I think that the art of the R.S.V.P. has been long on my generation. I notice that people in my parent's generation are quick to respond to a party with regret or with attendance, but I see people struggling with their guest count on a daily basis when planning for a wedding. I inevitably get the question from brides, "Is it OK to call people who haven't replied?" I always ask myself W.W.E.P.D? (What Would Emily Post Do?) Duh!
What a sad state of society that people, who you care about enough to invite to your special wedding day and they cannot even return the card or postcard that the bride already stamped? How hard is it – check yes or no – just like the notes in grade school – do you like me, like really like me?
I had a bride and mother of the bride who took personal offense to those who didn't RSVP. They gave a list to one of my staff members and had her check off names and number of guests as they came in. If the name was not on the list we were instructed to turn the guests away or pull them out of line and consult with the mother of the bride. This was NOT a Hollywood movie premiere, this was NOT the Queen of England's grandson's wedding, this wasn't even a local TV reporter's wedding – this was Jane Doe from Nowhere, USA. She was not a celebrity, she was not even a local a radio or tv personality and from what I know of her, I am guessing she wasn't in the popular group in high school either. It was weird, but in this profession, you have to handle brides, and mother of the brides, with kid gloves, so we proceeded to check guest's names off the list as they entered and most were appalled.
"Hello, can I get your name and number in your party to check against our guest list?" my cute little college co-ed staffer said to what appeared to be the Duggar family, you know from TLC's "19 Kids and Counting."
"Jim Bob Duggar and there are 19 in our family," the patriarch stated.
"Hmmmmm. Let's See. Okay, here you are, but it looks like you RSVPed for only 12, so I will have to ask you to step aside while I get permission from my boss to let you all in." The check-in girl proceeded to call me on the radio and explain the situation. I checked with the mother of the bride and our conversation went a little like this:
"Teresa, we have the Duggars at the front door with a party of 19, but you only have 12 on the list, should we let them all in and change the tables a little to accommodate the extras, it shouldn't be a problem at all."
"If they RSVPed for 12, then only 12 can attend," the mother of the bride said gruffly and matter of factly – no thinking it over or anything.
"Are you sure?"
"I am positive. Please go now!" 99% of me wanted to curtsy and say "Yes your royal highness"
As I head to the front door, I am trying to think of a way to tell this family that only part of them can attend the reception. "Hello, I'm the I Do Expert, and I understand that we have a little problem here with the guest count for your family." Jim Bob does the explaining and counting of all of the children and pregnant wife.
"Well, I have spoken to the mother of the bride, Teresa, and she is only allowing me to admit 12 members of your family to the reception since that was the number that you returned to her. I'm sorry, but only 12 can come in." I felt mean and rude just even having to utter these words to someone. How terrible! I am turning people away from a wedding reception not the hot new nightclub where Justin Timberlake is performing.
After some discussion, 12 Duggars entered and 7 left. I am glad that they were kind to my staff and myself about it, knowing that it was not our decision, although part of me wished that they all would have loaded into the RV and left.
While checking on the progress of the reception happenings, I got another call on the radio from the young woman at the door checking names. I went to the mother of the bride again.
"Teresa, sorry to interrupt your conversation, but I need to steal a word with you. We have your cousin Mary at the front door with her husband and two children. Since you haven't seen her in four years and you were the best of friends growing up, she wanted to surprise you."
"Are they on the list?" she snarled.
"No, she sent a regret so that she could surprise you and....." I was quickly interrupted.
"I don't care if it is the President of the United States, if they are not on the list, they cannot come in."
"Are you serious?" I said. I know! It slipped! I shouldn't have said it, but I just popped out. I was disgusted by this woman. Who doesn't something like this?
So I had to go back to the front door and break the news to Mary, who by the time she walked out of the door was in tears and handed me a gift to give to the bride and one for the mother of the bride.
"Are you sure?" I said.
"Yes, the gift for the bride is something I made for her with all of the photos of all of the women in our family in their wedding dresses and the gift for Teresa is a picture of the two of us when we were 7 playing dress-up as brides. Thank you!"
I couldn't believe it. I would have touch-downed the photos in the parking lot and then run them over with my car.
At the end of the evening, the mother of the bride went to the caterer and said, "I am not paying for all of the food bill"
The head caterer said "Was something wrong?"
"No," she said "but I saw your staff sitting down and eating and I am just not paying you to eat the food that I paid for."
Calmly the caterer said "Ma'am, I am assure you that the food we ate you are not charged for. We always made extra so that our staff who are on their feet for eight hours,serving your guests, can have a bite eat. All of the extras are boxed for you to take home, so you actually get more than you paid for."
"Well fine, as long as I am not paying for you people to eat then that is fine."
Emily Post, the queen of etiquette, and one of the people who fascinates me the most, once wrote that "anyone receiving an invitation with an R.S.V.P on it is obliged to reply, and breaching this standard is inexcusably rude."
I wonder what Ms. Post would say about turning away guests from a party you invited them to for bringing too many people or for trying to surprise you with a reunion four years in the works?
People never cease to amaze, surprise and shock me.
I Do Expert