May 5, 2008

The Art of the RSVP


I recently attended a party hosted by an old friend. She sent out over 60 invitations, and had about 20 people say they were going to attend (typical - count on 1/3 of your invitation list to show up). But what about the other 40+ people? Why didn't she hear from them? The RSVP was clearly stated on the invitation.

People just don't RSVP anymore! This has become my latest rant. Regardless of what kind of party you are being invited to, the host has taken time, energy, and the cost of an invitation and a stamp to think you would be a great guest at the event. Likewise, it is impossible to plan to entertain if you have no idea how many people are going to show up!

It seems people seem annoyed when they are invited to an event, rather than to feel special that they were considered. What is wrong with our society, culture and thought process? Have basic social graces been flushed down the toilet?

And what about those people who say they are coming, and then don't show up? My first reaction is concern - what happened? Are they OK? Was my cell phone not working? Were they trying to get a hold of me?

This got me to thinking about the basic etiquette involved in the RSVP.

(from The term RSVP stands for répondez s'il vous plaît and means "Please reply." Or, put another way, "Seriously, you have to reply." It's just nice. And you'd want people to do it for you. Spare your hosts from reliving the childhood nightmare of having a party where nobody comes.

When Reply?
As soon as possible, ideally within two days of receiving an invitation. If you are unsure whether you can attend, respond "Maybe" with a brief explanation of what is holding up your reply. Then be sure to change your reply to "Yes" or "No" as soon as possible.

Why Reply?
Lots of reasons. If someone has invited you to an event, they want you there, and they're excited to find out if you'll attend. Then there's the planning part. Event hosts need an exact headcount so they can make sure they have enough food, drink and space for you. And finally, the selfish reason: People appreciate it when you RSVP, so you'll have a better shot at being invited to the next event.

On a personal note, when you don't RSVP, or never seem to attend a hosts functions - they take it personally. They start to wonder what they did to make you mad.

Miss Manners has this to say about RSVPing:

In the RSVP, the "SVP" is what is important; it stands for "s'il vous plaît," which is "please" in French.

But although Miss Manners would never defend the rudeness of ignoring invitations, she does believe that the terms of your invitation indicate that it confers minimal social obligations on those who receive it. Basic Etiquette says that the simple courtesy of responding to someone who was nice enough to invite you, even if it is to say that you regret that you will not be able to attend.

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