rsvp etiquette

rsvp etiquette

I came across this article in the New York Times yesterday on how internet has changed the RSVP. It’s a good read –  but the cliffs notes version is that evites and email invitations are inherently casual so people don’t feel the need to RSVP or honor their RSVP, but event hosts have also made RSVPs not matter or made event invitations so casual that RSVPs were meaningless.

Oh RSVPs. Any event planner or event host knows how important RSVPs are. So much rides on the numbers – how much food to order, how many bartenders to provide, how many chairs to have, etc. The more formal event, the more important RSVPs become, as you may have specific seating assignments that are affected by RSVPs – someone shows up without RSVPing and you don’t have a spot for them; someone doesn’t show who had RSVPd and you have empty places at a table, or an empty table altogether.

For certain events, you can factor in no-shows. It’s important to always track RSVPs to see who is coming, especially for regular or semi-regular events. After a while you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect. For example, one series of events we work on has about a 50% no-show rate. We know that on average, if 400 people RSVP, about 200 will show up. But even that math is a best guess, and if a factor changes (a particularly popular speaker or a different time or day of the week), your attendance may change.

Most people are more likely to RSVP when they know the host personally and are more likely to show up (or feel guilty for not showing up). For a small dinner party of 10-12 people, one guest’s absence is enough to be noticed; two could wreak havoc on the menu.

For larger events, many guests just assume that their absence won’t be noticed. But it may be. Some planners will go through the registration list and mark who didn’t attend – this might even affect future invitations – you never know.

Free events are often the most likely to have no-shows. The  more someone spent on a ticket, the more likely they are to actually attend. But that doesn’t mean they always will (it’s all about tradeoffs).

Personally, I try to keep this in mind when I’m RSVPing for events. I’m not perfect – that’s for sure. But if I know I won’t be able to make it, I try and cancel my RSVP (you never know if there is a waiting list and I’m holding a spot for someone who might actually use it).

Just something to keep in mind as you are both planning and attending events!

 {Photo credit: Flickr }

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