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Expert Answers To Your Sweet 16 Questions
Chapter Three – The Guest List And The Invitations
The Guest List
After you’ve established your budget, come up with an idea of how many guests you’re going to invite.
If your ﬁrst draft of the list comes up much longer than for what your budget allows, I’d advise that you maintain the larger guest list, but step down the price per guest. Most of your guests will be happy just to be attending the party, and they may never even notice where you’ve economized. This is preferable to having a party for a few select guests who are going to be lavished with a meal and favors that they may never even appreciate.
I believe that it’s best to have one big party with teens, family, guests, and children together. Middle aged and elderly guests may complain about the noise and antics of teenagers, but I’m sure that they’d be thrilled to see the Sweet 16 girl in her gown, and to see her celebrating with all of her friends, and to experience the electricity in the room. Most halls have lounges or outdoor spaces where adult guests may be able to retreat if the excitement becomes overwhelming. I believe that these are better options to offer, rather than hosting a separate subdued “adults only” party.
Make sure that the party is structured to accommodate all your guests. Because it is a party commemorating an event in a teenage life, the activities should favor the teenagers. But be courteous of the adults and elderly, who may be sensitive to loud music. And it’s always a good idea to keep the youngest guests entertained with games on the dance ﬂoor, like “Steal the Bacon” or “Coke and Pepsi”. They may also enjoy being given coloring books and small boxes of crayons with which they can pass the time.
The Two Tiered Guest List:
A two tiered guest list contains a top tier of “ﬁrst choice” guests who will receive the ﬁrst round of invitations, and a second tier of possible guests to invite should too many from the top tier decline the invitation.
Regarding having this type of a guest list, my advice is this: Don’t do it. I am no etiquette expert, but based upon personal experience, I can assure you that guests who ﬁnd themselves on the second tier can’t help but feel insulted.
I have found myself in a situation where I was invited on the second tier only once, and it cast a pall on the relationship that I had with the host which never quite cleared up. No one wants to feel that they were your second choice. Either you invite a guest or you don’t. I’d advise against creating a hierarchy on your invitation list.
In most cases, the majority of your guests will be teenagers. In many cases, this will be the ﬁrst time that your teenage guest is receiving her own formal invitation. In many cases, the teenager will not understand the rules of etiquette or the importance of practicing it. Most teens have no concept of what it costs to throw a Sweet 16 party. They may not understand why the host will be needing a ﬁnal head count. They may not understand why they can’t bring ﬁve uninvited friends along with them. In my eight years of speaking to Sweet 16 parents, I believe I’ve heard a story for every possible misunderstanding and miscommunication that can possibly take place on the wording of Invitations. As a result, I always encourage my Sweet 16 parents to be as clear and concise in their Invitation language as they can possibly be. Save the ﬂowery fonts and long hand dates and the formalities for weddings and adult parties. For the Sweet 16, be as basic and straightforward as possible.
Choose an Invitation style that matches the theme of your party, but don’t knock yourself out if you can’t ﬁnd one. It’s not necessary to ﬁnd a paper that’s the perfect blue to match your daughter’s dress. Most people won’t be bringing the Invitation to the party anyhow, and they won’t be comparing it to the decor. Much as it pains me to say it, most of the Invitations you send out will wind up either on the ﬂoor or in the trash.
Experience has shown me that it’s probably best to send these Invitations out a maximum of 6 weeks in advance. Most teenagers do not keep datebooks and calendars, so you don’t want to invite a situation in which
a teenage guest says she’s coming months in advance and then forgets what she promised. Most RSVP deadlines are a minimum of 2 weeks before the event, so a 6 week lead time will give your young guests a month to reply to you. This should leave you enough time to catch them while they’re still available, but not so much time that they’ll commit to attending and then forget all about it.
Information needed for the Invitation:
1. The opening sentiment. Most Invitations open with a little salutation. Some have a small couplet of poetry or a cute jingle. Or you can say something as simple as “Please be our guest as we celebrate . . . “
2. The Guest of Honor’s name and the words “Sweet 16”.
3. Choose a legible print font. This is not the time to get ﬂowery and decorative and verbose. Your goal is to present the information as clearly as possible.
4. The day and date of the party: I’d advise against presenting the date as “Saturday, the sixth of December, Two thousand eight” Do not give your teenage guests any cause for misreading or misunderstanding the information. “Saturday, December 6, 2008” says it all and says it clearly.
