If I Have To Beg You To RSVP, I Shouldn’t Have Invited You In The First Place

by admin on August 17, 2010

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.

{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

phoenix August 17, 2010 at 11:39 am

Bravo, Admin!

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Gilles August 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

You think wafflers for party R.V.S.P.s are horrid? Try people who give you a “maybe” for a surgery date! No matter how many times I tell patients it doesn’t work that way, some people seem to think they can show up on that date if they feel like it and we’ll have a table just waiting for them. I know surgeons who’ve had to deal with exactly that.

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TylerBelle August 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

This is what I don’t get, in this day and age, I’d imagine most people could figure out the host truly needs to know if they are coming or not, for the exact reasons mentioned. So it really boggles the mind that a lot give the dismissive “maybe” to an inquiry of their attendance. Or perhaps the potential guest considers only himself / herself and believe that whether or not they come to the party won’t matter much because they are just one person, or one family, and so they can show up if they have the mind to. Wrong.

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DGS August 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I feel like the Evite culture only exacerbates the RSVP problem. I hate when I am invited somewhere via Evite, and when I look at the invitation, it says: “RSVP: Yes: 15. No: 4. Maybe: 45″ and when you click on the invitation itself, it also shows you how many people have viewed the invitation (but those people didn’t necessarily RSVP “Yes” or “No”). It is incredibly rude and ungracious to inconvenience the hosts by not letting them know if they are to expect you. I feel like a “maybe” sends the message of, “I might if there is nothing better for me to do”. The only maybes I accept are for people who do not know yet if they might have to work on that day (my husband is a physician, and I am a psychologist, as are a lot of our friends, and their schedules change monthly and do involve working weekends), but those folks generally go through the trouble of subsequently calling or emailing back and saying, “Yes, I will be glad to make it” or “Unfortunately, I will have to work on that day.”

Much to my frustration for our own wedding, we had about 30 couples (out of 200 invited guests) not RSVP on time, so I had to get on the phone and call each of the couples to make sure I got the RSVP’s and could turn in the appropriate amount of people to the caterer. Fortunately, all the people who RSVP’ed “yes” did turn up, and none of the people who RSVP’ed “no” changed their minds, so everyone who attended was well-fed and had a place to sit.

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jan August 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Hurray for your husband and you, Miss Jeanne. You have the perfect system to throw a party.

I, however, have another system….. I don’t throw parties anymore. I became tired of not having the RSVPs I needed to plan so I just stopped. Granted, we don’t get invited out much but Hubby and I are quite content. ;-)

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KMMC August 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

This is also one of my pet peeves. I love to throw parties when we get the chance, but I get so frustrated by sending out invitations and hearing crickets.

I recently planned a surprise birthday party for my husband. I invited over 40 people for dinner and go-cart racing. Because racing was a per person charge and I was saving up to pay for it in advance, I indicated on my invitations that I needed to know 1) if they were coming to the party and 2) if they wanted to participate in go-cart racing.

My invitations went out over a month before the party and less than a week before the party I had to call 25 people to chase down RSVP’s.

One couple didn’t ever answer my phone calls or messages, but showed up for the party. Food was plentiful, so that wasn’t a problem, but when I approached them at the beginning of the party to ask if they had planned on participating in go-cart racing, they looked at me in surprise and said “Of course!” Fortunately, I had anticipated this kind of situation and had set aside enough money for four more racers than had RSVP’d.

If the party hadn’t been something I wanted to make very special for my husband, I would have taken Miss Jeane’s approach for sure, and it’s something I will certainly keep in mind for parties in the future.

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Merrilee August 17, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I have had this happen to me with my daughter’s birthday parties for the past two years.

Year #1: one person RSVP’d yes and the rest either didn’t RSVP at all or RSVP’d maybe. I prepared for 10 guests. One showed up. We had a lot of leftover princess themed decorations and food that was either sent home with guest or kept for us later on. We donated the excess princess decorations to her Kindergarten class for future parties.

Year #2: I decided to make the guest list ONLY her close friends. People did RSVP “yes” or “no” this time, but the DAY OF THE EVENT, a “No” showed up with her two children anyway and spineless me let them in to the party. I was steamed, though.

Because of these parties, I have decided to remove the stress altoghether when it comes to DD’s birthday. From now on, we invite one close friend and take them to an amusement park for the day or out to the movies. It’s a shame she can’t have birthday parties at home with friends like I used to, but I’m tired of the parents’ not having enough manners to RSVP properly so that I can plan.

