RSVP Etiquette for Holiday Entertaining

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One of the most commonly inquired about etiquette dilemmas (and frustrating aspects of entertaining) is the RSVP. Especially this time of year, our inboxes and mail are flooded with invitations for an array of holiday parties.

I'm sharing my thoughts on some frequently asked RSVP questions.

Q: How long do I have to respond to an invitation?

A: After receiving an invite to an event, you should respond within the first 24-48 hours. There are a few reasons why. The first is a practical one. Think about yourself and your history of responding to gatherings. If you immediately reply to your host, it can be marked down on your calendar. If you wait too long, it's highly likely you'll forget about it.

Another reason for prompt communication is to express your interest in attending. If there's a hesitation or delay, it could signal you're weighing your options, and not very enthused about their event. A hasty reply is a simple way to show your friend or colleague that you value their time and feelings. If you have other plans or don't want to go, simply decline. Your host will understand and appreciate your swift response.

Q: Is it better to ask for "Regrets Only" on party invites?

A: Your odds of getting timely responses are not any higher when using the "Regrets Only"option. Stick with the traditional RSVP for the most accurate head count.

Q: Should I list multiple RSVP options?

A: Depending on the formality of the event, some people may prefer to make a phone call while others will find it easier to decline by email. Someone on-the-go may appreciate sending a quick text. As a host, the more formal the occasion, the less options you should provide.

Q: What is the best way to handle invitees who have not replied?

A: We've all been there, and waiting for RSVPs can be incredibly frustrating. It's especially tricky when you have food to plan for and order, or other rental items such as chairs and tables.

It is entirely polite and acceptable to follow up with invitees via phone, email, or through the platform you're using to send e-vites. Preparing for the gathering is difficult without an accurate headcount, so it's your prerogative to get in touch, sooner than later.

Q: Is there anything I can do to encourage my guests to RSVP?

A: Give guests enough time to plan, but not so much time that they feel like they're unsure of future scheduling. The recommended window for most events is 3 to 6 weeks. However, the holidays require less lead time.

Additionally, do your best to paint a clear picture of the party for your guests. Be specific about time and descriptive about what level of food and drinks you'll provide (i.e. cocktails and appetizers, dinner, cider party), as well as offer a clear dress code. Think fun and appealing when creating your invite, selecting a style that draws people in and creates excitement.

We all want to be the most gracious hosts and guests. Try to remember the last time you hosted a party, and extend the same timeliness and courtesy you'd like to receive. Make it a point to expeditiously respond to every RSVP this holiday season.

You may also like All That Glitters: Adding Shine to Your Holiday Table with Glassware. For more of Diane's etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.