The art of the event invitation

Should we still bother sending printed invitations? Do they really make a difference and if so, how can you create an invitation that’s guaranteed to create a buzz? Evolve Events speaks to invitation design experts and explores what to consider when creating your own event invitation.

The pandemic caused us all to crave connection and now we’re all desperate to celebrate together and enjoy the sense of occasion that attending an event involves. An invitation plays a vital role in any event, providing not just information but anticipation too; reminding us that we have something to look forward to.  So yes, we’re firm believers that invitations matter. They’re creative, informative and are the first part of an event; after all an event doesn’t just start the moment you arrive, the build up is just as much part of the excitement.

Cutture Event Stationery Designers

DID YOU KNOW?

The word invitation is Latin and translates as ‘be pleasant toward’ – to ask someone to come and have a pleasant time.

 And let’s face it we’re all up for that.

Helen Sharland, Director of  Cutture explains why a beautifully designed invitation is more than simply a way to provide information:

“Ten years ago invitations landing on doorsteps were almost two a penny, they’ve always built anticipation and set the scene, but they were expected. Fast forward to the digital age where e-invitations are often ignored whilst physical invitations suddenly become an event in themselves, a rare physical object through a letterbox: emotive, exciting, enticing. You can imagine, post lockdown, the role of the invitation is actually so much more, on every level!” 

The importance of an invitation

When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his elventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

In ’The Fellowship of the Ring’ (by J. R. R. Tolkien 1954), Bilbo Baggins demonstrates beautifully the role of an invitation – as well as the importance of thinking through logistics.

To receive one of Bilbo’s invitations, written in gold ink, would have been the ultimate status symbol among the local hobbitry, if it weren’t for the fact that just about everyone who lived in the area had been sent one. With the results that ‘the Hobbiton post-office was blocked, and the Bywater post-office was snowed under, and voluntary assistant postmen were called for.

The role of an invitation is to set the scene and build a buzz of excitement. And Bilbo achieves just that with his tempting description of a ‘party of special magnificence’; after all who wouldn’t want to attend a magnificent party? FOMO (aka Fear of Missing Out for any non-millennial like me) is a great tool for creating desire to attend an event – and combined with an incentive to ‘RSVP now’ type message, it can ensure you get plenty of early indication of guest numbers or sign-ups to an event which helps enormously with your planning process.

Unfortunately Bilbo blows his clever wording by inviting the whole village. And whilst large parties are wonderful things, anyone attending might not feel so special if the guest list isn’t curated at all. If you’re going to invite everyone you know (or the whole company, their partners and their children) then you still need to make it feel exclusive and an honour to be invited.

How Early is Too Early

When does an event start? The moment you arrive or earlier? For us the build up and excitement is just as much part of the event as the experience itself.  And that anticipation starts from the moment the invitation arrives.

Which is why the invitation plays such a vital role. As we’ve moved into the digital age, the humble invitation has become an overlooked part of the event process. Along with providing practical information, it should sets the tone and expectations for the event.

The invitation is your first opportunity to generate interest and communicate an event’s objective. Whether it’s for a corporate event or a private party you want guests to feel that this is one invitation they simply can’t refuse.

“It really is more than “just an invitation”. The design is the starting point for the whole look of your celebration. It sets the tone for the event: in terms of whether it’s smart, black tie, boho, relaxed, modern or fun.” Lucy Barnett, Lucy RSVP

If you’ve holding an event where you really want certain people to attend then send your ‘save-the-date’ as early as possible – a year from your event date is perfectly acceptable but a rule of thumb for the invitation is to send it six to eight weeks in advance, especially for corporate events.

Cutture Event Stationery Designers
Cutture Event Stationery Designers
Cutture Event Stationery Designers
Cutture Event Stationery Designers

So where to start?

If you want people to attend, you’ve got to get their interest.

But as modern etiquette keeps evolving, and we get more and more casual about arrangements, it’s hard to strike the right balance between formal and friendly and know what to include and what to keep out.

Here’s our tips on the design, wording and format so that your guests are engaged before they even arrive.

The Story

Helen Sharland from Cutture specialises in creating bespoke design that you and your guests will never forget and combines creativity with personalisation to create beautiful bespoke invitations with meaning she recommends starting with finding your story:

“Be it for a wedding or a corporate event, you need to start with your ‘concept’, make it personal, never design something ‘just because’. Find a reason for each design element.  A pattern needs to have a reason behind it, a bespoke illustration should be relevant to the people or place, the rest will then come, from the best typography to the print finishes; without a concept there can’t be a bespoke design. 

 For a planner briefing a stationery designer, provide the most detailed creative brief that you can, every element could be a design nugget that provides our concept for great design, the brief should include all of your reasons behind your event design choices too, that way we design in tandem with you and most importantly in keeping with the client’s vision.

Creating something bespoke means you are telling your own story, done well that story can become a keepsake for your guest too. Bespoke design offers a truly personalised design, be it for a private event or a brand experience, every design element can be working for you, by offering specific memorable detail or delivering the correct messaging for a brand. The other great thing about bespoke design and something we are truly passionate about, is that the design and making process is supporting local makers, specialist heritage print processes alongside state of the art technologies, sustainable and innovative, something ‘off the shelf’ often doesn’t offer.”

