Thursday, May 28, 2015

Etiquette and RSVPs

"Good breeding demands that an answer always be given to a question, unless the question be impertinent."
                
On Social Life and RSVPs

This week the question comes, "Is it necessary to send acceptance or regret to an invitation for a come and go reception?" Up to the present writing no definite answer to that particular question has been found in any books of etiquette that were accessible. However, perhaps a suggestion will be acceptable in lieu of a mere incontrovertible reply; and the suggestion is —"put yourself in her place." 


You have sent, out four hundred invitations bidding your friends come to you on a certain day or evening, you receive regrets from one hundred. Does that mean that three hundred are coming, or one-hundred-and-fifty, or in other words how many gallons of ice cream are you going to order; how much chocolate, or coffee or both shall you have made, and how many chickens, or lobsters, etc..., etc..., etc... ?


Mrs. J. Sherwood and various other authorities on the subject of social etiquette refer to the manner and style of wording acceptances or regrets to functions of one kind and another, as if the fact of answering in some way went without saying—it probably does. A matter of two minutes, a sheet of paper, envelope and postage stamp and the mailing is done. Why question it? Good breeding demands that an answer always be given to a question, unless the question be impertinent: why not then a reply to an invitation which is almost the least civility that can be paid to an invitation which is usually meant to be a courtesy?

Long before a stamped envelope and a reply card were added to wedding invitations, it was good manners to send a handwritten reply– "A matter of two minutes, a sheet of paper, envelope and postage stamp and the mailing is done. Why question it?"


Mrs. Sherwood says: "In our new country the relations of men and women are necessarily simple. The whole business of etiquette is, of course, reduced to each one's sense of propriety, and the standard must be changed as the circumstances demand." Notwithstanding which, if you meet a friend in the street and she says: "I want you to meet some friends in my home such and such a time,'' you don't stand and stare at her, nor turn on your heel and leave her. Should not written invitations, even to a "come and go reception," have as much attention as one given by word of mouth?
— Los Angeles Herald, 1895


Whether an answer's requested or not by the letters R.S.V.P. (repondez, sil vous plait—" answer, if you please"), it must be sent in a day or two, and written in the same formal style as the invitation, the acceptance of which may be thus expressed: "Mr. T. accepts with pleasure the polite invitation of Mrs. A. for the evening of _______ ." 
A refusal should be written as follows: "Mr. T. regrets that he can not accept the polite invitation of Mrs. A. for the evening of ________."When an invitation is accepted, it must be, if possible, faithfully complied with. It is not seldom that an invited person takes an uninvited friend to a ball or evening dancing-party, but he ought not to do so without first asking permission of the giver of it. As he is not likely to be refused, he must hold himself entirely responsible for the character and conduct of his companion, who, previous to and after the party, should send a card.  From "Bazar Book of Decorum" 1870              



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