of the Party411™ Experts
Over the last several years, event planners have asked some very important
questions of us. And they should. When you are planning an event that is
important to you, your family or to your work, the pressure is on to make it the
most wonderful that it can be. Without further delay, click on the questions
below to get answers from the Party Girl, the Etiquette Queen and the Game Girl.
Can you tell me how to word an invitation?
How far in advance should I send out invitations?
How do I say "no gifts" on an invitation?
Is it proper to hold my own housewarming party?
How do I host a tea party?
What is the difference between black tie and evening
What is proper hat etiquette?
Can you ask guests to pay for their own dinner?
My best friend/daughter is getting married again, is it
proper to do a wedding shower?
Is it okay to ask people to bring something to serve?
Should I take a gift when invited to a dinner?
Should I send a gift when invited to a wedding but not
When invited to both the bridal shower and the wedding,
am I required to buy a gift for each?
How do you host a Murder Mystery party?
Can you send me some icebreakers for my party?
Can you help me think of games for my child’s birthday
that have to do with: Barbie, dinosaurs/Barney, Blue’s Clues, Thomas the
Q. Can you tell me how to word an invitation for . .
The Etiquette Queen believes that you have several choices. Traditional
formal invitations usually are issued in the names of parents. However, under
the circumstances, it may be easier if you skirt that issue by issuing the
invitations in your own names. (Of course, for announcements -- including in
your local newspaper – you certainly can include parents' names.) Examples
are set out for your consideration:
1. Formal (third person) invitation in your names only:
Miss Lisa Renee Smith
Dr. Jonathan David Wilson
request the honour of your presence
at their marriage
Sunday, the tenth of May....
By the way, for this type of invitation, use of the social titles
("Miss" or "Dr." and the like) is optional and they may
properly be issued without those titles.
2. Informal invitation in your names only:
Please join us to celebrate our marriage
Sunday, the tenth of May
Lisa Renee Smith and Jonathan David Wilson
3. Formal invitation using names of deceased parents:
Lisa Renee Smith
daughter of the late Eleanor and Richard Smith
Dr. Jonathan David Wilson
son of Mrs. Alfred Davis and Dr. Peter Wilson
request the honour of your presence.....
Please join us
for an open house
Jon & Helen's
50th Wedding Anniversary
Please join us
for a casual dinner and dancing
as we honor our parents
Felicia and Frederick Forsythe
on their fiftieth wedding anniversary
on Saturday, October 9th
at seven o'clock
333 Beastie Road
Mary Sanderson, Ruth Winston-Jones and David Forsythe
After 50 years, Jon and Helen's ship has come in
It's time to party!
Please join us
for dinner and dancing
at LaVera Reception Hall
in celebration of
Claudia's 50th Birthday
The Smith Family
Just thought you ought to know
Jeff is turning the big 3 - 0
So we're gathering all you gals and guys
But please don't tell, cause it's a surprise
I refuse to turn 40
unless you're there to help!
Please join me for dinner
on Saturday, July 18th at 6:30
123 Anytown Street
Q. How far in advance should I send out
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors that only you
can assess. But here are some general rules. The more formal (or elaborate,
even if the dress is not formal) the event, the more notice is necessary to be
given. How complicated are the travel arrangements for the out of town guests?
How much notice you need to give to your suppliers (e.g., if you're using a
caterer, she likely will require that you give a minimum guarantee on the
number of people for whom you will be paying?
Keeping those issues in mind, most people conclude that they should plan on
sending those invitations out not less than three weeks prior to the event,
and it would be optimal to send them a month in advance.
Please remember that the biggest issue here is a practical one. Many people
will base their decisions to attend a distant event on the relative cost of
the airfare or other travel expenses. The better airfares usually require at
minimum a 2 week advance purchase and even better bargains are available 21
and 30 days ahead. Accordingly, look at your guest list and think about how
those travel considerations are going to be worked out. Then plan your release
date on your invitations. (Also, consider for very distant guests that you
might informally alert them in advance to your plans or even send out
"save the date" postcards so people can start planning.
Q. How do I say "no gifts" on an invitation?
The most simple way is merely to indicate "No gifts please". The
more elegant way is to indicate "Your presence is the only gift we
desire". In either event, this notation is put in smaller font on the
bottom of the invitation, either in the left or right hand corner.
