How to respond to invitations


March 18, 2013 by Tess

We all receive lots of invitations to things. It seems everyone is doing something these days!

A little note about the RSVP: From the French, it means “Répondez, s’il vous plaît,” or, “Please reply.” These four little letters tell you that your hosts ABSOLUTELY need to know if you are attending.  Reply promptly, usually your host needs to know about food, drinks, favors, seating etc.

How to respond? The invitation should tell you!

If the invitation says…

…RSVP and no response card-A handwritten response to the host at the return address on the envelope.

…RSVP with a response card-fill in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope (but as quickly as possible).

…RSVP with phone number-Telephone and make sure to speak in person

…RSVP with email-you may accept or decline electronically.

…Regrets only: reply only if you cannot attend. If your host doesn’t hear from you, he is expecting you!

….No reply requested? Unusual, but it is always polite to let someone know your intentions. A phone call would be sufficient.

Social obligations are called ‘obligations’ for a reason. We are obliged to attend things even when we would prefer to stay home! If someone took the time to invite you, you are obligated to attend!

Now don’t fret, there are some exceptions. Here’s my personal list of how I respond to invitations.

  • Social Invitations in writing from friends: Respond within 2 days with a ‘yes’ unless extreme circumstances prevent it.
  • Chairty Invitations: Are not social invitations, they are invitations to donate. If this is something that ‘you do’ (meaning charity events), you best say “yes” or no one will be coming to your shin-dig. Those of us who do charity events reciprocate with those who support our endeavors. If you’re double booked, you’re double booked. Go, write a check, thank your hostess, and move on to the next event.
  • Lectures/Classes/Book Signing Invitations from Friends: Yes, you are obliged to support them. It is important to THEM.
  • Lectures/Classes/Book Signing Invitations from Strangers (mass mailing): Unless you are interested in going-feel free to cicular file.
  • Any kind of hand-written note requires a response. Even if it is from a stranger. They took the time, so should you. Even if you must send your regrets.

How to respond to invitations:

If someone sends one of those dreadful electronic invitations, you are obliged to respond in-kind. There is usually a super-lazy “press this button” response. However, just because someone has enabled you to be lazy doesn’t mean you stop with the button pressing. Write a note with your response.

If someone sends (or gives you) a hand written invitation, please respond in-kind. Send them a note as quickly as possible (but always within 2 days).

How to send your regrets:

Regret notes are horrible things to write. I feel obliged to share my reasons for not attending, but oftentimes people do not. Always begin your regrets by thanking them for the invitation! I will often phrase things in the following way:

Thank you so much for inviting me to (event). I regret to say I have an obligation to (other event) on (date), and will not be able to attend your (event). I look forward to the next opportunity to see you.

If this is a dinner or home-entertaining invtation, you can suggest alternatives to soften the blow.

For example:

Thank you so much for inviting me to (event). I regret to say I have an obligation to (other event) on (date), and will not be able to attend your (event). However, I would very much love to (event), and if (date), (date), or (date) would work for you, I would be very happy attend.

A more permanent “No”:

If you just can’t stomach particular company for whatever reason, don’t lie to them! They will continue to invite you, and you will have to get more and more creative in order to send your regrets. Dishonesty perpetuates. So rather than sending regrets you don’t mean, phrase it something like this:

Thank you so much for your invitation and for thinking of  us. We regret that our social calendar has gotten a bit out of hand, and we just cannot further committ to events at this time. We’ve chosen to focus our time on (family/school/work/whatever) . We appreicate your generous invitation, and hope you have a lovely (event).

Be careful with a more permanent ‘no’ if someone is in your social circle. They will hear about it if you go to someone else’s party, or if you are entertaining and didn’t invite them. So before you send more permanent regrets, make sure you’ve thought through the consequences!

So, the bottom line to invitations: Be timely, be polite, be gracious.


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