Creating Beautiful Celebrations!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

RSVP Etiquette

As an wedding planner, I’ve observed that some of the simple, basic rules of etiquette seem to be disappearing. One example of bad manners I continue to see time and time again is how people handle an RSVP.

More and more these days, hosts are not receiving firm RSVP’s for their events and it’s causing unnecessary hassles for those who are kind enough to extend invitations. Among many headaches are difficulty in planning food quantities, uncertainty over the number of party favors and difficulties in planning appropriate seating, just to name a few.

If an invitation includes an RSVP, it means the host needs a definite head count for the planned event, and needs it by the date specified on the invitation. The process is not complicated – Step One: The host invites a guest to a party. Step Two: The guest tells the host they are either a) attending or b) not attending. Simple, right?

But there are three (at the least) very frustrating anomalies in the world of entertaining: The RSVP Blow-Off, the RSVP Fake-Out and the RSVP Take-Back.
• The RSVP Blow-Off is when the guest just doesn’t RSVP at all. They are too busy and important to even bother responding to an invitation and expect their hosts to be mind readers and just know if they are attending an event or not. RSVPing is the most important responsibility guests have. Not following through is inexcusably lazy, thoughtless and rude. (Note to guilty parties: The host will absolutely remember that your RSVP habits (and tell everyone who will listen, and eventually, if not immediately, you will be blacklisted.)

• The RSVP Fake-Out is when a guest tells their host they are attending an event and then don’t show up. Again, this guest was too busy and important to let their host know that their plans have changed and they will not be attending. Barring illness or Acts of God, are you obligated to attend if you RSVP? Yes! Backing out once you’ve committed for a “better” event or because you’re too tired is unacceptable, it’s disrespectful and it’s an abuse of the host’s time, money and effort.

• The RSVP Take-Back is when a guest RSVPs no and then shows up anyway. This is just plain inconsiderate. For most events, the cost of everything increases exponentially with the guest list. The more, the merrier does not always apply to hosts who have carefully planned out their party (and paid a head count to the caterer).

Whether it is to a wedding, a dinner, a shower or just a party, keep the following guidelines in mind:

RSVP – What It Means:
It’s French and it means “Répondez, s’il vous plaît,” or, “Please reply.” Please do so promptly, within a few days of receiving an invitation.
• Response Card: fill in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope.
• RSVP with phone number: telephone and make sure to speak in person – follow up if you leave a message.
• RSVP with email: you may accept or decline electronically.
• Regrets only: reply only if you cannot attend. If your host doesn’t hear from you, you presence is expected (and probably paid for)!
And always pay strict attention to the deadline – it’s there for a reason.

Changing Your Mind:
• Changing a ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ is only acceptable on account of illness or injury, a death in the family or an unavoidable professional or business conflict. Please call your hosts immediately to explain.
• Canceling because you have a “better” offer is unacceptable.
• Being a “no show” is unacceptable.
• Changing a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ is OK only if it will not upset the hosts’ arrangements.

Bringing …
• A Date: Some invitations indicate that you may invite a guest or date (Mr. John Evans and Guest) and when you reply, you should indicate whether you are bringing someone, and convey their name.
• Children: Never bring children to an event unless they are expressly invited.
• A Houseguest: It’s best to decline the invitation, stating the reason. This gives your host the option to extend the invitation to your guests, or not.

Say “Thank You”:
Make sure to thank your hosts before you leave. Follow up with a quick note or phone call within the week following the event.

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