Category Archive: In Defense of Etiquette

Apr 20

In Defense Of Etiquette: Online RSVPs

For those of you who know me, you might think that there are few people who are less prepared to defend good etiquette.  It’s not that I don’t believe etiquette is valuable; instead, I believe that it has many outdated rules that people still cling to.  However, these outdated rules also provide guidelines for how to navigate unfamiliar situations.  I know this is a paradox.  And that’s because etiquette, like language and fashion, has qualities of both being timeless and immediate.  So, from time to time, I’ll tackle an etiquette topic (helpfully categorized in the “In Defense of Etiquette” category above) so that you can hear my take and what the general Internet chatter is saying.

Here’s my quick caveat: if etiquette doesn’t make sense for your situation, your social group, or your budget, then clearly do what is best for you.  Etiquette isn’t about turning yourself into someone you’re not or putting on airs (or at least it shouldn’t be); it’s about tackling situations so that everyone involved feels comfortable.

So, let’s tackle a super common and modern etiquette quandary: the online RSVP.

Photo Credit: Sarah Parrot

RSVP is a French acronym for “respondez si’l vous plait” or simply “please respond.”  All of us get online RSVPs all the time, usually on Facebook, and so we think we know how to handle them.  If you’ve ever managed an event and counted on those online RSVPs to show up, you know what a load of crap that can be.  So, here’s a few tips to survive the RSVP process, and hopefully spare everyone’s feelings along the way.


Rules for Organizers:

  • Do not count on the online RSVP to accurately match your event attendance.  As Dr. House taught us “Everybody lies.”  So don’t trust your friends, your coworkers, or your grandma when she says that she totally wants to come to your third child’s second baby shower where all the gifts need to be macrame.  Because they’re all totally lying.
  • If it’s a fancy event that it’s going to bother you that people miss, you need to be more proactive than an online announcement.  Wedding shower, baby shower, wedding, baby…if you consider it a milestone, and you feel in your heart you’re going to nurse a grudge until the Second Coming if people don’t show, then let them know by the work you put in in either sending out real invitations or by calling and personally inviting them.  It’s a lot more personal, and you’ll feel a lot better if people tell you no and why over the phone rather than just fuming about it online and thinking it’s because they’d rather not hang out with you.
  • Don’t critique people who RSVP “no” online.  I can’t believe I have to say this, but Rebekah W. turned me on to this this week and inspired this article.  If someone replies “no,” you do not call them names or call them out on the attached message board.  If you do, you’re a troll, and nobody wants to attend your Bridge Warming Party anyways.
  • In short, if it needs the personal touch, the Internet isn’t the way to go.  Also, consider your RSVP event online to be a general announcement, not a for real show of hands.

Rules for Respondents:

  • If there is a maybe button, pretend it doesn’t exist.  We all know what maybe means online.  Maybe means I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but hell no.  I’d rather tweeze my eyebrows out and weave a place mat with them than attend your baby shower but since I can’t say that because you’re my cousin, I’ll just say maybe.  Newsflash: that’s rude.  Double newsflash: you’re not fooling anybody.  If you’re adult enough to be making your own decisions about where you go and how you spend your time, you’re adult enough to let people know what your plans are for real.
  • If you say you’re going, show up.  If you can’t show up after you’ve said you’re going to call, you need to call the host (if you know them) or at least shoot them an online message (if you don’t).  If you’ve ever hosted a shower/show/semi-formal dinner party/cake baking contest/all night letter writing campaign, and you’ve relied on Facebook or other online means to get the word out, you know that nobody shows up, and your event flops worse than a cheesecake in a regular cake pan.  So why would you do this to other people?  Even though everyone knows when they RSVP that the event organizer shouldn’t count on them, everyone hosting an event does count on them.  And that’s no way to be.  Be an adult: show up where you say you’re going to be.  And if you can’t make it for some reason, let someone know, so they don’t count on your attendance.
  • In short, pretend an online RSVP is the same as a written RSVP sent to you in the mail.  Sure, it took less time for the sender, and it isn’t as special, but the goal is still the same: to gauge your interest in attending an event.  Treat it that way.

Think I’ve totally missed the mark?  Or left off a crucial detail?  Or that I totally need to cover something else next time?  Let me know in the comments.

‘Til next time,