Don’t forget to RSVP this holiday season

Headshot of Cecilia Pita

By Cecilia Pita

When invitations to dinner parties start rolling in during the holidays, be sure to RSVP. It’s an easy way to show your host courtesy and respect. Photo: Cottonbro from Pexels
When invitations to dinner parties start rolling in during the holidays, be sure to RSVP. It’s an easy way to show your host courtesy and respect. Photo: Cottonbro from Pexels

You know how people say you should work in the service industry at some point in your life so that you can appreciate how to treat people? Well, I think you should also have to plan an event where you have to order food and drinks for your guests, so that you can learn the value of an RSVP.

RSVP comes from the French répondez s’il vous plait, which is a polite way to say “please respond” and is used to confirm an invitation.

These days invitations are usually electronic. We might glance at them in passing, and make a point to look at the calendar and reply when we have a chance.

The problem is that emails are often forgotten and unless it’s an event you’re very keen to attend, you will probably forget about it until you receive a reminder. Even then, unfortunately, people still disregard the request to acknowledge the invitation.

A lost art

This year I had the honour of helping to organize a milestone event. It had been a while since I had flexed my event planning skills. While I relished the opportunity, I dreaded the moment we would have to send out the invitations. Why? Because although I consider myself an optimist, I knew from experience that people are notoriously bad at RSVP-ing.

People don’t RSVP at all. Or, they say they’ll attend and then don’t. Or, they say they won’t attend, and then do. Please don’t get me started about people who like to bring their own (uninvited) guests to another’s event.

A host must develop a carefully curated guest list, a head count if you will. If there’s food and drink involved, whether professionally catered or not, each guest has a cost, even if you’re entertaining at home.

It’s easy to entertain at home because you can manage the numbers and leftovers can be frozen or sent home with guests and nothing goes to waste. However, with the ever-increasing cost of food, and the environmental repercussions of food waste, a considerate guest will

RSVP, regardless of if an event is in someone’s home, or a formal event space.

Whether at home or at an event space, without an accurate guest list, the host will end up guessing and that can be costly: Too much food and drink because people were no-shows and potentially paying for no-shows at your rental venue.

Be honest

So, if someone deems you worthy of their event, extends you an invitation, and is investing the effort to entertain you, the very least you can do is be gracious and acknowledge it. All you must do is decide whether to attend and then inform the host of your decision. RSVP. Easy. Straight forward. Dare I say, effortless?

Ignoring the invitation — or doing the opposite of what you said you would do — sends the wrong message to your host. They may think you don’t care about them and that they aren’t important to you. They may even think you are being disrespectful.

Yes, in life there are occasions when you may have to bow out of an event at the last minute because of an emergency like death or illness. However, just be honest if that happens.

Full panic mode

If you think the lack of RSVP-ing in society isn’t really that bad, let me circle back to the event I helped plan.

There were 120 invitations that went out. Of those, 43 responded (total after two reminders). Let me ask you, how much food and drink would you order?

As a Mediterranean-style entertainer with a propensity to have too much food, lest anyone go hungry, I was in full panic mode

Of those 43 guests who RSVP-ed, 31 attended. That means that 87 people didn’t even acknowledge the invitation and 12 that said they were coming decided not to show up at all. These last 12 didn’t even send any last-minute regrets to excuse their absence.

In the end, the people who made the effort to respond to the invitation, and those who ultimately attended, left a heartwarming impression on the hosts and the event was a great success.

So, when the invites start rolling in for the holidays, please RSVP. Don’t be the person to add to your host’s stress by showing indifference. It’s an easy way to show respect.

My wish for you is that all your guests RSVP, not just for the holiday season, but well into the New Year, too.