I love E-Hell Dame’s way of handling this and in the future, I am adopting it for all other occasions.

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o_gal August 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

When my cousin got married to her long time BF, they had a very small guest list, around 30 people. Her fiance was retired from the restaurant business, having run a very elegant upscale restaurant (which is also where they met.) So they picked a very elegant upscale restaurant to have their reception. This was to be a multi-course plated dinner. My parents were invited and were told this story afterward. At the wedding ceremony, a husband and wife went up to the MOB and asked “We didn’t RSVP but can we still come to the reception?”, probably expecting an “Of course! We’ll make room for you!” only to be told instead “We’re sorry, but the headcount for the reception has been set and we cannot make room for you.” Go Aunt S and Uncle A!

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Andrea August 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm

My husband and I were married last December. Our guest list totaled over 200 people. Once the invitations were sent out, we received some back quickly, but many, even from close relatives were difficult to get responses from. By the time we had to have the numbers in to the caterers, we had so many unreturned RSVPs that I had to guess the amount of meals for the caterer. At the wedding reception, we ending up having many people attend who had not RSVP’d and several RSVPs who did not bother to come to the wedding at all. Amazingly, we had enough food for everyone, but barely. We had exactly 2 meals left after everyone ate.
Granted, this was my first experience with handling RSVPs. Is it really that common to have problems with RSVPs, or is this more of a localized problem?

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NotCinderell August 17, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Okay, agree that “maybe” is rude. But what about a person who receives an RSVP and then life happens and they just forget to send it in until whoops, the “RSVP by” date is past? Are they eliminated from your guest list forever? Is that fair to do to a disorganized person who had a brain fart?

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Caitlin August 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm

This advice has really helped me, thank you!

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kiwi August 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Ugh. I hate this. It seems to be a plague among my friends group… well, “friends”, as I’m beginning to just not even bother inviting them anywhere. It seems among people my age, it’s always “We should totally do XYZ!”, except they’re just saying that and don’t actually mean it — if someone takes it as a suggestion and plans XYZ and invites them, those original people don’t even deign to come.

I recently called a friend (she’s unemployed and does nothing on a regular schedule outside her house aside from ride her horse a few times per week) around 11 AM asking if she was free around 1 PM , as I was driving to her town for a short meeting at my old high school and wanted to see if we could hang out afterwards. She said “Oh… I don’t know what I’m doing. Why don’t you call me when you’re done?” I indeed finished at 1 PM, and when I left the meeting I noticed that she left a message at 12 noon saying that “she suddenly had plans” and maybe we could get together another time.

I guess I’m too hopeful that “Call me when you’re done” is a vague offer to do something when I’m done with my meeting, rather than “give me an hour to find something better to do”.

Granted, this isn’t as formal as an RSVP, but these … “friends” of mine do this all the time! Or they double book friend outings! A friend asked me to go shopping with her and she got a phone call in the middle of our outing from another friend of hers she had already promised to visit and work out travel plans with!

You’d think being out of college wouldn’t mean so many flakes, but, hey.

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Tara August 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I recently hosted a small party at my new place, and had invited 30 people total. I got 10 yes responses, 11 maybes, and 9 people who never responded. I purchased enough drink, and prepared enough food for 15 people, and in the end only 7 people showed up. There were three people who had confirmed early on that they would definitely be there, and not a single one called me with any sort of reason for their absence- either before or after the party! To say that I was annoyed wouldn’t begin to cover it- I was very hurt as well. The people who did come were all such wonderful guests, and in the future they will be the first people I think of when planning anything.

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Anonymous August 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

