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"Regrets only" invitation response


marbel
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From time to time here we talk about the problem of getting responses to invitations.   I've been pondering this lately because tomorrow I am hosting a church picnic at my home.  We have a few picnics in people's homes every summer, and it's a lot of fun. It's also a lot of work because even though it's mostly pot-luck, the host usually provides the plates, utensils, and such, and the main dish (some years that is reimbursed by the church, depending on budget status).  I've done it several times, and it is a little nerve-wracking not knowing if 75 people will show up, or 20.   (I've learned how to cook for it so that if I have leftovers they are freezable.  I cooked 7 pounds of chicken in bbq sauce yesterday, and am doing 7 more today.  And I have a Costco pack of hot dogs.  Plus one person kindly offered to bring a main dish rather than a side or dessert, since she would like to host a picnic but doesn't have the space.  BTW it's my yard that can accommodate 75 people, not my house.)

 

Anyway, requesting rsvps for this has never worked.  But then I remembered something I've seen on open-house invitations in the past (not recently): 

   RSVP: Regrets only.

 

I wondered if people would be more inclined to respond to that if they know they won't be able to attend.   It leaves people open to decide at the last minute, but if people are certain they won't be there, it would still help the host a little.  If there are potentially 75 people, but I knew 15 of them could not come, that would still help, kwim?

 

Has anyone done it that way, and has it worked well (do people actually respond)?   Maybe no one has ever seen it. (I  haven't seen it in years.)  Maybe people don't know what it means.  

 

I'm just curious.  I'm not going to stop hosting the picnics because even with the work and uncertainty it is so fun.   

 

 

ETA: I guess it is not just curiosity that has me asking.  We have noticed that fewer people are signing up to host, and the uncertainty with regard to numbers is one reason. I sort of look at it  like, it's a church picnic - if it was in a park or on the church grounds, rsvps are usually not required or even asked for.  So if I think of it that way, it doesn't really matter if I don't know how many will come. 

 

 

 

Edited by marbel
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I've done RSVP and regrets only RSVP parties. Response rate is about the same. Some people respond anyway because they didn't read regrets only and some people don't respond and also don't show up.

 

I do find I get the best response rate from evite.

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We don't host much of anything anymore (too far away from family), but when we did, I'd use "regrets only." It was more successful in helping me get an accurate count. But that was some time ago. Recent years have led me to believe that people's social sense and level of courtesy on that issue has decreased. Hope your picnic goes well.

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I have seen "to judge the quantity of food needed for this event we ask that everyone intending to come please RSVP by..." and then a Date, usually 2-3 days prior. No idea how effective that is for others but I responded.

 

Also, at certain church events I have sometimes been called or texted or have called or texted 2-3 days ahead of time to confirm.

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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we would have activities through the church of bbq's in people's yards or a park, etc.  it was never treated as a private social event with rsvp or regrets only.   it was a church sponsored event - and the church provided the plates/utensils (or asked people to bring their own), stating up front what they would provide and what people were expected to bring.  (chairs, outdoor games, side dishes)

 

so, are you hosting?  or is the church hosting and you are providing the venue?

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we would have activities through the church of bbq's in people's yards or a park, etc.  it was never treated as a private social event with rsvp or regrets only.   it was a church sponsored event - and the church provided the plates/utensils (or asked people to bring their own), stating up front what they would provide and what people were expected to bring.  (chairs, outdoor games, side dishes)

 

so, are you hosting?  or is the church hosting and you are providing the venue?

 

Hm, I guess I would say we are co-hosting though I'm not sure how that is relevant to the question.   It is a church event but in my house and I set the rules, so to speak:  I decide what I will provide and what I want others to provide.   So, I can decide if I want to require people to respond to the announcement/invitation.  It has not worked in the past, whether we use e-vite, email, or a bulletin/pulpit announcement.   I've decided I can be OK with not having a clue how many people are coming, though of course it would be easier if I did.  Other people are not comfortable with it, though, so some who formally held the picnic in their homes have stopped.  Hence, the question for future reference.   Of course what has worked for some people still won't work for others, etc.

