The best online invitations: get party details across without looking froofy or cookie-cutter

Updated Oct 12 2015

Hand-written invites are lovely but face it: you don't have time to mess with them for every little get-together you host. My posse relies heavily on Facebook to spread the word about parties, but sometimes you need something more special. It's cool: those options are out there! And Offbeat Home is reviewing online invite systems for you.

Punchbowl.com

You are all invited to my fake anniversary party!

Punchbowl is more of full-service party planning site. The site asks questions like, "How soon is the party?" and "Do you know where the party will be held?" to help determine the best invite for you. After the invite is created, Punchbowl leads you through other planning options: do you need a potluck list? Will you serve cocktails? What's on your to-do list? It even lets you connect guests in relationships so one partner can respond for the other!

Once you get to the invite, the options are super customizable: some templates allow you to upload photos, change envelope lining, and even change the "postage" on the front of the animated envelope guests receive.

Ratings:

  • Customization options: 8/10 – They look good and are easy to implement.
  • Pain in the ass factor: 2/10 – Mostly the user design is good: smooth and intuitive. I've never used Punchbowl before and felt very little confusion. You have to create an account to send invites, but you save keystrokes by connecting your Facebook account. I know I'm that lazy.
  • Party-enhancing properties: 10/10 – LOVE that I can integrate all my party deets in one place. Handy!

Evite.com

Evite.com is… less nice than Punchbowl. I can tell I've been spoiled. The variety of designs is blah and the options to customize aren't super pretty. Or helpful.

Ratings:

  • Customization options: 5/10 – Passable, but they don't look great.
  • Pain in the ass factor: 5/10 – The interface for signing in and navigating the creation of the invite just aren't as smooth as they could be. I had FUN making the Punchbowl invite, but not the Evite.
  • Party-enhancing properties: 0/10 – The designs don't add anything to your party and the site doesn't do anything beyond keeping track of RSVPs.

Someecards.com

Someecards.com is the home of the funny, often crass e-cards floating around the net, and it brings similarly-flavored invitations.

It's pretty straightfoward, but the snarky lines and funny illustrations make it worth it to venture off of Facebook. There's even an event wall! Someecards.com is a one trick pony: this clearly isn't a good choice for a confirmation party, but the next time your horde gets together for an old-school LAN party, you're covered.

Ratings:

  • Customization options: 2/10 — they look nice, but they're a very basic card by nature. Not great for a lot of extra info.
  • Pain in the ass factor: 2/10 – Mostly the user design is good: smooth and intuitive.
  • Party-enhancing properties: 0/10 – Not really any extras, but it's also not really that kind of site!

Pingg.com

Pingg.com has highly customizable templates with a nice variety of designs — and more if you choose to upgrade to a pay plan.

Functionally, it's really similar to Punchbowl.com. Enjoyable to use, and good designs. Both are worth a look, for sure.

Ratings:

  • Customization options: 7/10 — Good, easy-to-use options.
  • Pain in the ass factor: 3/10 — Mostly I was perturbed by having to sign up for an account as I'm ABOUT to send the invite. I'd like that earlier in the process. It was also a little unclear at first which features would "upgrade" me to a pay plan (like a customized URL), and how to get back to my free card.
  • Party-enhancing properties: 5/10 — Pingg can track RSVPs and there's space for additional instructions.

The winner:

Overall, I was disappointed by the vanilla flavor I found on invite services across the web. I hoped to find something that would fit the offbeat crowd — a site that could create a drippingly-goth card for a house party. The upside is: many sites allow users to upload their own images, so you could cook up your own bike-geek or hippie or rave-themed invitations.

I liked the good design and flexibility of Punchbowl the most — hands down. Since it's so thoroughly customizable, Punchbowl would be the easiest for a Homie to make offbeat. Plus, it was fun to use and it made me feel like my fake-party would be even more fake-awesome.

Second place is a tie for Some Ecards and Pingg — though they'd clearly be the best fit for very different parties.

Now I just need to plan a real party!

  1. I have used PunchBowl multiple times and have absolutely loved the experience. The best part is you have the ability to keep track of people you have not been able to send the e-invite to, such as my grandmother who has not discovered the internet yet. I also enjoyed being able to create a shopping list of what I needed for each part of the party.

  2. Don't forget paperlesspost.com! A huge portion of my off-beat persona craves elegance without the 'tude and Paperless Post, ehem, delivers. I just used it for a bday party and am still all giddy over the textural experience, excellent fonts, and brilliant colors. It isn't free and it isn't goth, BUT embrace the full-tilt elegance and use it for a steam punk soiree!

    {I am so not affiliated, just totally in love.}

  3. Based on this recommendation, I just used Punchbowl to organize my engagement party and, ladies and gentlemen, the rumors are true. It was fast, easy to use, has a whole bunch of bells and whistles (most of which I didn't avail myself of), and is super convenient for corralling guests, RSVPS, relationships, and shopping to-dos in one place. I lurved it.

    Never shall I return to the barren plains of evite.

  4. my MOH recently used pingg.com to do the evites for my bridal shower. she found a vintage teapot one which was perfect because we hosted a vintage tea party! the invitations were fantabulous! my only disappointment was that she did end up having to pay a fee and i was trying to help save her every penny possible when i recommended the site (searched google for free evites). but it was worth it!

  5. Thank you for this great review. I will try punchbowl next time. I recently planned a birthday party for my 1 year old son. I decided to use postmark ( a new offshoot of evite that you have to pay for credits) because they had a cute superhero design that I wanted to use. I want to warn others not to use that site. The main reason is that most guests will open emails now on their cell phone or ipad in my experience and there are several parts of the invitation that are missing if you open it in the mobile format. (That's ridiculous not to be mobile friendly in this day and age). Finally, the site is very clunky and there are so many graphics that the amount of time it took me to do thank you cards on that site would be the same as writing them out by hand!

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