Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reader Request: Handling Tardy RSVP Responses

To continue the theme of hosting and guest etiquette, I'm going to share a recent request  from Karen @ Strictly Simple Style She wrote me and asked this:

Here is a situation that I'd love you to cover, etiquette regarding R.S.V.P's. I am hosting a pre-party before another event that is a short distance from my home. This is an annual event and we've been hosting this party for years. I sent an evite because it's a casual affair, but I'd still like to know how many I should count on for cocktails and snacks. There are a few guests who never R.S.V.P. among this group. In some situations they call the day of the event to let me know. One person occasionally doesn't R.S.V.P but comes anyway.

My question: Is there a tactful way of wording the invitation that might result in a better response? Also, for those who don't respond to invitations in general, is it appropriate to give them a call or mention at a later time that I wished I'd known if they were coming?

Thank you Karen for your question!  This is an excellent question and it happens to hosts more often than not. It’s hard to imagine why a guest would not reply to an invitation, especially when the acronym for RSVP is actually a French phrase which means, "répondez, s'il vous plaît," or "please reply."  It is only common sense to make the hosts’ life easier by letting them know either way as soon as one knows if they are going to be unavailable.

Here are a few things that you as the host can implement to gain more RSVP’s to your events so that you can better plan accordingly and have things run smoothly.

How to Gain the Best RSVP Response

Firstly, include both your telephone number and e-mail in the RSVP. Also, ensure that you have a specific reply by date (10 days before the event is acceptable, unless of course the evite was sent out after that time frame, then choose a date based on the nature of what is involved in your preparations.) This gives respondents no excuses at all for not replying. Unfortunately, saying anything that could be perceived as negative on an invitation is not a good idea because it sets a negative tone for the occasion, so focusing on an exact date is best.

While some use a 'regrets only' approach to an RSVP, I warn against this because it sets you up to expect several people to show that may in fact not have bothered to reply, but appear to you as a ‘yes’. Also, try to avoid allowing ‘maybe’ responses. They are an easy selection for the undecided but some never change their response. A ‘no’ is more accurate than a maybe reply. If you choose to allow maybe responses, you need to count them as a ‘no’ until they are updated.

Following Up

1. Evite Response E-mail-When creating your evite, many companies that offer them, such as Evite, give you the ability to create a follow-up ‘reminder’ about your event. Firstly, you can set it up in such a way to be a general reminder for everyone a few days before so they don’t forget your event,. Better still, you can send a reminder which will solely go to those who have not taken the time to reply. On, you would go to ’Change Guest Reminders’ and then select ‘Viewed, but not responded’. It will go to the tardy invitees specifically and will be a good enough reminder to those that need to still give their yay or nay.

2. Follow-up Call- If a few of your guests still haven’t responded after a reminder e-mail and it is 10 days or less before your event, you have every right to follow-up and it is entirely appropriate. Let your would-be guests know you are calling so you can get an accurate head count. A great way of asking this is by saying, “We are having the place cards created (or the drink menu drafted) for the dinner this week and we are hoping that you are planning on attending." This is a subtle, positive message that will elicit a direct response. If you happen to get their voicemail-ask them to reply within 24 hours by calling you or replying via the evite itself.

After the Event

Addressing one who doesn't RSVP can be a tricky subject to broach. It would depend on how well you know the particular guest(s). For close friends, you could politely let them know that you always really enjoy their company but that it makes your planning go more smoothly when you have an accurate head count. If they don’t receive it well and are offended, then they are seriously lacking good manners and respect for you and your party. A friend would be apologetic and sure to not let it happen again.

For this particular event, it sounds as though you know most of the guests well.  Because of this track record and the casual nature, always err on the side of having extra cocktails and snacks for your guests without making a special announcement on the invitation itself as there really isn't a specific way to tactfully word your desire for them to reply, your RSVP instructions should be sufficient.

Karen, I hope this was helpful for you and best wishes for a successful pre-party event with a fully responsive guest list!

The concept of manners, etiquette and civility are not embraced by all, as we well know, so it is up to us that adhere to them to be a shining example to others.

How about YOU? Do you have some advice you'd like to add for Karen, perhaps on what specifically to say to those afterwards? Do you add something special to your invitation that seems to evoke a higher RSVP response rate? I'd love for you to share!



  1. This is definitely one of my pet peeves! As the wife of an Army officer, we entertain a LOT. I have done invitations by email, postal service, and the evite. I love evite because you can see if your guest has opened the email.
    I always follow up with an email to people I haven't heard from. I let them know I "assume" they didn't get the invite because I haven't heard from them.

    It is RUDE to not acknowledge an invitation. Someone has gone to some effort to host an event and include you. The least you can do is respond.

    For you military spouses, a word of advice. When your husband's chain of command has invited you to an event, make every effort to attend. It's good manners, it makes you both look good and it is great networking.

  2. It is extremely frustrating when people do not RSVP, I always appreciate a negative response more than NOTHING!

  3. Thank you Karla! I usually don't call to follow up with those who haven't R.S.V.P'd. I never want to make them feel bad, but I like your advice on wording it so that it doesn't embarrass them. I'm happy to report that I have heard from all but 2 couples so far-one hadn't opened the e-vite though. I will admit that I omitted two couples that I have invited in the past who never R.S.V.P. (These are neighbors that we always include in our invitations, but who never acknowledge them.) It seems like at some point it is okay to cross someone off your list if they never reply to invitations.

    Thank you to Paula too for her comments!

