While I advocate for almost anything electronic these days, I am still a bit old-fashioned when it comes to party invitations, thank you cards, and yes, even birthday cards (that is, when I can remember to mail them on time). I don’t know about you, but I like going to my mailbox and finding a beautiful envelope tucked inside. I especially love if the envelope is brightly colored and weighty and contains a pretty invitation to a celebration among girlfriends. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a baby shower brunch, a 40th birthday party, or a casual potluck among old friends, I love a party (bonus if I don’t have to clean up after).
With the exception of kids’ birthday parties, however, the only invitations landing in my mailbox are the ones that show up without a stamp and somehow manage to get past overzealous spam filters. Seems everyone is a fan of the electronic invitation these days, and really, why not? They’re often free, easy to design, can be quickly shared via social networking sites, and have come a long way since the early days of standardized text boxes and generic clip art. For proof, check out the new Real Simple and Colin Cowie invitation themes on e-vite.
Last week I got a behind-the-scenes look at My Punchbowl, a party planning and e-commerce Web site based outside Boston. Founder Matt Douglas—a most enthusiastic business owner—gave me a quick tour of the site, focusing on their Design Studio, an interface that allows users to create custom electronic invitations that look every bit as good as paper ones. The experience reflects what you might find in a high-end paper store. There are hundreds of paper designs, pretty ribbons, elegant stock images and dozens of fonts to choose from.
But there’s more to this site than just the invite. A new potluck feature allows party hosts to create potluck categories—appetizer, side dish, dessert—and assign how many she needs of each. When responding to the invitation, guests can sign up for the items they plan to bring. Use the Date Decider to help you choose the best date and time for the party. Create customized to-do lists, get planning advice and even attach an Amazon gift registry to the invitation. (Some might find this idea presumptuous, but for family invites that you know will solicit a call from the aunts and uncles looking for gift ideas, why not save yourself a little time?).
The pretty as paper invites at My Punchbowl may convince some of us old-school party planners to finally move our invites online. How about you? When it comes to invitations, do you prefer paper or e-mail?