I’m not sure why we still use this term when issuing an invitation. The translation of R.S.V.P. is “répondez, s’il vous plaît.” Perhaps because it is French, or maybe because it is missing an expected “S” (“répondez”, rather than responday) its meaning “please reply”, no longer seems to resonate.
I have given up using it in most instances and instead end with “Please let me know if you will be attending or not.” A direct ask for a yes or no. Works a tiny bit better. At least people are reminded that you want to know either way, not just if their answer is yes.
I think two things are at work in the decline of the RSVP. First, that somewhere along the way, amidst Evites and mass invitations issued on Facebook, a reply became optional. If an invitation is issued to everyone in your address book, does it matter if I reply or attend? These kind of invitations are tough to parse. And second, I think some people don’t want to commit because they think they might get a better offer, something more exciting might come up.
I really do have to live by my calendar currently. I hope it is not always so, but right now that means I have to make plans and schedule time to see friends or do activities. My work obligations are intensely, stupidly heavy until December 14th – seven days a week some weeks. So scheduling time to attend board meetings, or political meetings, or see friends cuts into my day, or my sleep, but it helps make all the rest of it worthwhile. And it gives me something to look forward to. Maybe that’s just me.
Back to the art of the RSVP.
When you do not wish to attend something to which you have been invited, decline. Just decline. No matter the event – a wedding, house party, dinner, night of drunken revelry – there is no need to explain why you cannot (or don’t wish to) attend. One size fits all – “Thank you for the invitation but unfortunately I will be unable to attend”.
After issuing an invitation I have gotten responses from people saying any number of things: their time is too precious, they are waiting to see if this other cool thing is happening, and, my favorite, if they feel like it on that day they will let me know. Usually after two or three declined invitations I stop inviting, but I think the quality of the decline will have to be added into the equation. If your time is a limited resource that I don’t warrant I think that is a pretty clear message.
When I entertain I only invite people to parties, or dinner parties that, a) I want to socialize with all night and, b) that I think will have fun with the other people attending. That’s why its called a party. It does however require a commitment for people to show up at a certain time and engage in relaxed conversation and general socializing. I throw a lot fewer parties these days.
Manners are not dead, many people have used the RSVP to decline without having to tell me they prefer their bed & book to my company. I appreciate it and Miss Manners undoubtedly approves. Just so you know if you have sent me an invitation and did not receive my RSVP you should assume the invitation has gone missing or I have.