  4. Thanks Ladies for commenting. :) For a casual event, I don't usually call either by I do send an evite reminder or an individual e-mail to check in with them. If they are terrible at checking e-mail, then I'll give them a call.

    I have been known to cross people off of my list too, usually after 2 events in a row where they haven't responded is where I make my decision. It's definitely okay to do so, after all it's your party!

    Karen, I'm so glad to hear the RSVP's are coming along so well. :)

    Paula-You are so right-it is rude not to acknowlege the invite.

    M.O.T.B-Thanks for following me and commenting. :) I agree, a 'no' is better than no response at all.


  5. Augh! This is a pet peeve for me, too. I also agree that I sooo appreciate a flat out "Sorry, can't make it" instead of guests who leave me hanging on the edge of my seat.

    There is another type of guest that should be crossed off your list, and that is the person who usually RSVPs that they WILL come, but then normally cancels at the last minute [after you have already prepared for them to be there]. From my experience, this person will usually offer an apology, but after it happens more than just a couple of times, even the apology no longer works.

    I have started putting on my casual invites something along the lines of: "Please RSVP by [date] so that I can accurately prepare for your arrival". I've noticed that it helps some of the slackers respond in a timely manner!

  6. Thanks for your comment Amber! :)

    I've experienced that guest many times while hosting women's social events. I didn't mention it here as I was responding to Karen's reader request but I agree with you wholeheartedly-I scratch those off of my list as they can be most disrespectful if it is happening time and time again.

    Aftering many no-shows at a previous party, a friend of mine recently did the same thing for a casual party. She wrote. "Not to be an RSVP tyrant, but...." I usually just stick with the regular RSVP and then let those people reveal themselves so I know not to include them in future. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, we won't get an answer from everyone.


  7. Why would anyone want to be friends with someone who doesn't rsvp? Dont we want to associate with people who have at the very least, basic manners? We ARE known by the company we keep.

    When someone doesn't rsvp to an event I host I simply don't invite them again and gently ease them out of my life. If I am going to be annoyed every time I see them there is no point in continuing the relationship.

    And e-vite sends a clear message - the hosts dont really care. As I said on another blog, if the party is anything more than a tupperware party it deserves a proper invitation.

  8. Thank you for your comments Suburban Princess. I am amazed at the amount of guests invited to events that don't RSVP, which is especially apparent when they are listed as 'not yet responded' when invited via an e-vite. As I mentioned in my reply to Karen, I feel it is a sign of disrespect for someone not to at least reply. However, on the flipside, being one who travels quite a bit, I can also relate to those that are on vacation, on business travel or may be going through a difficult time such as illness, or the death of a loved one that they may not have shared with everyone, and haven't made checking e-mail a priority. This of course, is one way that a formal invite beats an evite, but even then, it's easy for mail to get pushed aside and not responded to. Sad, but true. I always make a point of responding to proper invites as soon as I receive them so I won't forget.

    As far as basic manners-I couldn't agree more. I have encountered certain people that were completely oblivious to certain manners, and it can be quite frustrating sometimes. As my husband and I always say, "Show me your friends and I'll show you your future." A classy woman though is not only well mannered but also gracious in every way possible which includes allowing grace for real life and imperfections including a non-reply if it a first time incident. Anything more than that would show a pattern of lacking manners.

    I have a different viewpoint on e-vite. Especially if one entertains a lot and many are casual, social events- it's not necessary to send a formal printed invitation each time.

    Special occasions such as a big backyard party, birthday, retirement, graduation, wedding (e-vites for weddings are a huge no-no and come off as cheap), engagement, etc., are all perfect examples of when to send one. A girls night in with cocktails does not warrant one, but is a fun way to add excitement and formality to the event! Many people I know use evite because it is a quick and organized way to keep track of replies in one place that can be accessed while traveling and on the go, and a great way to make an update that can be send out if a detail were to change after the invitation is sent out, not to mention it is more eco-friendly and cost-effective too. Having said all of this, I love stationery and the excitement that a formal invitation provides both on the sending and receiving end. :)


  9. We are hosting a housewarming party in less than ten (10) days. We agonized over whom to invite, sent out proper invitations and still haven't heard back from a few guests.It is a catered event and an accurate head count is important. I thought that a "gentle reminder" e-mail would work. What are your thoughts?

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  11. Hi if I'm hosting a birthday party and trying to get a good date that everyone can attend. Is it a good idea to send each person an email to see if they can make that date? As it's around xmas holiday time that's the main issue i'm having as during that time lots of people already have xmas dinners / parties with their families. PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOU ADVISE. THX.

    1. @Anonymous-The best thing to do is send out an e-mail with each name not visible to the other's you're sending to and ask what dates work best for people. There is no sense in putting together a formal invitation if almost nobody will show. Once you arrive at a date that will work for many of the guests you'd like to invite-then you can send out your formal invitation. :) If you find you're not getting a very good turnout or response, you may want to wait until after the holidays are over and perhaps resume the second week of January, etc when more can participate and it will be a more memorable occasion. I hope that helps!

  12. I just hosted a ladies' tea for several women from my church. Half of those invited responded with a yes or no, while the other half did not. I will be adding the names of those who didn't respond to a list for future reference, in case any of them turn out to be habitual non-responders whom I would eventually stop inviting. There is no sense in extending the welcoming hand of hospitality and friendship to someone who is not interested in it. Better to invite those who enjoy your company and make an effort to get together with you as they are able.


Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)


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