Invitations have been through it all; from messengers moving place to place to deliver the message to cards to phone messages to use of social media. Whatever may be the mode of communication the invitation loses its meaning if the personal touch is not there.
The changing face of invites….
When I was a kid, in an average family the invites were sent/ received for marriages. There were hardly any other celebrations needing forwarding of printed invites.
Sending invites was a prolonged and deliberate procedure. A letter giving details of the programme pre-dated the invitation card. Since telephones were not so common letters provided that necessary personal touch. Sending an invitation card was a mere formality. Entire family used to contribute by way of updating the invite lists, addresses, printing the cards and endorsing addresses on the covers.
Invites were not sent to fulfil a formality. All people who received the invite were expected to attend. The host also made the preparation accordingly.
Coming to present day the invite list has grown manifold. Cards are sent even to people who are not expected to attend. It sounds funny but it is the case. Cards not just sent to people who matter but also to ‘people who may feel bad that they were not invited.’ In some cases, the invite list is used to reflect the ‘power’ of the host. There are people who get themselves invited also just to satisfy their own ego.
COVID has brought the E cards into fashion. Some hosts are smart, they use multi-mode of invites to people who matter and forward e-invites to all others.
Group invites have come in to fashion on social media where a common invite is posted to all members of the group on the social media platform. This in my opinion is the worst form of inviting. You are invited yet not invited.
The protocol I follow….
During my professional life I have received endless number of invites. I understood quite early that most invites were not for me but for the position I was holding. Aim of most of the hosts was to curry favours. I followed a standard protocol to attend only when I was personally invited by the host irrespective of who he or she was.
I was in a station where every organisation and ‘who’s who’ of the city expected me to attend the functions they hosted. It was not anyway humanly possible for me oblige everyone. The invites from educational institutions because it is always a pleasure to interact with students. However, with others I exercised caution.
This is the protocol I follow till date.
Every occasion is not a means to display popularity….
Once I received an invite to attend the marriage of niece of a cabinet minister of government of India. He happened to be the member of parliament of the city I was posted at. The invite was delivered by the personal assistant to whom I politely conveyed my inability to attend. A series of frantic calls followed from people in the minister’s staff to convince me to attend. Why did my presence matter so much? I had never met the minister before in my life.
For a politician, every function is a means to show his political influence. I did not want to be part of such a gathering. I remember once the local MLA a very polished guy for a change personally came to invite me to be chief guest at a social function. Since it appeared to be a social function I was inclined to attend. But the MLA was kind enough to clarify that whatever it may appear to be at the end it will be a platform to display political strength. My presence on the stage was merely for ‘photo ops’. The aim was to misuse my position for their political gain forcing me to turn down that invite. Was this the reason the minister also wanted me to attend his function? Well, I do not know.
Army still lives in old times….
Fortunately, in the army the old method of sending invites is still followed at large. The value is still given to the personal touch right from preparation of the invite, to communicating through letters/ phones, to taking care of the guests on arrival. Invite is followed up with a confirmation of acceptance from each invitee. Every guest is personally taken care by the host(s) and not left at the mercy of the caterer/ waiters.
My personal take on the subject is that invites in personal functions should only be sent to number of people who can be personally taken care. Every opportunity should not be used to serve a political or business motive. Yes, by all means invite any number of people but make them feel that each one of them matters. The difference between invite and welcome is the personal touch.