Q. Is it proper to hold my own housewarming party?
A housewarming is one of the few parties traditionally hosted by the person
who is the guest of honor (or, actually, who owns the guest of honor).
Housewarmings are a snap. Housewarmings are nothing more than open houses
where the guest of honor is your house. What could be easier? After all, your
house is the manifestation of your personal taste.
What this means is that there are no planned "activities" at a
housewarming (unless you happen to be a garden freak in which case you could
invite your guests to plant something in your "friendship garden").
The marquee activity is looking at Teresa's new house, asking questions about
Teresa's new house, eating food at Teresa's new house, admiring the decorating
at Teresa's new house, and drinking Teresa's wine at Teresa's new house while
listening to Teresa's new CD speaker system.
Food and drinks are the easiest part and are very much driven by the season
in which you have your housewarming. The whole purpose of a housewarming is to
warm the house with the friendship and good cheer of
your family and friends. We have rarely seen a housewarming that involves any
food that can only be eaten when seated with flatware, and we always suggest
that you go with seasonal foods that can safely be eaten while standing on
your new beige carpet. That means fruits and cheeses and other nice cool
snacks in the summer.
In other words, we don't feel it is necessary to have decorations because
people are coming over to see the house. It is always okay to mix adults and
children in this setting as people will be coming in and going out on a
regular basis, and gifts should be opened after the guests have gone.
Q. How do I host a tea party?
First, tea time basically is between 2:00 p.m. (or 2:30) and 5:00 p.m.or
5:30ish. Afternoon tea is a small meal consisting of tea, tea sandwiches (more
about those in a minute) and miniature sweets. (Coffee and hot chocolate
usually are offered as well for non-tea drinkers, although in the summer there
might also be a fruit punch or ade offered.)
Afternoon tea usually lasts no more than two hours, and it would not be
considered impolite for a guest to stay only 45 minutes or so -- being the
amount of time necessary to greet the hostess, have a cup of tea and a light
meal, say her good-byes and depart.
The traditional "meal" at an afternoon tea includes tea
sandwiches. There is a nice selection of those sandwiches found under the
keyword "Tea Sandwiches" at the website www.epicurious.com. The only
other staple at an afternoon tea (aside from the tea itself!) is sweets --
cookies, miniature pastries and cupcakes, tiny fruit tarts, and the like.
There are no "activities" per se at a tea except for pouring
(which is an honor bestowed upon a close friend of the guest of honor if she
chooses not to do it herself and does not have a maid to do it for her),
chatting, eating these tiny little confections off of beautiful little plates,
and dabbing ones lips delicately with a tiny little floral napkin.
The Party Girls have lots of ideas for lovely little touches for a tea
party, including miniature tea cups that you could use as place card holders
and favors for this delightful event. We love planning tea parties, so if we
can help, email us firstname.lastname@example.org
and ask! There are so many lovely tea accessories that "Tea" is the
only theme you need!
Q. What is the difference between black tie and evening
Formal evening - This is the height of dressing (and the invitation
says "white tie" or "black tie" or "formal" ).
The women wear either long dresses or short "party-type" dresses. If
the women are wearing long dresses, the men wear tuxedos.
Black tie means either "cocktail"-type street length dresses or long
dresses for women. If the woman is wearing a long dress, a male escort is best
attired in a tuxedo, otherwise a dark business suit is appropriate.
In some communities, especially those in tropical climates, white dinner
jackets still pass muster for formal affairs. Check first to see whether this
event is being held in such a community. Chances are that in the bigger, more
traditional cities -- e.g. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC -- you
won't see a whole lot of white dinner jackets.
Semi-formal evening - This is a hybrid between formal and informal.
Men typically wear dark suits and woman wear cocktail dresses or other
Informal evening - Men still wear dark suits although in some
places, blazers may be worn. Women wear either "afternoon" dresses
(perhaps tea length) or short party-type dresses.
Q. What is proper hat etiquette?
Gloves and a hat are always appropriate at a formal event and given the
vagaries of weather (and the concerns that ladies should have about exposure
of our porcelain skin to the elements), they are to be recommended. Large
brimmed hats, regardless of how dressy, usually are not considered evening
wear and it would be unusual to see one after 6:00 P.M. Perhaps the only
exception would be in an outside gathering in hot weather where it
legitimately could be claimed that the large brimmed hat was protecting you
from sun and wind.
