Yes or No?: Just Tell Me
As you all know we now have numerous ways to contact people—telephone, text, email, Skype, Facetime, IM, regular mail, Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat and, of course, face-to-face visits. One would think with all of these innovative, highly convenient, practically instant methods of communication, the rate of return on RSVPs would be on the rise. Not so. It is at a dreadful, miserable all-time low, shattering etiquette books to smithereens and sending Miss Manners dangerously close to her deathbed.
For the record, let’s define RSVP just so we are all on the same page. This paragraph is also a public service announcement for those who have either forgotten or have never fully understood what those four letters in that particular order mean. Officially, the acronym RSVP originated in France and stands for répondez s’il vous plaît, which translated, is simply, “Respond, please.”
Unofficially, it means please have the common courtesy to tell me if you are coming so that I can plan the proper amount of food, drink and favors, and in general, just know if someone is coming at all. (This information is a big deal to party hosts. You know that, because surely you have been a party host at one time, and been completely annoyed that people didn’t RSVP.) For all of you who think your RSVP doesn’t make a difference, here are a few things to ponder:
1) Don’t be that person who hasn’t managed to RSVP in the six weeks since you received the invitation, but then calls 45 minutes before the event starts. I despise that person. Let me clue you in what is happening 45 minutes prior to a party starting: The host is in a tizzy, rushing to get the final touches finished before the doorbell rings—food on trays, ice in cooler, candles lit, wine opened, dogs put up, last minute dirty dishes hidden, makeup on, lighting set, music selected, and more, more, more. The LAST thing she needs is for you to call and say you’re not coming. Quite frankly, at this point, who cares? The food is purchased, the money spent; your sudden gush of RSVP face-saving is only for you and not the host. If you are attempting to not appear rude by not acknowledging, believe me, you’re being ruder by acknowledging during the 45-minute throw down to show time. Don’t call!
2) Don’t be that person who shows up early. Recently my mother, who is 85 years old, had a small crafting party at her home. She set the time for 6:00 p.m. She had a guest show up at 2:00 that afternoon. While my mother wouldn’t express herself this way, she was pissed. Of course, she didn’t tell the woman to go home. She put up with her all afternoon while trying to accomplish the things we all like to do to our homes and food prior to a party. And, no, the woman didn’t offer to help. Well, she made a faux-offer, and immediately planted herself firmly in a chair. I don’t even like someone showing up five minutes early. My mother handled herself way more graciously than I would have. I would have handed that gal an apron and a dust cloth and put her to work.
3) Don’t be that person who asks the host questions such as these: What are we eating? Who else is coming? I know you said my friend could come, but I have two other guests in town; can they come, too? These types of questions come across as selfish. If it a friend’s birthday party—or whatever the occasion— does it really matter what you are eating? Shouldn’t the focus be on the friend and her birthday, not on what you’re going to fill your belly with? These types of questions burden and worry the host. Put on your full armor of support and be a champion for your friend’s occasion; that’s what friends are for. Sometimes it’s not all about you (hope this isn’t breaking news).
4) Don’t be that person who brings something when the host said no thank you. Some may think the more the merrier—be it wine, food, flowers—but sometimes hosts have a set food plan and décor theme and truly want you to show up empty handed. A hostess gift is always appreciated, but here’s an example of overstepping boundaries: A friend asked if she could bring something to a dinner party I was hosting. I told her I had everything covered. She didn’t listen. She brought a delightful chocolate cake from a very reputable bakery and put it down right next to the chocolate cake I had spent three hours baking from scratch. It’s my dinner party. I get to decide my menu. Sometimes generosity isn’t generous.
5) Don’t be that person who cancels at the last minute. Of course there are circumstances you can’t help—death and diarrhea (and it needs to be a really bad case…of diarrhea, I mean, there aren’t different levels of dying)—but other than that, follow through on your commitment. If something else comes up, don’t let down the person to whom you already committed. That’s a really crappy thing to do. No matter how hard you try to explain and justify your decision, and no matter how many times the host tells you she understands…you just made your host feel terrible and unimportant and put a little wedge between the two of you. A wedge is like a small crack in a windshield; it starts out small, but is hard to control from spreading once there.
So, if you thought those four letters, RSVP, at the bottom of invitation didn’t mean much, they do. By not responding, you are sending a very clear message that you don’t care. Your lack of response can also convey you’re holding out to see if something better comes up or that you’re simply not interested. It’s all negative messages. However, on a positive note, a timely reply shows respect, even if the answer is no.
Back to the easy methods of communication—please choose one and use it when it comes to responding to an invitation. No matter if the response is yes or no, just communicate. You may think you are just one person, with just one answer, but believe me, when one is trying to plan an event, your answer is priceless. Not only is it in good taste to respond, it is kind and loving. And after all, isn’t that who you really are?