Monday, July 6, 2009

High WASP Entertaining, The Invitation

High WASPs love to entertain. We particularly like dinner parties. They get us all festive and chipper and prepared to throw caution to the wind. If you are a close friend we might call you up Saturday and say, "So, are we on for Sunday dinner as usual?" But for large affairs, or events marking special occasions, we will send invitations.*

There are three preferred types of friends and family invitations.** Old school invitations are handwritten as follows. Seldom seen today. Note the gold bumblebee. Apparently the bee is or was a symbol of Freemasonry. Who knew.

Most common, especially amongst the AARP crowd, is the hybrid. The design still completely traditional and devoid of sentiment. With navy.

But signs have emerged, amongst the technically literate, of an affection for ironic missives printed on a computer. For my 40th birthday, as an example, I sent invitations somewhat like this:

The party involved lawn flamingos. And an open bar. High WASPs like kitschy artifacts. And alcohol. Since I was breaking away from the classic invitation, I had to go tongue-in-cheek. I had to go all the way to gold scrolls and flamingo clip art. Otherwise people might have known I cared whether they came or not.

You are highly unlikely to see an invitation like this to a High WASP party.
Dusty pink with flowers and all lower case lettering makes us nervous. It feels sentimental. Even declasse. I apologize for our attitude. Please forgive us. We just don't feel comfortable with sentiment. At least not on paper, sent in the mail, where anyone might see.

But if you are throwing a great party, one that begins with a rush of well-wishers bearing beautifully wrapped presents, continues with unending platters of food involving cheese, rises to a cacaphony of intoxicated laughter, and ends sweetly on a patio in the dark night over melted ice, weak brandy, and the tail end of a cake, send me whatever invitation you want. We can ignore all sorts of faux pas for the sake of a great party. From F. Scott to Mr. Cheever, the tradition is deeply ingrained.

*All stationery from
**As opposed to charity event invitations. (I forfeited my opportunity to attend many charity events by a) failing to attend dancing school b) having to hold a job. Although I did go to the 1977 or 1978 Hungarian Debutante Ball where my photo was taken by Larry Fink who then exhibited the result at the Museum of Modern Art in a show about rich dissolute young people. I wasn't terribly dissolute but never mind. That's another story).

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Anonymous Maureen at IslandRoar said...

I'm with you; a great party and I'm there!

July 6, 2009 at 6:36 PM  
Anonymous One Barefoot Bride said...

heh. i love your comment about sentiment in invitation wording. my mom nervously asked what the wedding invitation wording was - maybe she'd seen too many creative versions in her years as a pastor. her sigh of relief at our simple and traditional wording was palpable over the internet...

July 6, 2009 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger QueenBeeSwain said...

loling about the dusty pink making us feel nervous- I totally "get" it now as to why my mother only ever used/uses white or cream card stock for her correspondence- the pink makes you feel icky/awkward/squishy!

thank you for this post- it was the snippet of levity I needed at this very moment!


July 6, 2009 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Buckeroomama said...

You had me looking through my wedding folder at our invitation. It was a watercolor underwater* wash done by both my parents, with the actual invitation printed on a sheet of vellum, loosely laid on top of the print (attached by a very small strip of silk ribbon). To this day, I still cannot decide if it was quite the "proper" thing to do to stray to so far from traditional wedding invites, but both C and I have bit of the rebel streak in us (just a bit, mind you) and we loved it.

*C and I both scuba-dive; hence, the theme.

July 6, 2009 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Squishy is exactly the right term. But if your parents made you art, just for you, I think you get a hall pass from squishy.

July 6, 2009 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Oh invitations. Mum and I were looking at crap bride magazines the other day and we both sighed over colourful pretty invitations while acknowledging that if I wed they will be cream, engraved... "Mr. and Mrs. resquest the honour" and very dull. I do not believe in RSVP cards. I know they are often necessary but I get offended, as if I couldn't figure out how to répondez s'il vous plaît without their useful little cards...

July 6, 2009 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Muffy said...

I still handwrite invitations whenever I can. Typing it would appear to be "thought out" - something that must never be insinuated about my invitation.

July 6, 2009 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Academic, Hopeful said...

I love how you noted the correlation between irony and kitch in order to legitimately deviate from the norm.

At the moment, I have two wedding invitations on my desk from very conservative, wealthy Frenchies. They're Catholic, of course. I am not sure whether this religious aspect is the most crucial variable or not. They're both cream with traditional font (thin cursive writing), and each side of the invitation acts as a separate invitation for one of the couple, issued from the parents (the mother of course taking the husband's full name). Interestingly, the grandparents are also included, at the top of the list.

My most wealthy friend in Australia pulled off this type of invitation, but only because we knew she would backed it up with an insanely lavish (and tasteful) wedding. Where I am from, having this sort of fanfare in an invitation and then a reception at a winery would not quite work, for instance.

July 7, 2009 at 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

OMG, I've stumbled onto a site where people actually receive formal invitations rather than a phone call from the Crazy Sister-in-Law who says, "We're having a graduation party for The Nephew next Saturday; bring chips and dip and come early to help set up. Oh, and you get to drive Dad home after he's had too much scotch."

Sentiment doesn't set real well with our family, either, as you can see.

July 7, 2009 at 5:02 AM  
Blogger f8hasit said...

I love sending notes/invitations in the mail. It seems to take everyone by surprise...odd, isn't it? Maybe it's because that's the way that I was brought up.

And yes, white or cream only please. Mine have a gold pineapple. Sign of hospitality!

Thanks for your post! Love it!

July 7, 2009 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger class-factotum said...

The "Let's keep it just us grownups."

Sad that one should have to add that, really.

I invited some friends to dinner. At 8:00.

"Oh, that's too late for the kids."

Um. Yeah. I know. What's your point?

July 7, 2009 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think my wedding invite to Tavern On The Green would make you very, very proud of me

now, let's please discuss what I hate most...the EVITE

July 7, 2009 at 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your second footnote cracked me up!

July 7, 2009 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

Who knew invitations were a matter of passion? Who knew that kitsch and irony were legitimate deviations from the norm? And Muffy is clearly true old school. That takes focus. Finally, let's be clear Jan, us High WASPs, we are also having relatives who drink too much scotch. Or gin. Or red wine. Like I said, we like alcohol.

**Yeah. The Hungarian Ball. Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump, a fly on the wall of all kinds of startling events.

July 7, 2009 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Beth Dunn said...

I love that your photo was in a museum. I would love to hear that story!!!!

July 7, 2009 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger {The Perfect Palette} said...

such incredible designs.

July 7, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Little Bow Prep said...

Nice picks!

July 7, 2009 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Pink Martini said...

Hi. I am so with you on your 40th invites. Love the flamingo and martini theme. I am a theme gal myself. It is a must for every party I host.

July 10, 2009 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

Oh good, the flamingos resonated with someone...I like the Crane ones too myself. As for the Hungarian Ball and how my photo wound up in a magazine, OK, future post.

July 11, 2009 at 6:58 AM  

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