The information contained herein is quoted from A Guide To Protocol And Etiquette For Official Entertainment (Pamphlet No. 600-60 Headquarters Department of the Army Washington, D.C., dated 15 October 1989)


  1. Engraved invitations (figure 2-1), the most formal and expensive, are only issued for very special occasions. They generally include the engraved phrase “request the honor (or pleasure)of your company” or “cordially invites you to attend.” Occasionally the guest’s name is handwritten.
  2. Invitations are sent out 2 or 3 weeks in advance. If the function is extremely large, 3 or 4 weeks may be more suitable.
  3. Engraved invitations often include an admittance card to be shown at the door. If admittance or seating cards are enclosed, they should be brought to the function.
  4. If the party is in honor of a distinguished visitor or other high-ranking official, “In honor of” is usually the first line of the invitation, with the appropriate information on the individual(s) on the next line or two:

    In honor of

    General and Mrs. John F. Clarendon

    In honor of

    The Honorable Theodore B. Freedom

    Mayor of Independence


  1. Semi-engraved invitations (fig 2-2) are adaptable to any date or occasion and are less expensive. They generally are used by individ-uals who must entertain often, and are correct for luncheons, recep-tions, dinners, or retirements.
  2. Honored guests may be designated by the phrases “In honor of Major General and Mrs. Smith” or “To meet Major and Mrs. Jones.” The first phrase is more often used for prominent persons; the second, for new arrivals and guests.
  3. Formerly, it was not considered correct to ask an important official “to meet” anyone of lesser rank. Today, however, most officials may wish to know for whom a party is given, possibly influencing his or her acceptance.

Fig 2-1 Formal Engraved Invitation

Figure 2-2. Semi-engraved formal invitation


Formal invitations may be hand-written (fig 2-3) on note paper in black ink. The wording and spacing used on the formal engraved invitation (fig 2-1) are followed. This type of invitation is used when the hostess prefers it, and if the size of the party does not make preparing them burdensome.


  1. Telephone invitations are correct (even for formal functions) for small affairs. The host, hostess, aide, or secretary makes the calls.
  2. To confirm oral invitations, reminder cards are frequently sent out to those who have accepted. The engraved, semi-engraved, or handwritten invitations may be used. Draw through the R.S.V.P. and telephone number, writing the words “To remind” underneath.


  1. A reply to a formal invitation (fig 2-4) should be written 48 hours (preferable 24 hours) after receiving a luncheon or dinner invitation.
  2. A regret (fig 2-5) includes the same information shown on the invitation, except that no reference is made to the time or place.
  3. A formal invitation may request that the reply be addressed to an aide or social secretary. If this is not indicated under the R.S.V.P. on the invitation, the reply is addressed to the host and hostess.
  4. A married couple should accept a formal invitation only if both attend, otherwise neither attend. The rule here is both or neither.
  5. Printed reply cards may be enclosed with invitations to large official functions such as retirement reviews and receptions. This provides for accurate accountability of the guests. The card, with a self-addressed envelope, may be in fill-in type requesting specific information written by hand or typewritten.


There are few valid reasons to withdraw the acceptance of an invitation: serious illness, a death in the family, absence due to an upcoming transfer, official duty, or very important business else-where. It should be noted that an invitation to The White House takes precedence over all others (fig 2-6).

  1. Recalling a formal invitation. When unavoidable circumstances warrant, a formal invitation may be recalled. If the occasion was small, and the invited guests would know the reason for withdrawal, none need be given. If the invited guests may not know why the invitation is being withdrawn, the reason for recalling it is prepared on a printed form rather than an engraved form (fig 2-7).
  2. Advancing or postponing an invitation. Advancing or postponing is better than canceling! An announcement changing the date of an invitation must include an R.S.V.P. (figs 2-8 and 2-9).

Figure 2-3. Formal written invitation

Figure 2-4. Acceptance of a formal invitation

Figure 2-5. Regret to a formal invitation

Figure 2-6. Withdrawal of an acceptance to a formal invitation

Figure 2-7. Recalling an invitation

Figure 2-8. Advancing an invitation

Figure 2-9. Postponing an invitation


  1. General. Invitations to informal dinner parties, luncheons, teas, cocktails, and buffet suppers may be extended by personal note, telephone, or a short message prepared on a calling card or formal card. If a reply is desired, include “R.S.V.P.” or “Regrets only,” followed by a telephone number or address. This may also be used on informal invitations when it is necessary to know the number of guests expected.
  2. Informal note. An invitation to a social function may be extended by an informal note if the host or hostess does not wish to use the engraved card or the third person style invitation. Informal notes are correct for small informal dinners, but are tiresome for large dinners and are incorrect for official dinners.
  3. Informal card invitations.
    1. Fold-over cards (generally called “informals”) are often used for extending informal invitations (fig 2-10). These cards are about 4 inches wide and 3 inches high. They are made of smooth heavy paper, in white or cream, with matching envelopes. The rank or title and full name are centered on the outside of the card and may be engraved from the same plate used for joint calling cards. The address is shown in the lower right-hand corner of the outside of the card. The invitation is normally written on the lower hand inside, but may be written on the outside, either above or below the name.
    2. The single flat card (larger than a calling card) is a newer variation of “informals.” The rank and full name are engraved in the center of the card. The address is engraved above and to the right of the name. The message or invitation is written below the name. An “R.S.V.P.” (if desired) is written in the lower left-hand corner.
  4. Replies to informal invitations.
    1. Informal notes and card invitations usually require no written answer, but one may be requested. A telephone reply is also proper.
    2. A written answer may be prepared either informally on a calling card or in the third person format used for engraved invitations (replies are addressed to the hostess only).

Figure 2-10. Informal fold-over invitation
Friday, July 15th
5-7 p.m.
Regrets Only
Friday, July 15th
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Regrets Only