 

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I would find this really annoying. How can they know they might be able to come if they have no idea when it is happening?

 

I'd probably just not go.

 

All they have to do is text, call or email and ask. I threw a party once and invited over 20 people. No one said they were coming but almost everyone showed up and we were unprepared. I'm not doing that ever again.

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The problem at our recent wedding was the number of people who did respond that they were coming and then didn't show up!

Yup! Very expensive.

 

I have friend that is about to encounter this. Her daughter's wedding has an invite list of 214 and 200 yes, 14 no. As an event coordinator I have never had an event in this area that had better than 80% attendance. But that doesn't mean it is impossible. She simply cannot short on food and then truly have all these people come. But I predict that she really will have a bunch of no shows. $20.00 a head for this buffet and very likely forty no shows. $800 down the tube.

 

I personally no longer host large events. We had an 80% yes response to ds's graduation party invites and only 50% attendance. I froze the meat but the fresh fruit and salads couldn't be frozen. Ugh. It was the same the previous year with eldest ds.

 

So I am doing only immediate family and closest personal friends when youngest graduates, at a local restaurant where I can use the conference room for $50 and only pay for the number of people who actually show. No more big, costly events.

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Do you think they are viewing it as a more casual thing, without a real need for rsvping? I know our church usually asks people to sign up but heavily emphasizes to please still come if you forgot to sign up or have last minute changes.

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I did a Regrets Only invitation for my friend's baby shower. I was a wreck because nobody RSVP'd so I thought, "Okay, does this mean everyone is coming? So do I plan for all 80 people (yup, 80...her first baby after years of infertility)?"

 

I ended up splitting the list with another friend, and we called everybody who had not responded in passing conversation, at church, etc. So if we hadn't heard directly from someone, we called them to see if they were coming. Totally defeated the purpose of the Regrets Only idea, but I was looking at renting chairs and tables, so it was important for me to have a fairly accurate headcount.

 

 

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Do you think they are viewing it as a more casual thing, without a real need for rsvping? I know our church usually asks people to sign up but heavily emphasizes to please still come if you forgot to sign up or have last minute changes.

 

It may be.  And I think when people are bringing food, they figure if they show up or not doesn't matter, because if their food isn't there, they won't be there to eat it anyway.   And if they show up unexpectedly, hey, they brought food!  So it is more casual in that way. 

 

We also ask people to bring lawn chairs so seating is not a worry.

 

It's really about the main dish and, really, some people are just not comfortable inviting people over with no idea how many will show up.

 

We have done it in the past where everyone brings main dish, side dish, dessert AND drinks, all to share.  I don't care for that myself - by the time I've prepped all that food, I am unmotivated it haul it somewhere.    We've also done it where there is a grill and people are welcome to bring their own meat to prepare while bringing sides, desserts, and drinks to share - that can work well as long as no one gets stuck being the grillmaster for all.  

 

 

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All they have to do is text, call or email and ask. I threw a party once and invited over 20 people. No one said they were coming but almost everyone showed up and we were unprepared. I'm not doing that ever again.

 

Well, I understand how they can go that extra step and find out the time, of course, and your reasoning.

 

As a guest, I would just find it irksome to have to jump through those extra hoops. 

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We tried regrets only at our church, but it didn't work.

We tried sign ups but they mostly don't work.

 

So we use experience.  It seems like whenever we have a big cookout we have about the same number of people there, assuming the weather is decent.  So we buy a little more than that many people's worth of meat and fixings, and ask attendees to bring side dishes.  What happens is sometimes the best meat is consumed before the last people go through the line--so they might get burgers instead of tritip--but there is always enough.  We freeze the extra burgers for the next time.  

 

When I entertain, I consider myself to have abjectly failed if I don't have a lot of leftovers.  So I don't mind them.  I want people to stay twice as long as on the invitation, eat two meals if they are that hungry, and have plenty to be able to do that and an inviting enough array for that to seem reasonable.  

