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Emily Post (1873–1960). Etiquette. 1922.

Chapter XI

Invitations, Acceptances and Regrets


AS an inheritance from the days when Mrs. Brown presented her compliments and begged that Mrs. Smith would do her the honor to take a dish of tea with her, we still—notwithstanding the present flagrant disregard of old-fashioned convention—send our formal invitations, acceptances and regrets, in the prescribed punctiliousness of the third person.
  All formal invitations, whether they are to be engraved or to be written by hand (and their acceptances and regrets) are invariably in the third person, and good usage permits of no deviation from this form.   2

  The invitation to the ceremony is engraved on the front sheet of white note-paper. The smartest, at present, is that with a raised margin—or plate mark. At the top of the sheet the crest (if the family of the bride has the right to use one) is embossed without color. Otherwise the invitation bears no device. The engraving may be in script, block, shaded block, or old English. The invitation to the ceremony should always request “the honour” of your “presence,” and never the “pleasure” of your “company.” (Honour is spelled in the old-fashioned way, with a “u” instead of “honor.”)
Enclosed in Two Envelopes

  Two envelopes are never used except for wedding invitations or announcements; but wedding invitations and all accompanying cards are always enclosed first in an inner envelope that has no mucilage on the flap, and is superscribed “Mr. and Mrs. Jameson Greatlake,” without address. This is enclosed in an outer envelope which is sealed and addressed:
Mr. and Mrs. Jameson Greatlake,
24 Michigan Avenue,
  To those who are only “asked to the church” no house invitation is enclosed.   5

  The proper form for an invitation to a church ceremony is:

(Form No. 1.)

(Form No. 2.)

(The size of invitations is 5 1/8 wide by 7 3/8 deep.)

(When the parents issue the invitations for a wedding at a house other than their own.)

  No variation is permissible in the form of a wedding invitation. Whether fifty guests are to be invited or five thousand, the paper, the engraving and the wording, and the double envelope are precisely the same.   7
Church Card of Admittance

  In cities or wherever the general public is not to be admitted, a card of about the size of a small visiting card is enclosed with the church invitation:

Cards to Reserved Pews

  To the family and very intimate friends who are to be seated in especially designated pews:

  Engraved pew cards are ordered only for very big weddings where twenty or more pews are to be reserved. The more usual custom—at all small and many big weddings—is for the mother of the bride, and the mother of the bridegroom each to write on her personal visiting card:

  A card for the reserved enclosure but no especial pew is often inscribed “Within the Ribbons.”  12

  The invitation to the breakfast or reception following the church ceremony is engraved on a card to match the paper of the church invitation and is the size of the latter after it is folded for the envelope:


  Occasionally, especially for a country wedding, the invitation to the breakfast or the reception is added to the one to the ceremony:

  Or the invitation reads “at twelve o’clock, at St. John’s Church, and afterwards at breakfast at Sunnylawn”; but “afterwards to the reception at Sunnylawn” is wrong.  15

  Is precisely the same except that “at Sunnylawn” or “at Four West Thirty-sixth Street” is put in place of “at St. John’s Church,” and an invitation to stay on at a house, to which the guest is already invited, is not necessary.
The Train Card

  If the wedding is to be in the country, a train card is enclosed:
            A special train will leave Grand Central
          Station at 12:45 P.M., arriving at Ridgefield at
          2:45. Returning, train will leave Ridgefield at
          5:10 P.M., arriving New York at 7.02 P.M.
                Show this card at the gate.

  It sometimes happens that the bride prefers none but her family at the ceremony, and a big reception. This plan is chosen where the mother of the bride or other very near relative is an invalid. The ceremony may take place at a bedside, or it may be that the invalid can go down to the drawing-room with only the immediate families, and is unequal to the presence of many people.
  Under these circumstances the invitations to the breakfast or reception are sent on sheets of note paper like that used for church invitations, but the wording is:

  The “pleasure of your company” is requested in this case instead of the “honour of your presence.”  20

  If a wedding is to be so small that no invitations are engraved, the notes of invitation should be personally written by the bride:

Sally Dear:
  Our wedding is to be on Thursday the tenth at half-past twelve, Christ Church Chantry. Of course we want you and Jack and the children! And we want all of you to come afterward to Aunt Mary’s, for a bite to eat and to wish us luck.



