Start to Finish

Working Invitations from Start to Finish

Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'

Working Invitations from Start to Finish

You've just been told that you're responsible for invitations for a function to be hosted by your commander. Your first step is to request a meeting with the commander or his "knowledgeable" representative so you can get the details you need: what type of function, when, where, who is to be invited, what is the preferred dress -- all the things you need to put together a proposed invitation list.

If you don't feel you got all the answers you needed, go ahead and use your own common sense to draft up the invitation. You know what's required and sometimes it helps the host just to see the draft in print and it will trigger some detail he didn't mention to you.

If the commander is new to the area, the proposed guest list may also be up to you (with the coordination of Public Affairs and the Command Section). Decide who the commander should invite from downtown, e.g., city, county, and state officials; chamber of commerce officials; members of organizations that are supportive to the military. Then determine how many military people you need to include. Keep in mind, you'll get more acceptances from the military so you need to have less of them on your list if you're using contingency funds to pay for this function. (See Funding Protocol Events) Are there other military organizations in the local area? -- you may need to include their commanders and key people.

Depending on the type of function you've been asked to prepare invitations for, decide what inserts you need to include with the invitation: RSVP card/sheet, return (self-addressed) envelope (card and envelope sized to fit inside the mailing envelope), menu selection card (if not included on RSVP card, sometimes there's just not room and the card gets too "busy"), DV pass (allowing civilians access to the base), DV parking pass (can be the same as the DV pass if you choose), map (either on back of DV pass or on separate sheet) for those unfamiliar with the base, reception invitation card , preceremony coffee invitation card , special instructions card (bus boarding instructions , inclement weather plan), color-coded seating card , building entry card (for aiding security forces in building access).

NOTE: Speaking of base access -- make sure you coordinate with the security forces to see what they require to allow these people on base -- the last thing you need is for a high-ranking civilian DV to be stopped at the gate and "hassled" because you forgot to coordinate or provide the SFs with a list of invitees.

Make sure you have at least two or three other people review everything for errors -- spell-check can't catch wrong days of the week or leaving the "th" off of seventeenth! Be especially careful if using a previous computer-generated invitation to modify -- make sure you've checked (and double-checked) things like day of the week as well as the date!

If you're going to use the star stationery provided out of the Air Force Publishing Center, Baltimore, Maryland, make sure you request it well ahead of time. We have requests from many different locations for star stationery -- it is always in demand. Only active duty general officers are authorized to use the star stationery. Spouses and retired general officers are not authorized to use it. The only exception to retired general officers would be when they are officiating at a ceremony (and, your office should be involved in those invitations anyway). "Selectees" offices may order stationery when the general has an effective date of promotion from HQ USAF/DPG.

Another thing to remember about star stationery -- only general officers, their executive officers, or aides are allowed to order it -- protocol is not authorized. So we have to get our requests for stationery stock signed by the executive officers. We try to keep a supply of all star stationery (1-4); however, it is better for you to go directly to a general officer's secretary if you need something other than 3- or 4-star, especially if that general officer is your host. For additional information on ordering general officer stationery, see AFI 37-161, Chapter 3.

If you are going to have someone from another service officiate or host a function, you need to get star stationery from their front office. The U.S. Army uses stationery with a red flag on it and the U.S. Navy's flag (even though it's blue) and stars are not designed like the USAF.

The printing of invitations at a commercial company is not paid with special morale and welfare (SM&W) or contingency (official representation) funds. The funding for printing should come from the Information Management budget (O&M funds).

When you have all your proposals together, submit everything (invitations, all inserts, and proposed invitation list) in a package to the host (we use staff summary sheets) for coordination and approval.

Once you have the approval, it's time to really "get busy."

If it's a short-notice invitation with a few people invited (a dinner at the commander's quarters), begin by calling all of the invitees to check availability. This gives them a chance to pencil the function in on their calendar and also saves you from spending an unnecessary invitation if they are not available. Be sure to follow up your phone call with a "To remind" invitation. On a partially engraved invitation, which is ideal for this situation, just line out RSVP and write in "To remind."

If there are less than 20 invitees, use the partially engraved invitations. Any more than that, consider a computer-generated invitation you can prepare right in your office. If there are several hundred invitees, then you probably should be prepared to send the invitation out to be printed -- but that will take longer.

If the invitations do go to the printers, ask for envelopes with the return address preprinted, and ask for them to be expedited. We also ask for a return envelope for the RSVP card. It is smaller than the outer envelope and is sized so the RSVP card will fit without folding. Also, no return address is printed on the return envelope. We usually can get the envelopes back in a day or two and then start the addressing process even before we receive the invitations back from the printers.

The majority of protocol and etiquette books still tell you to handwrite envelopes in black ink, but the computer age is changing that. We see more and more invitations and correspondence with addresses printed right on the envelope or labels. Our data base is set to print addresses on clear labels that can be run off while we're waiting for the envelopes to be returned from the printer. Or, we run the return address off on labels (and OFFICIAL BUSINESS) and use our own envelopes.

Addressing Envelopes:

Mr. and Mrs. John Jones
Street Address
City, State, ZIP

Brigadier General John D. Hold, Commander 666th Airlift Wing
and Mrs. Hold (when addressee's duty title is included)

Colonel John Jones and Captain Patricia Jones (where two married military members are invited)

Captain Patricia Jones and Colonel John Jones (if the spouse is senior, you must still list the invitee as the primary)

The Honorable John Jones and Mrs. Jones

Major General and Mrs. John Jones (for retired with spouse)

Major General John Jones, USAF (Ret) (service designation and retired are not used if the spouse is included in the invitation)

The Honorable Sebastian Michael Stephenson and Mrs. Stephenson (if title and name are too long to fit on one line, indent two spaces)

Dr. and Mrs. John Smith (not Dr. John Smith and Mrs. Smith)

Dr. John Smith and Dr. Sarah Smith (if both are doctors)

Mr. Donald Johnson and Ms. Sally Jones (when woman has kept her own name)

Major Sally Jones and Lieutenant John Smith (if wife retains her maiden name, she still is first if she if the primary invitee)

Mr. Donald Johnson (living together, unmarried)
Ms. Sally Jones
747 First Street
Dayton, OH 45401

Example of commercially printed mailing envelope

Example of commercially printed enclosed envelope for return of RSVP card