Monday, March 15, 2010

move over, emily post.

{party planning at its finest}

May I take a moment to express my concern for members of our generation?

In addition to wondering if we’ve all grown more comfortable with electronic communication than with face-to-face expression, I’m now curious about the future of the dinner party — or, really, any pre-planned event.

My curiosity stems from my own recent hosting experiments and this article in the New York Times (it’s short; stimulate your brain and give it a read).

In November, I hosted a dinner party for 11 lovely ladies. What I may have failed to describe in my depiction of that event was what happened before the 11 ladies actually showed up.

I invited five of my friends, and my co-host invited five of her friends. Our goal was to introduce our friends to each other, to foster relationships and create new friendships.

We sent out email invitations two weeks in advance, and I was pleasantly surprised when nearly all RSVPed yes.

Fast forward to two days before the dinner party, when the cancellations started pouring in.

“I’m sorry. My friend just had a horrible break-up, so I think I’m going to treat her to ice cream instead. Hope that’s okay!”

By Sunday night (the dinner was on a Tuesday), I was scrambling. We’d dropped from 12 guests down to eight, which might not seem terrible, except when you’ve prepared and set tables for 12.

Miracle of miracles, one of my dear friends was in from out of town that week and was happy to attend our party with her sister in tow, bringing our total number of guests to 11.

The party was — in my opinion — a smashing success, but it doesn’t change the fact that I think something is wrong with the way we millennials do things.

We can’t seem to commit to anything, and it’s depressing.

I’m guilty too. I don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings, so I’ll tell her I’m thinking about coming to her event… only to “cancel” a few days before.

Wouldn’t it be easier — for me and my friend — if I graciously declined the invitation shortly after being asked?

I’m not sure if our lack of commitment stems from guilt or selfishness, a “wait until something better comes along” mentality.*

Whatever it is, I’m tired of it.

So, here is what I propose, first for the invitee:

Be honest. If you don’t want to come to my party, or if other events prevent you from doing so, just say so. Kindly RSVP no, and I promise: no hard feelings.
Keep a planner. Or a Google calendar. Or some iPhone app. Just keep track of your events so you can accomplish number one in a timely manner.
Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Despite what Facebook says, "maybe" is not an acceptable RSVP. If you're on the fence about an event, chances are you don't really want to go, so just say no. If you do RSVP no, please do not show up at my door expecting to be fed. And if you RSVP yes, please do whatever it takes to arrive on time. If circumstances cause you to be late, or if you’ve fallen ill, let your host/hostess know, even if it’s via text. It's the polite thing to do.

For the inviter:

Don’t invite people via Facebook. Facebook invitations scream casual affair (I’d be willing to make the argument they aren’t invitations at all), so if you’re really expecting a realistic head count, send email invitations — which are a little more personal — or go the old fashioned way and send it snail mail.
Set a timeline. I’ve learned the hard way not to ask peers for anything too far in advance (especially one of their valued weekend nights). Giving them about two weeks has worked pretty well for me. By then, they know if they’ve got anything else up, and it gives you time to send a follow-up phone call or email without coming across as anal and crazy.
Keep them informed. Don’t go overboard, but give your potential guests all the information they’ll need to make a prompt decision. Let them know date, time, how long the event will last, and whether or not they’ll need to bring anything. Finally, set a deadline for their RSVP. If you don’t hear back from them, be the bigger person and send an email, or, better yet, give them a call. They’ll be shocked into giving you an answer.
Be thick-skinned. You’ve asked your invitees to be honest with you, so if someone says they can’t come to your party, and you see photos on Facebook the next day that tell you why, don’t get your feelings hurt. You had a good time at your event, and they had a good time at theirs. Take the Beatles’ advice and just let it be.

What do you think? Am I being ridiculous? Does this post scream Angela Martin?

*I’ve heard the excuse given that people in their 20s just want to “hang out”; they want an organic event to just evolve without ever having to plan or RSVP. If this is the excuse you’re given, make a mental note to never invite that particular individual to any event where a head count is important. Let them organically hang out on their own dime.


Jordan Jones said...

Haha...very nice. I think this is much-needed. I especially like the asterisked note at the bottom. What's up with not being able to commit? (I say this, even though I am a hypocritical non-commitment king.)

chet said...

Hey, Angela. In an effort to be nastolgic and old fashioned you may be passing too much judgement on the "maybe's" and the "organics" out there.

But hey, I'm the OVER committing King...what do I know?

mello said...

Hi there. I was just curious to know, what's the name of the font you're using for your all your headers? (post title & sidebars)

It's pretty ♥

Miss B said...

I don't think this is too Angela (although I do love her so). I think this is too true! This has actually made me want to move someplace new and start a whole new group of friends:)

Thank you for your kind + supportive comment on the Blahg today, it was VERY appreciated.

Melissa said...

this is much needed advice by all generations - I was raised that if you tell someone you'll be there or accept a date, you absolutely do not break that for anything short of death. You definitely don't drop out to accept a more enjoyable/preferable event/date. keep up the great work - maybe even some of us "old folks" can learn a thing or two! Auntie M