How Do You Handle People Who Don’t RSVP?

Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist answers a question from Justine Rathbun of Gallatin, Tennessee.

Photo by Debra McClinton
I must confess that I’m a recovered delinquent RSVPer. So I understand that it usually stems from disorganization (“I know that invitation is here somewhere”) combined with good intentions (“I just have to check if I’m free that night”), with a little commitment-phobia thrown in (“Who knows what my life will be like a month from now?”). But having been on the receiving end of no-shows, I’ve reformed. In fact, I’ve adopted my mother’s approach. She always promptly RSVPs yes to any invitation, assuming she can attend. Then, if she discovers she can’t go, she calls the host. I like this technique because it’s efficient and it forces me to adopt a yes position instead of equivocating.

But for those who never RSVP, I don’t recommend hounding them. It’s demeaning to be on either end of that “Are you coming or not?” call. Obviously, a formal affair, like a wedding, requires a more aggressive approach (a brief e-mail or phone call should do), and a small dinner at which every person counts warrants some follow-up, too. But for most parties, even if your non-RSVPers do show up, you’re just as likely to have no-shows, so you’ll wind up even in the end.

Read more of Julie’s advice about etiquette conundrums.