The information contained herein is quoted from Social Usage and Protocol Handbook: A Guide for Personnel of the U.S. Navy (OPNAVINST 1710.7 dated 17 JUL 1979)

Invitations vary in style and format depending upon the type of occasion for which they are issued. The broad categories of formal and informal occasions will be used in this discussion.

Formal: A formal occasion might include an official ceremony, any type of reception, official luncheons or dinners, dances or weddings. In these situations, a tbrmal invitation is most appropriate.

Formal invitations are generally in one of the following forms:

  1. Fully engraved 1
  2. Semi-engraved
  3. Handwritten
  4. A phone call followed by a “To Remind” card

In any of these four types of invitations, use the following standard format as a guide:

Vice Admiral and Mrs. Paul Anthony Connelly 2
request the pleasure of the company of
Rear Admiral and Mrs. Cerny 3
at a reception 4
in honor of the Chief of Naval Operations and Mrs. Smith 5
at seven o’clock 6
Saturday, the first of May
Bethesda Naval Medical Center Officers’ Club 7

R. S.V.P 8

Military: Service Dress White 9
Civilian: Informal

1 The expression “engraved" is used herein for simplicity. It is intended to be synonymous with other modes of printing such as thermography, or raised print, which is a very acceptable substitute.
2 Use complete name of hosts: or if for very senior officials, the position, title, and spouse’s name; e.g., The Secretary of the Navy and Mrs. Claytor.
3 Lines 2 and 3 may be combined to read simply, request the pleasure of your company.
4 Indicate the type of function as: at dinner, at cocktails, at a buffet-dinner, etc.
5 The "in honor of" phrase may also properly be the first line of an engraved invitation, or the last.
6 Figures are never used in a formal invitation; the day and month are capitalized. The following examples of time indications are also correct:

  1. “from six to eight o’clock”
  2. “at half past six o’clock”
  3. “at half after six o’clock”
  4. “from six-thirty to eight-thirty o’clock” (used only when two half hour periods must be shown and space is limited)

7 Specify the location of the function. If a residence is involved, the address may be reflected instead in the lower right comer.
8 If it is desired that a written response be made, to a place other than the site of the function, indicate the mailing address here.
9 Specify an attire which is appropriate to the type of function and the hour.

The following rules apply to the preparation of formal invitations:

  1. Corps and service designations and retired status are never reflected on invitations extended by or to husband and wife.
  2. The phrase “honor of the company” is considered to be more formal than “pleasure of the company". The former should be used on invitations to Ambassadors and others of comparable rank.
  3. The date and hour of the event as well as ranks, titles, and names should always be spelled out in full.
  4. Perrnissable abbreviations include “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, and “R.S. V.P.” In addition it is perrnissable to use an individual’s initials if this is his or her preferred format. If the party is in honor of someone or some occasion, this may be indicated as “in honor of’. . .“, “to meet . . .“, or “to introduce . . .“ as appropriate to the occasion. This is generally on the top of the card or underneath the line specifying the type of function to be held.
  5. When the host/hostess has a personal flag, seal, crest, or insignia, this may be used on the invitation as appropriate.
  6. The appropriate attire should always be clearly specified in the bottom right hand corner of the invitation; e.g., “Uniform: Black Tie” or “Civiliar! Informal”. (See Annex C for guidance on attire.)
  7. It is most appropriate for all invitations to be written in longhand and black ink.
  8. In addressing envelopes spell out in full rank and name (e.g., Lieutenant Commander and Mrs. Timothy Daniel Johnson).
  9. Invitations are inserted engraving up, top of card appearing at the top of the envelope, so that they may be easily read as they are withdrawn from the envelope.
  10. Formal invitations should be mailed at least 3 to 4 weeks in advance of the planned activity.

Completely Engraved Invitations. These are the most formal and expensive invitations. They usually bear the crest of the host or hostess. When issued by the Secretary of State or a U.S. Ambassador, invitations bear the Great Seal of the Department of State. Shnilarly, a replica of a Flag Officer’s personal flag may be centered at the top or placed in the upper left comer of his invitations. Navy commanding officers of shore-based activities, squadron and flotilla commanders, naval attaches, naval liaison officers, and chiefs of naval missions or other diplomatic duty missions who wish to use an insignia on their invitations, may use the gold officer’s crest. Official seals and other insignia in gold or color are often used on invitations for public ceremonies such as inaugurations, dedications, commencements, ship christenings and commissioning. Individuals sometimes have the family crest or coat of arms embossed without color at the top of wedding or other important invitations.

Wedding Invitations. Wedding invitations as a type of formal invitation are generally fully engraved, ‘Ihere are a multitude of styles and colors of paper available to the bride for wedding invitations and the standard plain white card is no longer a must. The following examples are suitable formats:

Commander and Mrs. Joseph Brian Comelly
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Margaret Louise
Paul Anthony Jones, Junior
Lieutenant, junior grade, United States Navy
Saturday, the seventh of January
at eleven o’clock
Holy Cross Church
Washington, District of Columbia

If the bride is a member of the armed forces, it may be shown as:

Margaret Louise
Lieutenant, United States Navy

If the parents of the bride are deceased, invitations may be issued by a close, older relative:

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their granddaughter
Margaret Louise Connelly

If the bride’s father is deceased or divorced and her mother is remarried:

Captain and Mrs. William Green
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of her daughter
Margaret Louise Connelly

Mrs. William Green
requests the honor of your presence
at the marriage of her daughter
Margaret Louise Connelly

If the bride’s mother is deceased and her father is remarried:

Commander and Mrs. Joseph Brian Comelly
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of his daughter
Margaret Louise

If the bride is a young widow:

Commander and Mrs. Joseph Brian Comelly
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Margaret Connelly Jones

If either the bride or the groom’s rank is that of Commander or Lieutenant Colonel or senior, it is properly shown with the rank preceding the name:

Commander Peter David Jones, Junior
United States Navy

Those of the rank Lieutenant Commander or Major and below use the following format:

Elizabeth Eileen Smith
Lieutenant, United States Navy

‘Their" may be substituted for “his” provided the relationship between daughter and stepmother is a close one.

