The “unofficial start to summer” was just over a week ago and it’s that time of year once again, when the parade of invitations for organized events are hitting your mailbox or inbox. You may have already received several already. Are you prepared?
When I talk about invites, I’m not referring to Facebook events, which while it may be important, tend to be more casual in nature as to who is going, but instead I refer to those that come in a cream/colored envelope on fancy paper, or a formal Event Bright or Paperless Post e-invitation — all largely sent for a formal event like a wedding, birthday, anniversary, or other large celebration around a milestone. Don’t be that “guy/gal” who doesn’t take three minutes to reply as to whether to say “Yes I’m coming” or “No I’m sorry, I cannot attend.” And please don’t pretend, you don’t know what I’m talking about.
I’m always surprised when I’ve taken the time to send out an invitation only to find myself more stressed about wondering who’s coming than I am about the actual preparation for the party. I know I’m not alone. I’ve had other friends vent about the same thing. Asking for an RSVP in this day and age can often feel intrusive or to get one, like pulling teeth, and I’m not quite sure why. Is that in this increasing digital age we live so in the in the “moment” and are obsessed with the immediacy of our social networks/iPad/iPhone/watch etc. that we don’t think about the future? Or is that we’re always weighing one opportunity against another to ensure that we attend the best event/activity possible. (I truly hope it’s not the latter.) I would also hate to think I matter so little as to warrant a reply.
RSVP – What it really means
RSVP stands for Répondez, s’il vous plaît or “Please Respond.” It was created in the late 18th century by the French, and later adopted by high society England. Today, RSVP seems to have been lost a little in its translation. One reason may be the modern twist of including “Regrets Only” to the end, which asks the recipient to respond only if he/she cannot attend.
On my part, I’ve always believed that if you are invited to attend something that you should always respond, regardless of your answer. It’s also something I always include at the bottom of my invitations (hand written, printed or emailed). I find it especially crucial to hear when I’ve planned a large event where I need to purchase and/or cook food, book a venue, or reserve a reservation. Plus I also simply love knowing who is coming, especially since I’d love to see as many of my friends and family there as possible.
That said I tend to take it personally when I don’t hear from someone who I’ve invited. And despite the growing idea/excuse that people don’t understand the meaning of RSVP, I often feel as though my guests don’t appreciate me enough to respond or worse yet, I imagine that they are waiting for a better offer for that night! Should I not take it personally and/or is this too cynical a view? I don’t think I’m being too sensitive, but….
Here are some best practices I’ve identified from Emily Post’s – which by the way is now being run/monitored by her great-great grandchildren. (See it’s that important to share/know good etiquette that her family is still passing along their expertise!)
Emily Post notes: “Guests who receive an invitation with an “RSVP” are obligated to respond promptly.” In her book, Etiquette she writes, “It is inexcusably rude to leave someone who has invited you to a party left with no idea on whether you will attend or not.” (Perhaps my feeling of being slighted is not something that I should immediately dismiss!) She goes on to recommend that you should “reply in the manner indicated on the invitation.”
Here are some tips:
- RSVP with Response Card: Fill in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope. **Remember to clearly indicate the total number attending or just yourself, if the option to bring a guest has not been extended.
- RSVP with Phone Number: Telephone and make sure to speak in person – answering machines can be unreliable. (Some find this debatable what with our overtaxed lives.)
- RSVP with Email: You may accept or decline electronically.
- Regrets Only: Reply only if you cannot attend. If you do not respond, you are expected to attend!
- No Reply Requested: Unusual, but it is always polite to let someone know of your intentions. A phone call would be sufficient.
Remember your host(ess) cares about you and went to the effort to extend an invitation to join them, share in their happiness, celebrate etc . Don’t you appreciate the friendship enough to take two minutes to reply? If you don’t, Emily Post, Miss Manners, Helena Echlin of Table Manners on Chow.com and even Wikipedia, all agree, don’t be surprised if you are left off of future guest lists if you fail to respond.