How to Get People to RSVP

One common problem when hosting a party is sending out invitations only to have a handful of people actually respond. There are ways to entice others to say "yea" or "nay" to the invite.

RSVP stands for "respondez s'il vous plait," which is the French translation of, please respond. Although just about every invitation, whether paper, electronic or verbal, generally includes a response request, many invitees fail to make the call or send that e-mail. This can be annoying for a host or hostess trying to plan a party based on the number of guests.

Although failure to respond to an invitation can seem like poor etiquette, party hosts should expect lots of non-responses. Here are some other ways to encourage guests to reply when invited.

* Set a deadline. Instead of leaving it as an open response, be sure to indicate on the invitation when the response will be needed. (RSVP by September 10, 2010.)

* Be clear. In this day and age one would hope others would understand what RSVP means. However, there are some who believe they have to respond only if they are coming to the fete. Change the wording of the invitation to include a more explicit description of what is desired in a response. (Please respond if you will or will not be attending by this date.)

* Give response options. Let's face it, with all of the electronic devices some people are simply "phone-a-phobic." They'd much rather text, e-mail or place a wall post that they'll be attending ... or not. Especially if someone isn't going to be able to attend, it can be a little embarrassing to call and give a reason why he or she will be a no-show. Give guests plenty of ways to respond (and save face) so they'll be more likely to do so. (Call, e-mail or IM your response to: ...)

* No ticket, no entry. Remember the last concert, theater show or sports event attended? To enter such events a person will need a ticket as proof of payment. The same concept can be applied to individuals' parties. Once a person responds in the affirmative, he or she can be issued a "ticket" for attendance. If a person fails to reply, no ticket, no entry. This may seem harsh and may alienate a few people, but it can drive home the RSVP point to serial non-responders.

* Give a reason why the response is needed. If others realize the reason why a prompt response is needed, it may encourage them to reply. (Please reply by 'said date' because I need to give a head count to the restaurant.)

* When all else fails, adapt. Some people in the family or friends are well known non-responders. Over time one can gauge whether they'll be at the party or not depending on their actions. For example, maybe Cousin Sue's RSVP silence always means she'll be there. Some people always decline invitations. If a within-reason headcount can be obtained, make assumptions on the rest.

* Pick up the phone. Party planners who really need an accurate headcount for financial reasons (the restaurant will charge for the number of plates reserved) can give non-responders a call. It's more work and it puts others on the spot, but it's the most effective way to getting responses.

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