How to RSVP Whether You’re Attending or Not

There aren’t very many things in life that peeve me. But I do have one particular, very touchy peeve…RSVPs. I’m starting to wonder if good manners just up and dropped dead somewhere between my childhood and my becoming a mom.

Growing up, my parents always taught us to RSVP to our invitations, whether we were able to attend or not. RSVP stands for the very fancy-sounding French of “Répondez s’il vous plait” which directly translates to “please respond.” So the next time you get an invitation for you, or your kids, please, in the name of all that is holy, RESPOND.

When I was old enough to use the phone, I was responsible for calling to RSVP to the parties I was invited to. I’d first find out from my parents if I were able to go, and whether I could or couldn’t attend, I’d call up and respond. I’m not sure how this became so difficult over the last couple of decades.

As a mom, it doesn’t hurt my feelings when people don’t RSVP to invitations. You know, who it does hurt though? Our kids.

First, it hurts feelings.

Birthday party RSVP
Your presence makes the host happy & grateful!

My eldest just turned 8. For her party last year, I held it at our home. Per the requirements of our school system, we have to either invite the entire class or just the girls. We asked everyone. The school system also doesn’t give out personal information like addresses and phone numbers for parents, so invitations are distributed by the teacher.

We had family friends who called or texted to RSVP right away. With the classmates, this took some prodding. Eventually, I received four confirmed guests from class. No one from the class that didn’t attend bothered to RSVP. And then four more children from her class showed up, with little brothers and sisters, without ever responding!

So I didn’t have enough gift bags, and I barely had enough food. I had to thinly slice the cake so everyone could have a piece. Maybe Cher from Clueless is down with making more space for guests that don’t RSVP, but I’m not.

Fast forward to this year. I decided that after the zoo my house was last year, we’d just invite the girls. Two of our family friends responded that they would attend. In class, two of my daughter’s friends told her they were unable to attend. This was certainly better than not responding at all. But then no one else in the class responded, and no one else showed up except our family friends. My daughter had fun, but she felt sad that no one else came, like this poor boy.

Second, it hurts their social skills.

Do you really want your kids to grow up successful? Then please, teach them manners. Teaching them to RSVP aids their social skills. And for those of you that just plain don’t care, let me remind you that one day, your kids will likely get married and you will want to crawl into a hole when guests that didn’t RSVP show up to your $50-per-plate wedding reception.

Let’s stop that from happening and team up to spread the word about proper RSVP etiquette right now. Here’s what you should know when it comes to the world of RSVPs.

Do I RSVP if I am not attending?

Yes! You might think that if you’re not able to come, it doesn’t matter. Oh, but it does! You have to plan for how many guests are showing. When you get a confirmed decline to the invitation, you know you’re at least not serving one additional guest. Believe me, it helps a ton.

Is it rude to RSVP and not show up?

Extremely. A few years ago, the mom of one girl in my daughter’s class had texted me to say they would attend. They never showed up, and she never responded to my texts. When you RSVP that you will come, the host prepares for your attendance in the form of food and usually some sort of party favors.

The only acceptable reason to not show up is if there’s been an emergency. Hopefully, that won’t happen to you, but if it does, message the host as soon as possible with your regrets. At that same party a few years ago, the mom of one of the boys in her class messaged me that she was on her way. A short while later, she sent her apologies. She’d gotten into a fender-bender on her way to pick up her son after her shift at work. Thankfully, she was okay, but I appreciated her letting me know.

Can I RSVP after the RSVP date?

You can, though be prepared to be turned away. Some parents spend a pretty penny at places like Chuck E. Cheese’s, and there’s a limit to how many guests can attend before having to pay more. They need confirmation by a specific date to lock in their rates. If the party is held at someone’s home, they may be able to accommodate you.

And yes, even if you’re not able to go, giving your RSVP after the RSVP date is still very much appreciated.

RSVP to Every Invitation

Please do it. We owe our kids better than this. Every time you neglect to RSVP and you don’t show up; you make a child sad. And every time you just show up without alerting the host you can attend, you’re putting them in an awkward position.

And yes, I know that kids will put invitations in their school bags which is like a vortex into another dimension. I got into the habit of checking my daughters’ bags since preschool, and I recommend you do it too. Not only will you find invitations to RSVP to, but you’ll also detect that banana your daughter said she ate at lunch, but she instead hid in the side pocket of her bag.

Check the date and time on the invitation and decide if you can take your child to this party or not. If your child is too young, you must RSVP on their behalf. If you have no other childcare options for any of your other children, please ask the host if it’s okay to bring them. Moms with little ones usually don’t mind because they would never leave their kids alone with a person they haven’t met.

I always plan for parents and siblings to attend too at this stage, but in the next few years, I won’t. Whatever the case, please don’t leave the host in the dark. Just RSVP whether you can come or not.

What to say when you can attend? – “Thanks for inviting my kid to your party. We would love to attend.”

What to say when you can’t attend? – “Thanks for inviting my kid to your party. We’re sorry, but we’re unable to come. Have a happy birthday!”

For bigger kids, like my 8-year-old, I make her call the number on the invitation and respond herself. If she’s big enough to FaceTime with her best friend from class, she’s big enough to reply to her invitations.

Final Thoughts on RSVPs

Yes, I feel passionate about RSVPs because they help you plan a party properly. That’s why I’m hoping you’ll all help me start a movement to remind people to RSVP. If you’re wondering how to get them to RSVP, I wish I could help with that. If you have the numbers of the parents, give them a call.

If you’re in the same situation as me, you can enlist the help of the teacher (as I did) to remind the parents to respond. Even with a nudge from the teacher, it doesn’t always help though. Perhaps if we spread the word, others will remember to check bags for invitations and put in those RSVPs ASAP.

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