Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Etiquette of Responding

Check your mailbox.

No, really. Go. Do it. I'll wait.

Chances are, you've probably got a holiday party invite waiting for you. Now, my first line of thought is, "Why in God's green earth is somebody only waiting until now to invite you to a holiday party? Don't they know your seasonal calendar was booked in October??!!"

No matter. Maybe they just got a kick ass karaoke machine and they want to show it off. Maybe not.

Anyway. That invite you have?

It probably has a phone number you're supposed to call. You know. Something along the lines of R.S.V.P, Regrets Only or The Favor of A Reply is Requested By...

Those are standard issue language options in the world of invites.

So. The holiday party invite. Heck, any invite for that matter. Weddings, baby showers, summer cookouts, surprise birthday parties. These days, people are bucking the electronic trend and returning to the days of paper invites. And that means there's no handy dandy button to click to reflect your attendance status.

What's a girl to do?

Let's go back to that R.S.V.P. concept. It's a reference to back in olden times England when people would send men out on horses to deliver correspondence on pretty sterling plates. Those mailings included invitations that requested, "répondez s'il vous plaît," which directly translates to, "respond if it pleases you."

The intent was to have a more gracious connotation than the English version of "Respond if you please," which connotes a command instead of a request.

Now that we've got the semantics out of the way.

Emily Post. Surely you've heard of her. She literally wrote the book on manners in the early 1900s, decreeing that people are obliged to respond when receiving an invite to a party. Recent etiquette standards say it is inexcusably rude to not respond to a formal party invitation.

I'd concur.

Confession time: I am not the queen of couth. I really, really try, but sometimes even I flub up occasionally. That said, I really do strive to know the rules of manners and social courtesy. I strive even harder to live up to those rules.

I think the rules especially apply to printed invites. If someone invests the time and resources to mail out an invite, they're setting a formal tone that deserves a formal response. I'm throwing out opinion here, but if someone casually sets up a Facebook event invite or an e-vite page, then I think you're entitled to respond casually, too.

Another thing to mention. R.S.V.P. does not apply only to folks who can attend said fete. The request of a response applies to everyone. So if Aunt Millie mailed you an invite for her White Elephant party, you've got to call her and graciously decline, even if you've got a better offer.

The only exception is if the host offers, "Regrets Only," in which case you only call if you are NOT attending the party.

I've got a paper holiday invite on my kitchen counter right this minute. The hosts have requested a reply by December 11, and I am going to get my calendar in order and ring them up by their deadline if it kills me.

Such is the burden of having kind friends and lovely invitations.

I'm grateful.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Mr. Guilt said...

I totally agree with you on this one. We threw my daughter a birthday party on a Sunday. We sent out the invites three weeks prior.

The Friday before the party, my wife was calling about half the folks invited for any sort of response.

However, we were in a position that required us to prepare for the "worst case"--having enough goodie bags, game supplies, and space to cover all the kids.

You see, the thing is, it's rude for us, as hosts, to treat this like a theater or ball park. We can't say "You didn't RSVP, so, you can't come." Funny how that works...

Ultimately, two-thirds of the kids showed. A couple siblings were included, so some of the extra did not go to waste. But it was still a problem.

Michelle said...

I disagree on the electronic invite thing. That's just a sign of the times. I have no idea what the addresses are of a lot of friends I invite to gatherings, but I know their email addys / Facebook contact.

I fully expect an RSVP even if it's an invite sent through Facebook. It doesn't matter how the invite is sent - the organizer still has to figure out how much food and alcohol to have handy, and that's why I ask for RSVPs. I've bought too much before because people didn't bother to RSVP either way, so we had to guess. I've also had too little for the same reason.

Mae Rae said...

i completely agree with the no responding thing. I hate being rude. Unfortunately, i have the memory of a gnat and many times forget to call.

Tara @ Tara Being Tara said...

AMEN, sister!

Julie said...

Worse: RSVPing and not showing up, whether it's evite or printed email. That one really gets my goat. I have no issue if something comes up-- and you tell me about it-- but not showing up, particularly to a private party, is incredibly rude. I'm even okay if you email me after the fact-- at least you thought about me-- but nothing at all? That gets you removed from my invite list.

Angela said...

Amen sister! When we do the girls birthday parties, I hardly ever get a single parent who calls me back, either to answer yes or no. I have to call everyone on the list to find out if they plan to attend! So rude!!! Ditto for not sending a thank you note for a gift. My children write thank you notes. They hate it, but they do it-and they will thank me for it later.