Should it be miniature palm trees, complete with fake leaves? Or perhaps a ship inside a bottle, with the event’s details on a paper scroll?

Publisher Ryan Doherty considered many possibilities as he chose the invitation to announce the first-anniversary party for his magazine, 944, at Palms Casino.

He finally went with the zippered coconut shell.

“People loved it,” he says. “We were besieged by calls.”

With invitations taking the form of crystal-encrusted cell phones and rattan snow shoes, there can be an implicit message in asking people to a party: I know you have other things to do, but I’ll make this worth your time.

“There are certain events that if you want to make them special, you make special invitations to make the point that you’re not just throwing a run-of-the-mill party,” says producer Darren Star, a client of “event branding” firm Creative Intelligence.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Creative claims it invented the modern-day, over-the-top invite. Founder Marc Friedland certainly got the jump; as a child, he would to write letters on air sickness bags “just to see what would go through the mail.” His first invitation, however, was 5,000 hand-painted black-and-white pieces for the launch of MOCA Contemporaries.

“It was very geometric,” he says. “Very ’80s, ‘Saved By the Bell.’ “

From there, the company moved on to ribbons imported from France, translating invites into four languages and using 11-color presses to reproduce wallpaper samples, all to satisfy a client list that includes Oprah Winfrey, John Travolta and Steve Wynn.

“It’s not about opening an envelope and — sand gets on the floor, glitter falls on the dog,” Friedland says. “It’s about creating the party experience in the invite.”

That can include the invitation’s journey from host to guest. One Creative client found the U.S. Postal Service too mundane for his daughter’s princess-themed birthday; he hired people in Peter Pan costumes to deliver invitations via chauffeur.

West Hollywood paperie Soolip likes to work with a vintage stamp dealer. “Sometimes we’ll look for something that ties into the invite — it adds so much history,” says Soolip rep Kelly Sweeny.

These niceties can drive the price of a single invitation to $1,000 or more. Of course, price is no object for some clients; Winfrey’s three-part invite for her Legends party included Swarovski-encrusted books and custom-wrapped framed photos from the event.

However, when a Bat Mitzvah invitation is covered in pink fur or a disco party invitation arrives in the form of a gold (and functional) 8-track tape, it’s easy to believe that an invitation is the single largest line item in the party’s budget.

Which begs the question: Is it really necessary? Doherty thinks so, describing the 944 coconut as “a metaphor for how grand it was to pull this off.”

On another level, however, these invites may be practical, no matter how fancy. In a town where every night’s a party and its residents are vulnerable to last-minute offers of bigger, better deals, a well-designed invitation can be an invaluable emissary. If they spent that much on the invite, the logic goes, they’ve got to be putting some muscle into the evening, too.

“People forget that an invitation should be inviting,” says Friedland. “That, and people’s names should be spelled right.”


If presentation is what demands an R.S.V.P., these inventive invites are the cream of the crop.

Colorado Wedding 944's Birthday Bash
Autumn Wedding
75 cashmere-wrap envelopes; redbliss.com
The custom-made wrap included snowflake brooches and an inside pocket to hold the reply card. Paper was 100% cotton mold-made Italian card stock.
Cost $129 per invite, not including mailing.
Feedback “They had so many phone calls for RSVPs that their phones were overrun,” says RedBliss owner Christine Traulich. “Even men who would typically not even care would call to say how amazing and original the invite was.”
2,000 zippered coconuts; callard.com/in house
Doherty estimates that it took 20 hours to hand stamp the coconuts with the 944 brand, with another 30 hours devoted to inserting raffia paper and the 10 coaster-sized teasers that outlined a Vegas weekend of fireworks, performances by a half-dozen bands and the Imax 3D premiere of “Superman Returns.”
Cost $20 each, including mailing.
Feedback “It was the highest return of RSVPs from any party we’ve ever thrown,” Doherty says. He estimates attendance between 9,000 and 11,000
Six “card cafe” invitations; soolip.com
Custom-made Parisian wrapped box, square Twin Rocker paper with deckled edges and matching envelope. Includes custom-wrapped 5 x 5 x 2 1/4 box.
Cost $60 per invitation. Faux suede luggage tag with personalized identification or message is an additional $19.75; Paris vintage postcard set, $16.
Feedback Invitation is currently in transit.

Paul Allen's Travel Adventures A Bridge to Now/Oprah's Legends Ball
How many 450
Labor notes Leather-bound suitcase with a book about Alaska and the upper Northwest.
Cost Not disclosed
Feedback Allen has also ordered invitations for adventures in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, (antique chest that contains fishnet, jewels and a pop-up scavenger hunt map) Russia/St. Petersburg (satin-lined cherry wood box containing a custom-made, mock-Faberge egg) and Venice (handmade masks for a Venetian ball inside a velvet covered box).
Invite for 300 guests and 70 honorees; creativeintelligence.com
The Legends book sleeve demanded more than 44,000 Swarovski crystals. Also called into service: 780 square feet of dyed kiwi suede, 325 yards of iridescent cognac taffeta and more than a dozen printing/production processes.
Cost Not disclosed

Feedback Compliments from the White House’s chief of protocol; according to Friedland, “Oprah loved the Ball invite material so much, she wanted to rub it all over her body.”