Suppose you gave a party and nobody came.
You would be hurt, insulted, and ticked-off all at the same time. Your time and money would have been wasted when you were just trying to be friendly, sociable, and sharing.
You did include an “RSVP” on your invitation, but nobody replied. And you didn’t have time to chase everyone you invited to confirm their attendance. So you forged ahead creating the party, only to be stood up by everyone but the family. What happened?
Your invited guests probably didn’t realize “RSVP” meant they needed to let you know they would not be coming (due to the playoff games, obvious conflict, or some other obligation or event they would rather attend). Sometimes they don’t respond because they don’t want to commit to a schedule in case something better comes up, such as sailing on the lake, or a fast trip to Cancun. Maybe their poor behavior is just a lack of etiquette training.
My French language skills may be a bit rusty, but somehow I have always known that “RSVP” means “Call me for gosh sakes and let me know if you are coming or not so I don’t buy 50 cupcakes when I only need 24.”
Calling to respond is a logical progression of the social process if even if it’s just to say “Thanks for the invitation, I’d love to come. What can I bring?” or “Thanks for the invitation, but unfortunately I already have other plans that day.” Not calling is just plain disrespectful and bad-mannered, making any no-show guest one of the “Rude.Slothful.Vicious.Ppeople.”
What else could have happened? You may have forgotten to be clear about your RSVP, or provide response choices your guests would use.
There was a time when formal invitations always contained the RSVP line, meaning Réspondez s’il vous plaît (translated: Respond if you please, or please reply). Polite society always responded in kind with acceptances or regrets. Again, etiquette training was part of everyone’s education so they knew a mailed invitation required a mailed reply unless a telephone number was supplied.
The more modern “Regrets only” line on an invitation means guests are expected to attend. (“I’m spending money on you unless you squeeze out of it by telling me you are NOT coming, and we know how yellow you are about doing that. So be sure to get your butt over here.”)
Times have changed even more. Now a host or hostess first has to make sure their party doesn’t conflict with some major holiday, sports event, or other activity in their own social circle that might influence attendance at their party (like a wedding or bar mitzvah).
Also, today you have to make it even simpler for your guests to respond. Don’t just put “RSVP” on the invitation with a home phone number. Use more space on the invitation and provide several alternative methods for guests to communicate their RSVP response, such as:
Second telephone number: Preferably your cell phone number
Facebook or MySpace access
Text Message: RUCONC? (translation: Are you coming or not coming?)
With more choices than a telephone call, chances are your RSVP response rate will increase and your party’s attendance rate will be better, too. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Note: Although this column has really nothing to do with creating a family cookbook or using our great cooking and recipe-related products, it addresses a pet peeve of many exasperated hosts and hostesses that the common courtesy of the RSVP is becoming a lost art.
Happy cookbooking and partying,