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I regularly receive letters from readers dealing with the thorny issue of RSVP. Some readers don't understand what it means. One reader yelled at me and said that he thought the whole RSVP concept was silly - he only invites friends who will come to his parties. However, a recent letter reminded me of all the frustration non-responsive guests create for a hostess prior to a party. I could feel this reader's pain as she writes:

"Daughter's birthday party, invitation is explicit to RSVP whether or not you're coming. Have only heard from 3 of the 8 invitations. I put a lot of time, money, and effort into this and planned on 8 people. My daughter hasn't heard from 5 of her first choices and won't invite others... Here I sit with a little over a week to go, 8 gift bags (that were rather pricey) and 3 little girls coming. I am furious that this seems to happen every year and it meant so much to my daughter. I am so angry I want to call them and ask if they were raised in a barn???!"

Has this ever happened to you? What have you done when it's close to party date and you don't have a close to firm head count? The day after receiving this letter, I received a tip from a different reader on how she avoids this problem altogether by leaving out a small, but important, piece of information on her invites. It's a little bit devious, but I think she may be onto something. What do you think?


September 9, 2006 at 3:49 pm
(1) Katcha says:

there have been times when an RSVP was imposible(they have no ans machine and are never home when I am) or I did not receive the invite from my child until an hour b4 and no one answers the phone.

September 9, 2006 at 9:19 pm
(2) entertaining says:

You’re right – it’s very frustrating when folks don’t have answering machines and you can’t reach them. I’ve noticed that many people are now adding their email address to invites. That provides another way to respond easily.

You also bring up another good point. Sometimes they just let the child pass out the invites at school, and then they get lost in desks, backpacks, on the bus, or never make it home until right before the party. I would strongly recommend against that form of invite distribution unless you really don’t care how many people show up.

September 9, 2006 at 11:52 pm
(3) Victoria says:

I just want to update you on what has happened. I called all the people I could find phone numbers for, 4 of the 5 that didn’t respond. 2 People said they never received the invitations. I made sure to avoid the problem of them not making it home, I mailed them! A full sheet of paper folded in half, neon colors with stickers on the 3 open sides holding it together and making it QUITE visable. 1 of the two that said that the child is coming after all. One parent seemed perterbed that I had the odassity to call and ask. I should have just assumed since he didn’t call that she wasn’t coming. One we couldn’t contact. No one else could come. We did luckily, find several other little girls that she wanted to come and one boy and we are just barely making the 8 head count we were hoping for. I figured a month in advance and taking phone numbers to remind people would do it this year. I was purposeful to NOT put RSVP either. I asked people to let us know whether the child was coming or not. I really tried to head off mass confusion. I left our home phone (answering machine)AND my cell phone number incase they needed directions the day of the party too (and noted that on the invitation). I tried to cover all bases. Truely, I am frustrated. I think that idea of leaving off the party time was phenominal. Still, people don’t really read the invitations and will wait till the day of the party or day before to confirm the time. I am just going to forgo the party thing I think. It is a shame but I am so frustrated at this point I just don’t want to bother anymore.

September 11, 2006 at 2:31 am
(4) Michael says:

Whenever I throw a party, I put on my invites explicit instructions for RSVP. If they don’t respond by the second effort at contact, it is time to move on.

I ensure that I allow for a 72 notice policy. Many people cannot plan their schedules far ahead and giving them 3 full days allows them to decide and you to decide on someone else!

September 13, 2006 at 1:50 pm
(5) Debbie says:

I don’t even have kids, I have adults who don’t RSVP. And I like the time idea, but no one adheres to the start time anyway. Family feels “well it’s family…” so then what???

September 14, 2006 at 12:59 pm
(6) Susan says:

Boy oh boy you have hit the nail on the head! Who are these people! I organized a VERY EXPENSIVE party for my 6 year old and basically had to text/sms, telephone repeatedly etc to get a head count as the payment was per kid. Some kids who said they would make it (after hounding didn’t show up). The whole thing was infuriating, remember, this is suppose to be FUN! I really like the idea of not putting a time out but fear the parents are so useless that they don’t even ‘get it’! I think in the future I will just have the kids pick 3 friends and they can do something special. THis whole party thing is out of control and the parents are worse. To Make matters worse,there is always one kid who is dissapointed with the party bag, just plain bad manners. OK rant over.

