Responding to Event Invitations

This month I am continuing a theme first introduced a few months back about pet peeves. I just have to discuss an epidemic that is driving me crazy! It’s about how people do not respond to invitations and still show up, or do say they’re coming but are no-shows. This kind of behavior is simply not respectful or considerate of the hosts.

This issue came to a boil for me last month, when I was a speaker at two professional organizations’ events. The organizers gave me an initial guest count, but only about half that number actually attended.

What gets me most is the lack of concern these no-shows showed for others. In both cases, there was lots of leftover food and drink. Plus I had prepared personalized materials that became trash after the night was over. Sure, I could have produced generic materials to recycle at another presentation. Yet there is something special when a speaker makes the effort to personalize materials, don’t you think?

With the heavy fall and holiday party season nearly upon us, here are a few guidelines I hope will become a habit whenever responding to any invitation:

How soon should I respond to an invitation?
Always respond within a week of receiving the invitation. Certainly respond no later than the due date stated on the invitation or reply card.

After accepting an invitation, what if something comes up at the last minute and I can’t attend?

Never be a no-show. If it’s unavoidable, call—even at the last minute—and leave a message on voicemail, email, or text. Then call the next day to apologize to the organizer directly, and even in some cases send a personal email note (or by regular mail is best for social invitations), expressing your regret for not attending.

What if I did not respond to an invitation, but realize I want to attend at the last minute?
Never show up to a party or event unannounced. Contact the organizers by both email and telephone, saying, “I know I didn’t respond by the due date. I wasn’t sure until now I could attend. By chance is there still space available?” This way the host is free to invite you, or to tell you they are at capacity and cannot accept your reservation. This avoids wasting your time and energy going to the event, only to be turned away, or appearing as though you were a party crasher. Further, it can be most embarrassing to be seen by friends who are attending, only to have to leave.


I responded to an event where I said I would pay at the door, but then I decided not to attend.  Do I still have to pay?
Remember, when withdrawing your attendance at the last minute (generally within a week and certainly within 72 hours of the event date), you are still responsible for your remittance, except perhaps…

a) If you call the host and leave a message about your situation, and he or she does not return your call;
b) The host returns your call and lets you off the hook.

In a third scenario, someone may call you to say they do indeed expect your remittance. Given this, agree to send in your money. That’s etiquette!

Do I have to reply to invitations that ask for money to attend?
It is not necessary to respond to public invitations requiring you to pay money to attend. That said, when someone you know on the event committee attaches a personal note, it is a nice courtesy to respond with an email when you are unable to attend. It not only shows you care, but it also serves to stay in touch with that person.

For your amusement: I recently read an article about R.S.V.P.s, where the author Rand Richards Cooper had this to say… “Left over from a time when graciousness couched demands as requests, the R.S.V.P. no longer functions. I therefore propose an update, something still French but a bit more … frank — the R.V.O.M.: Répondez Vite — ou Mourez!  For those friends of mine who plead a lack of high school French, allow me to translate. Respond Quickly, or Die!

Happy Practicing!


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4 Responses to "Responding to Event Invitations"

  • Robert Aston says:
    • Syndi Seid says: