Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ask Charlotte 1: The Invitation Situation

Hello Chocolateers!

I get questions all of the time about etiquette and planning. Here is a question from a busy daughter caught in a difficult spot in planning her Mom's birthday. 

Dear Charlotte: I am having a surprise party for my mother's 65th birthday in a week. I tried to do the right thing by sending out invites three weeks ahead and asking guests to respond at the latest two weeks ago. I invited 200 people, and only 30 have responded! I have to get numbers to the caterers in 2 days. If I order too much it will go to waste. If I don't order enough, it's embarrassing!
I tried to call and email some of her friends, but I'm just too busy during the day at the office. How can I get them to tell me if they are coming so I can plan this better? What should I have done differently? - Desperate Daughter

Dear DD,
I can imagine your frustration! You just wanted to plan something nice for her milestone birthday, and things are going off course. Here's the short answer: 

You--or someone you trust--must start making those calls immediately. You have to figure out your numbers. Use a simple script: "I'm calling to follow up on the invitation we sent for Mom's Birthday Surprise, and we would like to include you in the number today. Will you be able to make it? Thank you."

There's no need for this                                      ...for you to achieve this!
For future reference, know that for a party that size and your busy lifestyle, you may wish to consider hiring an event planner.  It all seems doable, until this sort of thing arises. Remember, we specialize in details! 

If you are doing it on your own, remember a few tips:
  • 'Consider your audience': think about the people on your guest list, then decide the best way to invite. Do your guests prefer email or social media, or are they more suited to written invitations? E-vites require 3 weeks advance, while paper invitations should be sent out 4 weeks in advance. There's also a cost difference. There are e-vite choices that can be customized for very little, or for free. Paper invitations can range from less than $1.00 per (pre-printed) or up to $15 for made-to-order invitations. There is also delivery time and postage cost to consider for paper invitations. Also, make sure that you give guests a clear method and date by which a response is requested, be it a phone call, email, or response card. The only time a 'yes' response is NOT needed is if an invitation says 'Regrets only'. Otherwise, a response is needed for planning purposes.
  • 'Consider the event': do guests have to travel into or out of town for this? If so, you may even want to send a 'Save The Date' 6 weeks in advance.
  • 'Consider the refreshments': if you are ordering food from a caterer or a restaurant, make sure you know just how close to the event date you need to place your order. Make sure that your response date is a week prior to that, to avoid last minute headaches and changes.
Good luck, and remember my most important entertaining rule: celebrate the moment, not the mishaps. You are blessed to be able to do this for your Mom, and she will be thrilled you did it to honor her. Enjoy your celebration with her! 

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