Q. Can you ask guests to pay for their own dinner?
If you are committed to an arrangement in which guests pay their own way,
the best approach is for you to arrange for and offer a prix fixe menu. What
this means is that you work out in advance with the restaurant a menu that,
for example, offers each of the guests a choice of entree, while all receive
the same side dish (a vegetable, a potato or whatever). Perhaps that price
also includes a soup or salad to start. Depending on what you work out, the
pricing may also include dessert. However, if the dinner is celebrating an
occasion that calls for a cake, as the hostess don't you want to supply it? If
so, please consider making sure that the prix fixe menu includes coffee and
tea. And under all circumstances, make sure that the pricing that you work
out with the restaurant includes tax and gratuity.
Let's say that the cost of the proposed entree choices works out to $18.50
a person. (And please be sure to arrange for at least 2 choices -- they both
can't be beef and if you only have a choice between chicken and fish for a
prix fixe, choose chicken -- too many people are allergic to fish.) Your
invitation then says in the lower left hand corner: "A prix fixe menu at
$18.50 per person will be available". That tells your guests that they
are paying for their own meals and they ought to show up prepared to do so.
That also avoids that endless haggling over the check. Depending on what you
work out with the restaurant, they will either present a customized menu to
the guests at the time of the party or they will provide it to you and ask you
to determine, either prior to the party or at the beginning, how many people
are having the beef, how many people are having the pasta and so on.
If you choose to have alcoholic beverages served, indicate (if it is the
case) the notation "Cash Bar" on the invitation in the same lower
left hand corner.
Q. My best friend/daughter is getting married again, is
it proper to do a wedding shower?
There is nothing inherently wrong with a bridal shower for a
previously-married bride. After all, she is setting up a new household,
presumably with a new husband.
Nonetheless, please be mindful of some sensibilities. First, one critical
issue would be the amount of time since the last shower. It would be very
gauche, indeed, for the same lady to be feted at a bridal shower in connection
with a different marriage unless the prior bridal shower has become a rather
At the end of the day, the perceptions of the proposed guests would be as
important (if not more important) than those of the bride, and if it seems
obvious to all that it is, well, tacky for the bride to have another shower in
connection with another wedding to another husband, she should desist.
Q. Is it okay to ask people to bring something to serve?
It would be preferable for the invitation to say potluck (i.e. Potluck
Going Away party for Samantha) And if you are having snacks and hors
d'oeuvres, you should put: "please bring a side dish or snack" at
Q. Should I take a gift when invited to a dinner?
There is no specific list of events for which a hostess gift is
appropriate. Party411 generally advises that a hostess gift be brought any
time that a host or hostess either is providing a meal or is hosting any event
that is more than a couple of hours long. In other words, a brief visit to
return a borrowed garden implement would not be a visit on which a guest would
bring a hostess gift while an invitation to a wine tasting would.
A hostess gift need not be elaborate -- some of the best hostess gifts are
as simple as a bouquet of flowers from your own garden or a freshly baked
banana bread wrapped in butcher paper with a bow.
Q. Should I send a gift when invited to a wedding
but not attending?
Although under these circumstances it is not required for you to send a
gift, it would not be inappropriate for you to do something (aside from return
the RSVP card) to mark the wedding, including perhaps dropping off a small
gift -- a flowering plant with a card that says "Congratulations" or
an equivalent gesture. After all, normally people do not invite people to a
wedding unless, in their view at least, they had some relationship with the
guest. Thus, while they probably are more interested in the relationship
(whatever it may be) than you, the sending of a small and informal gift should
Q. When invited to both the bridal shower and the
wedding, am I required to buy a gift for each?
Typically, a gift is expected to be given at each nuptial event you attend,
including showers. That is why you should keep in mind moderacy in the giving
of wedding showers because those who are close to the couple (and thus
frequently invited) will end up having to buy several expensive gifts.
Q. How do you host a Murder Mystery party?
Murder Mysteries are some of the most fun parties around! Great Murder
Mysteries are available from Barnes
Q. Can you send me some icebreakers for my party?
We have some great icebreakers already on the site. Check
Q. Can you help me think of games for my child’s
birthday that have to do with: Barbie, dinosaurs/Barney, Blue’s Clues,
Thomas the Tank Engine?
Many of these games can be adapted for other fun themes such as Rugrats,
Frogs, Baseball, etc.