Dear Mrs. Kindhart:
  Dick and I are to be married at Christ Church Chantry at noon on Thursday the tenth. We both want you and Mr. Kindhart to come to the church and afterward for a very small breakfast to my Aunt’s—Mrs. Slade—at Two Park Avenue.
  With much love from us both,


  If no general invitations were issued to the church, an announcement engraved on note paper like that of the invitation to the ceremony, is sent to the entire visiting list of both the bride’s and the groom’s family:


  Invitations to the marriage of a widow—if she is very young—are sent in the name of her parents exactly as were the invitations to her first wedding, excepting that her name instead of being merely Priscilla is now written Priscilla Barnes Leaming, thus:

Mr. and Mrs. Maynard Barnes
request the honour of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Priscilla Barnes Leaming

  For a young widow’s marriage are also the same as for a first wedding:

Mr. and Mrs. Maynard Barnes
have the honour to announce
the marriage of their daughter
Priscilla Barnes Leaming
Mr. Worthington Adams
  But the announcement of the marriage of a widow of maturer years is engraved on note paper and reads:

Mrs. Priscilla Barnes Leaming
Mr. Worthington Adams
have the honour to announce their marriage
on Monday the second of November
at Saratoga Springs
New York

  If the bride and groom wish to inform their friends of their future address (especially in cities not covered by the Social Register), it is customary to enclose a card with the announcement:

Or merely their visiting card with their new address in the lower right corner:


  For a wedding anniversary celebration, the year of the wedding and the present year are usually stamped across the top of an invitation. Sometimes the couple’s initials are added.


  An invitation to the church only requires no answer whatever. An invitation to the reception or breakfast is answered on the first page of a sheet of note paper, and although it is written “by hand” the spacing of the words must be followed as though they were engraved. This is the form of acceptance:

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gilding, Jr.,
accept with pleasure
Mr. and Mrs. John Huntington Smith’s
kind invitation for
Tuesday the first of June

  The regret reads:

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Brown
regret that they are unable to accept
Mr. and Mrs. John Huntington Smith’s
kind invitation for
Tuesday the first of June

  All other formal invitations are engraved (never printed) on cards of thin white matte Bristol board, either plain or plate-marked like those for wedding reception cards. Note paper such as that used for wedding invitations is occasionally, but rarely, preferred.
  Monograms, addresses, personal devices are not used on engraved invitations.  30
  The size of the card of invitation varies with personal preference from four and a half to six inches in width, and from three to four and a half inches in height. The most graceful proportion is three units in height to four in width.  31
  The lettering is a matter of personal choice, but the plainer the design, the better. Scrolls and ornate trimmings are bad taste always. Punctuation is used only after each letter of the R.s.v.p. and it is absolutely correct to use small letters for the s.v.p. Capitals R.S.V.P. are permissible; but fastidious people prefer “R.s.v.p.”  32

  The word “ball” is never used excepting in an invitation to a public one, or at least a semi-public one, such as may be given by a committee for a charity or a club, or association of some sort.

For example:
The Committee of the Greenwood Club
request the pleasure of your company

at a Ball

to be held in the Greenwood Clubhouse
on the evening of November the seventh
at ten o’clock.
for the benefit of
The Neighborhood Hospital

Tickets five dollars
  Invitations to a private ball, no matter whether the ball is to be given in a private house, or whether the hostess has engaged an entire floor of the biggest hotel in the world, announce merely that Mr. and Mrs. Somebody will be “At Home,” and the word “dancing” is added almost as though it were an afterthought in the lower left corner, the words “At Home” being slightly larger than those of the rest of the invitation. When both “At” and “Home” are written with a capital letter, this is the most punctilious and formal invitation that it is possible to send. It is engraved in script usually, on a card of white Bristol board about five and a half inches wide and three and three-quarters of an inch high. Like the wedding invitation it has an embossed crest without color, or nothing.  34
  The precise form is:


  (If preferred, the above invitations may be engraved in block or shaded block type.)

  Very occasionally an invitation is worded

if the daughter is a débutante and the ball is for her, but it is not strictly correct to have any names but those of the host and his wife above the words “At Home.”
  The proper form of invitation when the ball is to be given for a débutante, is as follows:


  The form most often used by fashionable hostesses in New York and Newport is:

  Even if given for a débutante daughter, her name does not appear, and it is called a “small dance,” whether it is really small or big. The request for a reply is often omitted, since everyone is supposed to know that an answer is necessary. But if the dance, or dinner, or whatever the entertainment is to be, is given at one address and the hostess lives at another, both addresses are always given:

If the dance is given for a young friend who is not a relative, Mr. and Mrs. Oldname’s invitations should


  One may never ask for an invitation for oneself anywhere! And one may not ask for an invitation to a luncheon or a dinner for a stranger. But an invitation for any general entertainment may be asked for a stranger—especially for a house-guest.

Dear Mrs. Worldly,
  A young cousin of mine, David Blakely from Chicago, is staying with us.
  May Pauline take him to your dance on Friday? If it will be inconvenient for you to include him, please do not hesitate to say so frankly.
        Very sincerely yours,
            Caroline Robinson Town.

