Anniversary Party Planning & Etiquette

Party Planning FAQ

Any celebration needs a level of planning to ensure it is successful. A common question is when do you start this planning? This is depends on what type of party you are having and what you need for the party. We’ve found, especially with Anniversary parties, the opposite is often the case in that you’ve become aware the anniversary is coming up and decide to have a party late in the day.

The starting point is deciding when you want the celebration. The obvious choice is on the actual anniversary date however if this falls midweek then you may consider moving it to the nearest weekend to allow your friends and family to attend without having to take time off work etc. It’s also a good idea to have it at the weekend as it helps the party atmosphere when people are more relaxed knowing they do not have to get up for work the next day.

As an aside your 25th anniversary (Silver) would generally fall 4 week days in advance of your actual wedding day e.g. if you got married on a Sunday then your 25th Anniversary will fall on a Thursday, likewise your 40th (Ruby Wedding) will fall on the week day after the week day you got married with the 50th Anniversary (Golden Wedding) will fall on the actual week day you got married or the day before. These are estimates that take into account leaps years for marriages that occurred between 1960-2000, the actual day however depends on the number of leap years between the two dates.

Etiquette experts are divided on whether it is appropriate to have an anniversary party at an alternative date or season. We would generally recommend it is best to have it as close as possible to the anniversary date and if possible within a month of the anniversary date either way.

Combining an anniversary with another event is not a particularly good idea as this detracts from the focus on the couple, this is especially true for the major anniversaries.

Check the date selected with key people. 

At any party, large or small, make sure you have checked that the guests of honour, closest friends and family will be able to attend and that the date does not conflict with other major anniversaries (particularly bad anniversaries, e.g. deaths of prominent figures either in the family or in society) that may conflict or take away the focus on the couple celebrating the anniversary before you set the date in stone. If you are worried about key people being occupied on the specific date then it may be worth sending out a “save a date” notelet or postcard as early as possible to notify them in advance of the official invitation

If you want a popular location you’ll generally find you would have needed to start last week; don’t you always find that? You go to book a venue and they say the date you wanted was booked last week! Anyway I digress.

If you are planning on a large celebration then you should have thought about it well in advance possibly as far away as a year. If you think of marriages, these are often planned up to a year or longer in advance to ensure you can get the right venue and other requirements, as you would use similar resources for large anniversary celebrations you are effectively competing with these other events for the right venue.

This is more important if you want a weekend celebration as with only 52 weekends a year of which 2 are likely to be the most appropriate to when the anniversary falls then it is important to secure a popular venue early.

Who to invite and how many people?

These two questions are often interrelated, the answer also depends upon the type of party you are having, if you are having a intimate family gathering then the number and who will be decided within that circle. If however you are having a repeat of your wedding breakfast then who to invite is opened up to friends both past and present and your extended family.

Bookings resources (caterers, restaurants, MCs, bands etc.)

Allow at least two months to book up caterers or a restaurant. Remember: the bigger the party, the more notice you need to give. Even if you’ve decided to cater for yourself and only want to hire some waiters, more glasses and plates, you’ll need to book these up too. The more you can plan in advance the easier it will be nearer the time.

Resources for those unable to attend the event.

How about setting up a web cam for the event and letting people unable to attend know the how to access it on the day so that they can log on to send their congratulations. This is especially good for a geographically dispersed family.

Failing that you could get them to send in congratulatory emails/telegrams/letters/cards ahead of time so that they can either be placed on a wall board at the event or read out during a speech.

What to call it.

  • Cocktail parties only occur after 5.00 pm
  • Open house parties (a.k.a. Come and go parties) occur at any time.
  • Dessert celebrations typically occur in the afternoon.
  • Pitch-in celebrations can occur at any time.


An anniversary party is what you want it to be, whether that means a relatively straightforward get-together in your home or a more formal affair in a location with caterers and possibly entertainment or a private function room in a restaurant or hotel.

