When I received a simple invitation requesting an RSVP, by habit, I let them know I was coming. I attended the Encore contributors' reception following the presentation of "In the Heights" on May 2 at Stouffer Lounge in Fort Hays State University's Memorial Union.
I was surprised so few people came to enjoy the wonderful reception prepared for so many. I felt sad for the host.
That got me thinking about the importance of the RSVP printed on the invitation. I always have tried to respond and treat the RSVP with proper attention. Well, I looked it up so I could tell you about it.
I checked out at the library two very large books, "Emily Post's Etiquette" by Elizabeth L. Post and "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior" by Judith Martin. RSVP was discussed in much detail in these two books, way more than I cared to study, but librarian Steve Arthur found a simplified answer for me on the computer.
RSVP stands for a French phrase "repondez, sil vous plait" which means "please reply."
It's still hard to understand why we use RSVP -- you could say the French "invented" etiquette, but there always have been rules of courtesy to follow in civilization. In fact, an Italian diplomat, Conte Baldassare Castiglione, wrote the first book about proper behavior among nobility in the 16th century.
Many of the practices of Western etiquette, however, came from the French court of King Louis XIV in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. And French was the language of refinement and high society through the 19th century in the United States.
Judith Martin, author of etiquette books and a syndicated newspaper columnist known as "Miss Manners," thinks RSVP came about as a polite way of reminding people of something they already should know. If you receive an invitation, you should reply.
So what has happened? Do we believe to RSVP is old fashioned, something prim and proper that only little old ladies do? Are we no longer courteous? Do we feel it's something our busy generation doesn't need to worry about?
Have we forgotten it is an honor to be invited and it is polite to reply? Have we failed to realize the importance of sending a reply? What has happened to our manners?
Years ago, a written reply would have been the proper way to respond. Nowadays, a phone call would be sufficient and much appreciated. I'm sure we realize why it is important to reply. The host of the party, reception, wedding, award ceremony, shower or any event you have been invited to has to make plans. They need to know how much food and drink to buy. If you don't respond, they will have to decide whether to plan for only those who sent a reply or for the total guest list.
There is no excuse for failing to respond when an RSVP is requested. The simple courtesy is responding to someone nice enough to invite you, even if it is to say you regret you will not be able to attend.
At the present time, I have two invitations for a baby shower and family reunion. I have put the date and time on a calendar and I will send a note with my reply. If something happens and I can't make the trip to Hutchinson or Minneola, I will be sure to let the hosts know. Let's all get in the RSVP habit.
Opal Flinn is a member of the Generations advisory