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RSVPs - "a whole other topic"

In another post about "what to do if 30 people do/do not show up after not RSVPing", there's been a lot of discussion about RSVPs couched in the phrase "well this is a whole other issue, but..."

So - what do you think about RSVPs? Does it depend on the type of get together? (informal bbq for 60, dinner party for 8, cocktail party for 15, etc) Does it depend on the type of invitation? (phone, email, printed and mailed invite, etc) And... perhaps a hot button issue, does it depend on the age of the person - does 'this young generation' just not RSVP?

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  1. I don't think RSVPing has anything to do with age. Being rude can occur at any age level.

    If I am hosting an event, I like to know how many are coming. That way, I know how much to budget for, how much food to make. Most of the hosting I do is informal, but I still like a headcount.

    3 Replies
    1. re: marthadumptruck

      I don't either, but some people think my generation is ruder than previous... no thank you notes, no hostess gifts, etc... I don't find this to be true.

      1. re: laurendlewis

        I agree with not an age thing. More an attitude thing with some. Certainly formal invitations deem a timely written rsvp. With most of my entertaining being very informal-I have no hesitation calling friends with a hey- can you make it? However do get irritated with one family member who is forever forgetting to call back even when I am arranging date around her-with the tee hee, I forgot I am just so busy..
        I just don't appreciate the attitude their lives are so busy and no one else is.
        Just think all should come with consideration. And I do make a point of sending written thank you notes. Little things mean so much to all.
        The ole -treat others like you would like to be treated..

      2. re: marthadumptruck

        ditto. Most people who didn't RSVP to my sister's wedding were older than I am (mid-30's) and about a dozen of those showed up anyway.

        I do RSVP, I do make sure to bring something when invited for dinner, and send thank you flowers when someone has been kind enough to put us up for the night. Thank you notes for wedding gifts? Yes. Thank you notes for a birthday present from a girlfriend though? no... but a thank you by phone and I remember her on her birthday.

      3. I was taught that one could request RSVP only if one was providing the equivilent of a full meal. That is, for a baby shower w/ snacks, a punch and cake wedding reception, or a cocktail party w/ only nibbles one should not request the RSVP (although regrets only was OK).

        As far as who will respond? Who knows? When I threw a sit down dinner 50th anniversary party for my in-laws, the RSVP rate was horrendous...maybe 30%. But when I threw my recent 50th anniversary party (heavy hors d'ouevres) for my parents, I got about 85%. My parents demographics were a little older ...mostly 60-75 year-old friends, where as my in-laws party consisted of more relatives in the 40-70 age group.

        I found that of the no-responders to the parent party, it was a toss up whether they came or not.

        Maybe this is related to the upsurge in "potluck" type parties. Maybe people are so far removed from the responsibility of providing food and drink for a large number of people that they totally don't grasp how frustrating it is not to know how much food to prepare.

        9 Replies
        1. re: danna

          The polite thing to do is: If you receive an invitation to Any event (no matter how much or how little food/beverage is being served) let the host or hostess know whether or not you're attending.

          1. re: danna

            You imply that it is rude to request an rsvp to a cocktail party. I had a cocktail party in the spring which was catered and I needed to know how many as the cost was based on per person. If you are asked to rsvp you should do so. SEveral people did not rsvp and I sent them emails asking if they were coming. My rsvp invitation gave my phone # and email address. It only takes a minute to respond!

            1. re: emilief

              emilief and Gio, I completely agree with both of you. It is beyond rude to receive an invitation and not acknowledge it, even more so if there is a request for a response.

              1. re: emilief

                Since you had a caterer, I assume you provided enough food that you certainly were well within my perception of the kind of function that would necessitate an RSVP. (not that I'm any kind of arbiter, I'm just sharing what I was taught.)

                And I never said you weren't required to RSVP if asked to do so, no matter what was being served. Two wrongs don't make a right.