This happened to me recently. I was in town visiting my parents, and invited a group of old friends over for dinner. (Only one of them was a good friend; the other two were his roommates with whom I was casual friends, and a girl who used to be in my church group with whom I’d hung out a few times–she was also dating one of the roommates.) We set a day that worked for everyone, and, because I was excited to see these friends again after a while, I spent a great deal of time and money to make the dinner nice. (I even went to a special store to get one of the guests’–a nondrinker’s–favorite brand of soda.) Well, the day rolls around; two different types of gourmet mac and cheese are in the oven, the wine is on the table, the sodas and salad are in the fridge, and it’s time for them to arrive (carpooling). To accommodate schedules, this was a late dinner–half of the people invited were members of a church group and had a meeting that ran til seven, and everyone was supposed to come over afterward. I got a call from Close Friend (not in the church group) when everyone was supposed to arrive. It seems the church group was running a little over time. He also informed me that one of the guests was planning on making burgers before they left. When I pointed out that I already had dinner ready, Close Friend (who is, by now, Clueless Friend) said that he knew, but this guest had gotten it into his head to make burgers. Upset, I said to just call me when they were leaving for my house. I got a call about half an hour later. Close Friend, apologizing profusely for the others, broke the news that everyone else said they were “too tired to go out”. To be honest, I was, at this point, just glad I wasn’t going to have to entertain a group of burger-filled people with dinner, but I’m still upset that I never got to see Close Friend while in town (he offered to come over and hang out on his own and eat dinner with me, but it would have felt awkward), and that I spent so much effort and money on people who had obviously not been very enthusiastic about the idea in the first place.

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SHOEGAL August 17, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I also used to host an annual autumn party and this has been my gripe every year till it got to the point where I REFUSE to host this party anymore. I’ve had it. Nobody wants to commit – I’m asking you to a party not to paint my house or do hard manual labor. I get “maybe” all the time. So I’ve been forced into giving up completely and I won’t be inviting anyone to any party I throw if I think I have to beg for an RSVP. I like the advice here to take matters into my own hands and say a maybe is a no – sorry you can’t make it – maybe another time and then refuse any more RSVPs after the due date.

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gingertwinge August 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I once hosted an event with 8 rsvps. 18 people showed up.

I’m not sure how Miss Jeanne’s husband would have handled that, since these people did not call to rsvp, so they could not have been told nicely not to come. The fact is, if you tell people what, when, where and what time, they are going to show up with or without having rsvp’d, so you probably ought to just plan for them anyway, which is what everyone thinks you are doing anyway, so thus, they don’t bother to rsvp. I mean, seriously, what are you going to do? When they arrive at your door, are you going to say, “I’m sorry, you did not rsvp, so you can’t come in?”

Myself, my husband, and 2 of our children did not eat at that event. :-) The remaining portions were still teeny tiny, I am thankful it wasn’t a buffet or it would have run out after the first 10 people or so.

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Simone August 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Well, I knew we had a genius running the site, of course, but I never realised you were married to a genius as well. I am definitely stealing his technique as this is an issue that completely irks me as well.

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admin August 17, 2010 at 5:31 pm

I’m the wedding etiquette “genius” of the family but the real secret is that EhellDude is the business and everyday etiquette “expert”. I really should video him handling some of those awkward situations and post them to YouTube.

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Livvy August 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I am soooo with you here. I’ve basically stopped throwing parties at my home for this reason. The other reason being that the people who do show up will frequently treat any event as an open house, completely disregarding the start time of the event, which makes food hard to plan, and makes the party a ghost town or a madhouse at varying parts of the evening. My home is not a bar nor a restaurant, open for public convenience. No wonder there’s so little home entertaining these days.

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Laura Sees Red August 17, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Some people are just flaky in general. They infuriate me, but if I’m friends with them, they must have other endearing qualities. Here’s one of my favorite flakes (though he sure wasn’t on that day):

My fiance’s father passed away unexpectedly. He had been inundated by phone calls, texts, emails, and people dropping by to pass on their condolences from morning until late at night. After 8 straight days of this, he wearily told me he wanted “just one quiet night to ourselves.” I passed along this information to everyone. A friend from out of town called me begging to please be able to hang out with us so that he could buy my fiance some drinks to “get his mind off of it.” Since we hadn’t seen this person in a while, my fiance agreed, putting off his quiet time until the next day.
I drive us to the restaurant, and we wait for about an hour or so. We run into some other friends, so we don’t mind waiting. Finally I text the friend, but hear nothing. Another hour goes by. At midnight, I receive a text from the friend – “Sorry, fell asleep. Can we reschedule for tomorrow?”

I guess you can imagine how I responded.

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Princesssimmi August 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I just want to apologise on behalf of all the scatterbrained people out there. I have previously received an invitation and forgot to RSVP in time. As soon as I realized what I had done I called the couple and apologised profusely. They had put me down as a ‘no’ so I did not attend, but still gave them a lovely gift the next time I saw them a week or so later. I’ve learnt my lesson!

