Invitations are sometimes sent out a month or three weeks in advance, but ordinarily two weeks is sufficient time to secure the guests one wishes to entertain. Courtesy requires a dinner invitation to be answered at once, certainly within twelve hours, but better in less time. This enables the hostess to fill the vacancy in case the invitation is declined. Unconventional people are sometimes unmindful of this obligation, but as a rule those who are accustomed to entertaining recognize the importance of a prompt reply, and answer a dinner invitation immediately.

It is well, when convenient, to send the invitation as well as the reply by hand, so that there may be no uncertainty of prompt delivery; to send either of them by post is, however, permissible.

The answer should be definite, and where a man and his wife are invited, if one of them is unable to accept, the invitation should be declined for both. An invitation should be precise in expression, therefore the prescribed form given below should be exactly followed. It does not belong to the order of social notes; it is simply a formal invitation, and an acceptance should be of the same character. Any deviation from the prescribed form is uncalled for and likely to cause criticism. In declining the invitation, however, it is considered more gracious to answer the formal note informally, and, by stating the reason, show that the regret is not merely a perfunctory expression.

Verbal invitations or replies should never be given for formal entertainments. R. S. V. P. should not be put on a dinner invitation. Every well-bred person knows an answer is necessary, and it is a reflection upon good manners to assume that no reply would be given if the request for it were omitted.

It is important also that the reply should repeat, in the same words as the invitation, the date and hour of the dinner, so, if any mistake has inadvertently been made, it may be corrected, thus establishing an exact understanding.

A dinner engagement is the most exacting of any social obligation, and no greater discourtesy can be shown than to break it except for serious cause.

Form Of Invitation

Mr. and Mrs. James J. James request the pleasure of

Mr. and Mrs. Smith's company at dinner, on Monday,

December twenty-third, at eight o'clock.

99 West A Street, Dec. 1st.

Envelop addressed to Mrs. John B. Smith.

Reply

Mr. and Mrs. John B. Smith accept with pleasure

Mr. and Mrs. James's kind invitation to dinner on

Monday, December twenty-third, at eight o'clock.

66 West B Street, Dec. 1st.

Envelop addressed to Mrs. James J. James.

Mr. and Mrs. John B. Smith regret that they are unable to accept

Mr. and Mrs. James's kind invitation to dinner on

Monday, December twenty-third, at eight o'clock.

66 West B Street, Dec. 1st.

OR,

Mr. and Mrs. John B. Smith regret that owing to a previous engagement they are unable to accept

Mr. and Mrs James's hind invitation to dinner on

Monday, December twenty-third, at eight o'clock.

66 West B Street, Dec. 1st.

Where an invitation is meant to be informal, a social form of note with formal phraseology is often sent, thus:

My dear Mrs. Smith:

Will you and Mr. Smith dine with us informally on Thursday evening, December twenty-third, at eight o'clock ?

Sincerely yours,

Mary James. 99 West A Street, Dec. 1st.

This form of invitation is sometimes misleading to strangers, as the word "informal" is open to different interpretations.