How to RSVP to Parties the Right Way

Are you invited to a party and not sure exactly how to RSVP properly? Are you hosting a party and pulling your hair out because 80% of the guests have not RSVP’d?

I love hosting parties: birthday parties, baby showers, holiday parties…you name it, I’ll host it. However, every time I host a party lately I say to myself This is the last party I will ever host.

Why? Because there seems to be such a lack of respect by the people invited these days. Very few people seem to understand party RSVP etiquette and how to properly reply to party invitations. Let me explain:

What Does RSVP Mean?

In big, bold letters displayed on the front of every invitation reads PLEASE REPLY BY (date) or RSVP – which stands for a French phrase, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which means “please reply”. Of the last 10 parties I have hosted, only 25% of the guests ever replied.

Not long ago I hosted a baby shower. Thirty women were invited – only 7 replied coming – 23 women showed up! In addition, 2 of the women who replied coming, emailed me just hours before the party saying they weren’t coming. I am trying to figure out if it is shear ignorance or disrespect as to why people (of all ages and genders) practice such terrible party RSVP etiquette.

My son’s 8th birthday party was an emotional disaster for him. He invited 12 kids to a bounce house. Nine of them replied coming. Only 3 showed up. At least 4 parents texted me minutes before the party was scheduled to start “Sorry, Billy isn’t feeling good. We can’t come”. Do not ever be this parent.

If your child is legitimately sick, drive the birthday present to the birthday kid’s house or party and make an effort to show that you really wanted to be there.

Party guest need to understand that for a host of a party to have plus or minus 5 guests makes a big difference in cost. Many parties costs the host $30 per person. So, if even 10 guests don’t reply, that puts the party host $300 in the hole.

How to properly RSVP to party invitations:

  • When you receive an invitation, call and reply immediately if you are coming or not coming. If you are iffy and not sure of you can or want to go, that is a “No”. Do not call days or hours before a party and change your status. It’s a “yes” or a “no”. When you say “yes, you get your butt there, when it’s a “no” you stay home (unless, of course, there is a legitimate excuse: death in the family, you broke your leg, etc..).
  • If you receive an Evite invitation  (or other e-invitation), do not ever click the MAYBE option. MAYBE doesn’t help the party planner and I have found that the people who click MAYBE are people-pleasers who are too chicken to click the NO button. Y’all, it is a YES or NO.
  • When your child receives an invitation to a party of another classmate, always try to attend – especially if the party if for the quiet kid, the “nerd” or a child with special needs. It breaks my heart when an entire class of 25 kids is invited to a birthday party and only 4 kids show up. Some of the most memorable parties my kids have been to were the parties for the classmate who was not their best friend.
  • Don’t bring your kids (or even ask) to a party other than a birthday party for a child. I can’t tell you how many mothers call and say, “My husband can’t watch the kids. Can I bring them to the party?” The answer is No.
  • If you can’t afford a gift, don’t come empty-handed to a party and give the big fat lie, “I have a gift for you but totally forgot to bring it. I’ll give it to you next time I see you.” And we all know what happens next: Party-goer avoids you at all cost. There are countless adorable affordable gifts for $5 at places like 5-Below and TJ Maxx. One of the best gifts someone gave me when I was a new mom was a “coupon” for free babysitting. It only cost the gift giver her time. Be creative if you are on a tight budget.
  • When someone gives you (or your children) a gift, always write a hand-written “thank you” card. I have given a dozen gifts to people who I never hear from afterwards. Not cool. If someone hosts a party for you, send a “thank you” card immediately. That baby shower I recently hosted, I never received a call, text message, letter or smoke signal from the mom-to-be. 🙁
  • Don’t post to social media “Suzie’s birthday party was so much fun today” with a photo of the kids who were invited. Because everyone who sees that post will know they (or their child) was not invited. Be respectful of other people’s feelings.

In Summary: I feel much better after emotionally barfing all over you. Thank you.

I have decided that next time I host a party, I am going to stand at the door with a clipboard and for each person who arrives who did not reply I am going to say, “I’m sorry, but I never heard from you. Please head back to your car.”

And for the moms who bring their unmanageable kids to my party, I am going to slip four shots of cappuccino in their sippy cup on the way out the door.

Happy party-going! 🙂

party rsvp etiquette






What is your nightmare party hosting story? Please share in the comment box below!

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  • Sarah

    Over the years I have come to realize that those who are “proper” are not always polite. If I had to choose one, I would prefer to be the latter. I do RSVP to invitations, by the way. : ) I found this by doing a web search for how to properly word an RSVP for an important shower I am unable to attend.

    September 9, 2011 at 2:27 pm Reply
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