Adventures in Everyday Entertaining
Whether you are sending an invitation to a gathering in the mail, or using technology (Facebook, Evite, Text, Email, etc.), more often than not you are requesting that your guest respond to you and let you know if they are attending or not. The question is, how much time do you give them to get back to you?
Different types of gatherings call for different types of etiquette when it comes to RSVPing. But really the final word should be a balance of what works for YOU and your event, comfort zone, planning process, etc. as well as giving enough time for your guests to make plans. Costume party invites for instance should be given out to guests in plenty of time to not only respond, but to come up with a costume.
RSVP means Répondez s’il vous plaît, which is translated from the French as “Please Respond”. The modern use of technology as a means for inviting guests has automated responses and in many ways helped encourage guests to get back to their host. With tools like Facebook and Evite, a guest simply has to click on a button to state whether they are coming or not. This is a great, fast, and efficient way for a host to plan their party. Or is it? Some people will respond “yes” or “maybe” with good intentions but forget once it comes to the actual day of the event. Or something comes up, and they forget to let the host know. If you are using one of these electronic means and you need a specific head count, perhaps by a certain date, be upfront with that information. Your guests are not mind readers. But chances are high (especially if you are inviting them to your home) that they care about you and do not want to cause any extra “party planning stress”. Make sure the description of the gathering includes an “RSVP by” if that is important for your process. Potlucks are generally a more casual party atmosphere but if you need to know what different people are bringing ahead of time, make sure to include that as well.
If sending an invitation by mail, make sure to include whether guests need to RSVP or not. You can then offer up the option of either RSVPing by a certain date, or asking for “regrets only”. A casual get together with friends for a holiday drink might not need an exact head count, but a sit down dinner a lot of times will. Many of us entertain in homes with limited space and we need to get creative. Finding enough table room and available chairs means extra planning. Depending on guest count, chairs may need to be rented or borrowed.
A few factors to think about when choosing a “RSVP by” date for a sit down dinner party:
I actually just ran into this issue in planning for our ‘Thankful with Friends’ dinner party (a pre-Thanksgiving celebration that we are hosting the weekend before the holiday to be spent with friends). I gave an “RSVP by” on the mailed invitations that reflected the time I needed to go grocery shopping, prep the food, and finalize the seating. I did not factor in the fact that we would be getting creative with our seating and bringing in tables for different parts of the house and re-arranging the living room. And that I would be needing to get chairs from others. So now I’m having a “Making It Work” moment (Thanks Tim Gunn one of my favorite phrases) and pulling everything together. BUT — now I know for next time. 🙂