When you’re planning a party, you want to make sure that all of your potential guests receive their invitation just at the right time. If you send your invitations out too early, they may be forgotten about. But send a party invitation too late, and your invitees may have already committed to another engagement.
So, how do you know exactly when to send a party invitation? When is too early, and when is too late? The answer depends on a variety of different factors. For example, what kind of occasion the party is for, and whether it’s a formal or casual affair.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to time sending your party invitations correctly, for the best chance of a successful turnout. We’ll discuss the best time to send out invitations for a range of different parties, from kids’ birthday parties to engagement parties and formal dinners.
How to Time Party Invitations Correctly
If you send out your party invitations without giving your guests enough notice, you risk a low rate of attendance. Your invitees may have already made other commitments, such as work, a holiday, or another party. This is particularly likely if your party is during a busy time of year (such as Christmas, or the school summer break).
Even if your invitees are free on the day in question, failing to give them enough notice may mean they don’t have enough time to prepare – such as finding childcare, arranging transport, or sorting an outfit. The result? They may RSVP ‘no’, simply to avoid the last-minute hassle.
You might be tempted to send out your invitations months in advance, in an attempt to combat this. But sending out your invitations too early can be just as dangerous! If you give your invitees too much notice, they might not be willing to commit to something so far in advance. Or they may forget about the party altogether.
The key is to find the ‘sweet spot’. However, this can differ greatly from party to party. It depends on:
• What kind of occasion you’re celebrating
• The age of the invitees
• The formality/tone of the event
• What time of year it’s being held
• How much time your guests will need to prepare. Will they need to wear fancy dress, travel from afar, or bring a gift? If so, they’ll need more notice
You should also have an idea of how important the final head count is. For example, for a casual ‘house party’, you might only need a rough idea of guest numbers. But for a formal dinner party, you’ll need to know exactly who is attending – which means you should send your invites out earlier, giving your guests more time to RSVP.
When Should I Send Party Invitations Out?
How early to send out party invitations depends on what kind of party you’re hosting. Let’s take a look at some of the most common kinds of parties, and discuss the appropriate ‘invitation window’ for each one (and why).
Kids’ Birthday Parties
Kids’ birthday parties are typically held at weekends, though some may take place during the school holidays or after school on weeknights. The problem is that these are all times during which parents typically plan to do things with their children, so you’ll have to get your invites in early.
But parents are also, understandably, prone to forgetfulness – so don’t send them too early, otherwise your party may be overlooked. For a child’s birthday party, send out invitations between 3 and 4 weeks in advance.
Adult Birthday Parties
For an adult’s birthday party, you can generally follow the same rules as for children’s birthday parties (3-4 weeks). The only exception is for larger and more important birthdays – such as a 50th birthday celebration. For these, you might want to go a bit earlier – send out invitations 6-8 weeks in advance. This is because for bigger celebrations, you’ll likely invite more people who live far away, and they’ll need to make travel arrangements.
Holiday Parties (Hallowe’en, Christmas, New Year’s Eve)
Holiday parties can be tricky, simply because – unlike birthday parties – there’s a very good chance that other members of your family or extended friend group will be holding a similar party on the very same day as your own. That means that your invitees may book themselves up before you can even get the invitation out to them.
If you’re thinking of holding a Christmas party, Hallowe’en party or New Year’s Eve party, get your invitations out 4-8 weeks in advance. That way, you can be sure you’ll be the first off the mark.
Though destination weddings (weddings held in a foreign country) are relatively popular, destination parties for less important celebrations are relatively rare. However, they aren’t unheard of. If you’re thinking of holding your next birthday party, engagement party, or holiday party in a foreign country (or far-flung area of the U.K.), you’ll need to give your potential guests plenty of warning.
They’ll need time to book their transportation, arrange accommodation, organise time off work, and potentially renew their passport. Send out your invitations between 4 and 6 months in advance.
Engagement parties are usually big, formal affairs, with many friends and extended family members invited to join in the fun. They’re not quite as formal as weddings, but aren’t too far off. Due to this, engagement party invitations are typically sent out at least a month in advance. If you’ve got family travelling from out of town, you’ll need to send out your invites a bit earlier – 6 to 8 weeks, ideally. Unlike weddings, engagement parties don’t require save the dates.
Housewarming parties may be formal or informal, depending upon your personal tastes – and the crowd you run with! But most housewarming parties lean towards the casual side.
If you’re serving a sit-down meal and will need to know exactly who’s coming, send out your invitations 2-3 weeks in advance. If you’re just serving snacks and/or drinks, 1-2 weeks’ notice is plenty. Make sure you don’t hold the party too soon after moving in – give yourself time to unpack first, and get the house in order.
Formal parties often include catering, and may be held in a hired venue rather than at someone’s home. This might include, among others:
• Graduation parties
• Homecoming parties
• Wedding anniversaries
• Baby showers
• Office parties
• Parties celebrating a new job or promotion
• Dinner parties
• Cocktail parties
For formal affairs, you’ll need to know who’s coming well in advance, as your venue and caterer will need an accurate head count. Send out your invitations 4 to 6 weeks in advance.
For less formal parties, you can get away with sending out party invitations a bit later. Informal parties might include ‘house parties’, pizza parties, summer pool parties, and any other casual gathering with friends.
For many casual gatherings, paper invites aren’t used at all – you might just set up a Facebook event, or give your guests a quick text or call. A week’s notice is generally fine, especially if you’re just providing snacks and drinks for your guests rather than a full meal. But if it’s particularly important that certain people attend, you might want to speak to them a bit sooner.
When Should the RSVP Deadline Be?
When sending out a party invitation, don’t forget to include some way for your guests to RSVP (indicate whether or not they’re coming). The traditional way to do this is to include a reply slip at the bottom of the invitation, for your guests to cut off, fill out and post (or hand) back to you.
You can also include a separate reply card in the envelope (this is common for weddings). For more casual occasions, you might simply include your phone number or an e-mail address instead.
We’d recommend that you always set a RSVP deadline when sending out your party invitations. Include this deadline on the reply slip, or on the invitation itself.
But when should the deadline be? In essence, this depends on when you need the final head count by.
If you’re serving food at your party, your caterer will need to know how many meals to prepare for. They’ll probably ask for the final head count 2-3 days before the event. Add another few days on top of this, as a grace period (in case some forget to reply, and you have to chase them up). An appropriate RSVP deadline, therefore, might be 1-2 weeks before the event.
This works for most parties, but for bigger and more formal occasions, you might want to make that deadline a bit earlier. That way, you’ll have more time to prepare.