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kingsrings August 17, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Bravo, Miss Jeanne. I agree with you 100%, but I wish that everyone else did as well. I have encountered the same problem with my group of friends. It seems like nobody I know believes in this anymore. I have no idea why, although I’ve heard every excuse in the book on why people flake when it comes to RSVP’s. Something comes up, life happens, they’re waiting to see if something better comes long, etc., etc. It’s just being inconsiderate.

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andi August 17, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Miss Jeane’s approach is perfect! I love it.

I will admit to RSVPing “maybe” on occassion because my hubby works retail and has a rotating shift from week to week – however as soon as i know his schedule i change my response accordingly. I despise the “maybe”.

I got tired of hanging out with a group a few years back that would make plans to do X at Y time, i’d run all over getting ready (i worked odd hour) only to get there and have them all waiting on someone else or have changed plans to do nothing. Drove me BATTY!

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sniblo August 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm

My son was married earlier this summer in a “Destination Wedding” in Mexico. We had agreed to host a backyard BBQ for those that couldn’t attend, once we got back. I sent out almost 100 invitations, over a month prior to the event. I probably got rsvp’s from about half of them by the due date and had to have my son follow up with the rest. We were having this catered and paid by the head, so I needed an accurate count. I had 81 people accept and ordered 84 dinners. Only about 65 actually showed and I was furious that I had to pay for all the no shows. Of course most of the guests were young and I thought that perhaps that was the reason for the rudeness, but it appears that all ages are rude. I don’t know what is wrong with people.

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mommaknowsbest August 17, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Face it, people are not going to rsvp in this day and age. If you invite 30 people, you’d better plan for 30 people, regardless of who says they are coming or not. if you can’t handle the cost, or the extra food, only invite the number you can manage NOT to have come (so invite only 10 instead of 30). It ain’t happening folks, people will still come without having rsvp-ed.

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Sharon August 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm

to: Not Cinderell…
If someone fails to respond to a RSVP because they are “unorganized” it should not be excused. It hurts others. Just like someone failing to invite a dear friend or relative because they are “unorganized” or failure to write “thank yous” should be excused because the bride is unorganized should not be excused.
That is the problem… “Oh, I should be excused from showing the least bit of social kindness!! You see, I am a victim! I am unorganized! It ain’t my fault!”

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Dina August 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Responding maybe for a night out at the pub? Okay, fair enough.

Responding maybe for an event that requires prior preparation? That pisses me right the hell off.

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summer August 17, 2010 at 5:46 pm

People dont know what RSVP IS AT THE END OF THE INVITE!!! Someone told me this the other day that they had a party and people actually asked them what RSVP meant and why it had a phone # and date by it (what does the letters RSVP stand for?) :-). Maybe we expect too much and need to simplify our invites? Like say at the bottom “please call me by Monday if you can come. If I don’t hear from you, then I will assume you can not make it and we can get together another time”

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OP August 17, 2010 at 5:49 pm

I am the one who made this submission. Thank you, Miss Jeanne! You’re fabulous! And your hubby is fabulous, too. :D I decided to plan for everyone anyway, because really it was a small group of people. If we did end up with lots of leftovers, my DH and I knew we’d get it eaten within a few days, and that there was bound to be at least one person who’d take some of them home. As it turns out, we ended up with 12 people in total, but two of them were people who were invited at the last minute. Even then, food was still sent home with two of the guests, and DH and I didn’t have to cook in the summer heat for about three days. I will, in the future, remember those who responded with “maybe” and won’t be bothering to invite them to a dinner party again.

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kero August 17, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Yes, please post videos of him so we can learn how to handle those situations!

I usually say no when I have a less than 80% chance of going and give them the reason (usually work/school). The funny thing for me is that I will get flaky hosts! There have been many times when the event gets canceled without notice until I call them the day before to confirm. It’s usually “something came up” or “another friend invited me somewhere…” Hosts should also commit!

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Amazed August 17, 2010 at 7:10 pm

NotCinderell: “But what about a person who receives an RSVP and then life happens and they just forget to send it in until whoops, the “RSVP by” date is past? Are they eliminated from your guest list forever? Is that fair to do to a disorganized person who had a brain fart?”

Yeah, it’s fair. Next time, get organized or you will find yourself eliminated from guest lists forever.

