Wow, That Was Fast! — RSVP Etiquette

Category: Correspondence

We are probably all guilty of failing to RSVP promptly or even at all. It’s one of those things we tend to put off, especially when we have to send regrets. I have yet to meet a friend, client, or caterer who does not complain about late or skipped RSVPs, when in reality it only takes a few minutes of our time to answer an invitation, especially in the case of e-vites.

The next time you receive an invitation, whether by postal mail (yes, snail mail!) or email, remember this: It’s most important to your host to know how many people will attend an event. Where RSVPs are concerned, a no response is just as important as a yes.

My mother loved invitations that specified “regrets only,” meaning the invitees had to RSVP only if they couldn’t attend the party. She assumed that everyone who could not attend a party would in fact send their regrets. And they did. Nowadays, though, “regrets only” seems to be reserved for very large groups.

Make My Day
Instead of making your host agonize over how much food and drink to buy, as well as whether an event will be a success, why not be the guest who amazes the host by the courtesy of your lightning response? Just as it is polite to thank people for gifts and other acts of kindness, it’s polite to acknowledge an invitation by letting your host know whether or not you can attend.

Be Prompt with Your Response
Don’t wait to respond to an invitation if you know what your answer will be. If, however, you’re not in complete control of your schedule or will need a sitter, respond anyway and let the host know your dilemma. (Most e-vites have a box to check for “Maybe.” But if you do have to check this box, be sure and respond to an email prompt that asks you for a definite answer later.) Not responding because you’re not sure will come across as rude to your host, who of course has no idea why you haven’t answered.

Hosts: Give Your Guests an Out!
What if you don’t hear from your guests and the date of the event is fast approaching? As a host, you are well within your rights to pick up the phone and inquire. A simple script could be something like this: “Jane, we are putting the final touches on George’s birthday celebration. I hope you and your husband can make it.” There’s no need to lay blame, as there could be any of a thousand reasons why people haven’t responded.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (Lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts

Follow Lisa Mirza Grotts on Twitter.

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