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What you need to know about birthday party invitations

“You’re invited!” are two of the best words in the English language to kids. Since birthday party invitations are the first thing everyone sees for your child’s big celebration, we asked some experts for advice on creating the most inviting.

Paper or electronic?

When it comes to deciding whether to send birthday party invites by email or snail mail, there are advantages to either option.

Cost can be a factor, with paper invitation costing more but Denise Arenz, manager at Ashley’s Custom Stationery in Hinsdale, recommends that parents investing in a party also budget for printed invitations since they set the tone of the occasion, as well as guests’ expectations.

Snail mail also can be fun. “Nothing beats how special getting real mail feels. It’s especially exciting for kids,” agrees Sarah Neikirk, head of personal design services at Paperless Post, a website offering both online and paper invitations.

“The decision really comes down to time,” she says. “Paper invitations require a little more advanced planning since you’ll need to have them printed and shipped before you mail them out.”

Some parents prefer printed invitations so that they have a sweet keepsake from the event, which is one reason why Arenz recommends ordering a few extra invitations. For those who prefer the electronic route, Neikirk points out that Paperless Post allows customers to order a single paper invite to keep as a memento.

No matter your choice, seize the opportunity to personalize it. Jessica Bailey, Evite’s in-house party stylist, says photos are always fun, as people love to see the child they’ll soon be celebrating.

Another option: Get creative

You can also send a nontraditional invitation. Arenz says a customer hosting a pool party attached a card with the party information to a beach ball. “It was something unique. Everyone got a kick out of it,” she says.

Other ideas might include a packet of seeds for a floral- or garden-themed party, or designing your invitation to look like a ticket if it involves a sporting event.

Tips to keep in mind

Confirm addresses

Electronic invitations can get lost in cyberspace and the U.S. Postal Service is not perfect. Be sure to double check that you have the most current addresses for your invitees.

Pay attention to the details

The invitation is an opportunity to tell guests everything they need to know. Err on the side of giving too much info, rather than leaving guests wondering.

If it’s a drop-off party, Arenz encourages parents to include not only the start time of the party but also an end time. “Hosts don’t want to be answering texts during the party from parents asking what time is pickup or having a guest there longer than anticipated,” she says.

She also recommends indicating on the invitation if the party is outdoors and whether there is a rain date.

Encouraging RSVPs

Giving people a deadline to let you know if they are able to attend can encourage prompt RSPVs. “It’s the tiniest of things,” Bailey says. “It puts it in people’s head that there is a deadline and cannot be done the day before.”

Avoid using “regrets only,” which Arentz says can lead to an inaccurate headcount.

Asking guests to skip gifts

Many parents prefer to skip gifts for the guest of honor, and that wish should be noted on the invitation. “‘No gifts, please’ is clear, concise and polite,” says Neikirk. “Reminding your guests that, ‘Your presence is present enough,’ is also sweet.”

Guests often want to do something to honor the birthday girl or boy, so Evite added a donation button that allows the hosts to select a charity in lieu of gifts. Baily suggests seeing if there’s a charity that ties in with the party theme. For example, a family hosting a party with an animal theme could request a donation to an animal rescue or humane society.

“It’s a lovely way to teach your child to give back and care about others when celebrating their big day,” Bailey says.

Part of Celebrations, a special advertising birthday party guide.

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