Invitations to church weddings customarily do not request a reply. “R.S.V.P.” is included on the invitations to receptions which appear as:

immediately following the ceremony
The Naval Officers’ Club
Bethesda, Maryland

700 Idaho Street, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20320


Commander and Mrs. Joseph Brian Connelly
request the pleasure of your company
at the reception
following the ceremony
700 Idaho Street, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia

If everyone invited to attend the ceremony is also invited to attend the reception, simply add the following to the basic wedding invitation:

and afterwards at the reception
Army-Navy Country Club
Arlington, Virginia

When double envelopes are used, the outer one should have the full name and address of the invited guests handwritten in ink; and the inner one, the guests’ courtesy titles and surnames only (Mr. and Mrs. Brown; Rear Admiral and Mrs. Symthe; Commander Black). The inside envelop is placed within the outer envelope in such a manner that the writing on the former faces the back of the latter so that it will be on top when the outer envelope is opened.

Semi-engraved Invitations. Partially engraved cards, adaptable to any date or occasion are appropriate for receptions, dinners, luncheons, cocktails, etc. Less costly than the invitations which are engraved for each function, they are widely used by those who entertain often. All information to be added to the semi-engraved invitation should be handwritten in the color ink of the engraving, preferably black. Guests of honor are designated by writing the appropriate phrase above the names of the hosts or below the time on all invitations except that intended for the honored party.

Handwritten Invitations. Formal Invitations may be written entirely by hand on any formal writing paper, preferably white, in the standard wording and format. White correspondence cards, 4 by 5 inches size, often topped with the flag officer’s insignia or officer’s crest are most often used.

Telephone Invitations and “To Remind” Cards It is quite correct to issue formal invitations by telephone. The host or hostess may call, or have someone call. In military circles, an aide often calls for his or her superior. In tendering telephone invitations, give the same complete information regarding the event as is provided in a written invitation.

An appropriate phrasing of a telephone invitation by the military aide would be:
“This is Lieutenant Ray, aide to Vice Admiral Orion. Vice Admiral and Mrs. Thomas Orion would like to extend an invitation to Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson for dinner on Saturday, the eighteenth of March at eight o’clock. The dinner will be at their residence, Quarters F, and the attire is Civilian Informal. Will you R.S.V.P’? My telephone number is 456-7377.”

A telephone invitation is generally followed by a “to remind” card to those guests who accept the invitation. The format is identical to any other written invitation except “to remind” is written in the lower left hand comer in place of R.S.V.P. It is permissible to cross out the R.S.V.P. if already printed on the card and to write in “to remind”.

Informal Invitations. Invitations for informal occasions, suchasunofficial luncheons, dinners, cocktail parties, buffet dinners, etc., may be issued by telephone or in writing. A telephone call may be followed by a written “to remind card” but this is not essential.

Invitations may be written on informal cards (informals) or on a variety of invitations available for specific occasions in stationary stores. In addition, a short, personal note from the host or hostess is appropriate.

Informal Cards. Fold-over cards or “informal”, measuring approximately 5 by 3½ inches, are made of smooth, heavy paper in white or cream, and have matching envelopes. The name is centered on the outside. The invitation may be written on the inside, or on the outside above and/or below the name. It is correct for the informal cards of a very senior officer such as a three or four-star admiral to bear only his grade and surname. A rear admiral’s card usually shows his full name, as do those of less senior officers.


It is considered more gracious to postpone than to cancel an invitation. When formal invitations have to be recalled due to unavoidable circumstances, printed forms are generally used to notify guests. In those instances when time is very short, telephone notifications are a necessity.


Every attempt should be made to respond to an invitation promptly out of consideration for the hostess or host who must make arrangements on the basis of the number attending and invite others in the case of a regret. Replies to brunches, luncheons, and dinners should be made within 24 hours.

Generally, a telephone number for R.S.V.P.s is provided on the card. Occasionally, an address for R. S.V.P.s is given, in which case a short note is appropriate. For very formal or large scale functions, R.S.V.P. cards are enclosed which the guest fills out and returns.

If an R.S.V.P. has been requested, it is discourteous to wait until within a few days of the event before responding, or worse, not to respond at all.


Since an invitation to the White House supersedes any other social engagement, a guest who has already accepted an invitation for the same date must write or telephone the host/hostess immediately and withdraw from the first engagement.

Official duties necessarily take precedence over social engagements; however, a later invitation cannot properly be used to escape one already accepted unless the second is official. The only unofficial yet legitimate reasons for withdrawing an acceptance would be severe illness, unforeseen but mandatory absence from the city, or the recent death of a close relative.

Withdrawing a Previously Accepted Invitation

Admiral and Mrs. David Peter Black
regret that owing to the illness of Mrs. Black
they must withdraw from
Mr. and Mrs. White’s dinner
on the first of July

Admiral and Mrs. David Peter Black
regret that because of an invitation
to the White House
they must withdraw from
Mr. and Mrs. White’s dinner
on the first of July