First off, a confession. If I am going to get all up in your face about how you should RSVP to every invitation that asks for one–and you’d better believe that I am–I’d better come clean now. I too am guilty of this cardinal sin of disrespect and inconvenience. Like, last week, even. And not just to some random fundraiser that someone sent to ALL their facebook “friends”.
No, it was a WEDDING invitation. Sent by good friends, no less. And yet, I dragged my feet. Not because I didn’t want to go, or because I was waiting for a better offer, but because I didn’t want to say no. And that, along with any of the other idiot reasons for not RSVPing to an invitation–no matter how slight–is really, really stupid.
This is what ends up being the most challenging challenge facing today’s would-be host- or hostess with the mostest. It’s not the ridiculous schedules; lack of plates or chairs; over-ambitious menus; exotic, weird, or missing ingredients; or even militantly vegan, gluten-free, fruitarian guests. It’s the wondering how many people are gonna show? Will they be on time? Will they bring their entire kickball team with them? It’s a wonder anyone tries to entertain at all.
Ultimately, the big reason to respondez vous s’il vous plait–the only one that REALLY counts–is that an RSVP represents a contract of significant import, both socially and economically. On the social side, the host or hostess generally has invited people that he or she would like to have at the event in question. That does not mean, however, that he’ll be crushed and disconsolate if you say no. A note of regret–regardless of how sincerely regretful–will be more appreciated than a non-response left hanging and the anxiety it will bring.
Indeed, your perspective host will likely be pretty ticked if, on the day of the party, he has no idea whether or not your coming–particularly if half of the guest list has similarly elected to prevaricate. While this is most true if the host needs a headcount to ensure there are enough wine glasses, canapes or, heaven forbid, seats at the table, (there’s the economic side of the contract) it holds true for even the least organized of to-dos.
And yes, all those semi-personal invites still deserve the honor of your reply. I know, I know, we’re all awash in the damn things these days: the random happy hour benefiting ADD Outback Parakeets, the first recorder recital of a darling little moppet you’re not even REMOTELY related to, the book launch of a frenemy you’ve not seen (or wanted to see) in years. It doesn’t matter if someone’s pulled every address from their AOL email account circa 1998 and you don’t even remember who they are.
Regardless of sender or how it’s issued–Facebook, Evite, phone call, PaperlessPost, Eventbrite, Punchbowl, Outlook, or EGAD a piece of actual mail in an envelope–an invitation to reply should not be left unanswered. It doesn’t mean you have to GO to any of these ridiculous bun fights if you don’t want to. Like I said, a “no, thank you” is far better than a “…”, and really, as a host, I certainly don’t want to have to entertain an uninterested guest. Who has the time or energy for that mess?
Of course, there IS a quid pro quo in here somewhere. Don’t contribute to the problem by requiring an RSVP if one isn’t really needed. And if you’re going to be hosting something, big or small, take the time to curate your guest lists with care. Even if it’s a big fundraiser and the goal is to get butts in seats, select people that are at least potentially interested in the cause. If everyone had fewer, better targeted invitations to deal with, I’m pretty sure RSVP rates, fundraising yields, and gross national happiness would benefit.
So, that’s the story. The RSVP isn’t quite dead, but it’s in the Etiquette ICU. For the sake of all the parties you’ve ever hosted or attended, promise me you’ll always let them know that you’re a go or a no. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clear out my facebook events list.