Mrs. Franklin has been singing about respect now for well over 50 years and while we all love to sing along and do a little finger (and maybe booty) shaking, many of us fail to show much respect when it comes to another word with R and S — R.S.V.P.ing.
Most people may not be able to tell you that R.S.V.P. is an abbreviation for the french term Répondez s’il vous plaît, but most know it simply means please let your host know if you are coming or not. It seems so simple, but we seem to struggle with it on both sides of the invitation.
And it’s not just large formal events like weddings that people struggle with, it’s also simple dinner gatherings or kids birthday parties – well honestly every event where you need to plan for space, food and drink – so generally any event worth hosting or attending. Hosts spend a great deal of time in planning and preparing for an event, not to mention paying for it, and it’s downright disrespectful to not even respond with a simple “yes, I’ll be there” or a “no, I cannot attend but thank you for the invitation.” (And by the way, you don’t have to follow up a no with a long, drawn out explanation
Let’s be clear – no answer is not an answer. Simply ignoring an invitation, no matter how formal it is, is simply not nice. I love what Ben West said on the subject in The Telegraph,“It could mean you have not received the invitation, or have forgotten about it. It could also mean you’re lying dead on your kitchen floor and no one knows because your rudeness has cost you most of your friends.”
And let’s not even get into the awkward act of chasing folks down for an answer after the RSVP deadline has passed. No one wants to be on either end of that phone call or text. You either feel like you are begging someone for a date or you are having to make up some elaborate story why you can’t attend – when all could have been avoided if you just answered in the first place.
Why some people don’t R.S.V.P.
- They don’t want to commit that far in advance – they have no idea their life may look like in two weeks and adding something else to the calendar right now is overwhelming.
- They are waiting to see if a better offer comes up (and yes that better offer may involve sweatpants, ice cream and Netflix).
- They are afraid that they won’t know or worse yet – like anyone else in attendance (by the way, totally not acceptable to ask the host who else is coming before you make your decision.)
- They have procrastinated, missed the RSVP date and feel guilty responding late. (Late is always better than never. Most hosts will bend over backward to accommodate a late response, so it’s always best to at least apologize and ask than to ignore.)
Getting people to R.S.V.P.
- Make it clear that you need a response and by when. Unless you make it abundantly obvious that you need to hear from them by a certain date, some people will just assume it’s optional. On invitations for my children’s events I even say, “Please let my mom know you are coming by X date.
- Let them know why you need to know. It should go without saying that you need to know so you can plan, but it never hurts to highlight the incentive. I could expand the request above for a Christmas cookie decorating party to say, “Please let my mom know you are coming by X date so she can make enough cookies for us to decorate and enjoy.”
- Share all of the details on the invitation. Be sure to include who, what, when, where, why and how to get there. That way people know exactly what they are responding to and for.
- Give people plenty of time, but not too much. As a general rule of thumb, the more formal the event, the earlier you should send the invitation and expect an RSVP. Less formal events allow for a shorter invitation – rsvp – event window. Make sure your invitees have plenty of time to plan, but not so much that they forget about the event by the time it rolls around.
- Give people multiple ways to respond. No matter how you send your invitation, let people know that it is ok to phone, text or email you with their response. Yes, you might end up with responses in several different places, but it’s much better than having none at all.
- And finally, host such a wonderful event that they will fear missing out in the future and will RSVP ASAP.
Stay humble, work hard, be kind.