“Répondez s’il vous plait”…What?

I am involved in planning two social events in the next two weeks and our “invitees” are making me crazy. Why won’t people let us know whether they are going to come to our party or not? This is a basic element of etiquette that seems to have gotten lost over the last decade or two. It is very annoying. RSVP. “Répondez s’il vous plait” What is so difficult about this?

I am planning a work related, casual dinner for a week and a half from now. The invitation list includes university administrators, state legislators, county commissioners and business leaders – in other words, people who should know how to behave in public. The invitations went out two weeks ago with a reply card and a stamped return envelope. All they have to do is print their name, check the appropriate box, and drop it in the mail.  We sent 124 invitations and asked for responses by today. Only about a third of the invitees have troubled themselves to respond.

Mrs. Poolman and I are hosting a couple’s bridal shower for the son of one of our good friends and his fiancé. We told the family we could handle 40 people at our house. They gave us a list of 67 invitees with the assurance that many would not be able to come. My daughter ordered the invitations and had “regrets only” rather than a full RSVP. (When I saw that, I knew we were looking at trouble.) Nonetheless, of the 67 people invited, we have had only six regrets. The party is tomorrow evening. We strongly suspect we will have around 40 people, but we need to be prepared (food and drink) for 61. Maybe that isn’t a break-down in the social system. Maybe all 61 who have not “regretted” will be there. That may overwhelm the infrastructure, especially since rain is predicted which may negate our use of the outside space.

I don’t know why I get worked up over this. I should be used to it by now. I realize not everyone has ever taken the time to read an Emily Post, Amy Vanderbilt or Miss Manners etiquette book. (Of course, I think it should be required reading, but that’s just me.) Past experience has shown us that you will have people who say they are coming, but don’t show up, and those who don’t respond and still show up. Sometimes those balance out, but not always.

For my daughter’s wedding several years ago, we invited a couple. They RSVP’d in the affirmative for themselves and also wrote-in the names of their two adult children who were not invited on the response card. We didn’t make an issue out of it. Then, in the end, none of them came.

While planning a work-related event a couple of years ago, a local business leader called to say he could not make it because his wife, son and daughter-in-law would had already invited him out to dinner for his birthday that night. Then he called back and asked if he could just bring the whole family. Reluctantly, we agreed that would be OK. On the night of the event, he didn’t come…but the rest of the family did. Huh?

I really just need to get over it.

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