Manners of Fact

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The Long-Lost Art of the RSVP

Hilarie Blaney Modified: July 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm •  Published: December 2, 2011

Let’s start with the basics. The term ‘RSVP’ stands for réspondez s’il vous plait, which is a French term that roughly translates to “please respond.” In this economy, or any economy really, knowing the correct number of guests to prepare for can be important. Too few hors d’oeuvres and guests can wind up ravenous – too many, and the host has just wasted money.

Christmas present
Christmas present
This brings me to my first point, which may seem a bit obvious: if you RSVP ‘yes’ to a party or event, then show up. It seems like common sense to most people, but lately I’ve noticed a trend of people responding with a ‘yes’ and then not showing or, more commonly, simply not replying to the invitation at all. Perhaps it needs to be stated again, that RSVP means “please respond” – meaning that the host is requesting a response of some sort, even if it’s a ‘no’. It’s perfectly fine to decline an invitation, as it still helps the host as far as planning when it comes to food and refreshments.

Of course, this line of thought also brings me to another point: if the invitation is to you only, it doesn’t mean you should show up with friends. I’ve also noticed that occasionally, people will follow-through on their RSVP of ‘yes’ – but they’ll also bring a guest or five with them. For one, this goes back to the beginning of my post about how, if too many guests show up, the host won’t have enough refreshments and hors d’oeuvres available for everyone. This also creates the possibility of another issue: occasionally, hosts may not invite specific people for specific reasons. Ultimately, it should be the host’s decision as to who attends – and bringing uninvited guests can certainly have a negative impact on that, as well as your relationship with that person.

There you have it – the basics of RSVP etiquette. Here are a few more party tips to consider:

  • When hosting a client holiday party, don’t drink alcohol. As the host, it’s your duty to be on top of your game.
  • If invited to a private home, be sure to take the host a small gift – wine, candy, or a homemade item are all good ideas.
  • Make sure to eat a snack before you go – if you start engaging in conversation, you may not be able to eat until later, which can prompt a late-night fast food run on the way home.
  • If you drink anything, make sure to carry it in your left hand – when you offer a handshake, it’s preferable for it not to be a cold one.
  • Introduce guests to each other based on hierarchy, naming the higher-ranking person first – this can be by age, sex, client, or company hierarchy.
  • Watch what you wear – too casual or too revealing can get you in trouble!
  • Don’t let your guard down too much – it’s good to be casual and friendly with other guests, but don’t reveal too much personal info and wake up the next morning with regrets.

Lastly, make sure to thank the host both when you enter AND when you leave.

Best regards,
Hilarie


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