Barbie Dress-up Relay: Make 2 piles of the same type of clothing. Divide
the group into teams and have the first players race to dress a Barbie up in
all the clothes from one pile. When finished, he/she must take all the clothes
off the Barbie and have the next player dress the Barbie up. The team that
goes down the relay line and dresses and undresses the Barbie first wins the
Pass the Barbie: This fun-filled game is inexpensive and simple. The only
supplies it requires are 2 Barbies and people with both a neck and a chin.
Divide the group into 2 teams. When the person (not actually playing the game)
says, "Go!" the people must pass the Barbie from neck to neck using
only chins and necks. The team that can get the Barbie to the last neck in
line the quickest without dropping the Barbie wins.
"Pin the Lips on Barbie"- Blow up a picture of Barbie and stick
it up on the wall. Give each child a pair of lips to decorate as Barbie's
mouth. Blindfold each child and have them try to stick the lips on Barbie. The
child who comes closest to putting the lips in the right place wins a prize.
Prizes may also be awarded for the "most creative", "most
colorful" etc. lips.
Musical Barbie: Play some music while the girls sit in a circle and pass
their Barbie Dolls- minus one. When the music stops, the player without a
Barbie is out. Remove another Barbie, then continue playing. The last player
left is the winner.
"Barbie" Dress-up: Ask the girls to bring their Barbie clothes
along with their Barbie dolls. Place the clothes in a pile in the center of a
circle with the girls and their dolls around the outside. On the word,
"Go!" the players must collect 5 clothing items and put them on
Barbie correctly. The first one to finish is the winner.
Barbie Hunt: Hide Barbie items all over the house/yard for the kids to find
Where’s Barbie: Hide Barbie somewhere in the party room and have the kids
try to find her (Keep her in plain sight). You can also have the kids take
turns hiding Barbie behind their backs. Choose one child to be "it".
This child has to leave the room while you are hiding the Barbie. When the
child comes back into the room then she has to try to find Barbie by guessing
who is hiding Barbie behind her back.
"Where’s Barney"- Hide Barney somewhere in the party room and
have the kids try to find him (Keep him in plain sight).
"Musical Barney"- Pass Barney around when the Barney song plays,
then when the music stops, the baby holding Barney must toss him up into the
air. These games might require parents help, so the two can play together.
"Barney/Dinosaur Bee"- Kids must stand up and answer questions
Barney/dinosaurs and sit down if they miss the answer. The last one standing
is the winner.
Play the game "Pin the Flag on the Mailbox".
For a bit of extra decoration and a fun activity for the kids to do, give
everyone blue party hats to decorate. Pre-cut blue felt ears (2 for each
child) to decorate as Blue's Clues dog ears to hang from a blue party hat. At
the top of the hat put pipe cleaners that bend into different shapes- curly
cues, etc. and different colors.
"Where's Blue"- One person has to hide Blue and then answer
questions from everyone with either a "yes" or a "no" (no
other words). For each child that finds blue first there is a prize.
Thomas the Tank Engine Games
Pass Thomas: This fun-filled game is inexpensive and simple. The
only supplies it requires are 2 Thomas toys and people with two hands. Divide
the group into 2 teams. When the person (not actually playing the game) says,
"Go!" the people must pass the Thomas toy from person to person
using only their elbows. The team that can get Thomas to the last person in
line the quickest without dropping the Thomas wins.
"Pin the Caboose on Thomas": Blow up a picture of Thomas
and stick it up on the wall. Give each child a square of paper (or a picture
of a caboose that isn't colored) to decorate as Thomas' caboose. Blindfold
each child and have them try to stick the caboose on Thomas. The child who
comes closest to putting the caboose in the right place wins a prize. Prizes
may also be awarded for the "most creative", "most
colorful" etc. cabooses.
Pass the Tank Engine: Play some music while the kids sit in a circle
and pass Thomas toys- minus one. When the music stops, the player without a
Thomas toy (can use anything with Thomas on it) is out. Remove another Thomas
toy, then continue playing. The last player left is the winner.
Thomas Hunt: Hide Thomas items all over the house/yard for the kids
to find and keep.
Where’s Thomas: Hide Thomas somewhere in the party room and have
the kids try to find him (Keep him in plain sight). You can also have the kids
take turns hiding Thomas behind their backs. Choose one child to be
"it". This child has to leave the room while you are hiding Thomas.
When the child comes back into the room then he/she has to try to find Thomas
by guessing who is hiding Thomas behind his/her back.