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I entered adulthood not knowing that RSVP was for not attending also. Finally, for a wedding maybe ten years ago, the host called me to ask and let me know we are supposed to rsvp for regrets. I feel so horrible I didn't know this before. So, it is possible that people don't know they are supposed to rsvp regardless. Personally, I have contacted people directly when I didn't hear back and needed to know.

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I think in this day of lax responding to anything, a regrets-only would be even worse for predicting numbers.  If people have the gaul to show up after not being bothered to actually RSVP, or even worse, not show up after RSVPing, I would think someone who is on the fence, not planning to come, or simply scattered-brained is even less likely to bother to respond to a regrets-only-RSVP, if that makes any sense.

 

I don't have any great answers but I seem to get a pretty good estimate with my method.  I do almost all invites by email (not evites or FB which give that REALLY annoying "maybe" option) with a date to RSVP by.  On that date, I resend the email to anyone that did not respond with a note at the top that if I do not hear back within 24 hours, I will assume they are NOT coming.  I usually get 50% of my actual responses after that email.  I then send a freaking reminder email the day before because it never fails that I will get two or three last-minute regrets because people found "something better" to do or someone has a legit illness/conflict/whatever that they would not have bothered to let me know had I not sent that last email.  For a 8-couple dinner party, 2 couples bailing is a big deal and I need to know!

 

It actually really bugs me and I host less often that I would like to because I just don't want to deal.

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Possibly you could word it differently. Something like: "Please send an email to XYZ and let me know how many are coming and we will prepare food for you".  If they don't do that, and you don't have enough food for everyone, don't feed the ones that didn't have the courtesy to reply.  If they say they are coming and you prepare food for them and then they do not show up, they are not nice  people.

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Hm, I guess I would say we are co-hosting though I'm not sure how that is relevant to the question.   It is a church event but in my house and I set the rules, so to speak:  I decide what I will provide and what I want others to provide.   So, I can decide if I want to require people to respond to the announcement/invitation.  It has not worked in the past, whether we use e-vite, email, or a bulletin/pulpit announcement.   I've decided I can be OK with not having a clue how many people are coming, though of course it would be easier if I did.  Other people are not comfortable with it, though, so some who formally held the picnic in their homes have stopped.  Hence, the question for future reference.   Of course what has worked for some people still won't work for others, etc.

 

 

One solution is for people to bring all the food, rather than the host providing the main dish. It's a pot luck. All the people attending should bring all the food.

 

If the host is going to have to provide the main dish, then people should have to pay up-front, $5 or $10 a family or something.  People will show up if they have paid. It is not reasonable to expect the host to prepare the main course for an undetermined number of people for a *church* event.

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One solution is for people to bring all the food, rather than the host providing the main dish. It's a pot luck. All the people attending should bring all the food.

 

If the host is going to have to provide the main dish, then people should have to pay up-front, $5 or $10 a family or something.  People will show up if they have paid. It is not reasonable to expect the host to prepare the main course for an undetermined number of people for a *church* event.

 

I see what you mean, but the hosts volunteer to do this.  If people don't want to have one of these shindigs at their house, they don't have to.  At the beginning of summer there is a note in the bulletin about summer picnics and to see the church admin if they are interested in having one at their house.  People can ignore than - in fact, 95% of the people do. :-)   Sometimes, people offer the space and the church pays for the main dish food, while the rest of the people bring the extras.  Sometimes, people offer the space and offer to provide the main dish, as I do - I consider it sort of a donation. And, it makes it easier for people to come, if they don't have to bring everything.

 

So, I find is perfectly reasonable to have the host - who is after all, a part of the church - prepare the main dish for the church event, when the host has signed up to do it.

 

I was just asking if people found a particular form of RSVP works better than others.

 

And I do see the attraction of charging, but that's not going to happen.   We will stop having the picnics if we have to do that.  We may anyway, if no one signs up to host next year!  :-)

 

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I see what you mean, but the hosts volunteer to do this.  If people don't want to have one of these shindigs at their house, they don't have to.  At the beginning of summer there is a note in the bulletin about summer picnics and to see the church admin if they are interested in having one at their house.  People can ignore than - in fact, 95% of the people do. :-)   Sometimes, people offer the space and the church pays for the main dish food, while the rest of the people bring the extras.  Sometimes, people offer the space and offer to provide the main dish, as I do - I consider it sort of a donation. And, it makes it easier for people to come, if they don't have to bring everything.

