out that you won’t be coming. There’s no fun in ruining your friends’ precious free time.

Always thank your host for inviting you. Even if you can’t attend, getting an invitation shows that you are important to that person and that they want to spend time with you. If you can, reciprocate the invitation. Reciprocating the invite doesn’t mean you need to have them over for the same type of event, but that you get to see them socially at some point when you’re hosting.


Getting an invitation is not a green light for you to take it upon yourself to spread the word. Bringing an uninvited guest to a party is definitely not going to gain you any etiquette points. Ditto for small group events.

Recently, a friend of mine was organizing a night out with some close friends. It got kind of awkward when one guest invited another girl without checking with the hostess first. The hostess didn’t want to be rude to the new invitee, but also didn’t really know what was going on.

You shouldn’t invite people in a way that leaves others out (imagine asking everyone you’re having lunch with, except for one person). And never talk at length about an event around someone who wasn’t invited.