The Art of the RSVP
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 10:00AM

From the French RSVP, répondez s'il vous plaît or répondre s'il vous plaît, meaning Reply Please.

Here's the cold hard fact about RSVP's: PEOPLE STINK when it comes to doing it. STINK! Like POOP!

And here's another cold hard fact for you folks who think you know what RSVP means for other people, but not you. YOU NEED TO EFFING RSVP. GET IT? I don't care if you're the BFF, the MOH, the favorite uncle, the freakin' MOB...when it comes to weddings YOU NEED TO RSVP. Do you get it now? Do you? I don't think you do. I swear, like the sanest and smartest people I know in the entire world are bordering on Corky when it comes to the RSVP. I take that back. I bet Corky RSVP's.

Here are some personal doozies:

I recently had a bride tell me that on her RSVP, she wrote "Please Respond by October Thirtieth." A good number of people have openly complained to her...."how can we respond by the 13th when we just got the invitation?" Um, yeah. People, please READ before you go bothering the bride with your stupidity. Thirtieth is NOT Thirteenth. You see those little letters there? They spell shit.

And I had someone, a single someone, who wasn't dating ANYONE, reply with a +1 when a +1 clearly wasn't invited. I did a lot of online research to figure out the best way to tell her that her +1 was going to be a -1. In my research, I ended up on a lot of message boards and chat rooms where women had gone absolutely batshit crazy about who is supposed to RSVP and who isn't. AGAIN, if you get an invitation that requests an RSVP, you need to send one. There are no questions, no ifs, no ands, no buts. Are you getting it yet? 

If not, I will repeat: if you get an invitation that has an RSVP on it you need to follow the instructions on that invitation to reply. Don't call when it says email. Don't leave a message on Facebook (yup, I got one of those too). Don't assume the person who has so thoughtfully invited you to a function, enough so to personally send an invitation, knows your schedule and can keep up with it and the 150 other people she invited.

You know what it is to not RSVP? Or worse, have the  person hunt you down for an answer? It is simply rude. Rude. It's bad manners. That's right, manners. Not sure what those are? Here's a formal description via Wikipedia:

In sociology, manners are the unenforced standards of conduct which demonstrate that a person is proper, polite, and refined. They are like laws in that they codify or set a standard for human behavior, but they are unlike laws in that there is no formal system for punishing transgressions, other than social disapproval. They are a kind of norm. What is considered "mannerly" is highly susceptible to change with time, geographical location, social stratum, occasion, and other factors. That manners matter is evidenced by the fact that large books have been written on the subject, advice columns frequently deal with questions of mannerly behavior, and that schools have existed for the sole purpose of teaching manners.

I prefer this excerpt from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, probably the greatest book of all time.  

There's a scene where Scout invites a boy, Walter, to her house for supper. Upon being served, Walter proceeds to pour syrup all over his food and Scout explodes with some expletives of wonder and concern. Calpurnia, their nanny and housekeeper, yanks Scout into the kitchen with this retort:

Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house, they are company and don't let me catch you remarking on their ways like you were so high and mighty. That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear? And if you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen.

And if you can't act fit to take an entire 2 minutes to reply to an RSVP, you shouldn't have been invited anyway. So there.

It's funny, I found an article on BitchBuzz (a fave, natch) that had nearly the same title I have given this post. What struck me the most about this article were the most common reasons why people do not RSVP.

They’re almost always one of three common excuses:

1) “I receive too many invitations.”

You mean you’re so popular that you don’t possibly have the time to let people know if you’ll be coming? Or, do you prefer to remain mysterious, leaving people waiting in hope that you’ll grace them with your presence? I hate to burst your bubble, but nobody is so busy or important that they can’t respond to an invitation.

Agreed. You are not that busy. No one is. And here's the thing, let's say I send you an invitation and you are one of the kinds of people who don't send it back. I am going to bet you a million bajillion dollars that if I TEXTED you something that was important to you at that red hot second? You'd reply. You know you would. That makes you lame. Yes, it does.

2) “I don’t like to say no to people.”

Many people find it hard to say “No”, and usually this is because they don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings. What is forgotten is that saying “Yes” when you really mean “No” is more hurtful than declining in the first instance. If you’re not planning on showing up, why say you will be?

I'm going to put this into the camp of the "yes" reply followed shortly thereafter with a "no" because "something came up." That doesn't fly either. Let's say you get invited to my house for a dinner party. You accept. Awesome. You show up at my house, dressed to the nines when the invite said Casual. You then inform me that you are just "dropping by" because you're going to the new restaurant that just opened and it was the only night you could get reservations that month. This actually happened to me and you know what? I'm not friends with that couple anymore. Not just because of that (although I think that was enough), but because of similarly rude actions that were just shy of saying, "You're really not that important in our lives, but we'll pretend you are if you pretend too." Yeah, eff that people. Just tell me you're not coming. I made a nice dinner that night for six people. I spent time and money and effort on a meal for six when a meal for four would have been cheaper, easier and less of a hassle. Hope those reservations were worth it!

3) “I’d like to go but I might have something else on.” If this is the case, say no. Don’t leave the host hanging because you’d like to keep your options open. You can always ask later on if it’s not too late to join in. But saying “Maybe” almost always translates as, “I’ll attend… if nothing better comes up”.

If this is your excuse, I don't want you as my friend. I don't. This may sound harsh, but it's the truth. If you are so popular that you cannot commit to a party, wedding, bat mitzvah, tea, you're probably too popular for the likes of me. Nobody wants to feel second rate to whatever uber-fabulous social life you think you have. And going back to the point in #2: if you commit to something with an RSVP of "yes" then anything else that comes your way? You say this, "Oh, thank you so much for the invitation but I'm sorry I can't come. I have a prior commitment. But please keep me in mind next time!"

Someone (maybe Grandmother Nanya) told me a long time ago that the point of good manners is to make other people feel at ease in your presence. I really like that explanation. No one wants to see you chomping food with your mouth open, it grosses some people out and makes them uncomfortable. Holding a door for someone gives them validation that they have been noticed, that they exist and it makes them feel good. Sending a thank you note for a gift tells the sender that it was both received and appreciated. And in return, the people you are polite to will know you were NOT just so busy and popular that you didn't have the decency to show a shred of politeness to a thoughtful person.

And I don't think that this would be a complete discussion of RSVPs with out the how-to's from the guru of etiquette, the Mistress of American Manners, Miss Emily Post.  Here are the rules:

How do I respond? Reply in the manner indicated on the invitation.

Is that your final answer?

“May I bring…”

Don’t even ask! An invitation is extended to the people the hosts want to invite—and no one else.

Granted some of these things may seem a little dated, or a little stiff. That's A-OK. You know why it's OK? Because it's good manners and manners are supposed to be a little stiff. It's polite. It's the right thing to do regardless of what your friends do, what's been done to you (I'm guilty of this one, I'll admit it) or what you read on some lame message board. I think that as a culture and a country we've become a little too me-centric in everything we do. I see it every day in the way we drive drve on the road together, how we treat total strangers, how the anonymity of the internet gives people a sense of power that really, none of us have. You could say this blog is a result of that trend. You could probably accuse me of a lot of stuff. I'm not perfect. But I do RSVP. Do you? And more importantly, why wouldn't you?


Article originally appeared on The Thirty-Something Bride Wedding Blog (
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