Invitations to an Anniversary Party

Invitations to an Anniversary Party

The formal rules of Invitation etiquette
Traditional formal anniversary invitation line by line wording
Informal Invitations
Responding to an invitation to an anniversary party

Invitations- timing

The invitations to an anniversary celebration should be sent out at least 6 weeks in advance.

If the party is during the vacation or Holiday period then it may be worth sending out a “save the date” notelet or postcard in advance of the actual invitations, this should be done from anything from six months to a year in advance.

The formal rules of Invitation etiquette

  1. All phrasing is in the third person.
  2. Punctuation is not used at the ends of lines (commas, periods, colons, etc.); however, commas are used within lines to separate the day from the date, the city from the state and a man’s surname from “Jr./junior/Senior/II/III”, etc.
  3. No abbreviations are used. Either spell out a name or leave it out: “Phillip Christopher Holly” not “Phil C. Holly.” Also, “Road”, “Street”, “Avenue”, “Doctor”, “Reverend”, and all military or other titles should be spelled out. Exceptions are: “Mr.” and “Mrs.” Most etiquette specialists prefer that “junior” be spelled out. When it is spelled out, the “j” should not be capitalized.
  4. If both Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle are doctors, they can be referred to as “The Doctors Doolittle.”
  5. Days, dates, and times are always spelled out.
  6. Only proper nouns are capitalized (names of people, places, cities, states, the day of the week, month name, etc.) Exceptions are the year line (“Two thousand and three”) or where the noun is the beginning of a new sentence or thought (“T” in “The favour of a reply is requested”)

It is considered socially incorrect to write, “no children please” on the invitation or any part of the anniversary ensemble. In theory the invitation is only for those people mentioned on it by name and hence if the children’s names do not appear by name then they are not invited. You cannot however only invite one half of a couple as this is considered ill-mannered.

“Black tie” does not traditionally appear on the invitation. If the event takes place after six o’clock, your guests should assume that it is a formal event. If you are concerned, however, you may write “Black tie” as a right footnote on your reception card. Note: the “B” in “Black tie” is capitalized, but not the “t.”
Be consistent with your usage of “honour/favour” or “honor/favor.” Traditionally the formal, British spelling with the “u” is preferred in proper etiquette but whichever form you choose, use it in both words.

When social circles use formal etiquette it is considered extremely socially incorrect to make any mention of gifts on invitations on the theory that you should expect nothing from your friends or family except the honor of their presence, therefore never put the name of a charity for donations or your desire for money rather than presents. (Gifts give further details)

Traditional formal anniversary invitation line by line wording:

