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How to handle RSVPs like the well-mannered lady you are

Lisa Gaché is the Founder & CEO of Beverly Hills Manners,an etiquette consulting company dedicated to promoting a new school style of manners to individual and corporate clients.

Everyone falls victim at one point or other to the RSVP enigma. We send out the invitation with the best of intentions, the guest graciously responds, and then inevitably the date arrives and said guest is nowhere to be found.

In the hours leading up to the event, all of the sudden the emails, texts and calls start pouring in with the laundry list of reasons as to why they can no longer attend. It may be as grave an excuse as illness or an unforeseen emergency or as vague and inconsequential as they no longer "feel like going."

The RSVP acceptance and then change of heart, however justified, is very upsetting for many. A demanding social climate doesn't make the problem any easier with sometimes two to three events occurring on the same date and time. Throw kids into the mix and it can be a veritable mess. Right now, not only am I having to organize my own invitations to make sure no RSVPs slip through the cracks, but I am also having to micro-manage my teenage daughters' RSVPs. Seventh grade is filled with formal social engagements. Just recently we grappled with this very issue of whether my daughter was going to keep or cancel her plans to attend a friend's coming-of-age celebration. She defended her reason to cancel. I vehemently disagreed and told her she needed to be a woman of her word and go as planned.

RSVP-ing took on a whole new meaning just last month when the BBC aired a story about a 5-year-old boy who was sent an invoice for failing to show up at a friend's birthday party he was originally scheduled to attend. The invoice was sent by the friend's mother who claimed that the boy's non-attendance cost her financial hardship to the tune of £15.95. Apparently, the boy's parents had double-booked him with a visit by his grandparents and neglected to contact the family to let them know. However reasonable this may sound, the family was highly insulted and now the case is being dealt with in small claims court. Yikes!

Stay on top of your RSVPs and keep your relationships in good stead with these helpful tips for courteously responding and keeping your commitments.

Keep a master calendar

Once you receive an invitation, immediately check your calendar to see what may also be scheduled on that date. Everything should be in one spot managed by one person whether there are two or 10 of you in the household. Include everything from birthday parties and team sports to school engagements and social outings. Don't forget recitals, competitions, appointments and travel plans.

RSVP is a must

Once you've reviewed your calendar, RSVP within 24-48 hours. This system helps to diminish any problems that may arise if another invitation for the same date and time arrives in the mail days later. If you get into a bind, technically, you are only obligated to attend the event of the invitation that arrived first. Refusing to respond is rude and leaves the invitee in an awkward and uncomfortable position.

Split your time sensibly

Sometimes we feel inclined (or indebted) to RSVP to more than one engagement at a given time. If that is the case, the trick is to be respectful and split your time sensibly. Then make it your mission to be the life of the party at both!

Manage electronic invite mayhem

The popularity of electronic invitations has caused mayhem among hosts who frantically try to keep track of RSVPs that fell by the wayside because their email was either overlooked on the computer screen or landed inadvertently in a spam folder. If you see an electronic invitation, flag it or open it right away. Check your spam folder regularly to cover all bases. Respond in the same manner you would a paper invitation. Feel free to add congratulatory comments.

Give a good excuse!

If you are unable to RSVP affirmatively to an event or something has come up at the last minute that is prohibiting you from attending, it is perfectly understandable, as long as you have adecent and thoughtful excuse. How you deliver your excuse and the words you choose to express yourself will make all the difference.

Don't leave your host hanging

If you committed to attend an event, do your darndest to be there with bells on. There is nothing sadder than a host who is painstakingly prepared and guests who are highly unappreciative. Occasionally, unfortunate things happen that can throw a curve ball in our plans, but arbitrary decisions to avoid showing up are simply unacceptable.

Image: cgandy425/Getty Images
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