I’m a busy gal, but I hope I’m never so busy that I overlook the common respect that goes with properly responding to an invitation. The etiquette faux pas that really erks me the most is the failure to RSVP. It seems that what was once deemed required has now been dismissed by entire generation. Does an RSVP matter? Yes!
Consider it a cry for help from your host… Not every event is so informal that you just need to drop your tailgate and pull out a six pack to be part of the party. A properly planned and successful event takes a little preparation and on the top of the list is knowing how many guest to expect.
There have always been rules of courtesy to follow in civilization. I was taught the rules of etiquette, first by my grandmother, then learned by example from my mother. Among the most important, other than keeping your elbows off the table, is ‘please respond’which should be the easiest to comply with. Yet we often assume this as an option rather than a requirement.
It’s simple really, an invitation requires a reply. The difficult part is making a commitment to attend. Let’s be honest here… why are you waiting to respond? If you really have a commitment that would prevent you from attending then responding no, should be quick and easy, unfortunately those who are dragging their feet are really just weighing their options. There is no quicker way to insult your host than delaying your reply because your waiting to see if you get a better offer. Your not fooling anyone, believe me your host is already going through the anxiety of ‘what if no one comes.’
As a host you must consider the fact that your guests might not know what an RSVP is. Remember, that generation gap. As a host of an event with guest of the millennial age group you might want to rephrase your invitation to something clearer such as ‘your reply is requested’ or ‘please respond’. If you do decide to go the traditional route and use RSVP on your invitation remember this term is derived from the French phrase, répondez, s’il vous plaît, which in English means ‘respond please’ so it would be redundant if you phrased your invite as “please RSVP”
For a more formal event like a wedding, your host has already gone to great expense and effort to include a pre-addressed and often prepaid envelope for your response because they really want to know if your coming. All you have to do is decide yes or no, and then if it’s yes you might be asked to further your commitment by choosing chicken or fish. Believe me at $25.00 a head this can really add up quickly as a wasted expense for the bride and groom.
If the event is anything less formal an appropriate response can be as simple as connecting to the party website or sending an e-mail, even a text message is consider okay. Anyone who has ever hosted a gathering has experienced the frustration of not knowing who will be attending. An unanswered RSVP leaves a hostess with so many questions. Should I plan on them or assume their not coming? If I assume their not coming what do I do when they show up? How much food should I prepare? Should I prepare extra in case some of the guests bring others? What about seating? Should I call them? Whether its a barbecues, office parties, weddings—you name it. Your poor host will be riddled with anxiety.
I’m not saying you have to go to every event your invited too, on the contrary I’m a firm believer in the word NO. In fact your not even obligated to explain the reason for not accepting an invite. A simple sorry, I will not be able to attend is perfectly acceptable. There is no need to go into great detail. Write a simple and polite note of regret. What I’m advocating for is commitment. Make a decision either way and make it official by responding.
No host want’s to be forced to call and beg for your response and doesn’t that put you in an awkward position as well? However, it is perfectly polite for hosts to call guests to ask if they plan to attend. In fact, as a host you often have no choice but to call if you want an accurate headcount. Responding to the RSVP in a timely manner, a few days after receiving the invitation is best, will make it easier on both you and your host.
What if I say Yes and then can’t go? The struggle is real, I get that. Once you have sent an RSVP for an event, don’t be a no-show. You’ll forever be remembered as that empty seat at the dinner table. However, if something unforeseeable does prevent you from attending, a phone call is a must. This is the time to speak directly with your host and express your regrets for not being able to attend. The earlier the better. Don’t wait until they have already confirmed the headcount with the caterer. The same goes if you originally responded that you are unable to attend and then suddenly your schedule opens up. You must call and ask if there is still room for you too attend. It is impolite to just show up after saying you couldn’t make it.
Ok, you procrastinated in getting that RSVP completed and now you feel guilty so you delay even longer. Once again this can be quickly resolved by simply picking up the phone and sincerely apologizing for your over-site. Keep in mind, if you received an ‘invitation’ your host wants you at their event. They have reserved a special place for you. It is an honor to be included and therefore deserves your attention. The reality is that by ignoring your host request you will often succeed in hurting their feeling and causing them frustration.
Any event, from a small dinner party to a large celebration, even something a simple as a product demonstration party requires planning, preparation, financial investment. Your host thought enough about you as a guest to include you in the festivities. This requires your acknowledgment of the invitation and a decision about whether or not you will be able to attend.
It’s all part of living an actively engaged life.