Open House etiquette?
I am hosting an open house in relation to a week-long outdoor event that my town holds each year. This is the second year we have lived in this town and the second time we are hosting the party.
Last year the party was smaller than anticipated due to dramatically miserable weather - 10+ inches of snow in a few hours and single-digit temperatures. A lot of people who had planned to attend ended up being unable to make it. I was not at all upset by this; we still had around 35 people show up and believe me, if I had been expected to go somewhere that day, I would have cancelled as well. It was easily the most dangerous driving weather of the season.
Anyway, that's not actually very relevant to my questions; it was just some background information.
The invitation is worded like this:
"Please join us for good cheer and good friends
Saturday, XX XXXXXXXX
Open house beginning at 3PM"
It goes on to provide additional information--address, event info, etc. Also included are the lines, "Everyone is welcome...Ample food and drink will be available." RSVPs are requested.
Here are my issues:
1. In the course of receiving RSVPs, I have noticed several people saying that they will have to arrive late or leave early due to various other engagements. That is perfectly all right, especially because this is, as stated on the invitation, an open house. Do you think people do not understand the open house concept, or am I just doing a poor job of conveying it in the invitation? In my mind, guests are welcome to drop by beginning at 3PM and until whenever, maybe hanging out for awhile or just dropping in for some chili and cocoa to warm up from the event downtown. (We live a quick walk to the event, and a lot of visitors to the event park on our street.) I specifically planned for an open house because we don't have an enormous home and I thought it would be more comfortable for everyone to have people dropping in at their leisure throughout the afternoon and evening. This was really my own fault, but I was surprised by and unprepared for the small throng of people who appeared on my doorstep at precisely 3PM last year. Should I drop the open house idea for future years or reword the invitation, or...what? Any suggestions would be helpful!
2. Why don't people RSVP? We host events in our home several times each year and I am floored by how few RSVPs we receive. It is a particularly serious issue for this event since we send well more than 100 invitations, and invite all our friends and family to pass along the invitation to anyone they know who might be interested in stopping by. We typically get good turnouts to our events but it's just kind of frustrating that people don't RSVP. I self-cater my parties and it makes a big difference to me whether 20 people are coming or 100. I don't want to be a nag or make people feel badly, but I'm wondering if there is anything I can do about the RSVP issue.
We really love entertaining so I do not mean to complain; it's just that I want to make things as smooth and efficient as possible for both me and my guests. We are expecting a baby this spring and I'm trying to improve organization and efficiency in all areas of my life so that we can try to keep doing the things we enjoy while managing our new family.
Thank you for your suggestions!