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RSVP – No Maybe Allowed

RSVP MaybeLast week I wrote about RSVP etiquette — a sore spot for me. As I responded to one of the comment on that post, I made a connection between my frustration and a common practice in our online world.

One of my kids is hosting a spring break party on Saturday (OK, yes, we like to party). She posted the invitation on FaceBook. As it turns out FaceBook fosters the lack of common courtesy I referred to in the other post. It makes it seem socially acceptable to put off giving a real response, and allows invitees to simply three response choices. They can accept the invitation, decline it, or simply leave a “maybe.”

Maybe? Really? I mean the party is Saturday? Are these kids on-call emergency room doctors? Is their Great Aunt Jennie on the brink of death? Are they terminally ill? They really can’t figure out whether or not they can attend a party for a couple of hours on Saturday night?

Or are they too lazy to find out if they can go, check the calendar, ask their parents? Are they waiting to see if there is a better party or event or maybe a real, live date — and they’ll come if they have nothing better to do? You know, just leave your options open?

For the socially confused, here is the proper way to deal with an invitation.

  1. Decide promptly whether or not you will attend
  2. Respond promptly to the host with a yea or a nay

Easy, right? But what if you actually, truly, have a legitimate maybe issue — and you really would like to attend if you can? Here’s how to politely deal with that situation.

  1. Decline the invitation
  2. Tell the host that you have plans and mention the circumstance
  3. Leave it to the host to possibly offer a late acceptance should circumstances permit

Suppose you are planning to go out of town, but you know the trip may be cancelled? You can say, “I’d really like to come, but we think we will be going out of town, though the trip is uncertain right now.” This allows your host the option of saying, “Well, if you end up not going, please come on over!”

This works in many circumstances. For example, you get invited to a party but your cousins are in town. It’s not appropriate to invite your cousins to someone else’s party, but you could decline the invitation, saying, “I’m sorry. I’d love to come, but my cousins will be in town that night.” That leaves the host the option to say, “If you’d like to come and bring your cousins, that would be great.”

Taking a few minutes to give a clear RSVP message is the courteous way to deal with an invitation. Take the time to do it right.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • SueBee April 13, 2011, 1:28 pm

    A great followup. You are right, the “maybe” option just allows discourtesy all around. Invitations should be answered.

  • Danny April 13, 2011, 1:30 pm

    Nice, I inspired a whole post! 😀

    I think there’s a bit of a difference between a party where someone phones you up or sends you an invitation, versus an event that you’re invited to on Facebook. Generally, on Facebook, “maybe” means “no, but I’m keeping my options open”, and “yes” means “maybe, if I feel like it”.

    It annoys me as much as it annoys you, but I’ve consigned myself to that reality – unless you see a way of spreading the word?

    My fiancee and I are in the process of designing our wedding invitations – maybe we should add an “RSVP Etiquette” insert to it? 😉

    Great post, Alison – thank you!

  • Alison Moore Smith April 13, 2011, 2:21 pm

    heh heh

    I think you’re spot on about the accepted FB invite. I especially like (meaning hate) the “‘yes’ means ‘maybe, if I feel like it.'”

    You see, I am trying to spread the word!

    Yea, you and your intended could put in an RSVP etiquette insert — of course it would be a violation of etiquette to do so. 🙂

    I’ve actually got a half-written post all about why we should completely ignore etiquette rules. So I’m planning on completely contradicting myself very soon!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…What is WordPress JetpackMy Profile

  • Danny April 13, 2011, 2:31 pm

    Nice – I’ll look forward to reading it! 🙂

  • Matthew April 13, 2011, 5:19 pm

    Perhaps “maybe” is code for “if I don’t get a better offer between now and then.” 🙂

  • SueBee April 13, 2011, 5:58 pm

    “Are they waiting to see if there is a better party or event or maybe a real, live date — and they’ll come if they have nothing better to do?”

    That’s what she said. Hahaha.

  • DiNaRa April 15, 2011, 4:05 am

    Alison,
    I completely agree with you that such invitations should be answered. By the way, I have another thing that irritates me a lot – when people promise to come, and then they call about 1 hour before the party and say ‘Sorry, we can’t come’. Of course, there can be some really serious excuses and I accept them. But the excuses like “My mum came” or “I have to finish my work” sound stupid and … offensive. You should come for 2-3 hours and show your respect to the host and then you can leave and …. talk to your mum or finish your work. That’s what I usually do.

  • MartinL April 17, 2011, 12:07 am

    I found the link on Blogengage. I agree with you 100%. FaceBook is teaching people to be rude. Enough already.

  • Leah July 6, 2011, 11:48 am

    I also didn’t understand the “maybe” option on Facebook. Does the “Maybe” rely on who’s attending the party or like you said “too lazy to check to see if you’re free”. I wonder if the admin can alter the responses to their likings..

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