Invitations: Start the Party at the Mailbox

Think back to the last time you were really excited to attend a party.


I bet you received an invitation in the mail for it, right? In today’s high-tech world of evites, distribution lists and photocopies, a real live invitation with your name on the envelope has become a rare and coveted treat.

“A party invitation is the most fun piece of mail you can get,” says Karen David, a Wilmette graphic designer who is a whiz at whipping up inventive invites for friends and family. “A personal, custom-made invitation makes the guests and the honoree feel special, and gets the party started from the moment it arrives in the mail.”

An invitation makes us happy. We display it prominently on our bulletin board or fridge. Just looking at it makes us anticipate the event and feel flattered to be included. We think about the theme, the hostess gift, what we’re going to wear. When the actual date arrives, we’re ready to celebrate with gusto. What more could a hostess want?

“If you’re going to all the trouble to entertain, why not take the time to add a little something extra to make the invitation special?” David asks. Here are some tips that will make your invitations stand out.

1. Have a Theme
Invitations communicate the spirit of the party, so it’s important to have a theme. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It could be the location of the bash (pool, garden, back porch) or the main activity (wine tasting, sleepover, bowling). It could simply be a pattern or color (plaid, true blue), or the something on the menu (tea and cake).

2. Tell a Tale
Once you’ve chosen a theme, decide how you’ll communicate it in the invitation. While David is the master of creative shapes, any hostess can scan in original artwork and photographs or even compose a short poem. By putting a bit of a narrative in the invitation, you make your guests feel more a part of the occasion.

A few of Karen David’s clever invitations


Hostess Suzanne Armstrong makes good use of nostalgia

3. The Gluey Details

On invitations, David feels it’s the little things that count. Take a look at the real shoelace on the bowling shoe, the bit of fringe on the hula skirt, tiny holes punched in the skeletons’ eyes. You can even include party favors, like wine charms or name badges, for guests to bring along. And if all else fails, there are always David’s personal favorites— sequins and glitter. Click here for Karen David’s tools of the trade.

4. Push the Envelope
The envelope is the very first glimpse your guests will see of your party. You can decorate envelopes with rubber stamps and stickers or go all out and add calligraphy done by hand—it’s not just for wedding invitations. Calligraphy artist Katherine Glattard uses a variety of contemporary scripts and colored inks for less formal parties like barbeques and baby showers, and can even match the script to your invitation.

“Calligraphy gives the idea that there’s something really special inside,” Glattard says. “Each envelope is an original piece of art shaped by the script and the recipient’s own address.”

Calligraphy by Katherine

Even if you’re not the crafty type, with just a little imagination and effort you can create an invitation that will kick off your party in style, right from the time it hits the mailbox.

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