Privilege Blog

Email Invitations Take The Next Step Toward Good Manners

**Note – I’m not responding to comments any more today because Blogger keeps eating what I write:(. See you tomorrow.

This long weekend my family celebrated 3 events. Dinner with my brother and his fiancee, the first time we siblings have seen the pair since their engagement. Fourth of July. Beloved Big Nephew’s 10th birthday. It was a festive couple of days.

In an odd harmonic convergence – we’re big on those in California – last Tuesday I got a note from Jill of Paperless Post. She asked if I would write something about their email invitations. Not a sponsored post request, just, would I write something, please? She was polite. Big points in my book. Hard to resist. And I have been advocating email invitations since this post, last year. So I played around on the Paperless Post site. It was fun.

I know a lot of people are fidgeting right now. “No, no, this cannot be!” And I would never advocate email invitations if any recipients would be offended. That’s the key. There is nothing, to my way of thinking, inherently impolite in electronics.

Email invitations are movies, paper is theater. Alternatively, emails are musicals, paper is opera. The traditional remains, the invention takes its space. You get my gist. In the year 2010, I would feel comfortable sending everything except the most ceremonial of invitations via a high-production-value email invitation system. High-production-values are key. The novelty alone, of animated envelopes and 3D effects, should compensate in many cases for the weight and feel of paper. By 2012, I may feel comfortable sending all invitations as bits and byes – assuming that music, video, and other effects can be added. There’s always a tipping point when the benchmark for appropriate and courteous shifts.

Manners should be observed in the spirit of true courtesy. Intent is more important than trappings, unless you’re meeting with the Ambassador.

Voila the Paperless Post I might have sent for last week’s events. To design these, I customized various templates by choosing papers, envelope liners, motifs, type fonts, and colors. Like I said, fun. All invitations arrive by email. Each email contains the image of an envelope.

When your invitee clicks as requested, the animated envelope opens up and your invitation rises from inside.

For my psychoanalyst brother who has been known to attend the Burning Man festival, I thought antique keys, in white, with a whimsical script on navy, might provide the correct soupcon of irony, all the while tipping a hat to our High WASP culture.

Click to R.S.V.P. and you see this reply card. All dimensional and everything.

For the 4th of July, a celebration more cultural than personal, I’d be happy going with one of their pre-set designs. Kind of nifty, no? Or, as my mother would say, “Dear, that’s very good-looking.”

While for my nephew’s birthday, we’d have to go soccer. Specifically, Chilean soccer. Open this envelope,

And out come these happy guys.

Who, judging from the multitude of Internet remarks I’ve seen, might make some midlife women very happy too. We will leave that statement where it lies, and move on. Click the photo, and the invitation turns over to reveal,

Fun, yes? Unfortunately, not perfect yet. My third response to Paperless Post, after 1) “Gee whiz, and 2) “I told you so!” was, “Oh I wish I could get my hands on their engineering team!” I wanted to write some use cases. The user experience, as we call it, wasn’t quite as intuitive as I would like. No way to search for invitation styles or motifs; instead, one has to browse through design after design. Cumbersome. Navigation provides redundant ways to move through the design process. Confusing. But still fun. I expect they will improve, as they state very politely that they are still in Beta, i.e. the trying it out phase. At least they’re polite and let you know.

My suggestion? Sign up. Play. See what you think. Could make a great birthday party invitation for your wired pre-teen. He or she could design it themselves. Using a photo they took with their iPhone ShakeIt Fauxlaroid or Hipstamatic apps. Thereby adding to the production value. Or, one could throw a rehearsal dinner for a much-loved brother. Just saying.

And that, my friends, is all the technology and with-it-ness I can muster for today. Phew. Teetering on the deep chasm of ignorance.

All images via Paperless Post, except the Chilean soccer players:).

35 Responses

  1. What a neat idea! Though the UX Designer in me can't help but nit-pick! The fancified typefaces, while fine for physical invitations, get murky with the smaller size of the invites on screen and it becomes hard to read. And Flash……well, Flash just *is* (and is on its way _out_, if any of the recipients are viewing the invitations on an iPhone or iPad). I may be in the minority on this, but I would think people would want *less* in the way of flashy whiz-bang animations. Something that looks nice, is legible and has some texture or 3D-ness is good; think any iPhone/iPad application/software developer website — it's possible to give a sense of real-ness without being in your face about it.

