It’s Time to RSVP

I’ve received questions about RSVPing before, but since we’re getting close to the winter holidays, when people will be hosting small gatherings (Thanksgiving with friends) and large gatherings (open house / cookie party / Christmas party), I wanted to take some time to revisit the concept.

As a general rule:

  • you should RSVP to things (yes or no, not maybe)
  • if you RSVP yes, you should do your best to go

I’ve never been able to understand why people don’t RSVP when they get invited somewhere. It’s not a hard thing to do. It doesn’t require money, or even more than five seconds; 30 if you have to open your calendar app or shoot a text to a partner. And not doing it is thoughtless, and can suggest to the person who has invited you that they don’t merit even the slightest consideration. No one wants to feel that way.

At the same time, no one should feel obligated to go to optional events. Even some things others would consider mandatory (funerals, weddings) are, in my opinion, a case-by-case situation. Some people can’t process their grief in public; some people are invited to weddings out of obligation and so shouldn’t feel the need to attend (thanks for the invite to your second wedding, distant relative, but we’ve neither seen each other nor spoken in a decade, and that was only at a funeral).

You also don’t need to come to a cookie party, or birthday dinner, or graduation party. If I’ve invited you, I’d love for you to come, but everyone has obligations. Sometimes they have other plans; other times the one free night a person has all month is the same night as a pumpkin carving, so I get that they would pass.

But if a person says they are going to attend an event, they should make an effort to show up. I’ve purchased food and drinks, and possibly planned whether I have room to invite others who aren’t as close but who I still would like to see, based on people saying they’re going to show up. If someone bails at the last minute, that means I can’t invite the colleague I was thinking I might get to know better, and there are a few beers I didn’t need to have taking space in my fridge. To which you might say ‘no big deal,’ and it’s not, but it is kind of jerky.

I know things happen. I tend to get sick at the least opportune times. Perhaps a relative has unexpectedly come to town. I had someone no show once because he was pissed at his girlfriend.

The thing is, you don’t owe me your presence at my party. But if we’re good enough friends that it was reasonable that I should invite you to my gathering, then I think we’re good enough friends that you’d show me some kindness and come if you say you’re going to.

Which brings me to the “but I let you know!” response. Frankly, that’s almost as bad, especially the day of. Changing your RSVP to no a couple days before is a bummer, sure, but I can work with that. But having a string of text messages appear in the hours and minutes before a party is demoralizing.

And I know that your excuse is valid. You have a horrible headache. You’re double booked. You’re hungover. Your child has a cold. And that’s fine. But if you’re trying to be a good friend (and not a jerk), just think a minute before you decide to bail.

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