A reader asks if her picnic invitation should be an email or print

Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Callie Athey and Helen Ford Wallace
 |  Special to The Oklahoman

QUESTION: When is a printed invitation in order? Could I send an email for a picnic that I am planning for my husband’s birthday? Or could I just text the invitation?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: This depends on how formal the party you’re giving. What’s the attire, what are you serving, how many people? A picnic sounds casual to me and I think an email would be just fine!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I would only text an invitation if your gathering is very casual and small, almost thrown together, and even then I would consider another option. A text conveys “informal gathering” and not “planned picnic.” A printed invitation stands out, won’t get lost in an online scrolling blur, sets the tone and theme and lets people know this a special and planned event, not necessarily formal. I love receiving printed invitations in the mail, but I also know they can get expensive.

Emailing invitations is a middle ground between texting and printing, and there are some fun services (usually free) that let you send out a designed invitation that looks a little like a printed one, such as through evite.com or paperlesspost.com. Consider using one of these for an extra flair. These also let a person RSVP online.

One more note: A lot of people like to off-handedly invite people to something via social media, like through a Facebook invite. As easy as it is to establish a private group, click “invite” and include many friends, it is also easy for your potential guests to miss those invitations in the drum of a social media feed. So if you do that, follow up with a personal message through another means directing them to the social media invite, such as a text or a Facebook message. “I didn’t want you to miss the invitation I sent you through Facebook to my husband’s birthday. I’d love to have you come!” Also, not everyone is on Facebook, so be careful with those.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Printed or hand-written invitations are still used for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and and major fundraising events. They add to the importance of the occasion. There are some beautiful choices available in the stores and online. If your picnic is very informal, you can get by with an email or text invitation, although a printed picnic invitation would be fun to create. If the dinner or lunch group is small, make a phone call, followed by a reminder email. Timing is important for all invitations. Don’t send it too early: Your guests could forget. Don’t send it late as your guests might already have plans.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker and owner of Betty Lou’s Flowers and Gifts: Our world is so casual these days, and traditions we once held fast to are no longer in play. I see that every day in the wedding world. It is hard to tell what the rules are for formal events that are not so formal anymore. Here is a thought: If you want the party or event to be traditional and rich with elegance and on the formal side, treat the invitation that way. If it is a casual setting, feel free to use modern technology to send out the invites. Let your invitation set the tone for the party. We have so many options today! Tradition can be fun, but time-consuming as well!

Since 2009, Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen have written this generational etiquette column. They also include guest responses from a wide range of ages each week. So many years later, Callie is 20-plus; Lillie-Beth is 40-plus and Helen is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email helen.wallace@cox.net.