I belong to more social networks (i.e. Facebook, MySpace, Ning, etc.) than I could possibly name off the top of my head. I have so many social network profiles that I have to keep a database on my computer and phone that stores all of my usernames and passwords. Because of this, I receive dozens of invitations a week to all kinds of events: everything from wine tastings, political candidate fundraisers, and formal banquets to church small groups, birthday parties, and rock concerts in abandoned warehouses. However, I am somewhat of a homebody, so I usually just ignore them or delete them from my inbox. It feels so negative to click the “No, I will NOT be attending” box. It feels like I am saying to that person that they are not worth my time to attend “your little function”. It is much more comfortable to ignore it and be noncommittal.

I never really paid any attention to them until my wife was planning an event a while back. She sent out invitations in the old-fashioned postal mail, and found that no one was RSVPing whether they were coming or not. My response to her was, “Well, if they aren’t RSVPing, isn’t it safe to assume that they are not coming?” Duly ignoring my sage advice, she decided that she would try calling them. Of course, in our world where everyone has a cell phone in their pocket or purse and can be contacted in seconds, she talked to more voice mail boxes than she talked to humans. Then, she decided to email everyone. Her language in the email was a little firmer than in the invitation. She told them to please let her know if you are coming, or if you do not plan on coming so that we can plan accordingly. Within 12 hours, everyone (except one person, and you know who you are!) that had been sent an initiation had responded back with a yea or nay.

My wife’s dilemma made me think. I have had several events that I have planned where few people responded to an RSVP, but then many came. So, I decided to do a little research into how RSVPs are supposed to be handled. It turns out, you are supposed to respond regardless of whether you plan on attending or not. In circles where etiquette is still acknowledged, it is actually much ruder to not respond at all than it is to say that you will attend and then not show up! It is assumed that if you said you would come and then do not show up then you must have had a last minute change. If you do not respond at all, it leaves a big question mark on the event host’s plans because they don’t know if you are coming or not.

It seems to me like a lot of people in my generation do not realize what RSVP means. I think that we collectively thought that RSVP meant “Let me know if you are definitely coming.” Therefore, since we are all noncommittal and lazy, we avoid the question. RSVP actually stands for a French phrase “répondez s’il vous plaît” which loosely means, “Please respond.” We really should respond and let the host know if we plan on coming, or if we do not want to, or cannot attend.

So, now what do we do? Do we allow our generation to change the connotation of the term, or do we try to bring about cultural change and get everyone to comply with the true definition? I believe we may have to do both. What I’ve decided to do is be firmer with my invitations. I’m not sure how I’m going to implement that plan, but I might tell people that if they don’t RSVP they cannot come, (I’ll hire my step Dad to work as a bouncer) but also let them know that if they RSVP that they are coming and then end up not making it, I will forgive them.

What do you think? How do you handle RSVPs?