Etiquette 101: Why It Is Never OK To Not R.S.V.P.

Leah Bourne

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEmily Post would certainly not approve, but R.S.V.P.’ing for parties seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years. To be fair, digital invitations made via e-mail or Facebook have dramatically altered the R.S.V.P. landscape. Facebook, for instance, allows for the response of “Maybe.” When you receive an Evite it is all too easy to click yes, and then not show up.
The chef and television host Rocco DiSpirito recently told the New York Times: “People have gotten extremely wiggly about R.S.V.P.’ing. People either don’t R.S.V.P. and show up anyway, or they R.S.V.P. yes to everything and decide later what their best option is.”
As someone who loves to entertain, I would have to agree with DiSpirito. A year ago I planned a sit-down lobster dinner for thirty. In the hours leading up the event the guest list was in constant flux between having too few to too many, which forced me to alter the entire menu out of fear that there wouldn’t be enough food for everyone. Like parties tend to do, it all worked out in the end, still, I vowed to stick to cocktail parties for a while.
Some general rules to keep in mind if you are the invited guest: If you are invited to a sit-down dinner R.S.V.P. promptly, and unless you are ill, do your very best show up. Your R.S.V.P. has precluded someone else from attending in your place. The same goes for any kind of a wedding event, and pretty much all events held at someone’s private home. Bigger corporate events are a little murkier (event planners assume that a certain percentage of people that R.S.V.P. won’t be able to show up). Still, should you not be able to make it, a note offering regrets is always appreciated. Another thing to keep in mind—surprise guests are never OK. You might think that cocktail affair your best friend is hosting is a more the merrier situation, but don’t just assume that, ask.
It is equally important for hosts to be extremely clear about their R.S.V.P. requirements when sending out invitations. It is perfectly fine, for instance, to state a cutoff date for your guests’ replies. If you are hosting an intimate dinner where getting the exact count right is particularly important, don’t hesitate to make that extremely clear to your invited guests.
Above all, the next time your receive an invitation keep in mind that R.S.V.P. stands for the French phrase, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which means, “please reply”—not just reply if you feel like it.
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