                1. re: danna

                  Except one is never wrong to ask for a reply, regardless of the type of event. So there is only one wrong - failing to RSVP.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    Karl, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one...

                    BUT, oh, the HORROR! I was just googling around to see if I could find a reference to the "rules" on RSVP vs. regrets...and it's unbelievable the questions people ask of etiquette experts and the remarks people make.

                    One poster somewhere I surfed stated that Regrets Only invitations were rude because they put a burden on the invitee...."if you hadn't invited me, I wouldn't have showed up at your house for no reason. Therefore, you need to assume that I'm not coming unless I tell you otherwise" Holy Crap, well there's your person who doesn't respond to RSVP.

                    Another website I surfed through had a person asking how best to indicate on the invitation how much each person had to pay to attend the party. (the expert responded that according to "the strictest etiquette", charging your guests was frowned upon)

              2. re: danna

                "I was taught that one could request RSVP only if one was providing the equivilent of a full meal."

                One certainly can request an RSVP for the other things as well.

                One thing: I don't used RSVP because I learned too many people take it literally as a suggestion to respond only if they so please...instead I take the more English "Please respond by [date]".

                For things like open houses, and even some evening dinners (let's just say I learned the very hard way, people showing up for dinner 2 hours after the starting time...), I also put a closing time on the event in addition to starting time, because that increases turnout, believe it or not. It gives people a sense of the time-scope of the event.

                1. re: Karl S

                  I am going to give your approach a try the next time I host an event. Hah! I am just going to spell it out: "I need to know if you are coming or not. Please let me know by....." Who knows, maybe it'll get through...

              3. I think people should RSVP to any invitation, period. Preferably as soon as possible after receiving it. As has been pointed out, the hosts have planning to do, even if it's just a popsicle party. Unfortunately I don't think most people actually do that.

                I have some friends who never ever RSVP and it makes me not want to invite them anymore because it makes planning so hard -- they have a roughly 50% show rate after not RSVP-ing.

                Another friend said she got so tired of people not RSVPing to invites to her (many) sons' birthday parties that she started putting "please call" instead of RSVP in case people didn't know what that meant!! (It didn't help.)

                I don't know the solution but as someone who likes to give parties I sure wish I did.

                4 Replies
                1. re: GretchenS

                  I wonder if the people who don't RSVP are the same people who don't call a woman after getting her number.... the people who don't show at a restaurant reservation... the people who don't pick up something on hold at a store... etc.
                  Are they just not good responders in general??

                  1. re: laurendlewis

                    i think the people who dont RSVP are the people who dont organize stuff.
                    and in some cases freeriders.

                    this isnt just limited to full meal dinner parties ... but say you are organizing
                    a outing to a nice restaurant requiring reservations and the party to be
                    present to be seated, to people getting to events on time [movies, theater etc]
                    when others are holding their tickets etc.

                    i'm all in favor of punishing flakiness, freeriding etc.

                    btw, i thought san francisco was flake central. in a weird way, it's good to hear
                    it is a national phenomena.

                    also, i think here, perhaps more among 20-30 somethings, a big part of it is
                    "better offer shopping" rather than rudeness ... i'm not saying that isnt rude,
                    but one is the product of apathy, laziness, ignorance etc and the other is
                    calculated.

                    also, i think the fact tht younger people might be flakier is probably due to
                    different life circumstances rather than an "o tempora o mores" decline and
                    fall of civilization type reason. obviously if you need to plan a childcare etc
                    to leave the house, probably easier to make rsvps. if you live in an urban
                    environment and have a lot of casual aquaitances rather than doing things
                    mostly with family and close friends, i think you might do more "better offer
                    shopping", party hopping etc.

                    1. re: psb

                      Unfortunately, psb (at least for the San Francisco area) I have to agree with you about the "flakiness" factor in that city. Having moved there from Virginia last year, my wife and I have both noticed and talked about the phenomenon.