5. The Closing Time: Unless you live in an area where the driving age is very young and each of your guests has his or her own car, I’d strongly suggest putting a closing time on your invitation, especially if the party is going to run late into the evening. This is a great courtesy for the parents of the guests, and it will make the ending of your party go more smoothly. If the parents are waiting at the end of the evening to pick up the guests, then no one will be left behind having given no thought on how she would get home. Again, do not allow for any vagueness where the time is concerned. Skip the “eight o’clock in the evening” and use “8:00 p.m. – 12:00 midnight” instead.
6. The Dress Code: Use your best judgement here. I’ve heard a wide sweep of reports from various quarters regarding issues with party attire. By far, the most popular suggested attire for the Sweet 16s that we’ve done is “semi-formal”. This indicates that the guest is expected to leave the jeans, sneakers, micro-mini skirts and belly shirts home. At the same time, the boys aren’t expected to wear jackets and ties. If you’d like your guests to arrive in fancier dress, I’d suggest that you put the words “formal attire please” on the invitation. If the Sweet 16 Girl or her friends tend to dress in a style that’s a little more casual or provocative than you like, you might want to come right out and state the words, “no jeans, do rags, sneakers, etc.” directly on the Invitation. Some may ﬁnd this harsh, but at least the guests will be unable to plead ignorance of the dress code. This information should all go on the Invitation instead of the Response Card. Remember, the Response Card will be returned to you, and the guest will lose any information printed on the card. All attire suggestions should go directly on the Invitation itself.
7. RSVP Information: This is one of the most important details on the Invitation, and it’s the one that’s most likely to be overlooked by teenage guests, who do not realize that you’re paying $50 per plate for them, or what it took for you to earn that $50, or the fact that you’ll need a ﬁnal head count. Too many teenage guests are likely to reply to the Sweet 16 Girl verbally, and if the Sweet 16 Girl is the typical teenager, she will have forgotten who said what by the time she gets home. I’ve had too many parents tell me that the replies would arrive in the form of, “I saw Sue in the hall during passing and I think she said that she was coming. Or maybe it was Mary who said that. Or was Mary the one who couldn’t make it? But I think Sue said yes.” This is going to be of little help to you when the time comes for you to call the caterer with the ﬁnal headcount. Many parents dislike using Response Cards for Sweet 16s because they feel that they’ll just be lost along the way and never
returned. But then, if you’re resorting to collecting replies from 100 guests via telephone, you’ll need to be highly organized in order to keep track of who called and whether or not they’ll attend. I ﬁnd that if you’re going to pass on Response Cards, e-mail RSVPs are the best. You can collect them in a separate folder and have a better record of the status of your replies. Another way to handle this is to stipulate on the Invitation “Attendance by Invitation and Response Only”. The problem is that just because you cover all the bases in the Invitation, an Invitation is not a legal document, and there’s still no guarantee that the teenager will read your intention, retain the information, behave correctly, and mark the date down in her calendar. However, the more measures that you take to ensure a proper response from your teenage guests, the more accurate your ﬁnal head count will be.
8. Response Cards – Number of People Attending: For any other event, I always design Response Cards in which the guest is given a blank to enter the number of people attending. For a Sweet 16, I’d think twice about this. Do Mary and Sue really understand that they can’t write the number “5” in that space and then bring along 5 uninvited guests?
9. Reception Cards – Are you inviting hundreds of people to a Mass or religious service to celebrate the Sweet 16, then inviting only 50 to the reception? In a case like this, you should put the church information on the Invitation, and then have separate Reception Cards printed for only the 50 who are invited to the Reception, giving them the details.
Keeping track of your replies.
No matter how you choose to go about this, I’d suggest that you organize a list or a spread sheet. List the name of each recipient of an Invitation, and assign a number to them. For instance:
1. The Jones Family
2. The Carter Family
3. John Public
4. Mary Smith etc.,
Then, when you receive a reply from the Jones Family or from Mary Smith, you mark down whether they’re attending or declining.
Save this list, and when you return from the party, enter the gift that was given by the guest. This way, when your daughter writes her Thank You Cards, she can personalize each one, knowing clearly what the guest gave her. Don’t trust that she’ll remember who gave her what out of one hundred guests.
If you are using Response Cards, before sending, turn over each one and write the guest’s corresponding number in the lower right hand corner on the back of the card. Make it small and inconspicuous. Then, as the replies are returned, it will be easy for you to order them to correspond with your list. If you wind up with stragglers who don’t reply by the RSVP deadline (and you will) it will be easy for you to ﬁgure out who didn’t reply, so that you can call them and double check.
Next Chapter 4: Structuring the Party – Sweet 16 Rituals
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