    Anyway – it's a great idea – might get more folks onboard with the idea of sending out digital invites, which I'm all in favor of! Thanks for this review! I just signed up. :)

  2. One of my friends turned me on to this site a few weeks ago, and I really like it. These look much more polished than the evites I've seen before. I'm not sure I'd use them for, say, a wedding, but they're wonderful for house parties and such.

  3. I'm a Paperless Post fan as well. So much prettier and more thoughtful than your basic evite – a true innovation given that you never hold paper in your hands, but somehow feel like you're caressing letterpress as you read.

  4. While many might think we would be aghast at the notion (because of our business), we are not, and have actually used one of the services! You do a grand job explaining how it works Miss LPC, better than one of the services if I recall properly.

    Sending you an electronic (virtual?) smile,

  5. I love those! The designs are nicer than any others I've seen online so far.

  6. How timely of you to do this – I've been thinking of sending Paperless Post invitations for the wedding rehearsal dinner (in part because for some of the attendees I have only email, and not physical, addresses). I'm glad to know that they meet your standards.

  7. Most people I know cant remember to answer an email on any topic – rude. I wouldn't trust they would remember I emailed them an invitation to a party and rsvp (thus keeping me as a friend). I refuse to use any type of invitation other than paper simply because it is something in the invitee's hand, in their face, on their desk, on their fridge, in their mail etc and with any luck they will take my event as seriously as I took my invitations.

  8. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think e-invites are good only for reasonably casual gatherings. Boat party, house party, birthday party, BBQ, baby shower — fine. All the things you mention above also seem to work.

    But not for a formal wedding — in which the couple are splashing out alot of money, and an expensive gift is expected from the guest.
    If I do get a wedding email, it had better not be some generic, undesigned e-invite (I've gotten two such recently). Or, worse yet, a Facebook invite that I might miss (since I'm not constantly on it reading about which one of my friends had a coffee recently).
    You want to know something sad? Some of the more elderly members of my family actually fear not getting invited to the weddings of the young people they love, because nobody sends out paper invitations anymore. OK, that's not going to happen. We will always invite granny. But I think, with formal weddings, some traditional etiquette is in order.
    I am personally a little thrilled whenever someone sends me a pretty, handwritten card in the (snail) mail.

  9. And…to be honest…if I am invited to anything better than a tupperware party I expect a proper invitation.

    The ones you showed are very very beautiful – but to me, just not a good enough message to send guests.

  10. I've used IOMOI when wanting to send a nicer "evite" if you will…but I LOVE this format! Thank you for sharing.

  11. "Email invitations are movies, paper is theater" what a wonderful analogy and so true.
    Still, I'm so excited to try Paperless Post.

  12. Wow, envelopes and everything!! It still freaks me out a little, but I'm sure my time will come.

  13. I love this! So much more tasteful than evite and especially the new more sterile registration/invitation sites. I'm definitely going to try!

  14. I use evites for any event that I would have used the old fill-in-the-blank invites for. Printed invites for anything more formal and engraved for weddings and coronations.

  15. I will tell you that my daughter and son's generation uses the 'evite' for more casual things. So I see this as a sign of the future. It's convenient, quick, and easy. And these young people are busy, so it works perfectly for them. Plus, they are tied to technology, as are all of us now to an extent. Not sure how I feel about it yet though. One part of me screams NO, only snail mail invitations. Another part screams YOU HAVE TO CHANGE WITH THE TIMES to a certain extent. It is necessary else I turn into a dinosaur. The latter is how I stayed effective in teaching for 33 years. There were times I had to adjust to the new ways. One can lose credibility by staying stuck in the past, in my opinion anyway. Thank you for sharing this! I like to be "with-it". :-)

  16. One more thing – I'll share this website with my family. I think they'll like it. xoxo

  17. What RatsOnParade said – fancy fonts are great on paper, but rarely so on the low resolution of a screen unless you have a very good graphics card. And, yes, anything done in Flash cannot be viewed on a mobile hand-held, although the word on the street is that the new Droid will have a Flash viewer upon release.

    Other than that, you're right – nifty, indeed!

  18. There are some occasions where I think this is great. We have friends who host an annual Halloween party. The guest list has grown to an outlandish number, therefore e-vites make much more sense. Great for more casual affairs, but if I see it for a wedding invite, I will hit the roof!

  19. Lovely. Bonus points for it being green, too. My one gripe? What am I going to tack up on the bulletin board? I'm pretty much senile and if I don't see it, it doesn't exist. Maybe a cute e-vite and a big old stack of Post-Its? I must admit, I see these gorgeous designs and I lust, lust, lust for them in letterpress. The Fourth of July invite has given me a terrible case of design envy.