The Design

The design of an invitation sets the tone of the event. Whilst not everyone can manage the gold ink that Bilbo uses, we can all think about how the look of the design matches the style or theme of the event to ensure the invitation builds anticipation and gets guests excited. The thinking behind that gold ink really makes sense to helping an invitation stand out. There are plenty of techniques that can create impact and elevate an event; letter pressed paper is beautifully tactile and luxurious, a complicated laser cut will create intrigue, whilst a bright pop of colour can indicate a wonderful day of celebration lies ahead.

A beautifully designed invitation will be placed on a shelf or added to the fridge door. It’s a constant reminder of something to look forward to in the future. It’s a little piece of excitement and energy. A lot of time, thought and effort goes into the creation so how else can it be used. Helen Sharland recommends taking elements of the design throughout the whole event:

It’s so important for every element of an event design to follow a design theme or concept throughout, from the flowers to the food and the stationery, it all works together. Let your suppliers talk to each other, this is something I’m always so keen on but it rarely happens for some reason, if we can talk to the other suppliers all of our designs will be stronger for it, rather than everyone working individually. Florists and stationers can create amazing installations together, stationers and caterers can conjure up magical details to keep the story being told through the senses…so my best advice, let your creative team collaborate then the magic will happen! Helen Sharland, Cutture

CASE STUDY

Of course, there’s no reason why an invitation has to be printed on paper. An element of surprise is always a good thing in events. Which is why we loved working with Maid of Gingerbread who created this invitation for us in, yes, you guessed it, gingerbread.

Our audience of event agents receive lots of invitations to openings and showcases so we knew we had to do something unexpected to capture their attention and the biscuit invite did just that. We had a great response to it with lots of quick RSVPs as well as plenty of posts on social media about it, generating a conversation and buzz before the event even happened.

Maid of Gingerbread Invitation

The Basics

There are some things that all invitations should include; who, what, when and where. Start by making sure you’ve detailed who’s invited, the type of event, the venue (and address) and date & timings. After that you’re adding character and flavour to your event, building a picture of what to expect and making it easier to attend. We’d also recommend including any special instructions and an RSVP, ideally with a ‘respond-by’ date.

A good design works for your guests but should also work for you. After all, you can’t plan an event if you don’t know who and how many people are coming and guests can’t plan – or look forward to – their attending if they don’t know what to expect.

Try and think about all the things that your guests would like to know when making their decision whether to join you. So as well as what they need to know in advance try and add what they’d like to know so they can relax and look forward to the event. Basically you want to make it as easy as possible.

Information you may want to include in your event invitation:

  • Who, what, when, where (see above)
  • Request for any food allergy details or dietary preferences
  • Appropriate dress code
  • A map to location and travel details
  • Accommodation details
  • Whether or not your guest may bring someone else
  • Special instructions or teasers specific to the event or event-related activities
  • On the day itineraries
  • Benefits of attending e.g. networking, venue launch, educational, good times

Tone of Voice

Tailor the copy to suit the type of event. Whether it’s a formal or casual event, you’ll want the invitation to match the tone. It’s the difference between “Octagon Group cordially invite you to join us at our 10th anniversary” and “Octagon Group are turning ten. Come and celebrate with us!”.

If it’s a corporate event, this is a chance to communicate your brand values (and whilst we talking branding – don’t forget to check you’ve incorporated your brand colours, fonts & logo in the design or that it incorporates the look and feel of the event itself).

Online Invitations

Whilst nothing beats the glow of receiving a hand written invitation in the post, many of us are now thinking about how to make our events more sustainable, so ditching the paper for digital is becoming popular. And of course, digital invitations are a great way to track responses and easily send out any reminders and further information.

Digital invites have 3 key advantages: cost, speed, and they’re kinder to the environment (less waste!). Given the constant Government rule changes during the pandemic – digital invites have been the most sensible route as I can quickly update the e-invites for my clients, and they can send it out immediately.”  Lucy Barnett RSVP Lucy

However in an age of constant Whatsapp, emails and texts, there’s no denying that digital just isn’t as special as a paper invitation.  So how about this for a compromise?

Think about sending out your ‘save-the-dates’ digitally and then sending beautifully printed invites to those that have accepted. That way you’re cutting down on waste but still giving your guests that excitement of finding an invitation on the doormat, proudly displaying it on a shelf and then saving it as part of the event memories. It’s the emotion that a printed invitation generates that will ensure attendance and build a connection. If you’re going down the route of mixing digital and print make sure you incorporate any design elements across your digital and printed invitations for coherent styling.

Include relevant social media handles and your event hashtags to get people chatting beforehand, hyperlinks to the venue or a dedicated webpage, as well as a QR code if you’re using scanning technology on the day.

What Not To Forget

It sounds obvious but before sending them out, proofread them, proofread them again and then get someone else to proofread them. It sounds a lot but it’s much easier than having to call everyone to correct a date, time, or address after they are mailed. And don’t forget to print a few extra so you can fill any spaces opened up by guests that can’t attend.

RSVP Lucy event invitation design
RSVP Lucy event invitation design
RSVP Lucy event invitation design
RSVP Lucy event invitation design

With experience in producing award winning events, a string of happy clients and a team of individually talented professionals, Evolve Events is the perfect event agency for delivering high standards.  Our team have over twenty one years’ experience in producing events and team is headed up by Gary Peters who has been voted as one of the most influential people in the events industry. Our event services including venue finding, set design, styling and build, AV and lighting, stage management, sourcing entertainment &  quality catering – and of course, event invitations.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you produce and style your event then please get in touch and we can chat through your requirements.

To get more event ideas you can visit our blog here or follow us on social media at @evolveevents.

TEL : 020 7610 2808 – EMAIL : info@evolve-events.com