Dear Mrs. Town,
  I shall be delighted to have Pauline bring Mr. Blakely on the tenth.
        Sincerely yours,
            Edith Worldly.
  A man might write for an invitation for a friend. But a very young girl should not ask for an invitation for a man—or anyone—since it is more fitting that her mother ask for her. An older girl might say to Mrs. Worldly, “My cousin is staying with us, may I bring him to your dance?” Or if she knows Mrs. Worldly very well she might send a message by telephone: “Miss Town would like to know whether she may bring her cousin, Mr. Michigan, to Mrs. Worldly’s dance.”

  Invitations to important entertainments are nearly always especially engraved, so that nothing is written except the name of the person invited; but, for the hostess who entertains constantly, a card which is engraved in blank, so that it may serve for dinner, luncheon, dance, garden party, musical, or whatever she may care to give, is indispensable.
  The spacing of the model shown below, the proportion of the words, and the size of the card, are especially good.


  The blank which may be used only for dinner:

Mr. and Mrs. Huntington Jones
request the pleasure of

company at dinner
at eight o’clock
at Two Thousand Fifth Avenue

(For type and spacing follow model above.)

  Invitations to receptions and teas differ from invitations to balls in that the cards on which they are engraved are usually somewhat smaller, the words “At Home” with capital letters are changed to “will be at home” with small letters, and the time is not set at the hour. Also, except on very unusual occasions, a man’s name does not appear. The name of the débutante for whom the tea is given is put under that of her mother, and sometimes under that of her sister or the bride of her brother.

Mrs. James Town
Mrs. James Town, junior
Miss Pauline Town
will be at home
On Tuesday the eighth of December
from four until six o’clock
Two Thousand Fifth Avenue.
  Mr. Town’s name would probably appear with that of his wife if he were an artist, and the reception was given in his studio to view his pictures, or if a reception were given to meet a distinguished guest such as a bishop or a governor, in which case “In honour of the Right Reverend William Powell,” or “To meet His Excellency the Governor,” is at the top of the invitation.  45

  When the formal invitation to dinner or lunch is written instead of engraved, note paper stamped with house or personal device is used. The wording and spacing must follow the engraved models exactly.

  It must not be written:

  The foregoing example has four faults:
  (1) Letters in the third person must follow the prescribed form. This does not. (2) The writing is crowded against the margin. (3) The telephone number should be used only for business and informal notes and letters. (4) The full name John should be used instead of the initial “J.” “Mr. and Mrs.” is better form than “Mr. & Mrs.”

  If for illness or other reason invitations have to be recalled the following forms are correct. They are always printed instead of engraved, there being no time for engraving.

Owing to sudden illness
Mr. and Mrs. John Huntington Smith
are obliged to recall their invitations
for Tuesday the tenth of June.
  The form used when the invitation is postponed:

Mr. and Mrs. John Huntington Smith
regret exceedingly
that owing to the illness of Mrs. Smith
their dance is temporarily postponed.
  When a wedding is broken off after the invitations have been issued:

Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Nottingham
that the marriage of their daughter
Mary Katharine
Mr. Jerrold Atherton
will not take place

  Acceptances or regrets are always written. An engraved form to be filled in is vulgar—nothing could be in worse taste than to flaunt your popularity by announcing that it is impossible to answer your numerous invitations without the time-saving device of a printed blank. If you have a dozen or more invitations a day, if you have a hundred, hire a staff of secretaries if need be, but answer “by hand.”
  The formal acceptance to an invitation, whether it is to a dance, wedding breakfast or a ball, is identical:

Mr. and Mrs. Donald Lovejoy
accept with pleasure
Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s
kind invitation for dinner
on Monday the tenth of December
at eight o’clock
  The formula for regret:

Mr. Clubwin Doe
regrets extremely that a previous engagement
prevents his accepting
Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s
kind invitation for dinner
on Monday the tenth of December


Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Kerry
regret that they are unable to accept
Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s
kind invitation for dinner
on Monday the tenth of December
  In accepting an invitation the day and hour must be repeated, so that in case of mistake it may be rectified and prevent one from arriving on a day when one is not expected. But in declining an invitation it is not necessary to repeat the hour.  55

  With the exception of invitations to house-parties, dinners and luncheons, the writing of notes is past. For an informal dance, musical, picnic, for a tea to meet a guest, or for bridge, a lady uses her ordinary visiting card:


  Answers to invitations written on visiting cards are always formally worded in the third person, precisely as though the invitation had been engraved.  57

  The informal dinner and luncheon invitation is not spaced according to set words on each line, but is written merely in two paragraphs. Example:

Dear Mrs. Smith:
  Will you and Mr. Smith dine with us on Thursday, the seventh of January, at eight o’clock?
  Hoping so much for the pleasure of seeing you,
Very sincerely,
Caroline Robinson Town.