March 8, 2009 at 7:24 pm
(7) Nancy says:

It doesn’t matter the age of those invited to the party, people who were never taught that it is proper manners to respond promptly to an invitation will not do so. Very aggravating. I put an RSVP deadline on all invitations, and one day before it, start my “shaming calls”. Because I do throw some large parties, I have had a few where the invitations did not make it, for any number of reasons, so therefore, I was glad I phoned. Yes, some people are not nice when they get the shaming call, and I resist the temptation to apologize for burdening them with an invitation to a party, and strike them from any future list. Of course, this doesn’t work well with children’s parties because I don’t want to punish that child and mine, for an adult’s bad behavior.

June 10, 2009 at 11:57 am
(8) Gabby says:

I’m going through that right now. I had no choice but to give my kid a number of invites to hand out b/c the school doesn’t provide a phone roster. I never had a chance to meet some of the parents of certain kids he wanted to invite, so what’s one to do? Follow the kids to get their actual address? I left a phone number and email and a date to call by and have only 3 RSVP’s two days before the party. I guess I can’t get too mad since there’s a chance some invites never saw the light of day. Sigh!

September 24, 2009 at 5:49 pm
(9) Mia says:

This is s a terrible problem whether kids or adults. The other thing that annoys me is I often send e invitations and people always respond “maybe” as if I can maybe purchase food and drinks for people! My mother taught me always to RSVP yes or no promptly and I can’t believe other people didn’t learn the same. If you are saying maybe because you would like to attend but have a reasonable chance of a conflict, you should contact the host and let them know your specific situation. Example: Mary, I would really like to come to your party but, it depends on whether or not that business trip to New York ends up happening. I will let you know for sure within a week. Is that OK or do you need to know immediately? If you are responding maybe because you are waiting around to see if something better comes up on that day (as it seems most people do)– it’s just plain rude. Either decide to go and decline anything else that comes up or decide you want to leave the day open and RSVP no. As far as shaming calls– if people are going to get mad about receiving them they have no one to blame but themselves. Also if plans change at the last minute, people need to call the host ASAP and tell them but, this should happen rarely if at all. If you RSVP yes to a party and then your better friend so and so calls you up and asks you to a movie– do the right thing and go to the darn party. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have spent money on people that made a commitment to come to a party only to have them call up on the day of (or during the event) and say “something came up”. Seriously, I was starting to think that I needed new friends but, it seems as if everyone out there is just tactless these days! Sigh….. I feel even worse knowing this happens with a kids birthday party. I would feel terrible even as an adult throwing a birthday that no one came to. The worst thing is, the kids in questions would probably like to attend and the birthday girl is being made to feel bad because of the adult’s bad manners!

May 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm
(10) Tracy says:

I am holding a surprise 50th for my parents and I have invited over 60 people, expecting about 35 to actually attend. I need the RSVP because this is being catered, and so far only 10 peopl have RSVP’d! These are ADULTS for gosh sakes! It’s very disappointing!

June 23, 2010 at 4:21 am
(11) Elaine says:

I am so so relieved (for want of a better word) that I am not the only parent in the world experiencing this problem of non RSVPs !! It gets so stressful when my kids birthdays come up so much so that I seriously can’t wait for the day when they grow big enough (currently 4 and 6) to go out with two or three of their best friends to a movie or an activity for which I will pay for. Parents of like minds like myself should form a club and we won’t have this problem inviting each other to parties or functions !

July 13, 2010 at 11:26 am
(12) Leticia says:

The week before any event I plan, I send out an email to those RSVP delinquents and I make a “last call” RSVP request. I tell them that due to increased interest, the guest list will be closed by the end of the day. This works for me. I usually invite the same cast of characters to my large events and now, they know I definitely shut down after a certain amount.

August 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm
(13) Marie says:

My son’s birthday is in the summer, so I have to usually gather up addresses. This year, I sent out at the end of the school year a “save the date” card, that had something special attached to it and in the letter gave them 4 different ways to contact me with their address. Only 2 people responded. So I had to search for addresses for people, sent out some invite and only one has responded a week before the party. I just don’t get it, my son is popular, but people are so freakin RUDE!! It’s suppose to be fun, just respond!

November 24, 2010 at 6:55 am
(14) Dawn says:

This year I decided to host a Christmas Party for a group of gals that have been together for the past 15 years. I did hold one for this same group 9 yrs ago, but it flopped. 3 gals out of 12 showed, 3 got stuck in a major traffic jam due to an accident and could not get here.
I postal mailed handmade invites (which took quite a bit of time designing and creating), spent money on stamps and sent them out 2 1/2 weeks prior to the party.
I requested an RSVP by a certain date, provided my phone & email addy and so far received 5 replies out of 12. 3 declines and 2 accept. I am disgusted with the fact that people have no manners these days. I have been going through some other manner issues with my BFF lately too. What is wrong with people????
I promptly respond to invites as soon as I receive them. 90% of the time I accept an invitation, in rare cases when I can’t, I let them know how disappointed I am I can’t make it.

People today are just plain RUDE! if you ask me. You are so right, we spend a lot of energy, thought, time and money to host parties and people should much more respectful.

1 gal RSVP’d and you won’t believe this……….she sad she was very disappointed she couldn’t make it, because she would be in MY town that day down the street as her highschool kids were doing a performance at the mall that day. They were taking the kids out to eat afterward.
She then went on to say, that her life gets less hectic later on in the month and IF my night was not working out for people, to have it closer to Christmas, or she could host it at her house instead.

Who does that???????????????
Who tells someone that they were thinking of having a party a few weeks later, and tells the host of the invite to change her party date so that this person can attend???????
Or who says lets have the party at my house instead??????
Talk about psycho.and this particular woman has a Masters degree!

I planned for a perfect 8 at my party which is next saturday. I hope that I do end up with 8 guests afterall. I am still awaiting 7 gals to respond.

I guess I will have to make the email of shame, which will take up more of my time. : P

To all the party planners out there…………..HANG IN THERE………..there are more of us out there who feel exactly the same way as you!

December 13, 2010 at 11:42 am
(15) Peg says:

I think it is beyond rude that people don’t RSVP … and in my case it is usually the same people. These are family, mind you, so I can’t just stop inviting them to gatherings. We have a huge family and it does matter food-wise whether people are coming or not. If someone thinks enough of you to invite you to a gathering, at least have the consideration of letting them know whether or not you will be attending.

May 24, 2012 at 2:45 pm
(16) Brad B says:

There’s a site called Zokos.com that has an interesting approach at encouraging people to RSVP. It works like Kickstarter but instead of a minimum amount of money the party ONLY happens if it reaches the minimum number of guests set by the host. The host also sets a maximum number of guests to encourage people to RSVP so they don’t miss out before the party fills up. It makes things feel more collaborative and takes some of the burden off the host.

May 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm
(17) entertaining says:

That Zokos is an interesting concept Brad. Since crowd sourcing has become so popular, it makes sense to try to turn it to good use with this problem too.

September 3, 2012 at 7:48 pm
(18) Lindalee says:

I have this happen to me a lot. I send out (and in this case, hand delivered) 15 invitations for a party I am having in one month. I asked for a RSVP. One week after delivering the invites, I have heard from no one.

These are all adult women. Nothing. I am going to email everyone in 10 days and will let you know what happens.

September 4, 2012 at 7:09 am
(19) entertaining says:

Did you give a date for people to RSVP Lindalee? I’ve been noticing with many of the invitations we receive that there isn’t always a date mentioned for when the host needs to know. I think it’s easy to forget to include that unless you have a catered party and need to give a head count to your caterer by a specific date. Guests will often put the invitation aside and then forget about it, but with a date sometimes, at least, they will put it on their calendar. No guarantees, of course, but it helps!

September 17, 2012 at 9:32 am
(20) HappyMom says:

Well, been through this myself many times… I came to the conclusion that people are just RUDE and have NO MANNERS!! I always wrote RSVP date a week before the party, home and cell #s, and email (in case people didn’t want to talk on the phone, bc sometimes you only have a minute to respond bc you are out the door and/or so busy and don’t have the time to be on the phone for a chat)
So I have come to terms when doing parties for my kids bdays I do the following: I still mail invites with RSVP date, phones, emails but the only diff is I cook as if everyone is coming, and if they don’t come I freeze food for those busy nights filled with after school activities and/or give out leftovers to family members! When it come to the goodie bags I purchase for all the kids but I only prepare the bags for those kids who responded the others i have everything in a basket and if they show up I prepare them quickly in my room and if they didn’t I make sure I have the receipt handy and return it the next day!! So I don’t loose $$$… This has cut down on the amount of stress before hand preparing for the party.. It works… Oh I forgot! After so many years of responding to others people parties, I have now joined the club to the non RSVPers and don’t RSVP anymore!!! (my philosophy? Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you!!) it’s funny those people who I don’t RSVP don’t even there ask me if I’m coming!! LOL, I love it oh and if they do I have the perfect response: oh I didn’t respond bc you never respond to mine and if figure it’s maybe the NEW Etiquette… No one has never asked me yet!! Oh and I still RSVP to those who RSVP to my parties.. Tid for tad is my new philosophy now… I know is wrong but with those people is the best way to deal with since they don’t care!!

October 26, 2012 at 1:32 am
(21) Bella says:

It is the general attitude these days. When you invite guests you should plan that 1/2 of the invited will not show. This is the usual case as I run a party place. Some party places have small group pricing for people who just want to invite close friends. The best parties are usually smaller groups, at least at our facility. The reason is that the smaller groups interact more closely. If someone shows up just say in your nicest voice, Oh! I did not know you were coming but it’s nice that you were able to be here… This usually will make them feel horrible which they should for being rude by not responding. Also If they don’t respond don’t respond to them.. Always put a deadline for RSVP because if they can’t meet the deadline then 9 times out of 10 it’s resulting in a no show and you deserve to know at a decent date before the party whether or not someone will be attending.

You should not give up on throwing an awesome party, but that does not mean that a small party can’t be awesome! I normally have parties with 4-12 kids. There are so many things you can do with a smaller group like take a limo to the party place or go out for a fancy dinner instead of a party place. I have taken my 10-year-old son with a few friends to a hibachi. The entertainment is fire and you can also get dessert, usually they have ice-cream and most places don’t mind you bringing a cake – I call in advanced if I’m doing this to alert the restaurant. But NEVER say anything to your kids about the lack of guests because their feelings can be hurt and you certainly don’t want that. Always say something like, “Wow that was a great party and some really nice friends came. What a nice time and the cake was awesome.” Never let the kids know that a lot of people did not come even if it hurt your feelings, because they need to realize that having one good friend is better than having 100 rude/bad ones! So ‘party on’ and don’t worry about the people who don’t RSVP or don’t come THEY ARE MISSING OUT not you.

February 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm
(22) marie ferrara says:

I have been told that if a guest dosn’t RSVP, the host should call them to confirm if they are coming.

Sometimes an invitation can arrive but get misplaced, even if it was sent to the right address.

Am I right?

February 27, 2014 at 7:18 am
(23) entertaining says:

That’s my normal procedure Marie. Usually it’s just a good pretense for a follow-up call but, a few times, I discovered that the invitation was lost in the mail.

April 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm
(24) Emily says:

How about when it’s your sibling’s significant other (not married yet, BTW) who’s a nice person but doesn’t bother to take time to RSVP to any invitation, whether it’s emailed, or snail-mailed, or invited in person? I’m supplying the food and drinks; therefore, I need to know who’s going to attend a party I’m giving, right? I simmer over this one – I want to make a phone call to this person and say “ARE YOU ATTENDING OR NOT?” However, I don’t want to be pushy or anger my sibling or be rude. Frankly, though, I think the person who hasn’t RSVP’d is being rude. Any ideas on how to handle this prickly situation?

April 6, 2014 at 7:46 pm
(25) Donna says:

Emily – I would very gently ask your sibling how you should handle it, after explaining your need for a response. Ask whether you or the sibling should call to find out your answer. But, as your instincts have told you, I’d be careful with this one because you don’t want to lose your sibling because of a rude significant other. On the other hand, you could simply make an exception in this case and always assume this person is coming to spare family relationships. If they don’t come, you’ll have more leftovers to enjoy after the party!

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