 

So, I find is perfectly reasonable to have the host - who is after all, a part of the church - prepare the main dish for the church event, when the host has signed up to do it.

 

I was just asking if people found a particular form of RSVP works better than others.

 

And I do see the attraction of charging, but that's not going to happen.   We will stop having the picnics if we have to do that.  We may anyway, if no one signs up to host next year!  :-)

 

We understand what you were just asking. Even if the host is part of the church and volunteers, it is reasonable to come up with a method by which she will know how many people to prepare food for. . So far, there is no consensus on how to make people behave responsibly by letting the host know that they are coming.

 

Perhaps the pastor could announce that the host is only going to prepare the main dish for the number of people who have replied that they are coming, and that those who don't should not expect to be fed. I'm sorry, but church or not, it is wrong to abuse someone just because she volunteered.

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I've done RSVP and regrets only RSVP parties. Response rate is about the same. Some people respond anyway because they didn't read regrets only and some people don't respond and also don't show up.

 

I do find I get the best response rate from evite.

Interesting. I think Evite is a hundred times worse than a paper/snail mail invitation; I assumed it was because an Evite can get buried in a weeks-worth of emails but a paper invitation sits in your house, looking official. ;)

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Is it usually a popular event where most people try and come?  If so, you could try the Regrets Only.  However, I'm surprised at the number of people who don't really understand what Regrets Only or RSVP even mean.

 

So, I would be super clear:

 

"REGRETS ONLY:  We are assuming you are coming!  Please contact me by such and such date only if you are unable to come."

 

Then I'd list your phone number AND your email address.

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There is no such thing as a reliable response mechanism in our culture at this point. People who say they are coming might not come. People who say they aren't coming end up showing up. It's a mad, mad, mad world. I generally plan to have as much food as I would need if everyone shows and serve food that I can easily give to attendees to take home any leftovers. Generally my final head count is quite close to the number of invites.

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I don't see that someone who's unlikely to respond to an invitation would respond to a regrets only invitation. My tactic is to leave one key piece of information off the invite so that if someone wants to come they have to call to get that information. For example, I leave the exact address off, or the exact time. It works really well and I don't have to request RSVPs.

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There is no such thing as a reliable response mechanism in our culture at this point. People who say they are coming might not come. People who say they aren't coming end up showing up. It's a mad, mad, mad world. I generally plan to have as much food as I would need if everyone shows and serve food that I can easily give to attendees to take home any leftovers. Generally my final head count is quite close to the number of invites.

 

Yep, that is what I have done in the past and will continue to do.   I don't see any of the alternatives (charging people, leaving out information) as workable for us.  That doesn't mean I think they are bad ideas; they are just not what we want to do.    What we want doesn't exist:  people who see an invitation/announcement for an event, who contact the host and let them know if they are going or not.    Ah well. I have lots of freezer bags and if not enough people show up,there will be chicken at the next congregational lunch.   :-)   And maybe the next after that!  :-)

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Interesting. I think Evite is a hundred times worse than a paper/snail mail invitation; I assumed it was because an Evite can get buried in a weeks-worth of emails but a paper invitation sits in your house, looking official. ;)

Evite sends reminders and allows you to send a message with a reminder if you like

I misplace snail mail invites all the time. Even though I have an official slot for them they get buried. Which is why I try to RSVP as soon as an ivite is received.

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Unless someone tells me that they want to know if I'm coming or not coming, I don't RSVP if I'm not coming. I usually assume they only want to know who is coming. Ooops, after reading other RSVP threads I now know I'm wrong. If I ask people to RSVP it is only to know who is coming.

