Continuing with the RSVP theme…
I get really irritated when people don’t bother to RSVP to an event, or they say “maybe I’ll be there”. I decided to throw a dinner party over the long-weekend. It is to be a very casual affair, buffet-style. I have a guest list of thirteen people. So far, I have gotten a RSVP from three. The rest are “maybe”. No, that doesn’t work for me. Why? Because if I plan for you and you don’t show up, I’m left with a ton of food that I will either have to send home with the guests who do show up, or I’ll be eating it myself for days. If I don’t plan for you and you do show up, there isn’t going to be enough food for everyone. I set my RSVP date only six days before the event. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable amount of time for someone to plan ahead. I get that this is a “me” issue, but the “maybe” people just make me feel as if they’re saying “Well, something better might come up and I’ll want to do that instead, so I won’t 100% commit myself to your event.” I never tell people “maybe”. If I’m not sure, I simply say, “No, I am unable to make it.”
So what does etiquette say about this? Am I supposed to plan for the “maybe” people or not? Am I allowed to say “maybe” when people want an RSVP from me? I need your help, Miss Jeanne! 0726-10
Failure to properly RSVP has to be one of the top five ill-mannered behaviors that irks me regardless of whether it is a wedding or backyard BBQ I’m hosting. I face the same dilemma the story submitter writes of. Who is coming? How much food do I prepare? Here’s how I’ve dealt with it after years of experiencing the uncertainty of guests.
I am of the strong belief that if I have to call you to plead for an answer to my invitation, I made a mistake in inviting you. I won’t beg people to please accept or decline my invitations. When I host an event, I’ve invested not only money but time spent planning, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, table prep, food prep and to have someone thoughtlessly dismiss their obligation as a guest to RSVP in a timely manner hints to me that maybe they are not as invested into a relationship with me as I thought they were. Obviously there are extenuating circumstances that we all encounter that can potentially distract us from RSVPing so my disdain is reserved for those who have a history of a “can’t be bothered” attitude.
My husband and I consider the failure to RSVP at all as well as “maybes” to be a declination. If it’s within a week of the event and someone is still hemming and hawing about whether they are attending, my husband takes matters into his own hands and makes the decision for them. Quite cheerfully, he says, “We’ll mark you as ‘Unable to attend’ and we look forward to another time when your schedule is more flexible to be able to join us.” A friend of mine artfully does the same thing…”maybes” are a “no” to her and she simply doesn’t give them the opportunity to waffle on her.
If someone calls after the RSVP deadline to accept, my husband replies, “Oh, I’m so sorry, we needed to know who was attending or not by such and such date so as to properly prepare and when you did not RSVP by the due date, we marked you as ‘Will Not Attend’. Those preparations are now underway and we cannot adjust at this late hour. We look forward to your attendance at the next party though!”
I’ve had guests call me literally an hour prior to a party to tell me they are coming and they are bringing uninvited guests. Hubby again runs interference on the phone and kindly but firmly tells them, “No, I afraid that is not possible.” Some people get the hint and respond to invitations more promptly but others seem to get offended, as if we had not catered to their expectations of how they think they should be treated as guests. Sorry, after investing considerable time planning the event, I’m not about to invest more time holding your hand through the RSVP process and facilitating your unkind lack of manners.
For smaller parties like a dinner party for 6 or 8, I don’t worry about food amounts. I prepare for 8 and if 6 show up, I get leftovers the next day.
I host an annual Autumn party where I serve chili and accompaniments. Some years the guest list has been 25 people, other years it has been 100. My approach to that is to make large batches of chili in my 22-quart electric roaster (double that if it’s 100 guests) and if there are leftovers, I freeze the chili in gallon bags for my family’s future meals. No big deal if the number of guests fluctuates. Sometimes, depending on the type of event being hosted, you just have to learn to roll with the punches and do the best you can without having an entertainment anxiety attack.
Weddings may be a completely different animal, however. My eldest daughter is getting married this October and the reception is being catered. I need an accurate head count to prepare the proper number of seats and tables, how much food the caterer should plan to bring, etc. Friends’ recent large weddings of 250-400 guests were yielding as high as 33% RSVP failure rate so we decided to host a small wedding of no more than 105 guests. None of us wanted a situation where we might be tempted to beg our invited guests to please tell us if they were coming to the wedding. The criteria we used to determine the guest list was as follows: 1) Who has invested in the bride and groom in the past? 2) Who will invest in them in the future? 3) Who will really, really want to be at the wedding? Friends who, in the past, were lackadaisical about RSVPing were left off the guest list. We are beginning to receive RSVPs in the mail, the first of ones sent promptly back within days of receipt of the wedding invitation. And that tells me we invited the right people.