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Margaret August 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm

My son invited 3 school friends to his birthday party when he turned 7. We were camping that weekend, so I was prepared to drive to our hometown to pick up any of the kids who might want to attend and then drive them home after. Of the 3 he invited (by phone – pretty casual here) — one accepted, one parent never returned any of the calls (although the child told my son in school that they had gotten the message and he was allowed to go) and one parent said she would check with her husband and call us back, and then did not return any of our calls for the next few days until I finally got her and she said the kid could not go, and, “oh, I probably should have called you back”. Meanwhile, that child was also telling my son in school that he was allowed to go. I found that pretty rude. I suspect that the last parent just doesn’t care for us and was hoping that by not returning phone calls we’d get the hint and leave them alone. Don’t know what happened to the second family — they are usually very sociable.

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wanda August 17, 2010 at 8:03 pm

In my mother’s culture, people don’t generally RSVP for weddings. Because my wedding is in the US, I’ve actually gotten a lot of either written or verbal confirmations of attendance from my mom’s friends and family who understand that it’s not going to be the typical 400+ person wedding banquet, where 1 or 2 or 10 extra people is just a rounding error. Nevertheless, we are ordering one extra table (room for 10 people) than we think we need based on RSVPs and planning to spread people out a little bit. That way, if extra people show up, there’s space, and if not, our guests have a bit more elbow room.

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Chunks August 17, 2010 at 9:14 pm

A “maybe” is a no. It’s quite simple. No, they won’t be coming and no, I won’t be inviting them again. Who needs guests that are waiting to see if something better comes along?

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The Cat Whisperer August 17, 2010 at 9:31 pm

10 NotCinderell asked:
“Okay, agree that “maybe” is rude. But what about a person who receives an RSVP and then life happens and they just forget to send it in until whoops, the “RSVP by” date is past? Are they eliminated from your guest list forever? Is that fair to do to a disorganized person who had a brain fart?”

ABSOLUTELY. There is no reason to make the host/hostess of the party suffer for your inability to plan ahead and organize. If you’ve got so much “life happening” to you that you can’t manage to make a 30-second phone call saying “yes, I will be there, thank you,” or “no, I am sorry I cannot make it,” then you probably won’t even miss being invited. You obviously have more important things to do.

If you’re just too disorganized/irresponsible to make that phone call, then start to get your act together so you aren’t inconveniencing other people. The host/hostess of the party have lives happening too, and lots of things they have to do, and it’s a sign of self-absorption on your part to expect them to suffer inconvenience because of your failure to do what you’re supposed to do.

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Michelle Prieur August 17, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Thank you Miss Jeanne for the advice! For four years, I invited every child in my daughter’s daycare class to her birthday parties. Two years I heard nothing from any of them. One year, two RSVP’d and one showed. One year, one RSVP and no show. I never did it again.

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ctfonehome August 17, 2010 at 10:31 pm

It drives me crazy when people fail to RSVP properly too!

I find that often the worse culprits are those who seldom organise events or host parties. Maybe they simply don’t realise how much effort is required to host a successful party?

One of my old high schools is a classic example. He was guilty of every type of RSVP faux pas. He would not RSVP or RSVP ‘maybe’ 95% of the time. Of the times he did RSVP ‘yes’, he would either arrive with his girlfriend in tow (when he had only RSVP’d for one), or not show up at all! He’s also a friend who has never organised any sort of event or party, not even coffee down the street!

He’s now planning for his wedding in October. I wonder if his experience will teach him anything?

Another RSVP story:
I once booked out a laser game venue for a group event and needed to know how many people were attending so that I could accurately split the cost of the venue hire. (I had told people the cost would be between $X to $Y when I was organising.) On the morning of the event, half a dozen people pulled out with no explaination and no offer to pay for their share! I couldn’t go around to everyone telling them that they owed me an few extra dollars each (especially since many of them had already paid), but I was a student at the time so I wouldn’t have been able to afford the 6 extra spots myself. It also felt unfair that I had put in so much time and effort to plan and organise an event for everyone and in the end I would be financially worse off for it! Luckily I was able to wrangle a few replacements at the last minute. I felt a bit bad for the ‘B-list invites’, but they were close friends who were not part of the original group, and I explained the situation to them, so they were happy to help out.