 

I would put on there that you want to know who is and who isn't coming. You'll get people like me responding if they aren't coming :) 

 

I know what RSVP stands for, but always thought it was for "yes, I'll be there" responses unless otherwise stated :blushing:

 

Kelly

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I know what RSVP stands for, but, I also know that a lot of people do not (or don't care).

I love evite, it is the best response rate by far in my experience. Particurly the second round "reminder" to those who didn't respond immediately.

 

I did "Regrets only" for 2 children's birthday parties because I didn't have everyone's email address.  It worked well both times.  But that was 20 kids with 2-3 who couldn't come. For a big gathering with lots of likely "no" responses I'd probably just open house it.  Costco takes returns on food if you buy too much.

 

 

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Evite sends reminders and allows you to send a message with a reminder if you like

I misplace snail mail invites all the time. Even though I have an official slot for them they get buried. Which is why I try to RSVP as soon as an ivite is received.

Eh. I know it does. I still hate Evite. Something comes in my snail mail in a card-sized envelope, I'm not laying that with the grocery circulars.

 

Email invitations that are not Evite are even worse. I deleted two bridal shower invitations this way because I thought they were for a charity event. It was from a name that didn't mean anything to me and said, "Rachel's Brunch" in the subject. I did not make the mental connection and deleted them unread.

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OP, about your particular situation, I agree that the host shouldn't provide the main dish.  Potlucks should just be potlucks with no need for RSVPs.  Problem solved. If a lot of people show up and bring food it's fine.  If a few people show up and bring food, it's fine. 

 

Speaking generally, the cultural norm should be to respond to RSVPs but it isn't the norm.  When we don't have control over something we have to let go of what should be and plan and act based on what is.  If you host and provide food for an event, know that many might not show up and you could end up with a lot of leftovers-plan the menu accordingly and budget accordingly. Sorry we all have to deal with people not thinking of others, but that's how it is.

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I'm with Ellie. Eliminate the host family providing the main dish. There's no real point beyond tradition and it's causing all the problems. You can over-buy paper plates without issue, but if people refuse to respond making it a true potluck is the best solution. There's always way too much food and people taking stuff home anyway, so it won't change the event at all.

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Sorry I have not replied much today.   I am finishing up getting ready for the picnic.

 

I am not sure what we will do next year.  Maybe just do it as a true potluck if that makes it easier for people.  Announcements from the pastor or other leaders haven't really made a difference. And, every year we have some turnover (students leaving and new ones coming in) so there is some lack of continuity, which has an effect on church culture, I think.

 

As for me,  I've sort of decided that Carol in Cal and Lucy Stoner nailed it.   Those two posts really changed my attitude today.  I'm thinking of the gift of a bunch of pulled chicken in my freezer if we have a low turnout. 

 

People are not going to respond, period.  They aren't going to sign up on signupgenius, or click through an evite.   I probably make it sound like my fellow church congregants are terrible people.  Of course they aren't.  I love (almost) all of them.   But, I'm starting to wonder if the not-bothering-to-respond is a young person thing, and we skew pretty young.  The over-60s always let me know.   :-)    The folks in the middle go either way, but most of them are busy with 2 parents working and school-aged kids.

 

I wonder if the young folks don't think about responding because they've not held big gatherings and don't understand that it's just easier for hosts if they know how many people to expect? 

 

Anyway, thanks for the thoughts; things are percolating now. 

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I wonder if the young folks don't think about responding because they've not held big gatherings and don't understand that it's just easier for hosts if they know how many people to expect? 

 

 

 

No.  I've seen people in their 30s, 40s and 50s not RSVP.  As stated up thread, plenty of people have no idea that RSVP means everyone, not just the people who plan to attend. I've also seen them respond that they'll be there and then not show up without giving the hostess a heads up.  Sometimes they forget.  I'm shocked at how many adults don't have a calendar in some form that they refer to daily to keep track of things. Sometimes something better comes along.  Sometimes they just don't feel up to it.  Sometimes a legitimate, unforeseeable, unavoidable urgent situation hits them at the last minute and there's no way they can attend.  Americans just don't RSVP very much anymore.    

