Green Door Hospitality

Adventures in Everyday Entertaining

RSVP: How much time do you give yourself, as well as your guests?


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:

  • How much time is needed for finalizing the menu plan?  Do some of your guests have dietary needs?  If so, you may need to find out which of those guests can attend before you complete your menu.
  • How many people are you inviting?  How does that number correlate with the current number of seats, tables, etc. that you have in your home?  If you reach a certain number of guests, will you need to borrow or rent chairs?  If so, how much time do you need to acquire what is needed to accommodate all your guests?
  • Are you doing a seating chart?  If so are you making place cards or purchasing them?  How much time do you need to put them together?

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. 🙂

7 comments on “RSVP: How much time do you give yourself, as well as your guests?

  1. Cloches & Lavender
    October 26, 2012

    Very good post. Great tips.

  2. The Humble Foodie
    October 26, 2012

    I love this post because it combines two of my favorite topics: etiquette and entertaining. From hosting events in the past, I’ve learned that even if I ask guests to RSVP, I will inevitably receive late “yes” responses, people cancelling the day of, or no response at all and surprise guests. I think some of this has to do with the texting culture that’s sprung up in the last decade, and I see it with my high school students too. Guests may not realize how much advance planning goes into a dinner party or shower, and because they can reach the host in five seconds with a text message, it seems like no big deal to change plans the day before or the day of. You might guess from the length of this comment that this is kind of a pet peeve of mine…but I’ve learned to just plan for a couple extra guests, and if all else fails, I’ll have plenty of leftover food and more attention to give those who do show up!

    • Green Door Hospitality
      October 26, 2012

      Glad you enjoyed this post!! I think RSVPing falls into some of the “social niceties” that have fallen by the wayside. And in large part hosts are having to adjust in order to accommodate…or spend extra time contacting people to follow up on invites and see if they be attending. 🙂

  3. petit4chocolatier
    October 26, 2012

    I absolutely love this post. It seems like people forget about invitations unless they are the same day. Everyone seems to be so busy and very few follow the RSVP etiquette. There has to be a lot of follow-up by the hosts to really secure a well planned party. You have really brought many good points to the surface on RSVP & etiquette!

  4. Pingback: Holiday Entertaining: Making A List And Checking It Twice « Green Door Hospitality

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: