(Note: That’s my subtle cue that I have a slight rant coming – beware)
Mister Man’s birthday party is this coming Sunday. Invitations went home in backpacks to both first grade classrooms almost three weeks ago. The invitations included an RSVP request with email and phone numbers for both me and the co-host (he’s doing his party with Violet, thus both classes are invited so all their friends can be there). The RSVPs were clearly marked that they were due by this past Monday.
As of this morning – when I have to call to give the final number of guests – thirteen of the thirty-four invited guests had yet to respond. That’s almost forty percent of people who couldn’t be bothered to let us know whether or not they were able to attend the party.
I sent out an email to all of them – and I’ll call the stragglers tonight – this morning with “please respond” in the title of the email. Interestingly, I’ve since had five people respond since that email went out. My assumption was that those who didn’t respond weren’t able to attend and therefore hadn’t responded. Actually, no. Two of the five are coming and had just “forgotten” to RSVP.
I had a conversation this morning with a friend about this, and her theory is that people simply don’t know what RSVP means anymore. (It’s French. Respondez s’il vous plait – answer, if you please.) RSVP regrets only means you only need to let the host know if you aren’t coming. RSVP means tell the host of your plans regardless. I’m not so sure I fully buy her theory though.
Let me give you a different example:
I recently hosted a fortieth birthday party for my husband. It was a surprise party, and I was hosting it at a sports bar where I was providing food and open bar. I sent the invitation via evite since it was the easiest way to get contact information for his friends. By the date I’d requested a response, way less than half the group had responded. I sent out an email explaining that I needed final numbers to provide for food purposes, as I couldn’t easily change them after that day. I was very clear on that point.
The responses poured in, but I still was missing about a dozen. I mentally wrote those people off. I now had the opposite problem. Knowing my husband and his friends, the room I had his surprise party in seated fifteen. Ninteen people responded that they were coming. I spent the next four days worried about how we were going to fit all those people in the room.
Apparently I had other things to worry about. Of the ninteen people, nine showed up. That nine includes my husband and me. Of the ten who simply didn’t show, two called me to tell me that they couldn’t make it and apologized. Both were friends of mine, as well. The others? They just … flaked. And so we were left with a ton – almost literally – of uneaten food and a bill far larger than I’d needed. I was not a happy camper.
This isn’t simply an RSVP problem anymore. It’s an all around manners and etiquette issue. Is this to say that I’ve never forgotten to respond to an invitation or misplaced one? Absolutely not. I certainly don’t do it on a regular basis, however – and never when I’ve been prompted.
The next time I have a party, I’m going to skip RSVP. Just in case. The next time, I’ll stick with “I need to know if you’re coming or not – call me.” Do you think that will be clear enough?