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So, just an update now that it's over.

 

About 45 people came.  It was so fun, once again all the prep seemed worth it. 

 

I did notice a couple of things:

 

- people ate way more hot dogs and mac and cheese than chicken.

 

- there were too many side dishes and desserts.

 

 

I may do it again next year almost the same way, except:

 

- have people bring a side or dessert, not both, because there is just too much.  Someone left behind a huge container of pasta salad; I've no idea what to do with it; no one in my family likes it at all.   I also sent a good bit home with people (the pasta salad person slipped out so I couldn't force her to take it). 

 

- Hot dogs require no prep, and mac and cheese doesn't require much.   Hot dogs can be grilled as needed, so few leftovers, and uncooked are freezable.  Mac and cheese is freezable.  Hot dog buns are freezable but also great for cinnamon toast.  :-)    So, that's what I'll serve. 

 

As for other people hosting - they can do it differently, like the person who had everyone bring everything:  main, side, dessert, drinks. They too had too many leftovers.  When each family unit brings enough for 8-10 people, there is going to be too much food!

 

Thanks for helping me think this through. 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by marbel
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I'm wondering if we (society) should just do away with the abbreviation RSVP and say at the bottom of invitations exactly what we mean. "PLEASE tell me if you are coming or if you are not, by XYZ date, using this email or phone #! Thanks!"

 

This is one of the disadvantages of formal etiquette, IMO; everything is supposed to be unsaid directly, relying on the recipient to "know" the unspoken rules of polite society. I mean, think about it: why would we have a French phrase - actually, an abbreviation for a French phrase and then be reliant upon people to know what is expected, plus being cross with them when they fail to cotton on?

 

 

 

ETA: typo

Edited by Quill
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I'm wondering if we (society) should just do away with the abbreviation RSVP and say at the bottom of invitations exactly what we mean. "PLEASE tell me if you are coming or if you are not, by XYZ date, using this email or phone #! Thanks!"

 

This is one of the disadvantages of formal etiquette, IMO; everything is supposed to be unsaid directly, relying on the recipient to "know" the unspoken rules of polite society. I mean, think about it: why would we have a French phrase - actually, an abbreviation for a French phrase and then be reliant upon people to know what is expected, plus being cross with them when they fail to cotton on?

 

 

 

ETA: typo

 

Good point.  I don't tend to use the word RSVP on an invitation.  I'll use it when talking about it, but will usually say something like "please respond with yes, no, or maybe" or something similar. 

 

But, I also have to say... if I received an invitation with an unfamiliar word or phrase on it... I'd ask someone what it meant.  Right?  I mean, why would people just ignore it if they don't know what it means?  That's different from thinking it means something it doesn't, as a pp said.  But if you've got no clue, why not ask someone - maybe not the inviter, because that could be embarrassing, but someone.  Or look it up!   

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Good point. I don't tend to use the word RSVP on an invitation. I'll use it when talking about it, but will usually say something like "please respond with yes, no, or maybe" or something similar.

 

But, I also have to say... if I received an invitation with an unfamiliar word or phrase on it... I'd ask someone what it meant. Right? I mean, why would people just ignore it if they don't know what it means? That's different from thinking it means something it doesn't, as a pp said. But if you've got no clue, why not ask someone - maybe not the inviter, because that could be embarrassing, but someone. Or look it up!

I think more often, people think they know what it means, but they are wrong. So, I put on my invitation "RSVP" and I'm thinking that means - respond, no matter what. Coming or not, skydiving that day, whatever, tell me; respond. But te recipient can see it and think "Oh, RSVP. That means respond if I'm coming." Or "...if I'm not."

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A polite wording for RSVP is "The favor of a reply is requested by xx/xx/xxxx."

 

Again, though, do they want a reply if yes, if maybe, if no, if all. I do prefer the person let me know what reply they want. When I send out invitations for things I usually say what kind of reply I'm looking for. I sent one out for a home school group meeting, and just asked people to reply if they couldn't make it. For birthday parties I usually ask for a reply if they are coming.

 

Kelly

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