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MeganAmy August 17, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Clearly, thoughtlessness and selfishness are on the rise. People, don’t bother to RSVP. In the past few years, I have started to see that my dentist’s office, Dr’s office, physical therapist’s office, etc all:

1) call to leave a message the day before an appointment in order to remind all patients

2) have sign-in sheets at the front desk which have folks fill out their names, time of appointment and arrival time

3) have messages at the front desk which say “If you are late for an appointment, please, call. If you do not show up within 15 minutes of your appointment time, we reserve the right to drop you as a patient.”

Because of this and other parties I’d thrown in the past, I knew that RSVPing would be an issue when I planned my wedding. We still had some flaky RSVPers, but for the most part, it went smoothly because I anticipated the problems and did my best to prevent them. Here’s what I did:

1) I not only used the term “RSVP” but also enclosed an insert in each invitation with a map, some other info, and wording such as “let us know either way whether you will come or not by X date.”

2) I indicated that the event would be a seated dinner and that everyone would have to order their dish ahead of time “beef, chicken or vegetarian”

3) I took the time to create and print the RSVP cards myself!!! On card stock. I printed each guest’s name and put a checkbox next to “beef, chicken or vegetarian” beside each name. The main reason that I did this was so that I wouldn’t get uninvited guests. I didn’t want to rely upon people to see the outside envelope to know who was invited to the wedding. I didn’t want them inviting anyone extra. As it was, I allowed each single person to bring a date, but that was it.

4) I created place cards for each guests with their selected dinner on it.

I had already planned on how to reply to people if they tried to invite extra guests. I had one friend who didn’t feel like traveling alone to the wedding so he informed me that he just planned to bring his buddy (who I’d met once for 5 minutes; no they were not a couple) so he’d have someone to talk to (although he knew other guests who would be at the wedding) and I just emailed him back and said that I was sorry but our budget would not allow us to add anyone other than people on our original guest list.

When it comes to parties at our house where I send an invitation via email, I have tried to not include our address on the invitation until I get an affirmative RSVP so they shouldn’t be able to show up unannounced (that worked when we first moved here, anyway, and no one knew the address). However, I have still had people call me an hour before the party (a week after the RSVP deadline) to say that they and their large family are coming. Next time anything like this happens, I will use Jeanne, the admin’s husband’s method of handling this issue. Brilliant!

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Louise August 17, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I wonder whether the people who don’t RSVP or RSVP yes and don’t show do much hosting themselves. Maybe they just don’t understand the time, effort and, yes, money that goes into hosting an event. Maybe the light bulb doesn’t go off until it happens to them.

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Frogs August 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I suffered a bit of this flakiness when my boyfriend and I first were living together, from his friends. I don’t think he had ever thrown a dinner party in his life prior to me, but I grew up having to do almost the whole thing since I could walk (complicated family situation) and reach the oven controls. And Emily Post was a name spoken daily where I come from.

When we got our first apartment, it was also his first grown-up home. Not a dorm, not living with his parents (it’s perfectly normal to do that much longer where we are from). So he’d always had casual get-togethers, and folks would show up if they felt like it, bring extra people, etc.

To his credit, he was surprisingly willing to be a proper host on the first go. We held a sit-down dinner party to celebrate our new home. It was not a housewarming and we made it clear that nobody should bring gifts. We were just excited to have our first home together. Proper invitations were sent, indicating that this isn’t a casual get-together. Everyone RSVP’d on time, but at the last minute (literally), someone called wanting to bring extra guests. Since it was a sit-down and we had no extra chairs at all, that was that. I was prepared to forgive him for being a noodle because it was his first real dinner party. Instead of just agreeing to the extra guests and confessing to me what he had done, he came to me and asked me how to deal with this. I kindly explained to him that the menu is already set, ingredients purchased and we have no spare chairs. And he went back to his friend, declining the request to bring extra guests. I think he was worried that his friend would think he was stuffy or mean, but was pleasantly surprised when the friend showed up anyway and completely understood.

I felt that the move on my part was a good thing to do, because, had I set the precedent that this kind of thing was okay, I might be stuck forever dealing with it.

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annoyed anon August 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Seriously?? People do not understand what RSVP means? This is one of my biggest pet peeves and unless something urgent has come up where a telephone could not be reached (unlikely these days as everyone has mobile phones) there is absolutely no excuse for a no-show. Especially in the case of something as important as a wedding which will be catered for (regardless of the price per head) but more in the fact that this is a once in a lifetime occurence (fingers crossed : ) ) and if you just couldn’t be bothered, well then you obviously care very little for the people hosting the event!

