I'll admit it: I'm a bit of an Evite junkie. Whenever there's an event to be planned I immediately hop on Evite. It's so easy to choose a template, insert the invitees from my guest list, write up a quick description and hit "send." However, then comes the hardest part for me:
Waiting for the RSVPs.
It's a phenomenon I've witnessed time and time again. As the date draws closer, RSVPs usually come in at <50%, if at all, and this makes planning really, really hard especially in this economy.
As I prepare for our Jack-and-Jill baby shower, Uka and I decided to invite our friends over for a BYOM (bring your own meat) BBQ. Of course we'll provide the requisite hot dogs and hamburgers, but if there's something our guests want to throw on the grill they're more than welcome to bring it along. It's going to be very laid back. No goofy games and no frilly pink.
I looked at our calendar last month and saw our summer was starting to get filled up and the best date for us to have our shower is a few weeks before Baby Agbai's arrival (barring an early deliver). We've already had a few people ask when our shower will be, but since it's not until July we haven't sent out the Evite yet, but we've been sharing the date with those who ask assuring them that they'll get the Evite the first week of June.
Well, we have the draft Evite ready to go and the guest list is getting quite long, and I'm getting nervous about what the RSVP situation will look like. I started thinking back to our wedding.. .
We sent initial save the dates about 8 months before the wedding as it was a destination wedding, and we needed to get a general headcount for the hotel as this is what our contracts would be based on. I know it's hard for people to think that far in advance, but we had no choice. In the end we got a reply rate of about 60%.
Fast forward to the actual wedding invitations. Now this was not an Evite but a real, tangible printed invitation we sent to guests who had RSVPed initially to the save the date. For those who didn't even bother to reply to the postage paid save the date (it was a post card btw - didn't even have to lick the stamp or an envelope!), they did not receive an invitation. You would think the response rate would be 90-100%, right? WRONG. It was closer to 70% and from a budgeting perspective when you're paying per head there's a big difference between 70% and 90%.
Anyway, this taught me a valuable lesson: it's not about the format of the invite, it's about understanding (or misunderstanding) proper etiquette. My parents were fantastic about this and sent me to classes so I could learn etiquette and my mom did a good job of teaching me directly the proper way to do things. I plan on doing the same thing with our children, but I realize in the e-culture we live in not everyone is learning this.
An RSVP dose not mean regrets only, unless indicated. It means respond either way! And the beauty of Evite is that you can even indicate "maybe" if you're unsure. You'd be surprised at how many people don't know this; read the comments here.
Coming from the advertising world I'm used to thinking a year ahead anyway for planning and while I can't always plan that far in advance, in a world of electronics I think we're all better capable of proper planning. I can't tell you the number of times I've been stood up or had my time wasted by someone who didn't properly plan. I'm not saying I'm 100% perfect at this, but I definitely use technology to help me plan better.
For example, I use my BlackBerry to put in reminders of when my library books are due, when I'm supposed to return someone's phone call (call reminders), the task list to create my ongoing grocery list, and I use the calendar function to immediately input appointments and events (including birthdays!) even if I don't think I can attend. I do this, often showing double bookings in the event that one cancels, and I can go to the other. Most often they aren't RSVPed events but for things like free concerts or screenings. This has worked very well so I can stay on top of all the fun things going on in the city and make the most of my time. Now this system might not work for everyone, but it definitely has helped me especially in the midst of forgetful pregnancy brain!
Going back to Evite and electronic invitations in general, I came across a couple articles that spoke to the widespread belief that RSVPing is optional and there was some very interesting commentary accompanying the first article:
Essentially these articles boiled it down to everyone living a "Flexy" lifestyle and not feeling that RSVPs are important. Well, they are important to me and I'll continue to RSVP whenever I receive an invitation and cross my fingers and plan the best I can going forward for my own events.