  20. evite's are ok for casual things but paper is God for formal events.

    Please read Laura Musson's WASp/privilege centric memoir pronto and give me yor thoughts.x

  21. I think you have told me that you have a psychoanalyst brother but this reminder is the highlight of the post for me. And I love the keyed invitation.
    And, I just finished Laura Musson's book. She is from Lake Forest. It was a great read. I am writing about it this week on my blog.

  22. I think it's possible (read likely) that I would receive the darling email invitation, respond to it, and then promptly forget about it. I love paper for many reasons, and one of them, is that invitations are slipped on my message board or into my filofax, where they serve as daily reminders to plan my outfit, order the gift, or simply remember to attend the event. I say let's make all the pizza coupons paperless and leave invitations alone!

  23. Hi everyone. Is it safe to come out of the comment waters yet? Yikes. So many comments and responses got eaten.


    Rats – How great to meet a UI designer here. My feeling is that usually animations are just a pain the neck. Here, however, I think they help bring to mind the real experience of opening an envelope, and are important. As for Flash, sigh. Some behemoth or other is always fighting to own the client, huh?

    VA Gal – More polished, exactly.

    Maggie – I agree:).

    Tabitha – Why thank you ma'am!

    TPP – You are always on the side of good sense, no?

    Deja – Thank you.

  24. MJ – I think for a wedding rehearsal dinner, given the right crowd, why not?

    Suburban Princess – There will always be a place for paper. No question.

    Joyce – I am sure that my feelings are influenced by my time in tech and my cohort of tech buddies.

    CDS – You're welcome!

    Maureen – :).

    3-Penny – That's sort of what I thought.

  25. hmmm… more polished than e-vites I definitely agree!! But for me – I would certainly forget about it the event if I didn't have a paper invite I could post as a reminder.

    Also with all the filters, firewalls etc.I would worry that some people wouldn't receive their invite. Thus more work with follow up emails and phone calls. HHL

  26. You have done so much work on this post, and the results are charming. Thank you ! I too am old-fashioned, wishing to receive formal invitations the traditional way- in real paper and hand written, by post. I am also extra happy if I get a normal postcard-extempore!

  27. ooh i love the 4th of july design. thanks for this post! i'll def use it for the next big party. :)

    ~ash's mum

  28. I'm sure many Miss Manners Dominatrix's are rolling in their graves, but these are sooooo cool!!

  29. Patsy – Understood. I think these guys have bumped emails up from the evite world.

    Preppy 101 – I know. My kids live online. That's why I think this is inevitable, so it might as well be as like our old world as possible.

    Jan – Understood. My thinking was that the use case for invitations doesn't require mobile support. And just as Gates and Bill Joy stop fighting, Jobs and Adobe have to start up:).

    JMW – It would only be good for weddings for a certain circle.

    Charlotte – Yes, agree completely on the green side. Now here's the thing. I don't use my refrigerator as a bulletin board. I use my email inbox:). I've been known to email myself stuff as a reminder. I love that Fourth invite too – big fan of fireworks.

  30. FF – Oh you are a taskmistress. Send me your copy! With annotations!

    La Belette – Looking forward to what you say about Musson's book.

    T&C – As I said to Charlotte, work made me email focused for all reminders. That said, if it would prevent you from coming, I'd always send you paper:).

    High-Heeled – That is a valid concern. They work around platform issues with a link to a web page, I assume, but spam filters are vicious sometimes.

    Metscan – It was fun:).

  31. That's so nice! An email invitation that looks like the paper invitation. Cool.

  32. I used these for the extended family Christmas invitations now that we have inlaws, married nieces and nephews, etc. and loved it. Not a fan of evites because they just look so messy with all the goofy email addresses and everybody can see who was invited and who's coming or not. I like that the guest list can be managed by the hostess alone and nobody else knows what's going on. My only problem is that I don't have a lot of the email addresses I would need and looking up addresses for real paper invitations on is much easier than calling everyone for their email address, in my opinion.

  33. I WANT to love these. Really, I do. They are by far the most darling e-vites I've seen; they're green; they're modern. But. I can't touch them, I'm never going to print them out so I can't save them in my memory box, I can't write down what happened at the event on the back of them, and then give the invitation back to the host years down the road … so for anything but the most casual get together, I'm just not there yet. I suppose I need help! I thought I was a realistic Sturdy Gal, for God's sake

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