R.S.V.P.- the French phrase "répondez s'il vous plait," means "please reply". An incomplete list of respondents can cause numerous problems for a host, including difficulty in contracts with venues, planning schedules, food, parking, security, people-moving, seating, party favors and more. Sometimes the biggest issue is embarrassment for the host or the guest of honor.
Include the question the extent of your need for RSVPs in early planning phases of your event. If your event is formal or complex or expensive- you must be willing to suffer over your numbers. If you can afford to be hospitable by being more flexible or casual or simple or spending more money (!) - you will have less to worry over with your response rate.
However, we all have times when we want to provide a finely-tuned, high quality experience for guests, and the RSVP is the way to accomplish this. If you have an event that needs all the fine-tuning that a solid RSVP system provides, here are some ideas:
Take ample time on the invitations . Consider it an investment that can really pay off in favorable response for your event. Make the invitations memorable. Color, style, design, scale, a gimmick – consider these as techniques to trigger people's memory. Tune your invitation to the event so that it sets an accurate set of expectations in your guest's mind – for instance, if it is highly formal, you need to stay within formal perimeters.
Time invitations to arrive on a Saturday when people are less pre-occupied.
Hand-deliver invitations if you can.
Give multiple options for RSVPing, like self-addressed/stamped reply cards, a phone number, e-mail address or web portal to reply.
If you need to, set a clear, firm RSVP date. Include a phrase like: "This date cannot extend, promptness is a must. If we do not hear in time we must sadly take you from our list..."
For more formal events, use wording: “We will reserve 4 seat(s) in your honor until April 25, 2007” on the RSVP card. This firmly indicates the maximum number of guests you are inviting and the need for a response.
Cover issues of people bringing children, dates or guests. Never print "no children" or "adults only" on an invitation. The way an invitation is addressed should indicate the names of exactly who - and by omission, who is not invited. Or, one can print: “Adult Reception.” Consider providing a babysitting service for your event if the participation of children presents a problem.
If you are still having difficulty getting RSVPs:
Send out an email or call those you have not heard from by a certain date - it's perfectly acceptable in all guides on good manners.
Use face-saving phrases like:
"It has come to our attention that some people have not received their invitations to our event on May 3, 2007. If you did not receive your invitation, please let me know immediately so we can send another one. Hope to hear that you can attend the event!!"
General ideas for more casual events:
Repetition really helps and is acceptable. Plan to start with a “save the date” notice, followed with an invitation, send a “party details” notice about a week before your event.
Try withholding specific tantalizing information until they RSVP. This withheld information could be the theme, dress code, directions or an address for the party. One party with a Secret Agent theme incorporated this seamlessly and got a great RSVP response.
What hosts should know about R.S.V.P. manners:
Be clear and give good direction. Do not be upset at people if you have not communicated well.
People are obligated to R.S.V.P. any time that they are invited to an event. That does not mean that they know this fact or will comply.
People should respond by the date on the invitation. If there is no date, they should reply within 48 hours.
For formal events, like weddings, provide a self-addressed, stamped response card. For a more casual event, invite a phone call or an e-mail RSVP.
If a guest responds “no” and then finds they can attend, it is appropriate to call the host and explain that they are honored to be invited, that schedules have changed and, if it's convenient, they'd like to attend. Hosts can accept or say no.
If it is an out-of-town event or a financially complicated event, potential guests can call and explain and ask what the absolute latest date to R.S.V.P. is. This is an acceptable inquiry on the part of your potential guest.
For the most part, seeing the RSVPs roll in can be a fun part of planning your event!