EVERY DAY PEOPLE OPEN their mailboxes to sift through stacks of bills, solicitations, magazines, ads and perhaps an invitation to one of your events. How can you be sure that your invitation will get noticed among all those other envelopes? Four invitation experts share their secrets on creating a buzz through classy and creative “be my guest” requests.

PRETTY PACKAGING

“The most important aspect of sending an invitation to an event or meeting is that it not be perceived as junk mail,” says Brian Lawrence, vice president of sales and marketing at Encore Studios, an invitation manufacturer based in Clifton, N.J.

He suggests using an upscale invitation that isn't glitzy or overstated. In addition to “paper quality, color combinations, tasteful embossing, die cuts and stampings,” Lawrence places a strong emphasis on lettering. “Choose the typeface and layout that best complement the style and shape of the invitation,” he says.

Often it's the little details that make an invitation stand out. “To order a tasteful invitation and not have the envelopes addressed in calligraphy takes away from the whole intent,” Lawrence adds.

Tustin, Calif.-based Envelopments offers a mix-and-match design line of invitations that allows customers to choose from several shapes and colors. Envelopments are made of a thick paper stock, and each opens like a flower to reveal an invitation, among other things. “We also have pocketfold stock that can hold other pieces like a map, tickets to an event or a reply card,” CEO Mark Smith says.

Thanks to personal computers, he adds, “more people have the ability to simply become typesetters and pop down some images and create something that is unique to their event.”

CUSTOM CREATIONS

An invitation is the perfect platform to set the tone of an event and energize your guests, says Bonny Katzman, president of Boston-based BK Design. A multiple Gala Award nominee, she designs custom-made invitations to create “anticipation” for events.

For inspiration, Katzman brainstorms the event theme or concept to try to come up with related elements. “A lot of ideas come from elements that you see every day; you just use them in a different context,” she says. “For a beach party, you can screen a beach ball and print the invitation on it or put a shell in a boxed invitation. Or you can put a stamp and a label on a coconut and paint your message on the coconut.”

For a holiday party hosted by an international entertainment company, Katzman created an invitation that played off holiday traditions. A box adorned with a printed gingerbread man and reindeer stamps contained a glass plate with faux “milk and cookies” for Santa. Next to the cookies, a note to Santa included all of the party information. “If you receive this invitation, you can't help but react,” Katzman says.

BE UNUSUAL

When guests receive an invitation, their response should be, “‘I must attend this event,’” says Susan Reese, owner of Culver City, Calif.-based Amorous Designs. That philosophy is what motivates Reese to make interesting keepsake invitations out of unusual fabrics. “For a holiday party, I am creating a Santa boot out of fabric,” she says. “Each recipient's name is embroidered on the boot. I have inserted a rope so that they can use it as a stocking.”

For another client, Reese designed a purple and chartreuse fabric envelope. One guest turned the envelope into a purse; another guest created a pillow.

“What I think stands out is the unexpected use of surfaces like wood or aluminum, or custom sound chips,” Reese adds. For a baby shower, the mother-to-be's three-year-old son recorded an invitation on a sound chip.

Reese says the aluminum postcard is an easy yet creative option to get attention through the mailbox. “You can silk-screen your message on it. It's really great because you can mail it just like it is.”

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

A “save-the-date” mailer can stir up excitement for your event before guests even receive their invitations.

For a millennium's eve party, Katzman designed a save-the-date reminder to encourage anticipation about the event. Each invitee received a one-inch silver capsule nestled inside a black velvet jewelry box. Opening the capsule revealed a tiny scroll that instructed each guest to bring something to contribute to a time capsule. “People were thinking about the party and what they would bring months before the event,” she says.

DO YOU COPY?

The look of the invitation is important, but be sure to give equal time to the content to create buzz about your event.

Smith suggests playing with words to liven up your invitation copy. “There are rhyming dictionaries and other online tools that can get you inspired,” he says.

But avoid wordiness. “Choosing words, and sometimes limiting the words, is so important,” Lawrence says. “Get the message across in the most concise and eye-appealing manner.” Sometimes, he adds, “companies make the mistake of trying to cram in as much information as possible, which compromises the whole appearance of the invitation.”

RESOURCES: Amorous Designs, 310/568-2733; BK Design, 617/426-8255; Encore Studios, 800/526-0497, 973/472-1800; Envelopments, 714/258-2900

Remember these tips when preparing your great invitations:

  • Always allow extra time for foreign mailings.

  • Always use tasteful stamps.

  • Never use mailing labels.

  • Always weigh an assembled invitation at the post office to determine postage.

  • For a corporate event, listing a Web site address on the invitation where people can download a registration form is effective.

  • Keep it simple if using a response form; it should not be any bigger than a fold-over response card.

Information provided by Brian Lawrence, vice president of sales and marketing, Encore Studios.

See this story on the Web at www.specialevents.com, a marketingclick.com site.