It all depends on the formality of the gathering.

So, you're hosting a dinner party—and just about everything is set, from your impressive menu to your thoughtful table settings. You've even curated your guest list; now, all that's left to do is invite those attendees. But how, exactly, do you do that? What's the proper way to invite people to a dinner party? According to etiquette consultant Maryanne Parker of Manor of Manners, the formality of the event should dictate this process. If you're hosting a fancy celebration, it's proper etiquette to also send out formal, paper invitations. "Any formal invitation will include date, time, place, dress code, and [provide information for the] RSVP," says Parker. Beyond the basics, these notes should also prompt guests to disclose any dietary restrictions (provide check options for vegan, vegetarian, dairy- or gluten-free lifestyles).

Guests enjoying dinner together
Credit: Getty / 10'000 Hours

Not too long ago, this was actually considered intrusive, but in today's world of varied eating habits, it's imperative to ensure that you serve dishes that will work for all of your guests. "Back in the day, the hostess wasn't allowed to ask such questions, because they were considered very personal—and asking personal questions were impolite," says Parker. "But today, it's a very important question for any kind of party host." When you have your invitations ready to go, make sure to double-check the spelling of each guest's name (first and last) before you put them in the mail—and then wait for the RSVPs to roll in.

While formal invites are a must if you're planning a formal event, obviously not all dinner parties are created equal: And not all get-togethers are particularly formal. If you're hosting a more casual party, like a backyard barbeque or a neighborhood potluck, the methods you use to invite your guests can be just as laid-back.

"Everything [about inviting guests to a dinner party] depends very much on the formality and the importance of the event," says Parker. "If the event is not so over-the-top, we can definitely send email, texts, or a phone call." Just keep in mind that the more advance notice you give to your guests, the more likely they'll be able to attend—so try to avoid sending an email or a text the day of your party.


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