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RSVP – Don’t Be a Lousy Guest, Call Your Host

RSVP InvitationMy head-banging, screaming at the top of my lungs, non compos mentis pet peeve? People who don’t respond to an RSVP.

You know, that crazy acronym you see on just about every invitation ever printed since Gutenberg made his name. They all end with the cryptic message: RSVP. Usually followed by a phone number or email address. Yes, that RSVP.

So, what does RSVP mean? It means répondez s’il vous plaît. It’s French. Yea, I know, not very helpful, but it simply means please reply. In other words, you’ve just been invited to a grand shindig and your potential host wants to know whether or not you are going to show up.

No, it doesn’t mean, “Call the host if you are not coming.” On the flip side, it also does not mean, “Call the host if you are coming.” It means, “FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, DON’T BE TRAILER TRASH, CALL YOUR BLESSED HOST AND TELL HER EITHER WAY!” “Please show your kind host the courtesy of letting her know if you will attend — whether you are accepting the invitation or whether you are declining — so she can plan accordingly.”

On occasion you may see an invitation specify, “RSVP, regrets only.” In this case, you are only required to respond if you are not attending. In other words, your host will expect you to be there unless you tell her otherwise.

While this has been a sore spot with me for nearly a quarter of a century, this week it was brought to the forefront in a big way.

My oldest daughter is getting married this month. Last Saturday the maid of honor threw a bridal shower for her. The invitation had a “regrets only” clause. Of those invited, five people didn’t call and didn’t show.

The host and the bridesmaids prepared food and supplies for all those who simply couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone.

Yesterday I threw Caleb a belated 7th birthday party. (We were moving in the new house on his birthday, so we waited until we were more settled for the party.) His invitation practically pleaded for an RSVP. Of the 12 children invited, one called to say he could not come, seven called to say the would be there. One of those called less than one hour before the party. Of the four who did not RSVP, three came, one did not.

I like to get a lot of special things for the guests at our kids’ parties. Usually I get some fun thing to wear or personalized items. When people don’t RSVP, I have three choices, none of which are good:

  1. Call all the non-responders and ask if they will be coming
  2. Buy supplies for a bunch of kids who might not show up
  3. Don’t buy supplies for those who don’t call, and hope they don’t show up

I generally opt for #1, but frankly that’s kind of a pain, given that you’re already busy planning and preparing. This time I opted for #2 (because with the wedding events, I simply didn’t have time to make the calls), but decided not to make most of the nicer purchases. With adults, #3 is probably a good option, but I hate to disappoint a child just because their parents don’t understand (or care about) invitation etiquette.

Next time you get an invitation, call your host. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it really helps the in planning and avoiding overspending. And it will definitely put you on the A-list next time a party’s afoot.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • RodL April 6, 2011, 10:38 pm

    Sister, I am so with you on this. It’s just rude rude rude. Why don’t people get it?

  • Margot April 7, 2011, 10:59 am

    This is one of my own pet peeves. What do people think you’re going to do? Buy their kids a goodie bag and all the trimming just IN CASE you grace us with your presence? Gah!

  • Danny April 7, 2011, 12:41 pm

    Hey Alison, I agree with you 100% – it’s a pet peeve, and annoys the hell out of me. Whether it’s a social thing, or a meeting invite – what do people think, they can just leave you hanging waiting to hear back for days, or just leave it open in case they decide that they can make it?!

    That being said, the fact that it is rude and inconsiderate doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to change their behaviors – maybe we need to structure the invitation process differently, so as to sidestep this problem? Or maybe just work under the assumption that you’re going to have to call people up? (I’m getting married in September, and that’s our plan)
    Danny recently posted…No ice cream for you!My Profile

  • Riley Harrison April 7, 2011, 6:51 pm

    Hello Alison,
    When I was a kid, my aunt sent my a very expensive birthday present. I didn’t thank her and I never received another birthday present. I got it. I guess there has to be consequences to people’s boorish behavior.
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  • Justin April 8, 2011, 6:17 am

    The older I get the more I respect proper etiquette and manners. This should be taught at home and in school and should be re-enforced in others as well.
    Justin recently posted…Is Time An IllusionMy Profile

  • Koi April 8, 2011, 11:11 am

    I love the French 🙂 It’s just common courtesy to respond. Takes about 2 seconds and bam, done. Alison, what do you think is the main reason why some people don’t RSVP? Lazy? Scared to say no?

  • Anna April 13, 2011, 11:45 am

    I used to have the same problem. So now I prefer posting the whole phrase “It would be kind if you let us know whether you will be able to attend our party’. And it works. People feel obliged to respond, though I don’t like this sentence. But in our present world we have to consider the number of guests and consequently the amount of expenses.

  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 11:52 am

    Anna, you are a genius. I’m going to steal your line next time I host. I’m going to modify it a bit to say, “…whether or not…” I’ll let you know how that goes. 🙂

    Thanks for the great tip. Sad that we need it!
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 11:57 am

    RodL, I have no idea!
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 11:59 am

    Margot, that’s just it. Last year, for example, we got personalized hardhats and tool belts for all the kids. (It was a construction party — fitting since we were building our home at the time.) We ended up with a bunch of extras because we didn’t want to leave anyone out — and that was AFTER I had called to follow up.

    We always host the parties at home, but can’t imagine what people do if they go somewhere and rent a room that charges per person. I guess they are stuck in the same boat.
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 1:24 pm

    You bring up some interesting questions, Danny.

    I got so involved in my reply to your comment, that it ended up being an entire post. Here’s some more on RSVP etiquette and our social networking culture.
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 1:25 pm

    Your aunt is a kindred spirit. 🙂 Way to go, auntie!
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 1:25 pm

    Amen to that, Justin!
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  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 1:27 pm

    Koi, other than just not understanding what it means, I think it’s two things (1) laziness and (2) not wanting to close an option even though they aren’t sure they want to accept it.

    Maybe someone who doesn’t RSVP can enlighten us?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…What is WordPress JetpackMy Profile

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