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Open House etiquette?

Posted by loriellen (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 12, 06 at 18:01


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
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!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Open House etiquette?

People are surprising clods!!....Seems there are many who have no idea of what it means to host a party and the necessity of having SOME idea of how many to expect.....and apparently no idea of just what an open house is....
Perhaps if you worded the invitation to say something like..."Open house at XXXX, You are invited to stop by for a drink and some chili ( or whatever you are offering) sometime between the hours of 3 PM and....2 AM...or whatever!
Another way to avoid the throng at precisely 3 Pm is to send the invitations for different hours. Send some inviting between 3 and 5....another batch between 4 and 6 and another between 5 and 7.
Congratulations on the impending increase in your family!

Linda C

RE: Open House etiquette?

Yes, I agree with LindaC. Some people just don't seem to know what things mean.

It's surprising that people wouldn't understand that "Open House" means that you can drop in any time between those hours and stay as long as you want. I don't think the problem is in the way that you worded it. But ... since some people don't "get it", perhaps you have to spell it out as Linda indicated.

As for RSVP, I agree!!! What in the world happened to the courtesy of "respond, please". That means "please respond to this invitation and let me know if you will be coming or not". But somehow that seems to have gotten lost. Some people seem to think that it means you only have to respond if you ARE coming, and some seem to think that it meand you only have to respond if you ARE NOT coming!

When I hosted a large anniversary party for my parents I got around that anticipated problem by saying on the invitation "Please respond with either an acceptance or regret". That worked well. But even so, there were still a few phone calls I had to make at the end to people I heard nothing with.

Good luck - - sounds like lots of fun!


RE: Open House etiquette?

I agree with what's been said above. It looks like some people just don't know what "Open House" means, so maybe it's best to spell it out as Linda suggested.

I also agree about the RSVPs. My experience is that all the people who don't RSVP aren't coming. However, if you do have people showing up without responding first, then I would make it clear on the invitation that replies are required so that you can plan food appropriately.

I still think it's rude not to RSVP one way or the other, but I've tried every way I can word it so that people call either way, nothing I've tried works.

RE: Open House etiquette?

Shocking that people don't get the concept of an Open House! But clearly they don't, so I agree next time I'd spell it out.

For the RSVP thing, that is such a frustration. Just went through it a couple years ago for my daughter's wedding which was a sit down dinner. I would agree with lowspark and assume people aren't coming if there's no RSVP. But not too long ago I read something somewhere about that and many, many people replied they only felt they had to RSVP if they AREN'T coming. So really, that blows both theories right out of the water, doesn't it? That whole no response thing is such a sore point with me I could go on and on but I won't. I'll stop.

Good luck with your party and a big congratulations to you!

RE: Open House etiquette?

Thank you for your words of congratulations and advice!

I really don't understand the RSVP thing at all. I often hear through the grapevine that someone is or is not planning to attend, so it's not as though they've forgotten about the invitation. They have, apparently, just forgotten to tell me about their plan.

Well, there's nothing wrong with leftover homemade chili, so I'll probably just make too much food and my husband and I will enjoy any leftovers!

Thank you again!

RE: Open House etiquette?

Im enjoying this discussion, as my husband and I would like to hold an open house this summer and invite lots of friends and some neighbors, many of whom we've not met (we moved a year ago). We have a big house, but it would be nice if people came in shifts, so maybe I'll word it "Stop in for a drink and a snack anytime between XXX and XXX" I wonder if THAT will stagger people. I've found when sending invitations for staggered times that people come at the appointed time, but seeing others still present and enjoying themselves keeps them from leaving.

RE: Open House etiquette?

Several years ago I sent out invitations for a luncheon for several old HS friends, in our 50s, w/RSVP. Never received a response from one so assumed she wouldn't be there. Not only did she show up, but brought another HS friend whom she had run into at the supermarket. She was surprised that it was sit down......Huh? Fortunately, one of the friends suggested that we re-set things up for buffet. It worked, but sure left a bad taste in my mouth.

You've had some good suggestions above for staggering, etc. Some times you just can't figure out human nature.


RE: Open House etiquette?

The lack of and ignorance about manners today boggles my mind! Even arriving somewhere on time is something that only "uptight, anal" people do. HUH? It's just being reliable and keeping one's word. I am very reluctant to entertain family any more because the majority of them arrive very late and leave as soon as they are done eating "because they have things to do at home". HUH? If I'm invited to someone's home for a nice afternoon and dinner, I take care of things at home before I go so I can relax at the guests home and linger after dinner without thinking about other things I "need" to do.

I think we are just living in a very selfish society.

But then again, in some cultures arriving late is just what everyone does!

RE: Open House etiquette?

The RSVP thing makes me nuts! It is just such a basic polite, sensible thing. I think some people feel uncomfortable saying no in person.....which is just plain dumb, so send me an email, or a snail mail but for goodness sake let me know!

As for the Open House concept......most people get the flexible arrive time but then they get visiting and partying and the leave times all end up the same! I consider this a compliment to the hosts. My approach is to believe most people I invite, not all but most, will arrive early and stay late!

RE: Open House etiquette?

I think it's only logical to include an ending time, i.e. 3-6 pm. You might also say "drop by any time between".

With regards to RSVP, it seems to be ignored more often these days. I remember when my parents gave open house, they would have "RSVP, regrets only." From my own experience these days, I would put "RSVP, attending only."

And then figure +20%. :)

RE: Open House etiquette?

I have an annual party to which I invite around 40 people each year, (approximately 20 people attend). I used to invite around 60 but recently chopped down my list, getting rid of folks who hadn't RSVPd or shown up for a couple years or more.

I'm still frustrated by those who don't bother to RSVP tho!! So after discussing this with a friend, I've decided to put something like this on my invitiatons:

If you wish to remain on my invitation list for next year, please RSVP either way.

I know it's kind of harsh, but I'm sick of wondering if someone even got their invitation, or if they think so little of my invitation that they can't be bothered to have the courtesy to let me know their plans.

We'll see if this works! It's a summer party so I won't be sending these invitations out for a few months.

RE: Open House etiquette?

Mae....I would not assume they know what "RSVP" means and just say in the invitation..
Please call me if you can come or if you won't be able to attend, so I will know that you recieved this invitation!
I mean...Really!!
Linda C

RE: Open House etiquette?

Linda, Yeah, I like that. I'll reword it - thanks!

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