                      In San Francisco, and elsewhere, I totally agree with your sense of "better offer shopping." I hear people phrasing their responses to invitations in ways that they seem to think gives them the most flexibility to beg off or come late or leave early or what have you. The amazing part is that most people that I've come across seem to accept it as a normal part of the process, especially for weekend nights. It drives me up a wall, personally. It seems that many are more focused on going to multiple events, rather than making a choice.

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        Well I think it *has* in a sense become a "normal part of the process" ...
                        there's sort of a prisoner's dilemma aspect to it. Also, i think you can
                        kinda look anal if you buck the trend too much ... "I need to know
                        if you are coming by 3pm on Wed" ... unless you are buying tickets
                        or something.

                        i have old college friends and such where commitments mean something,
                        but I've had to increase my own flakiness factor to keep from going insane
                        when it comes to acquaitances [this usually takes the form of just not
                        responding to an party evite until pretty late ... although i do make it by
                        the rsvp deadline, if there is one, and of course i dont leave people hanging
                        if they are depending on me to bring something, to be timely etc].

                        The main consequence as far as I can tell is what you might call the
                        "critical mass dance" ... where you contact some core group people
                        to get commitments, and then you can make a judgement call whether
                        it will happen or not. Althought truth be told, there are some personal
                        agenda issues that make organization harder, e.g not sending out a
                        large broadcast because you might be ok with person X Y and Z being
                        at an event with 10 people, but you dont want to end up at dinner with
                        only X Y and Z, because you dont have much to say to them.

                        The other part of this is I can no longer remember how people used
                        to meet up at things before cell phones ...
                        --"stuck on the bridge, running 1hr late"
                        --"ok, we've finished dinner and going to see movie X"
                        --"ok, get us tix"
                        --"movie is sold out, getting cocktail at Y"
                        --"Z's car wont start, can you pick her up on the way to Y"

                        it is pretty spectacular that people continue to be late without
                        notifying you in this cell phone era.

                2. Definitely not an age thing, in my experience. I'm 27 and I *ALWAYS* RSVP, most of the time immediately after receiving the invite. (I also write thank you notes religiously.) I threw a baby shower for my best friend about a year ago and I specifically asked for RSVP's. 4 out of 15 RSVP-ed, and 3 out of the 4 were 26 and under. The grandma's (over 70) didn't RSVP. Drives me crazy, whatever the age!

                  We also had the whole family over a while back and while we didn't ask for RSVP's, we knew who was going to be there and who wasn't. Of course, my rather uncouth brother-in-law calls an hour before to say he's coming. And of course, I had made individual chicken pot pies, so brother-in-law proceeds to get himself a pot pie at Picadilly Cafeteria- really embarrassing for me!

                  1. it's not an age thing so much as what you're accustomed too.

                    i did notice that the whole "nice jewish girl" thing came up so i'm speaking from the sometimes-not-so-nice asian early 20's girl aspect. i think that when your parents raise you such that you see them making a lot of excess food or see them writing notes and encourage you to do the same, it becomes very ingrained. i'm a bit uncouth about it and tend to resort to emails more-so because i often just cannot find the time to bother with searching for thank you stationary and balk at the price of it. my mom spends the time to find cards and write the note. it's not only about the parents though, i extend the same curtesies that my friends to me often. so if they rsvp to me or write a note to me, i'm much more likely to do the same in return.

                    the one thing that neither of us would dare to do is NOT rsvp. it's awful and thankfully pretty much all my friends rsvp everytime. even if it's a quick email go-round in the morn about friday night dinner everyone is particular about responding if they will or will not go.

                    for formal dinner parties i'll set an rsvp date (sometimes even time) and will contact individuals if they expressed interest but no formal acceptance. a good number of the time i'll even get responses of regret for not being able to attend. it's been fantastic thus far.

                    one of my peeves is similar with others about family who make assumptions. i have an aunt who remarried but between her husband and herself they have their own child and two children each from previous marriages. you have NO idea if 3, 5 or 7 (and sometimes more because of boyfriends) are showing up for christmas dinner!