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green_pea August 17, 2010 at 10:47 pm

@The Cat Whisperer “If you’ve got so much “life happening” to you that you can’t manage to make a 30-second phone call saying “yes, I will be there, thank you,” or “no, I am sorry I cannot make it,” then you probably won’t even miss being invited. You obviously have more important things to do.”

I also hate it when people don’t RSVP accurately or on time, but I have to agree with NotCinderell in that there are times when it can be difficult to RSVP on time.

I travel very frequently for work, and I’m often on site for 12-15 hours per day, sometimes up to 7 days a week with limited internet access. By the time I get home, I’m often too tired to turn on my computer to check my emails. I also usually buy a local sim card when I’m overseas, and only check my home sim every week or two for messages. I also don’t forward my snail mail as I’m usually moving from place to place.

So that means that sometimes, hey, I might get an invitation a week to a month after it’s sent. Should I be cut off my friend’s lists and called self-absorbed because I don’t know where I’ll be on a particular date (my work is ‘flexible’, in that we can expect to be sent overseas at any minute) and often don’t get invitations until near or after the RSVP date?

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Kendra August 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm

That would be wonderful Miss Jeanne. I would love to see your beloved hubby in action. I can always use the pointers.

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Spoder August 17, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Merrilee, your story left me speechless. So, not only did these people waste your time and money, but your little girl was expecting a birthday party for 10 and wound up with ONE guest? How terribly disappointing for her.

Shame on the parents involved – there is no excuse for doing that to a child.

I would also like to add that when people rsvp they should rsvp either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to what they have actually been invited to do. I have close friends (I have known them for 20+ years, which may be part of the problem – familiarity breeds contempt, perhaps?) who NEVER seem to just respond to an invitation with ‘Sure, thanks!’. If, for example, I invite them around for a barbecue lunch on Sunday at 1pm, they will invariably reply with something along the lines of ‘Oh, that would be GREAT, but hmmm, we might be going to the beach, and DH’s sister might be dropping around, and we don’t really know what time we’ll finish all that…we’d love to come, but we’ll probably be a bit later than that, more like mid-afternoon’. They will then proceed to turn up any time between 2 and 4:30 and expect to be fed and hang out in my back garden until the early evening.

It’s as if they don’t want to be tied down to anything in case, for example, the beach is particularly nice that day and they have to leave an hour earlier than they otherwise might. It’s just seems to be a PA type of control mechanism to me – I have to be home and organised from the allotted time onwards, while they turn up when they’re good and ready. If they weren’t such old friends that I am genuinely fond of, I would have stopped inviting them long ago.

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Anon August 17, 2010 at 11:44 pm

When I was planning my wedding, my husband and I had one guest that asked if she could bring a date even though her invitation was addressed to her only. She RSVPed via snail mail for herself and not herself and a date, even though she asked for a date. A month later, my parents received a RSVP in the mail from her again but this time, it was for her and her guest, not stating that she had already RSVPed before. Confused, we added her guest to the head count. The day before the wedding, she called my mother-in-law and said that she wasn’t coming because her date couldn’t come, even though we had already given the caterer our head count.

It is rude to RSVP and then not come but I feel that it is ESPECIALLY rude to ASK to bring a date and then not show.

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jenna August 18, 2010 at 12:27 am

mommaknowsbest – if that is the case, then maybe nobody should hold organized gatherings at all. Nobody should have to send out invitations, get no response, prepare for the people you invited and have no idea how many will actually come. Accepting that this is OK is like accepting that it’s fine to be rude, and if you’re not rude, you get the short end of the stick.

It’s not even about money – the mood of a get-together is determined by how many people attend and who they are. If you plan a larger party and 4 people come, it’s quite awkward if those 4 are not close friends and there’s all this food in an empty house and nobody to eat it. For a dinner party for 12, if 2 show up you have this huge, awkwardly empty table, or if 20 show up it looks like a college-apartment party with people on couches. If you can’t plan for these things, then you can’t even determine what *kind* of event you have, and the events as a result are less fun.

