‘Tis the season for some of the best parties of the year and the invites are rolling in! But do you know what to do when faced with the RSVP on an invite? Based on the party I threw recently, I’m guessing most people don’t. So I decided to seek out the advice of an expert in etiquette to give some guidance on RSVP‘s.


Diane Gottsman is a Modern Manners and National Etiquette Expert. She has written several books on etiquette and appeared on programs like the Today Show, Hallmark’s Home and Family and The FAB Life. She has 16 years of experience with everything from corporate etiquette for Fortune 500 companies, to social media and daily etiquette.

diane gottsmanI wanted to talk with her because I’m someone who loves to throw parties and before I became a mama, I threw a lot of them. Now they are few and far between. But one thing that’s always been the bane of my existence is the RSVP. Here’s what generally happens when I throw a party: a few people respond right away, most people ignore it, or reply then change their minds last-minute. Why does this happen?

I know I’m not alone here when I say it’s annoying to go to the trouble of planning an event or party only to have your guests ignore or forget about the invite or cancel at the last minute. Diane says there’s several possible things going on here.

But, the main reason people don’t respond to an event or party invite is because they are waiting to see if something better is coming along.

That’s right. They’re weighing their options to see if they get a better offer. How rude. I don’t mean to RSVP-shame here because not everyone does this. But this casual way of thinking about responding to someone’s invitation has gotten so lax, I don’t think most guests even realize how rude they’re being. I try to be careful when I RSVP to something to make sure I can actually attend. I’ll look and see what’s on my calendar then decide whether I need to get a baby sitter? Do I have to dress up? Is the location cool and will I have to spend money? These are all questions that run through my mind before I RSVP and before I know it a week has gone by and I haven’t committed. Glad to know I’m not the only one who does this. But that doesn’t make it any less rude.

Did you know you should be responding to an invite within 24-48 hours of getting it? You should! Diane says that’s plenty of time for most people to check their calendars and commit to attending. For those throwing a party, Diane suggests using an RSVP BY date so that sends a clear message you and your guests need to plan ahead. If people miss that date, then they are SOL for the party. You could also do a gentle reminder of the event with a call, text or email just in case your guests didn’t receive your invite.

And here’s the kicker folks, once you RSVP “yes” that you’ll be attending an event then you need to show up. Period. It’s flat-out rude to your host if you don’t. Yes things happen. I had to miss a wedding once because I was in the ER with food poisoning. That’s not the type of situation I’m talking about here. People get sick, baby sitters cancel, etc. We all have life events. But our culture has become so casual when it comes to parties that people just blow off events to sit at home or because they’re tired. Diane has a very important reminder for those guests.

The polite thing to do is to adhere to the event because the host has planned for you to attend.

The host plans for a certain amount of food, drinks and service to be provided at the event and if you fire off a text canceling at the last second, that’s money they’ve wasted and can’t get back. If you don’t think you can go, or don’t want to go to the party, just RSVP “no”. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, but you might offend the host if you say you’ll go then back out.

Some of this might seem old-fashioned to you. You might find yourself saying, “This isn’t the 1950’s. These rules don’t apply to modern events and parties”.  I asked Diane if she thinks these types of RSVP fails are more common in the modern era with Facebook invites, Evite and Paperless Post making events seem more casual. She tells me the bottom line is no matter what era we’re in, or how you get the invite, when you get invited to celebrate something with someone you should RSVP one way or another because it’s about being polite and kind to the person who invited you. We all remember kindness right?

rsvp rules


While we’re all brushing up on our manners here’s some of Diane’s party etiquette tips to keep in mind when you go to your next party.

  1. No politics at parties. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m telling you nothing ruins a crab dip faster than people fighting over the Electoral College or why Bernie was “robbed”.
  2. RSVP. Just reply to the person who invited you. It’s nice that someone thought enough of you to include you in their event so try to be nice enough to let them know if you can attend.
  3. Be respectful of social media limits. Does the host want you bragging about their event? Maybe that’s why you were invited in the first place because of your social reach. Either way double-check to make sure you don’t post something about the event they don’t want the world to know about.
  4. Engage with the guests at the party. Remember when we used to go to parties and just talk to each other? Me neither. My face is constantly in my phone.  I need to work on focusing on talking more to people at these events rather than hashtagging it up. There is a time and place for that but not when we’re face-to-face.
  5. Be respectful of the person throwing the event. Someone has been nice enough to choose you to celebrate whatever it may be, a birthday, a holiday, a new show, a new product etc. Show your appreciation by replying, one way or another, if you can attend.

The goal being for the host to make the guest feel good about being invited. And the guest to make the host feel good for inviting them. This applies to formal or casual affairs. After all, who doesn’t like to feel welcome at a party??

Some people may feel like they don’t have to RSVP, or that life in the 99% is too casual for all these “rules”. Diane suggests hosts take a closer look at their guest lists in the future and reconsider inviting those people. Because like the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Now RSVP.” Okay, I added that last part. But you get the idea.

modern etiquette

To find out more about Modern Manners and what Diane says is acceptable in today’s polite society, check out her website www.theprotocolschooloftexas.com. Or you can pre-order her new book called “Modern Etiquette For A Better Life” on Amazon.

Diane Gottsman talking about social media etiquette on Home & Family