  1. Begin with the full, formal name(s) and title(s) of the event sponsors. These are not necessarily the people who are paying for the celebration. While the couple’s children traditionally sponsor a major anniversary, anyone can be a sponsor, including the couple, other relatives or friends. If all children are sponsoring the event you can use “The children of ” then full, formal name(s) of the couple.
  2. Following the name(s) is the phrase “request the honour of your presence” if a reaffirmation service is being held in a house of worship. The alternative “request the pleasure of your company” is used for an anniversary celebration held which does not include a reaffirmation service. See Additional Note
  3. The next line reads “at the [Anniversary Year, e.g. Twenty fifth or Silver] Wedding Anniversary of their [parents]” or whatever the relation is between the sponsor(s) and the couple, e.g Friends, sister, brother etc.
  4. On the next line, spell out the day and date with the spelled-out number before the name of the month and a comma separating the day from the date: “on Saturday, the first of May.” Using “on” before the name of the day is optional but if you do, do not capitalize the “o.”
  5. Listing the year is optional. If you choose to do so, it appears on the line following the day/date line. Only the first letter of the first word of the line is capitalized: “The year two thousand and three” or “Two thousand and nine.”
  6. On the line after the date comes the time. Show this spelled out: “at seven o’clock” with the word “at” preceding the time. You do not need to put “in the morning” or “in the evening” since it should be obvious but you may if you would like to and must if it is not obvious. In any case, you should never put “a.m.” or “p.m.” on a formal invitation.
  7. The name of the place goes on the next line: “Sterling Cathedral”, “The Anniversary Inn” or simply the address if the party is in someone’s home.
  8. Including the address for the place is optional (unless the party is in someone’s home). If you do include it, place it on the line immediately below the name of the place.
  9. Generally the last line lists the city and state, separated by a comma: “New York, New York .” Note that you never put a zip code here.
  10. If you are having a reaffirmation service, you would include the information here as to the planned reception afterward on the last line of the invitation: “Reception immediately following”, “Reception to follow” or “and afterwards at the reception.” These sentences indicate that the reception is in the same place as the reaffirmation service. If it is not, reconsider ordering separate reception cards so that the important wording of your invitation will not be reduced in point size to accommodate the several extra lines of the reception information.
  11. If you are not using response cards and envelopes, in the lower left hand corner include “The favour of a reply is requested”, or “R.s.v.p.”, and a response address; however, if you have a reception card, put the R.s.v.p. line there in order to leave the invitation uncluttered. Note that formally only the “R” in “R.s.v.p.” is capitalized since this is an abbreviation for a French sentence, “Répondez s’il vous plaît.” Similarly, since the sentence means “please respond”, never say “Please R.s.v.p.” since that would be redundant.

As a brief summary the following should be included on an invitation;
Name of Couple, Host(s) or Sponsors
Establish the purpose of the invitation (inviting to an anniversary celebration, announcing an anniversary)
Name of honorees
Day/Date (spelled out ; e.g. Saturday, the thirteenth of June)
Does the day definitely correspond with the date’ (consult a calendar or our date checker)
Year (Two thousand and three)
Time (at six o’clock in the evening)
Name of Place (Anniversary Inn)
Location of Place (city and state but no zip code street address is optional(unless private address))
Ask friends to read the draft for mistakes prior to committing to print!

Informal Invitations

Early year invitations or invitations to informal parties can be achieved in a number of ways, the simplest is by way of a hand-written note
Ensure you include at minimum the following;
the purpose of the invitation (inviting to an anniversary celebration, announcing an anniversary)
Honorees (if parents then ‘for our parents’ is acceptable)
Day/Date, days and months spelt out
Name of Place
Location of Place (if the guest would not know where it is)

Alternatively stationery suppliers can provide fill-in-the-blank invitation cards that you could use or consider using to invite them via email.

Printed informal anniversary invitations can also be obtained and often include a short poem reflecting the celebration. It is also possible to get these printed in different colour inks to reflect the anniversary e.g. Silver, Gold or metallic red for Ruby (40th)
Whenever you have an invitation printed you should include the details in the style of a formal invitation e.g. follow the order, capitalisation and grammar rules given in that section.

If invitees to the celebration are expected to pay for their meal as it is being held in a restaurant then they are co-hosts e.g. they are also giving the party and hence the invitations should reflect this. e.g. you could write “… are invited to share in a dinner to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of…” In this situation you can also use an invitation response card to include the menu items and price of each (agreed with the restaurant prior to sending out), this helps to reinforce the fact that they will be paying for it or at least prompt them to ask. (Back to Invitation Wording)

If the occasion is an informal occasion such as a Cook out/barbecue or, in the case of a house party or Pitch-in dinner you want people to bring a item, make sure you’ve included this information on the invite. To cover all bases try to co-ordinate the dishes although refrain from making it prescriptive.

Responding to an invitation to an anniversary party

When you receive an invitation to an anniversary party if the host has requested a response e.g. it has R.s.v.p on it, then you should respond even if you are not going.

Even if they have not specifically asked for a response it is nice to respond to thank them in advance for the invitation.

Typically you should respond within two weeks of the invitation as if you are not going it may give the host the opportunity to invite someone else.