I have “friends” (no longer really friends, though I think well of them. We’re Facebook friends at best now) who usually RSVP’d yes, but if they were a “no”, never RSVP’d, for anything. Even once when I was planning a very nice dinner out at a very nice restaurant that you have to book on the 1st of the month to get a seat anytime that month. They’re that popular. I asked the no-response people to RSVP anyway and followed up, and still crickets from them. If they were a yes, they sometimes did not respond until I mentioned it (often these were for more open get-togethers so not much of a big deal). But I got sick of getting no responses to invitations – a no would have been fine – so I stopped inviting them out. This is what I do with all non-RSVPers – I don’t automatically stop being their friend but I do stop including them in things. If they notice, well maybe they’ll RSVP next time.

I do think “maybes” are acceptable under ONE circumstance – it’s a true maybe due to potential real conflicts (family, medical, work) and you follow up your “maybe” with a firm answer later on. Even better – an “I have to say ‘maybe’ for now due to work issues, but I will let you know for sure by X date. Is that OK with you?” That is one way in which those who really are ‘maybes’ can respond and still be polite.

Also, I do forgive the friends who are occasionally scatterbrained but it’s not a “thing” with them to forget to RSVP all the time. I’ve done it once before, and hurt a good friend of mine (I did apologize and never did it again – it really was a case of ‘oh no, I totally forgot!’ – not just figuring it wasn’t important). It happens to the best of us and if it happens once, it’s best to just let it slide.

For our wedding, most people did RSVP (bless their hearts!) – those who didn’t gave an RSVP after a follow-up (not great but acceptable). Those who haven’t even responded to follow ups – really only people on one side of the family – are being marked as “no”. If they show up they will be politely asked to leave.

Anyway. I thought it was just me. Everybody hates this – and yet the flakiness continues. I wish they would teach this in Home Ec or a life skills class in high school, or a public service announcement or something. SOMETHING. Because it’s soooo annoying and it’s got to stop.

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jenna August 18, 2010 at 12:31 am

Cat Whisperer – but if they do it once? Just once? Nobody is perfect and even the Martha Stewarts among us are likely to screw up once.

Even my favorite advice columnist says that even the best of us occasionally do something that makes us jerks – the best we can do is try to minimize how often that happens, apologize when it does and try not to do it again. I get the feeling by your screen name that you read her, too. I don’t think she’d advise cutting someone who failed to RSVP one time – ONE time – because of a brain fart – from all future functions.

If the person in question continues to flake out, by all means cut them. By the second infraction I stop inviting those people to functions where I need a definite headcount. By three times, they stop getting invites to even open-ended events.

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Kelly August 18, 2010 at 2:46 am

I don’t mind a “maybe” for a very casual event. We often have potluck-type get-togethers, where we provide some food but guests also bring things. No big deal if the maybes come or don’t come. However, on the occasions where we are paying for food ahead of time, the “maybes” are plain rude. We had a pizza dinner one year in which NONE of the many maybes and only about half of the yesses turned up. We wasted a couple of hundred dollars on uneaten food. I don’t understand that, it’s like someone said upthread, we are inviting you to a party with free food, why is it like pulling teeth to get a positive response?

Surprisingly, the one time we didn’t have a problem was our wedding. Everyone who RSVP’d actually came – which I’m coming to understand is unusual. Granted, it was a small affair (35 people or so) but 100% attendance is still pretty good.

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Diddy Kong August 18, 2010 at 2:59 am

If it’s fair to stop inviting somebody who forgot to RSVP? I’d say it depends on the relationship. For a casual acquaintance I think it’s absolutely fair: this person doesn’t seem that interested in deepening the relationship, let’s forget about it. However, dropping a close friend over one missing RSVP seems unduly harsh to me.

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Dave August 18, 2010 at 3:35 am

For the person upset that being disorganized and failing to RSVP once will remove you from the guest list forever. The admin mentions that it is people with a history of failing to RSVP who they remove from the guest list forever and it is a good thing they do. Because really, if you continually cannot bother with an RSVP to a specific person it really is obvious you don’t care much for them.

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Mechtilde August 18, 2010 at 4:11 am

Maybe is only an acceptable reply if it is sent well before the deadline, and a firm answer is given before the deadline.

When a friend recently married, our children were not invited. I sent her an email saying that we could probably come, but would let her know for sure when we had booked a babysitter. Then, when we had managed to get one I sent a proper RSVP before the deadline.

We have precisely the same problem with or children’s parties- I think some people assume that not replying is the same as RSVP in the negative.

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