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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Good Guests Bad Guests

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


What does RSVP mean?  What to know about how to be a good guest and how not to be a bad one are heated questions to Didi Lorillard this summer at Didi's Manners. 


Q.  What does RSVP really mean? What if you RSVP and then don't show up? We accepted a dinner party invitation, but ended up not remembering to go. I was reminded of the dinner a week later when a friend said the host was pissed that we were no-shows. She said there were two empty seats at the table where my boyfriend and I were supposed to have sat. Do we apologize or let it slide and invite him out sometime? We really don't have an excuse, do we make one up? It was on our calendar. Shelley, Edgartown, MA.

A.  It could have been a Freudian slip. You unconsciously didn't actually want to attend and could have accepted for the wrong reasons: you didn't want to hurt his feelings by rejecting his invite, and were still vaguely curious to see who else would be there and what his home would look like. In the end, you weren't curious enough.

Call him - in the hope of leaving a voice mail - to say that you are deeply sorry you didn't show up but something came up last minute that you had to handle. Don't bother with a shaggy dog excuse. The longer the longwinded dodge, the less believable you'll sound. 

Yes, you could text or email a lame excuse, but you'll still be stepping back again to distance yourself. If you care about softening the faux pas, call him - hoping your apology and reciprocal invitation goes to voicemail - or is graciously received voice-to-voice. 

Take a step closer, when you sincerely want to repair the friendship. Reciprocate with a return invitation - even if only for brunch. The day before, however, you had better call or text your guest that you're looking forward to taking him to lunch. Remind him of the time and where you're meeting, or he may not show up.

Socializing is about social bids, accepted or regretted. RSVP means "please respond," You accepted and were no-shows. The ball is in your court. 

No Kids Pool Party

Q. On the evite to our barbecue pool party for 30 guests we want to say No Kids Adults Only, what is the polite way to ask our friends with young children to leave them at home?  P.L., Westfield, NJ

A. Any invitation should be happily worded and upbeat. Have a line under the RSVP info that reads something like this:  Ages 21+ Welcome. 

Let it be known through word-of-mouth that despite the swimming pool, you are not expecting to accommodate young kids and you don't want to have to feel responsible for any underage drinking.

Seating Guests at A Wedding

Q.  At our upcoming, fairly formal wedding dinner every guest will have an assigned seat and know where they're sitting. How can we pull this off without seeming stuffy?  Some guests won't want to be stuck with the same seat mates for two hours, but having, for instance, the men move clockwise into different seats after the entree, seems contrived. How can we make place cards fun?  Emma, Providence

A.  Some guests won't want to be forced into playing musical chairs. Especially if they're shy or are enjoying where they're seated. Designate one empty seat at every table for the bride or groom to perch on while they thank guests at the table for coming to their wedding. 

The other upside to allotting one seat without a place card is to allow for that unexpected (uninvited) plus one that you hadn't known you would have to seat last minute. 

Additionally, assuming the table is a twelve-top, the phantom seat also becomes an opportunity for any guest to introduce themselves or catch up with other guests across the table.


Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners.


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