The holiday entertainment season is upon us. That means we’ll be receiving — and responding to — invitations for upcoming events.
The vast majority of invitations include the letters R-S-V-P. They’re an abbreviation for the French phrase “respondez s’il vous plait,” which means “please reply.”
Fifty years ago, no one needed to put RSVP on an invitation. In fact, doing so was considered rude. It was understood that all recipients would respond in an appropriate and timely fashion.
But, according to Maralee McKee, the founder of Manners Mentor Inc., by the 1960s and 1970s, that social skill went AWOL. People stopped informing the hosts of their intentions. The letters “RSVP” were added as a reminder. Still, manners spiraled into an abyss.
Now, even when “RSVP by” and a date are plainly written on invites, entertainers still lament the rudeness of their guests.
The consequences of our laxity are staggering. Hosts don’t know who’s coming or they’re forced to call each guest and say, “Hey, did you get my invitation?” Our callousness indicates disinterest, as if we’re thumbing our noses at supposed friends and cohorts. And we justify our misbehavior with excuses: “I’m so busy” or “I never read my emails.”
No one wants to be a social boor. We can all polish up our social graces. Let’s all promise to do better this holiday season. Our hosts will thank us for it.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.
How to RSVP
▪ RSVP as quickly as possible. A day or two at max. Waiting longer tells the host you’re not interested. If you’re unsure of your plans, call the host and explain the situation: “My sister and her family are visiting that week. I’ll let you know as soon as I have their itinerary.”
▪ RSVP as the invitation directs. If you received an invitation by email, then it’s fine to RSVP online. If the invitation gives a phone number, call in your response. It’s always best to speak directly to the host. Electronics and voicemails can go awry.
▪ If no RSVP is requested, it’s still polite to reply. A quick phone call, email or hand-written note is always appreciated.
▪ “Regrets only” means you don’t have to respond. But remember: If your host doesn’t hear from you, he or she is expecting you to attend.
▪ Opting out at the last minute is only acceptable in dire situations, such as an illness, family emergency or an unavoidable professional or business conflict. Contact your host or hostess immediately to notify him or her of any change of plans.
▪ Canceling because you get a better offer is an unforgiveable party foul and a sure way to get excluded from all future functions.
▪ Use caution when asking to bring someone not on the invitation. Although most invites specifically state the names of the invitees, many hosts will gladly include a visiting friend or adult child. Always check first.
▪ Say thank you. Always thank the hosts in person before you leave. Then drop them a note or call the next day.
Adapted from The Emily Post Institute website