How to Get Guests to RSVP

invitationYou’re planning a party and some of your guests simply aren’t responding. They’re not providing any sort of RSVP, so you have no idea whether they’re coming or not, or whether they’re undecided or perhaps forgot about the event altogether. How can you get your guests to RSVP without appearing annoying or desperate?

Let’s consider the question.


Does It Even Matter?

First, I’d say it’s important to determine why — and if — you need the answer so badly. Now before people get all upset, let me ask you plainly: does it truly matter?

If it’s a wedding or other formal catered event, then yes, it absolutely matters since you’ll need to know how many dinners to pay for.

If, however, it’s a Halloween house party or other informal event, you can typically make some pretty safe assumptions when estimating the number of guests you will have in attendance. In my experience over the last 10 years, only one type of response to a party actually means yes: its “Yes.”

Every single “No”, “Maybe” or non-response I have ever received has turned out to be a no-show, with the exception of one couple… in ten years. Trust me on this. Count up your “Yes” responses, prepare enough food, drink, and party favours for 10-15% more people as a failsafe, and be done with it.

“But wait!” some will cry out. “I invited 100 people and only 25 have responded. I can’t possibly assume that the other 75 aren’t coming! What if they all decide to show up at the last minute? Then what will I do?” They won’t. You can and should assume that they aren’t coming.


Why Don’t People Respond?

Regardless of whether we need their RSVPs in order to effectively estimate the number of attendees, there’s another question here: the one about common courtesy. Why is it that, if you’re going through the effort of planning, organizing, and paying for this amazing event, and providing them with a gracious invitation to it, some people still can’t even be bothered to at least respond?

annoyed girlFirst, I ask you again to challenge your assumption that they can’t be bothered or are being somehow rude or inconsiderate. Don’t be annoyed. Don’t get sour.

Not everyone knows what RSVP means (It’s French, “Répondez s’il vous plaît”, which literally translates to “Respond if you please”). That doesn’t really mean “You better answer my darned invite!” now does it? In today’s day and age of course, an invitation with a request to RSVP is asking people to respond regardless.

More importantly, not everyone necessarily understands how a proper RSVP works. They may think that they only need to respond if they’re attending. And honestly, that’s exactly how you should treat their lack of response. Don’t assume that people are simply nasty and discourteous. The last thing the world needs is more bad blood. And the last thing you need is to start losing friends over a misunderstanding.

Second, consider the possibility that some people may simply not be as excited or interested in your event as you are. Also, remember that no one asked to be invited, so it’s not like you’re doing them a favour. It can sting, I know, but it’s life and it is absolutely part of organizing any type of event. Not everyone is a huge Halloween buff like us. I know… crazy, right?


Move Forward

Focus on the people who have replied, have fun at your event, and keep your regular attendees on your short list of invitees for next year.

If the same people continuously don’t reply or attend, you can cut them off the list of invitees in the future. I’d say give them a few chances first. I normally wait until someone has declined or ignored the invitation three times before I consider cutting them off. It’s my three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule.

Of course, there are extenuating circumstances. I don’t count legitimate reasons like having to work, being unable to secure a babysitter, or having to attend a sudden funeral personally. Yes, some people might be so immature as to make up excuses rather than simply politely declining, but the majority aren’t that way. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Smile — whether you’re face to face with them or not — and tell them you’re sorry they couldn’t make it.


What do you think? Please share your thoughts on RSVPing by posting a comment below!

Alternatively, you can check out my post on how to stay organized while planning your party, or visit the Hosting section for more party planning and hosting advice.

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