A lot comes to mind when we think of the word etiquette. Saying please and thank you. Keeping elbows off the table. Sending thank you cards. But when we think of Emily Post’s book, Etiquette, written in 1922, etiquette’s also been known to be stuck in times past. Outdated rules that have been followed by our mothers and grandmothers might not fit the world we’re all living in today. So, we’ve decided to dive into those etiquette rules to determine which ones should be kept and which ones can be ditched. Today, we’re taking a look at invitation etiquette rules from the perspectives of both the hostess and the invitee.
Invitation Etiquette Rules: A Complicated Relationship
We are the first to say that there aren’t really any “rules” when it comes to hosting. We don’t believe that there should be any boundaries when it comes to inviting people into your homes. Rules, after all, are often what keep us from connecting in the first place. My house needs to be cleaned from top to bottom. I need to feel put together before hosting. I don’t have the right entertaining pieces to host. These are all myths we’ve told ourselves that keep us apart. They’re exactly what stop us from deeper connections and stronger relationships.
So, why have any rules at all? Good question. Rules tend to have a negative connotation, but rules can also be so very helpful. In general, guidelines that involve respecting someone else’s time, energy, or money should be kept. And any rule centered around communicating openly will also ultimately help us connect with others. So, while some etiquette rules might be outdated now, it’s not quite right to throw all of them out, either. Just like in other areas of life, it’s all about striking a balance and living in the gray – and etiquette is no exception.
Redefining Invitation Etiquette Rules: Keep or Ditch?
Invitation Rule: RSVP Best Practices
RSVP, the age-old sign for a hostess needing a response to an invitation, is actually an abbreviation for the French phrase: Répondez, s’il vous plaît. (In English, this translates to “Respond, please.”) It’s often accompanied with a date to respond by in order for the hostess to prepare for the proper amount of guests.
Should we keep the RSVP, or is it outdated? RSVP is here to stay, though you might see the actual phrase updated to a more modern “Respond by” instead. Rules that are based in being courteous to others will always be necessary, and this is one of them. Allowing a hostess to know who and how many people will be attending an event is simply the courteous thing to do. It’s still important to respond by the date on the invitation, and we always suggest responding either when you receive the invitation or as soon as you know your availability.
Sometimes, you just don’t know your availability immediately. If the RSVP date is quickly approaching and you’re unsure if your schedule will be clear on that day, reach out to the hostess to let her know rather than remaining silent. No one has time to track down guests who chose not to respond, and no one wants to make that awkward call. Open communication – good or bad – is key to respect everyone’s time and efforts. So, respond. On time. And as clearly as possible.
Invitation Rule: Is Digital Tacky?
When Emily Post wrote her book almost 100 years ago, texting wasn’t even conceivable. A paper letter had to be sent, and a letter in response written back. But times have, obviously, changed quite a bit and suddenly we find ourselves with a plethora of digital options. From Facebook invitations to email and texting, no one can deny that technology has given us options. There’s been a debate in the last couple decades about whether or not sending a digital invitation or texting an RSVP is tacky or too informal, and if paper is the only way to go.
So, is it improper to go digital with your invitation (or RSVP)? Absolutely not! In fact, going digital has many benefits, such as convenient reminders on your phone, and it being more environmentally friendly. As far as responding to an invitation by text, as long as the invitation states that texting is fine, go for it. We’re all busy and there’s nothing wrong with this form of communication. As a hostess, allowing guests the option to text their RSVP might result in quicker responses than if requesting a phone call. Email is another great option for an easy way to organize RSVPs.
The Case for Paper Invites
For more formal events, such as weddings and showers, we love the idea of a paper invitation. There’s something about receiving an invitation in the mail that makes a guest feel special. A thoughtful paper invitation always makes an event feel more elegant and nostalgic for times past. Going paper also provides both the hostess and guests with a special memento as a reminder of time well spent together.
In the end, it’s all about preference. Just like how some people prefer a paper planner and others prefer their phone’s calendar, it’s all about what works for you. With our busy lives, do what makes you feel most organized and efficient. Forget any “rule” or false judgement that comes along with either option. So, when it comes down to it, you do you!
Invitation Rule: Asking About an Additional Guest
It’s long been considered taboo to ask a hostess if you can bring a “plus one,” or additional guest, along with you to an event when it isn’t explicitly stated. Often, we look to how the invitation is addressed to know whether our significant others or children are inviting to a special occasion. But, what if it’s not clear? Or what if your child had a friend sleep over but you have a pool party to go to the next day? Is it so wrong to ask?
Is it improper to ask about being an additional guest to an event? Honestly, it depends. If the event is formal, such as a wedding, and an invitation with a menu selection card was sent, then it’s best to not ask. Again, rules that should be followed are the ones dealing directly with respecting the hostess’ time, money, and effort. However, if the occasion is less formal, there’s no harm in asking. Simply make sure you ask as soon as possible so the hostess has a heads up.
Invitation Rule: Gifts
Have you ever gotten an invitation in the mail and you wonder what’s the “proper” gift for the occasion? We’ve all been there, Googling what’s proper gift etiquette for different events. We’ve also seen invitations that are extremely clear on gifts, from referencing a registry to simply saying, “No gifts, please.”
But, is it tacky to address the question of gifts on an invitation? Not at all. In fact, this is going to clear up any confusion. If it’s just a fun get-together and you really don’t want gifts, a simple note of your wishes will be appreciated by your guests. Remember, the best rules are the ones that are about respecting each other’s time, energy and money. Forget the idea of mentioning gifts as being “tacky” as long as it’s stated in a simple, clear and concise way.
Option to “no gifts, please”: If you truly don’t want gifts but it’s on occasion that usually has gifts, such as a birthday, consider including a charity on your invitation to which guests may donate instead. In doing this, you satiate guests’ desire to gift and your desire for no gifts, while doing good for the world. Also, there’s no pressure for the guests to have to do it; it’s merely a suggestion. This gift option can be worded on an invitation as, “In lieu of gifts, please donate to [charity of your choice].” It’s a win-win-win!
If you’re a guest and gifts aren’t mentioned, what should you do? When a hostess welcomes you into her home, we love to show our appreciation with simple and functional gifts. This can mean a lot of things, though. We love showering our favorite hostesses with a hostess gift basket. However, it doesn’t have to be extravagant. More often than not, a bottle of bubbly is a great gift to bring along if you aren’t sure what to bring with you. Additionally, if it’s for a specific event, there’s never any harm in bringing a card with your warm wishes written inside. Everyone appreciates the thoughtfulness of a heartfelt note!
The Etiquette Rule of Thumb
While we can debate over which individual rules from Post’s Etiquette should be kept or not, here’s a rule of thumb to follow. If the rule has to do with other people’s perception of you, ditch it. We are all trying to do our best. Worrying about unnecessary judgement shouldn’t play into our decisions when hosting or accepting an invitation. However, if the rule has to do with respecting a person’s time, energy or money, keep it. Open communication in a clear, polite manner is always appreciated. This applies to even once-taboo topics such as gifts.
So, get to connecting. Open your doors to loved ones. Make meaningful memories. And don’t worry about the rules so much. If your invitation comes from the heart, nothing else really matters.
Hap-Bee Hosting, friend!