Looking for unique and unusual party invitation ideas?
I think it's really important to try and come up with original party invitation ideas. Any good professional party planner will tell you that having creative and well-designed party invitations is one of the most important elements of any birthday party or special occasion.
Party invitations are your sales pitch. They may well be what convinces your guests whether to come or not. So not only is it important that your invitation stands out and grabs your guests attention, but you also want it to capture their imagination and get them excited about coming.
Here are my tips and suggestions for original and creative party invitation ideas.
Choose your theme/ concept first
Never send out your party invitations before deciding on your theme. Seems obvious I know, but you'd be amazed how many of my clients are in such a rush to get the ball rolling that they get all the invitations sent out, then they turn their attentions to designing the rest of the party. As a result they end up choosing simple, plain, neutral, and—for the most part—boring invitations.
Never do it this way around. You're missing your best opportunity to inspire your guests. (If you haven't already read it, check out my page about Choosing a Theme to understand the importance of communicating the theme through your party invitation ideas).
Below are examples of some really nice themed invitations. See my seperate page on how to Customize and Create Invitations Online for more themed party invitation ideas like these and where to buy them.
Don't just think in 2D
When thinking of party invitation ideas, so many people only think of a two dimensional printed card. One of the tricks professional party planners like me often use is to incorporate a three dimensional object into the design of our party invitations—which instantly makes people sit up and take notice. Guests love to receive something tangible along with their printed invitations—it brings the party to life in their minds and makes it feel real and a little bit special.
When I created The Secret Garden- themed party for The British Red Cross Ball, the invitations were printed onto small decorative paper tags then tied with ribbon onto ornate keys, which in fact were just simple antique wardrobe keys (see photo below for similar invitations).
When I created a party in 2003 for the fashion designer Stella McCartney to launch her first London boutique, I used another way of incorporating objects into the party invitation.
Stella McCartney branded chocolate bars were commissioned from royal chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker using one of Stella's favorite flavors, Rose & Violet Creams and these were sent out to guests with a limited number of bars containing gold tickets which could be exchanged for Stella McCartney merchandise in her boutique.
The following year, to celebrate the first birthday of the boutique we created a kids 1st birthday party for adults.
The invitation details were printed onto the labels of kid's birthday party gift bags filled with balloons, paper party hats, streamers, blowouts, and other small toys. Guests certainly arrived in the mood to be silly and let their hair down.
Pretty much any party invitation can be made into something more interesting just by combining it with some sort of object related to the theme of your party.
Some examples might be:
For a Chinese theme you might have personalized fortune cookies made with the party details printed on the message inside.
For a Pirate, Treasure Island, or Survivor theme you might send your invitations rolled up in a small glass bottle filled with some sand and shells.
A Beach theme could have the invitation tied to a flip flop.
A party with a Music theme for adults could have the invitation details printed onto the label in the center of a 7" vinyl record
A Vampire theme party might have the invitation tied to a miniature bottle of holy water.
Just remember if you are using an object to factor in the increase it might have on the cost of postage.
Remember the other senses
Most people focus on how to make their party invitation ideas look good—but spare a thought for the other four senses too:
A simple trick to make your party invitation ideas a little more special is to scent them with some sort of fragrance. For The Secret Garden themed party mentioned above the party invitations were sprayed with the scent of fresh cut grass which was released when guests opened their invitations.
Alternatively, check out these fragrance oils (UK visitors see here) - although they don't come in such wide range of flavors, you can pick up much smaller jar for a fraction of the price.
Just remember that if you're using an oil-based fragrance these might stain your invitations so try spraying the inside of your envelopes instead or line the envelopes with a sheet of tissue paper sprayed with your chosen fragrance.
Edible invitations are also a great touch. You can print your invitation details (including a photo) onto candy bar wrappers, iced onto cookies, or even onto candy lollipops—which are perfect for kid's birthday parties.
Lastly, don't overlook the power of sound either. Nowadays you can pick up inexpensive sound chips which you can record on yourself and pop into your invitation so they are activated when opened. Imagine opening an invitation for Treasure Island themed party and hearing the sound of waves crashing. Or how cute would it be to record a child's voice onto a sound card inviting guests to his or her own birthday party.
If you're making your own cards, then just buy the recordable greeting card sound chips (UK visitors see here). These just peel and stick onto the inside of your card and a little flap is attached to the inside cover so that when the card is opened it activates the recording. Note: You need to create a 3 fold card (as shown below) so that the right hand end folds inwards and is stuck down on top of the sound chip to hide it.
If you want to use a sound chip with an invitation that you haven't made yourself, you can buy these talking voice modules (below, here for UK visitors) which you just peel and stick to the back of any 5 x 7 card. These include a small button sticker (which you can reposition anywhere on the card) that the recipient presses to play the message. See demonstration video below.
Designing your invitations to imitate something familiar related to your theme—such as a passport, an airline ticket, a telegram, the front page of a newspaper, or a Wanted poster—can make for some really attention grabbing party invitation ideas.
In 2001 I threw a corporate event for the Latin American division of the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston where the theme was A Tour of South America.
The invitations were designed in the style of the airline tickets (in the days before e-tickets!) and sent out in travel document wallets in the style of the bank's internal Corporate Travel department.
Each ticket was personalized with the guests name and the invitation details such as the party start time were listed as the flight departure time and other details you'd expect to see on a flight ticket, with reply cards in the form of boarding passes.
For added authenticity we wrapped the tickets in the familiar IATA Passenger Ticket and Baggage Check information leaflets that accompanied airline tickets at the time.
Apparently the client received quite a few calls from guests saying they had initially mistaken them for real tickets. So if your party has a country theme, you might want to have the invitations take the form of a passport or boarding pass.
Similarly, I once saw some fantastic wedding invitations that were designed in the style of a Mills & Boon paperback novel which they titled From This Day Forward. The forward part of the book narrated the biography of the couple and a summary of how they met, while the contents page listed the running order for the day. Inside, the pages had been left blank and a footnote announced that the happy couple's story was yet to be written.
Check out this site (here for UK visitors or Austalian visitors) which has lots of great party invitation ideas in the style of things such as telegrams, passports, boarding passes, golden tickets, vintage poster, antique books etc, such as the ones below.
Online / Email Invitations
Digital invitations sent via email do have their place, but they're not suitable for every occasion. Emails are so commonplace nowadays that they tend to lack that personal touch. Most parties, unless quite informal or last minute, will seem much more special if your guests receive a proper invitation through the mail. Read my recommendations for when to use Online Invitations.
There are so many great websites that allow you to customize existing designs on-line which they'll then print and ship to you. See my seperate page on how to Customize and Create Invitations Online for how to personalize invitations such as the ones below and where to buy them.
themed postage stamps
Another great way to embellish these party invitation ideas is to use themed postage stamps (USA only). There are lots of great designs available to suit any party theme
As you can see there are lots of different ways to create original party invitation ideas that really stand out.
However, if your party has a theme, you should always make sure that your party invitation ideas reflect it. Therefore, all the party themes on this site also contain individual suggestions for invitations relevant to that theme. Just click on one of the icons below to view the list of party themes.
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Matt James is a professional party planner and owner of event agency DNA Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, DNA has won 24 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.