British Columbia

An etiquette expert's guide to being less of a West Coast flake about invitations

If you've ever planned a party, you might have fallen victim to the frustration of a last-minute cancellation. Here's how you can be a better guest — and a smarter host.

Say yes or no — maybe is not an answer, says Vancouver-based coach on manners

Ever hosted an event where no one showed up? It's a fairly common phenomenon in a culture where guests are inundated with too many invitations. (Yakobchuk Viacheslav/Shutterstock)

If you've ever planned a party, you might have fallen victim to the frustration of a last-minute cancellation.

It's a phenomenon that's particular to the West Coast — at least according to Terri Brandmueller. 

Brandmueller, a food and entertainment writer, lived in New York for fifteen years before moving back home to Vancouver. 

"I've noticed a real difference in how people handle parties and invitations and RSVPs," she says. 

She recently organized a 65th birthday party for a friend with 25 guests. She said four people simply didn't turn up despite saying they were coming — and didn't even call her to let her know.

"It might be just it is more casual here [but] ... I don't remember anybody just not showing up to to a dinner or a dinner party or a party [in New York]," she said. 

"I mean if people weren't going to come, they would let you know."

The tyranny of 'maybe'

Konrad Phillip, an etiquette coach based in Vancouver, says the city definitely has a reputation for being "casual" and that can be considered flaky when it comes to honouring invitations. 

However, he says, there's been a general shift toward not treating invitations with the same respect they once received. 

Part of the reason, he says, is some people receive so many invitations — via Facebook, e-mail or text message — that they get overwhelmed. 

They don't feel the need to respond to everything, or worse, he says, they'll answer with "maybe."

"Maybe is not a response," Phillip said. "How can a host account for a 'maybe' guest?"

Phillip says one rule he abides by is to reply to an invitation within 24 hours of receiving it. If you do need to cancel, let the hosts know you won't be there and make sure they get the message, he adds. 

"A phone call is the best way to cancel, rather than through email or text."

Host has work to do, too

Phillip says there's some responsibility on the host's part, too. 

Inviting people to an event through an impersonal text or e-mail blast means your guests won't put as much weight on that invitation. 

Phillips says if you really want people to be there, call or ask them in person so they can confirm right away whether they will attend. 

"If it's a quality invitation, you'll get a quality response."

Brandmueller says getting in the habit of hosting can inspire some empathy among the most wayward of guests.

"I've noticed that the people who tend to not show up — and then not tell you why they didn't come — are people who don't entertain themselves," she said.

"They don't really realize what what goes into putting together a party and why you might want to have an accurate head count ... it's just kind of a nice thing."

With files from BC Today

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