I was, walking down the aisle on the arm of my tuxedo-clad father, beaming from ear to ear when it happened. I spotted a guest, a college friend standing tall above the rest at six and a half feet. But the problem was not my very tall college friend, nor the perfect organ music, flowing ivy and flowers or my Princess Diana-like dress. It was the woman standing NEXT to my college friend.

You see, he had not included a ‘plus one’ on his RSVP.

Hours had been spent putting the seating chart together for our sit-down dinner reception. Hours more had been spent on the menu. Still more hours had been spent on the calligraphy for the place cards. And here was a guest with no seat, no surf and turf dinner, and horror of horrors, no place card. She would KNOW her boyfriend hadn’t RSVP’d correctly. In fact, all of our college friends at the table of eight, which would magically need to be converted to a table of nine, would know that something was amiss. My mother would be appalled, but how to signal her that she needed to tell the reception manager? Surely I’d forget between now, the vows and the receiving line….

This is the memory I have of my walk down the aisle.

You laugh, but as someone who was raised with basic but strict entertaining etiquette, this was a faux paus of grand proportions.

And dare I say it’s not just weddings that matter when it comes to the art of the RSVP.

Every few years, my beloved and I plan a party to coincide with a certain spring holiday, and every few years we work complicated math equations as we try to calculate what percentage of the ‘no calls’ will actually show up. How do you plan for food and drinks not knowing if you’ll have 45 or 65 guests? I love St. Patrick’s inspired appetizers as much as the next person, but certain foods just don’t make the best leftovers. And since I don’t drink beer or wine often, the thought of investing in cases of extra liquor just to be safe doesn’t appeal to my usual ‘stick it in the freezer, we’ll use it eventually’ sensibilities.

Come on people, it’s really very simple. If you are invited to a party, no matter how casual, let them know if you plan to attend or if you have other plans. Don’t be the thorn in every host and hostess’ side and leave them wondering. If your social calendar is especially busy and you have another commitment, but you might stop by late, let them know. They won’t mind knowing you have multiple obligations for one night. And a Mr. and Mrs. ‘definite maybe’ are worth planning for when it comes to prosciutto wrapped asparagus and puffed potato pastries, much more so than Mr. and Mrs. ‘I have no idea because they don’t know the definition of RSVP.’

It’s French, for “the favor of your response is kindly requested.”