The entire RSVP process of a
special event can be tedious, time consuming and stressful. The
following article, written by Ronnie Caplane of the Jewish Chronicle,
tells how RSVP's affected one family's Bat Mitzvah.
and Bat Mitzvah No-shows, Crashers, Non-RSVPs Play Havoc with
Best Laid Plans
This was the 11th hour.
Tomorrow was the caterer's
absolutely final luncheon-head-count date. It was 10 days after the
date on the RSVP card enclosed with my daughter's bat mitzvah
invitation, which asked prospective guests to let me know if they were
Five people hadn't responded yet:
three teens and two adults.
I couldn't put off the dreaded
phone calls any longer.
What do people think RSVP means?
respond, if it pleases you?
I rehearsed what I was going to
say and made my first call.
"We can't decide what to do," my
would-be guest said. "Can we bring the kids?"
I hadn't invited them. They
didn't know my daughter or her friends and were considerably younger
than the rest of the children. And the luncheon wasn't being catered
by McDonald's. Kids' meals cost $25 each.
"I don't think they'll enjoy it,"
I said, and explained why. I really wanted to ask how much her
children would eat.
"They're very comfortable with
adults," the woman said of her 5 and 7-year-old. Just put them at our
"RSVP's are the ultimate
aggravation," says Joanne Neuman, party planner and owner of Party
City in Walnut Creek, California.
Bar and bat mitzvah celebrations
present their own specific problems. Many non-Jews don't understand
the occasion. Neuman recommends including a note in the invitation
describing the various rituals and suggesting proper attire. Once
people understand the importance of the event, they're more reliable
about responding to an RSVP .
Claudia Felson, a Castro Valley
party planner, says: "It's common courtesy to respond to an
invitation as soon as you know whether or not you can come. It's very
embarrassing for the hostess to have to call."
When it comes to weddings, the
RSVP fallout can be disastrous because there are two families
involved. Imagine broaching such conversations with people your
daughter's future mother-in-law invited.
Neuman offers a strategy for
handling such situations. "People have to be responsible for
their own families," she says. It takes the onus off the bride when
the groom takes charge of his own difficult family
"Don't start a war."
But what about the guest who
wants to bring a date or Aunt Tillie, who happens to be visiting from
"Your personal reason [for
refusing] is the best because it's honest," Neuman advises, whether
the reason is financial or whether it involves a prearrangement that
children under a certain age will not be included.
My four remaining calls were
easier. One mother said she had just found the invitation that morning
tucked neatly under her son's bed. (That could happen in our house.)
Two apologized for being late. (I've been there.) One said her child
never received an invitation. This time I apologized and promised to
drop one off.
I gave the caterer my final count
and set to work on seating arrangements.
On the day of the bat mitzvah, I
learned how much RSVP's really meant.
To my surprise, the friends who
had asked to bring their two children arrived with only one child.
Then after the service, they announced that they couldn't stay for
lunch because they had to go to their other youngster's soccer game. I
smiled, said I was disappointed, mentally scratched them from future
guest lists and watched as $150 in prepaid meals walked out the door .
Some people didn't show up and
others came who said they wouldn't. Of course, there was the odd
assortment of uninvited toddlers.
My carefully thought-out seating
arrangements were falling apart. Where would I put the unexpected
guests and how would I close the gaps left by the no-shows?
According to Felson and Neuman,
this happens all the time, although both agree it throws a hostess off
"So much care goes into planning
the tables," says Felson. "If people come that you weren't planning
on, that's really awkward."
But a little advance planning can
remedy the situation.
"A caterer can usually
accommodate up to five more people," says Neuman. She recommends
bringing a few blank place cards and asking the caterer to add place
At least I didn't have any bat
mitzvah crashers. A friend of mine was not so lucky.
She spotted two boys wearing
shorts and T -shirts at her son's Saturday-night bar mitzvah party.
Knowing the boys hadn't been invited, she escorted them out of the
party and told them to call their parents.
When she went back in, she saw
two more boys, also uninvited and similarly attired. She instructed
them to join the other two outside.
But what surprised her most was
the mothers' reaction.
After apologizing, one of the
mothers admitted it was "foolish" to assume that her son would have
been invited, since he had not received a formal invitation.
The other mother abdicated all
responsibility, saying she wasn't the carpool driver that night.
Neuman says asking crashers to
leave is absolutely appropriate and recommends having a friend do the
dirty work for you.
"It's easier if you don't know
the kids and it's not your party," says Neuman.
But most of all, don't let these
glitches ruin the party for you. So what if one table has six people
and another has 10 or if an unexpected guest has to wait five minutes
while a place is being set?
"This is not a show," says Neuman.
"This is a religious event. You don't have to be perfect."
-Jewish Bulletin of Northern
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