RSVP, Please.

Recently, I hosted a breakfast at my house to kick off the Tucson Festival of Books. The breakfast is an annual event, assuming I’m not engaged in a school visit or conference somewhere else. Far be it from me to turn into a Ms., or in this case, Mr. Manners, but it occurred to me that people are shockingly unaware of just what RSVP means. It is an initialism derived from the French phrase Répondez s’il vous plaît, literally “Reply if you please” or “Reply please”. This does not mean to reply if you take a notion to do so, but rather to let the host know one way or the other so plans may be made. When I groused on Facebook that several people–people in their 30s to 50s and who should know better–had not bothered to respond, several commented that it was “generational” or that “today’s youth think they only have to respond if they plan to attend” or that “a lot of people only respond if they don’t plan to attend.” One, I realize that many today are sadly lacking in social manners. Two, if it means one thing to some and another to others, the host has no idea just how RSVP is being interpreted. When I called one young illustrator on his lack of acknowledgement (Okay, I was being snarky. I admit it.), he commented, “Oh, I guess RSVP means one is supposed to reply even if one does not plan to attend.” Duh!

Why RSVP? A reply simply makes it easier for a host to plan. How much food should be purchased? Beverages? How many settings should be placed? Should he invite others to make up for the No-Replies? Or should he prepare for the No-Replies to show up dragging four guests with them? A response one way or the other doesn’t require a lot of energy or time. To accept an invitation, just reply with the following: “I’m honored to attend. Thank you for thinking of me.” To decline: “Regretfully, I’m unable to attend, but thank you for inviting me.” No elaborate excuses are required. The host probably doesn’t have time for them anyway. If you wanted to attend, as one guest who was expecting out-of-town visitors did, then perhaps something like this: “I would love to participate, but I will have two out-of-town visitors and will have to decline this year. Perhaps you will include me in the future.” This lets the host know you have interest, but also other obligations. If he has room for your out-of-town visitors, he can amend the invitation to include them. If not, he will know to include you in future festivities.

RSVP. Please respond. It is common courtesy (and a huge help to those planning an event).

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