You sort through the mail, just like every day – bill, bill, junk, credit card application, bill, junk, hand-written letter. Oooh, now we’re talking! You excitedly open your letter to find an invitation and you do one of three things:
1. Check your calendar and realize you’re free;
2. Check your calendar, realize you’re free, but you do not want to go;
3. Check your calendar and realize you have a conflict.
From personal experience and from the experience of my family and friends, I have noticed a bothersome trend with party invitations. Whether it’s for a wedding, birthday party, engagement celebration, shower, or anything in between, what always happens in the weeks leading up to the main event? As a hostess, you’re stuck with a long list of no replies that you have to awkwardly hunt down. That’s why the number one thing you should ignore on invitations is the RSVP date.
The #1 Thing to Ignore on Invitations
Why? Because you should RSVP right when you receive the invitation. Barring a few exceptions, you know the day you receive an invitation whether or not you are free – unless you’re expecting a baby around that time, in which case, you truly would not know your availability. I can’t think of many other reasons why you would not know your schedule the day you receive the invitation. Here’s what to do:
If you’re free and want to go
Well this is the easiest option because you’re excited to attend the event. Instead of saying you will RSVP tomorrow, (which turns into the next day, which turns into the next week, which turns into you lost the invitation and forgot about it) pick up the phone and happily RSVP yes. Mark it on your calendar and hang up the invitation somewhere visible on a regular basis for a daily reminder of the upcoming event.
If you’re unavailable but want to go
This is another easy option because all you have to do is pick up the phone and be honest with the host. While fear of disappointment or anxiety of rejecting may leave you declining at the last minute, it will actually make it exponentially worse for the hosts who are relying on final numbers for their party’s execution.
If you’re available but do not want to go
Instead of mulling over your excuse for days or weeks, let the hostess know that you cannot attend the day you receive the invitation. It’s not fair for you to know you will not be present at the event but for the hostess to be kept in the dark. It’s like the ‘ripping a Band-Aid off quickly’ effect – just get it over with, and it will be better for both parties.
How to decline an invitation
Remember, declining an invitation is not a rejection against the host, it’s simply saying you cannot attend the event. Here are some simple steps to take to decline an invitation.
- Decline promptly: don’t wait for a perfect moment that doesn’t exist; the sooner you decline, the better you will feel, and it’s better for the host who can move forward with her planning.
- Be honest: if you have an actual conflict in your schedule, let the hostess know. If you simply do not want to attend, while I do not condone lying, it’s best to just say you have a conflict and you’re sorry you cannot make it.
- Be thankful: thank the host for thinking of you and for including you and offer to get together another time (if applicable).
- Don’t overdo it: you don’t have to give every detail as to why you cannot go; by over-explaining your legitimate reason or false conflict in schedule, you will sound like you’re making an excuse. Keep it brief and sincere.
- Send a gift: if you would have brought a gift to the party, such as a birthday or shower, and it’s for a close family member or friend, send a gift instead.
Party logistics dependent on the final count
While you may think your reply yes or no will ultimately make no difference to the event, think again. First of all, unfortunately, most other people are thinking the same way, leaving the host with a long list of uncertain attendees. So why does your RSVP matter? Depending on the event, here are some ways your reply makes a difference:
- Guest list: there may be more people the hosts would like to invite based on the number of replies no; they need ample time to invite them.
- Décor: especially for weddings, your final count determines so much more than a plate of food; the final number determines how many linens, centerpieces, place cards, favors, and menus are needed for the event.
- Food: whether you’re cooking yourself or catering, you need to know the number of people attending so you can plan your menu, including food and beverages.
- Special touches: if your hosts are anything like my parents, they may be planning some special touches that will depend on who is coming to the party, such as a presentation or game.
Also, by not replying promptly or at all, the host may think you did not receive your invitation or that you’re being rude or negligent.
I hope the next time you receive an invitation, the first thing you do after opening it and checking your calendar is either dropping your RSVP in the mail or picking up the phone to call the hostess with your reply.
As a hostess or event recipient, what are your thoughts on this? If you wait until the the last minute to respond, what is the reason?