Modern Etiquette: Try not to be tardy with those RSVPs

Mon Mar 4, 2013 5:53am EST
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By Anna Post

Burlington, Vermont (Reuters) - A few days ago I attended my aunt's 50th birthday party. It was a terrific bash—her friends and family were there in suits and cocktail dresses for a night of dinner and dancing. My uncle went all-out on the evening, and had mailed invitations well over a month in advance, giving until the week before the party to reply.

Confession of an all-too-human etiquette expert: He got my reply on the day it was due—and only after my mom thankfully dropped me a reminder. I had found myself in a position that many well-intentioned people do: They know whether or not they can attend, and think—"Great! I'll let the host know."

What they fail to do is go immediately to the phone or computer (or in the case of a wedding, the mailbox) and do so. Maybe they can't at that moment, and then forget.

Maybe they need to check with a spouse first, or arrange for childcare. My point is that many of us are well intentioned, and yet our intentions don't count for much when we don't follow through.

This is why failure to respond to invitations is so annoying to so many. Without our follow through, there is no way for the host to intuit our answer, and all the while they need to know their final numbers for planning purposes.

And this is to say nothing of the hurt many hosts feel when they go to the effort of arranging an event only to be met with silence.

Failure to RSVP (French for répondez s'il vous plaît, or "please reply") is one of the biggest etiquette complaints I hear about, and the one that is often accompanied by the most frustration.

Whether the event is a children's birthday party or a wedding, hosts are often left to hound guests for an answer or else assume that the guest in question won't be coming.   Continued...

Revellers dance at an office Christmas party in London December 13, 2007. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly