For my son’s 10th birthday we decided to go all out. We arranged a private showing at the planetarium. We rented a nearby community building for cake and festivities afterwards. The theater holds 60 people, so we decided to invite his entire class along with our family and friends.
The graphic designer in my office went to town designing a beautiful invitation based on the show “Cosmos,” since that’s what our son Joey enjoys watching. I had them printed and wrote each of the 24 kids’ names in his class on envelopes for Joey to pass out.
I expected that we wouldn’t get a full response. I’ve been a mom for 10 years and I’m used to the lack of RSVPing…but I wasn’t prepared for how bad it would actually be. I got four RSVPs. FOUR! Three of them were from the moms who I know personally in the class.
This makes me really angry and sad. I worked really hard to make a fun, age-appropriate party experience for my son and his friends. This is a free planetarium show. The parents of these kids can’t even find the time to check their calendars and let me know if they can come? Everyone is busy. Everyone has to juggle sports and dance practices, family obligations, work, and doctor’s appointments. They aren’t the only ones with a full calendar. It’s disrespectful, and it’s rude. Then I had to explain to Joey why only three of the kids in his class would be there, and hope he wouldn’t take it personally.
I know I’m not alone. I’ve heard this from many of my friends. I have done a lot of thinking about this, and I have a few thoughts on why this continues to happen.
1. Hesitation. People are hesitant to commit to anything. A better offer might come along, and they would hate to be tied down. Also, they need time to find out who else is going to the party before they commit to going themselves.
2. Saturation. We are invited to some sort of event every day—Facebook events for jewelry parties, school fundraisers, body wrap parties, etc. It’s very easy to ignore an invitation when you see that an additional 499 people have been invited. The hostess will never notice.
3. Forgetfulness. I honestly think most people intend to RSVP but they forget. If the invitation was sent in an email, it gets buried under 100 other emails. If the invitation is paper, it gets lost in the house in a “to-do” stack that will get tackled probably after the party has already happened.
My friend Julie is a professional event planner. When I asked her about this no-RSVP phenomenon, she told me that it’s gotten so bad that the standard has changed. RSVP dates used to be eight to 10 days before weddings. Now it’s a minimum of 16 to 18 days beforehand so that hosts can have time to contact guests to ask if they are coming. I can’t think of anything more pathetic than a bride having to call her “friends” and family to find out if they are coming to her wedding. Unacceptable!
RSVPing is not optional. When someone takes the time to invite you to a gathering—please respond. Even if the answer is no, just let the host know. Here are a few tips that might help:
1. Respond as soon as you get the invitation, so you won’t forget.
2. If you can’t respond right away, use technology to remind yourself to respond a few days later.
3. If the invitation is electronic, mark the email as unread until you respond.
4. If the invitation is printed, put it on the refrigerator or somewhere where you’ll regularly be reminded to respond.
Don’t make the host chase after you for a response. It makes us feel desperate. Really—we just want to have enough pizza at the party.
On a lighter note, Joey’s party was great. Our friends and family filled the planetarium. He had a great time, and we all learned about the universe. It’s filled with billions of galaxies, stars, planets, and people. Some of those people didn’t RSVP—and sadly for them they missed a party that was really out of this world.