August 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Broadcast News - August 1998 Current Issue
August 1998
By Invitation Only

It's not just what you say, but how you say it...

By Lisa Grimaldi

A slip of paper, an envelope, a stamp, and - voilà - the invitations are ready. Why all the fuss over a mere bit of stationery? Consider this: You can plan a picture-perfect company picnic, a glittering gala or a first-rate association fund-raiser. But if the recipients aren't sufficiently enticed to open the invite, read it, respond to it and hold onto it - at least until the day of the fête - the invitation didn't fulfill its purpose.

Barbara Biondo, director of American Art Studio, a New York City-based invitation design firm specializing in corporate events, offers the following tips for creating flawless invitations for any function.

Style: Whether you want your invitations to be Wall Street conservative or Miami flamboyant, you have two basic decisions: paper and printing.

Paper, called "stock" in printers' lingo, varies according to weight, color, texture and finish; there are hundreds of variables to choose from. "Cover stock [a very heavy stock] is the most typical type used for invites and reply cards," says Biondo. She adds that selecting readily available stock and envelopes instead of elaborate or original creations can trim your invite tab.

Today, invitation printing can be done by flat print or thermography. "While thermography [raised lettering created by melted powder] is less expensive, the finish can be gritty, and people don't like to touch it," says Biondo. Like paper stock, there's a huge range in typeset options; the lettering you choose will depend upon the formality of the event and your (or your boss') personal taste.

Engraving, once very popular, is rarely used today because it can be prohibitively expensive.

Message: Don't be too wordy, but be sure all the critical information is included on the invitation (with no typos!). The essentials, according to Biondo, are the "Five Ws" - Who's throwing it? What is the event? Why is it being held? Where will it take place? When is it (date and time)? Also important: phone number (and perhaps a fax number for responses) and final R.S.V.P. date. In some instances, you may wish to include a suggested dress code on the lower right corner of the invite.

Type: Basic black may be de rigueur in the fashion world, but it's a different story for ink. "It comes across extremely formal or funereal," Biondo says. More interesting and pleasing to the eye are dark blue, burgundy, deep green and brown. "Metallics are also attractive but they're expensive, since they need to be printed on coated stock to really stand out."

When selecting a typeface, the sky's the limit. Biondo says that today, there are thousands available. "I steer corporate clients away from the very traditional ones: Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond - and into unusual upbeat types like Tree Frog or Tempus Sans."

Enclosures: The only time you need a response card, says Biondo, is for a black-tie gala or a benefit event where guests must purchase tickets (with price displayed on the response card) in advance. In those cases, include a stamped, pre-addressed return envelope. Another optional enclosure is a direction card.

Forget the tissue paper or inside envelopes unless you have lots of enclosures; today those are reserved for weddings, not corporate events, says Biondo.

Envelopes: "They have to capture the invitees' attention instantly - they need to make an impact even more than the invitation itself," says Biondo. How to make yours stand out from the crowd? Use unusual sizes, colored papers, or textured paper stock. Also, envelopes don't have to match perfectly with the invitation, but make sure that the colors and the textures marry well.

Addresses: Hand-lettering is considered the most elegant way of addressing envelopes. Laser printing ("in an exquisite typeface," stresses Biondo) is another option. "I don't recommend printed labels, but if you must use them, use clear labels with a nice typeface," she says. Return addresses should appear on the back of the envelope, she adds.

Intra-company invitations (to a company picnic or holiday party, for instance) should always be enclosed in an envelope (it doesn't have to be sealed; the flap may simply be tucked inside) and sent through intra-office mail. The recipient's name and department should be on the envelope.

If recipients are invited to bring a guest, the first line of the address should read "Mr. Cary Client and Guest." Note: When addresses are handwritten, don't stack invitations immediately after sealing the envelopes or applying stamps; if they're still wet, the lettering may smear.

Postage: When to send out the invites? Six weeks prior to the event is standard etiquette.

Mailed invites should be hand-stamped (not metered). Stamps should be placed neatly in the upper right corner of the envelope. "Keep the stamp as neutral as possible (i.e., the American flag)," says Biondo. "Leave the 'LOVE' stamps for the brides."

She adds: "You can cut your invitation costs significantly if you stuff, seal, stamp and mail them yourself, rather than having the designer or printer handle those tasks."

Cost: The range is dramatic, from $5 apiece for a plain invitation and envelope (no inserts) to $50 apiece for elaborate, one-of-a-kind creations.

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