January 20th, 2015

R.s.v.p. Etiquette: Is it a dying art?

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Here’s a simple lesson in R.s.v.p. etiquette.

R.s.v.p. is an abbreviation for the French phrase, “Répondez s’il vous plaît” meaning “Reply please.” And when you respond and accept an invitation, it is your responsibility to show up. When you fail to show up to a party after accepting an invitation, it’s not only rude and inconsiderate, it can also be costly to the person hosting the party.

Such was the case when a 5-year-old boy from Torpoint in Cornwall, England, was invited to a friend’s birthday party last month at the Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre in Devon. While he initially told his parents he wanted to go, they realized that they were double-booked on that day. The boy was scheduled to visit his grandparents. In the end, the boy and his family chose to visit the grandparents instead of attending the birthday party.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Sometime later, the boy received an invoice from the birthday boy’s mother in the amount of £15.95 ($24.13) for the “Child’s Party No-Show Fee.” This was a gutsy move on her part and one that made headlines all over the world.

Unfortunately, when guests don’t bother to R.s.v.p., the burden of following up falls on the host’s shoulders. When guests don’t bother to show up, the host may also have to absorb any food and beverage expenses.

I can relate. Several years ago I hosted a book launch party at a posh hotel in Palm Beach. The hotel charged me $50.00 per head. Two of my guests called a few hours before the event to say they needed to spend time with their ailing mother. Their absence cost me $100.00.

If you host parties, it helps to know how to increase your chances of getting a better response rate. Here are some tips:

  • When you issue an invitation, include a response date on the invitation. Example: “Please respond by January 31, 2015.”
  • Never put “regrets only” on an invitation. Doing this will not guarantee an accurate head count.
  • It’s best not to send an invitation via the Internet unless your event is extremely casual. Just know that a virtual invitation may wind up in your intended guest’s spam filter.
  • If a guest does not respond by the deadline date on the invitation, it’s best to call or send an email to make sure your guest is not coming.
  • If a guest confirms but doesn’t show up, make a courtesy call after the event and express your concern. It’s bad form to send your guest a bill. If they have a valid excuse, forgive and forget. If they don’t, you’re better off not inviting them again.

Is it okay to bill your guests if they fail to show up at your party? Let me know your thoughts.

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