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Sending out invitations

Invitations to official events are usually issued on a card, which may be engraved or flat-printed in script or Roman type. The invitation should make clear the nature of the event, the date and location, the dress (if applicable), the time of the event and, if desired, the time it will end.

Style of Names and Titles on Invitations to Official Events
Invitations to official events name the host by his/her office and/or name. This means his or her full title, rank, etc, followed by his/her decorations, etc.

Prefixes such as ‘His Grace’, ‘His Excellency’ and ‘the Right Worshipful’ are, however, omitted, with the exception of ‘The Rt Hon’, which is included for a privy counsellor. The courtesy title ‘The Hon’, and the suffix ‘Esq’ are never used.

The younger sons of a duke or a marquess are shown as ‘Lord Edward Bond’, for example, and the daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls are shown as ‘Lady Alice Hart’.

Invitations to non-married pairs of guests take these forms:
– mother and son: Mrs George Chesterfield and Mr William Chesterfield (note that invitations to adult offspring are usually sent separately from those to their parents)
– unmarried couple: Mr Richard Maddox and Miss Ilsa Curzon

Examples of forms of address for official events
The Rt Hon the Prime Minister and Mrs Downing
The Duke and Duchess of Mayfair
The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of London
The President of the Royal Academy, Sir John Burlington, KBE, and
Lady Burlington
The Master of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, and
Mrs Green
The Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Lambeth
The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster
The Earl of Aldford, OBE, MC, and the Countess of Aldford
Mr Thomas and Dame Helen Wood, DBE
Brigadier and Mrs Donald Hertford
Dr and Mrs John Debrett
The Reverend John and Mrs Bolton

A Note on Dress
For an event during the day, including early evening drinks, the dress need only be specified if it is other than lounge suits: for example, morning dress or academic robes. For an evening event, dress can be specified: for example, black tie or uniform. Decorations may also be specified when appropriate.

An invitation to an official event should be addressed only to the guest invited in their own right if sent to their official address, even if their partner is invited. They are given their full prefix, title, rank and decorations, as for a formal letter.

Note that, traditionally, invitations to a married couple, when sent to their home address, are addressed to the wife alone, with both names being inscribed on the invitation. It is increasingly acceptable, however, to address the envelope with both names.

Thankyouletters reply

Replies to invitations are sent on good quality writing paper. It is customary to use paper with a letterhead showing the sender’s address and to reply in the third person.

Sample replies are as follows:
Mr and Mrs John Debrett thank the President and Council of the National Society of …… for their kind invitation for Saturday, 12th February, which they have much pleasure in accepting (or: which they have the honour to accept).

Lord and Lady Hays thank the Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers for his kind invitation for Saturday, 12th February, which they much regret being unable to accept. (If the host is known personally, a reason may be given, eg a previous engagement etc.)

Reply Cards
Printed reply cards may be sent out with the invitations and should be of small postcard size. Guests should always use the printed card for their reply. Should they wish to add anything, such as an explanation for their inability to accept, this should be done in a separate letter.

To assist the toastmaster and increasingly as a security measure, the words ‘please bring this invitation with you’ may be added at the bottom of the invitation card. Traditionally these words signalled the presence of a royal personage.

Admission Cards
Alternatively, and especially for an evening event for which a large invitation card cannot easily be carried in a pocket or handbag, the following wording may be added: ‘An admission card will be sent on receipt of your acceptance’. Admission cards should be printed in Roman type and should not exceed W5½ x H3½ inches (14 x 9 cm) in size.

An admission card to a ceremony may be used to allocate a specific seat. Separate admission cards should be sent for couples who have both been included on the same invitation card.

Names on Admission Cards
The guest is shown on an admission card by office or by name, in the form in which he or she is to be announced to the hosts.

If by name, this is limited to title, rank and name, except that the following prefixes should be used:

– ‘His Grace’ for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
– ‘His Eminence’ for a cardinal
– ‘His [or Her] Excellency’ for ambassadors and high commissioners (this may be abbreviated to ‘HE’ on the card, but not by the announcer)
– The Right Honourable, The Right Worshipful, The Worshipful etc. for civic heads who are so styled

Additional information or instructions, for example relating to car parking, are best given on a separate sheet sent with the invitation or with the admission card.

Hand written place cards pen
Place cards

Table place cards should always be handwritten, and the names kept brief, with honours, decorations, degrees, etc, omitted.

– full titles may be used as opposed to social forms, for example ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’
– peers are shown as The Duke of Mayfair, The Marquess of Audley, The Earl of Aldford or Lord Hays, etc
– the use of ‘baron’ or ‘baroness’ is incorrect, and ‘Lord’ or
– ‘Lady’ should be used
– privy counsellors are accorded the prefix ‘The Rt Hon’
– baronets are accorded the suffix ‘Bt’
– the suffixes ‘RN’, ‘QC’ and ‘MP’ are given where appropriate
– styles by office are used when people are known by their office not their name (eg The Swiss Ambassador, The Lord Mayor)
– untitled men are invariably styled ‘Mr’ in place of ‘Esq’