Dear Mrs. Town:
  It will give us much pleasure to dine with you on Thursday the seventh, at eight o’clock.
  Thanking you for your kind thought of us,
Sincerely yours,
  Margaret Smith.



Dear Mrs. Town:
  My husband and I will dine with you on Thursday the seventh, at eight o’clock, with greatest pleasure.
  Thanking you so much for thinking of us,
Always sincerely,
  Margaret Smith.


Dear Mrs. Town:
  We are so sorry that we shall be unable to dine with you on the seventh, as we have a previous engagement.
  With many thanks for your kindness in thinking of us,
Very sincerely,
  Ethel Norman.

  To an intimate friend:

Dear Sally:
  Will you and Jack (and the baby and nurse, of course) come out the 28th (Friday), and stay for ten days? Morning and evening trains take only forty minutes, and it won’t hurt Jack to commute for the weekdays between the two Sundays! I am sure the country will do you and the baby good, or at least it will do me good to have you here.
  With much love, affectionately,
Ethel Norman.
  To a friend of one’s daughter:

Dear Mary:
  Will you and Jim come on Friday the first for the Worldly dance, and stay over Sunday? Muriel asks me to tell you that Helen and Dick, and also Jimmy Smith are to be here and she particularly hopes that you will come, too.
  The three-twenty from New York is the best train—much. Though there is a four-twenty and a five-sixteen, in case Jim is not able to take the earlier one.
Very sincerely,
  Alice Jones.
  Confirming a verbal invitation:

Dear Helen:
  This note is merely to remind you that you and Dick are coming here for the Worldly dance on the sixth. Mother is expecting you on the three-twenty train, and will meet you here at the station.
  Invitation to a house party at a camp:

Dear Miss Strange:
  Will you come up here on the sixth of September and stay until the sixteenth? It would give us all the greatest pleasure.
  There is a train leaving Broadway Station at 8.03 A. M. which will get you to Dustville Junction at 5 P. M. and here in time for supper.
  It is only fair to warn you that the camp is very primitive; we have no luxuries, but we can make you fairly comfortable if you like an outdoor life and are not too exacting. Please do not bring a maid or any clothes that the woods or weather can ruin. You will need nothing but outdoor things: walking boots (if you care to walk), a bathing suit (if you care to swim in the lake), and something comfortable rather than smart for evening (if you care to dress for supper). But on no account bring evening, or any good clothes!
  Hoping so much that camping appeals to you and that we shall see you on the evening of the sixth,
Very sincerely yours,
  Martha Kindhart.

  Custom which has altered many ways and manners has taken away all opprobrium from the message by telephone, and with the exception of those of a very small minority of letter-loving hostesses, all informal invitations are sent and answered by telephone. Such messages, however, follow a prescribed form:
  “Is this Lenox 0000? Will you please ask Mr. and Mrs. Smith if they will dine with Mrs. Grantham Jones next Tuesday the tenth at eight o’clock? Mrs. Jones’ telephone number is Plaza, one two ring two.”
  The answer:
  “Mr. and Mrs. Huntington Smith regret that they will be unable to dine with Mrs. Jones on Tuesday the tenth, as they are engaged for that evening.
  “Will you please tell Mrs. Jones that Mr. and Mrs. Huntington Smith are very sorry that they will be unable to dine with her next Tuesday, and thank her for asking them.”
  “Please tell Mrs. Jones that Mr. and Mrs. Huntington Smith will dine with her on Tuesday the tenth, with pleasure.”
  The formula is the same, whether the invitation is to dine or lunch, or play bridge or tennis, or golf, or motor, or go on a picnic.
  “Will Mrs. Smith play bridge with Mrs. Grantham Jones this afternoon at the Country Club, at four o’clock?”
  “Hold the wire please  *  *  *  Mrs. Jones will play bride with pleasure at four o’clock.”
  In many houses, especially where there are several grown sons or daughters, a blank form is kept in the pantry:

  These slips are taken to whichever member of the family has been invited, who crosses off “regret” or “accept” and hands the slip back for transmission by the butler, the parlor-maid or whoever is on duty in the pantry.  70
  If Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones are themselves telephoning there is no long conversation, but merely:
Mrs. Jones:
  “Is that you Mrs. Smith (or Sarah)? This is Mrs. Jones (or Alice). Will you and your husband (or John) dine with us to-morrow at eight o’clock?”
Mrs. Smith:
  “I’m so sorry we can’t. We are dining with Mabel.”

“We have people coming here.”
  Invitations to a house party are often as not telephoned:

  “Hello, Ethel? This is Alice. Will you and Arthur come on the sixteenth for over Sunday?”
  “The sixteenth? That’s Friday. We’d love to!”
  “Will you take the 3:20 train? etc.”