Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

The Problem With RSVPs

DEAR NATALIE: Our street has a ladies dinner group that meets every other month. I always give everyone two weeks notice to ramp up and a deadline date so I can get a reservation when necessary. Last week was the deadline for our next gathering. I reminded everyone the day before and even extended it two days to accommodate everyone's situations with school ending, vacations and visiting family. I told everyone when the reservation would be made and again afterward so those who didn't answer knew they missed the deadline. 

So about an hour after saying the RSVP was closed, I let everyone know who wanted to go but didn't RSVP on time that she would be wait-listed, my next-door neighbor responded "yes." I messaged, saying the reservation was made and she was wait-listed. 

She responded with, "Can't you just add one more?" I replied the restaurant is small, and it already can't seat all of us together as it is. Over the next few hours I had three more people RSVP "yes." I also told them they missed the deadline, but if anyone cancels I would let them know. They all said that it wasn't a problem. 

The next day, I received a message from my next-door neighbor saying she went to the restaurant to see if it could add one more to my reservation. In the meantime, I had already reserved another table to accommodate all of them because I am the hostess. But I feel offended that this woman went above and beyond just to get herself a seat at the table. Was just wondering what the correct and proper etiquette would be in this situation. -- OFFENDED HOSTESS

DEAR OFFENDED HOSTESS: This is one of those little annoyances in life that manage to get under our skin in the moment, but when you take a step back you realize this is not worth getting your blood pressure up. Your neighbor did overstep her bounds (as you were clearly the one organizing the event), but it sounds as though there was a communication breakdown on your end, too. While you told her that she would be wait-listed, you actually went and reserved another table, which was great! But she didn't know, and so she took matters into her own hands because she wanted to be with everyone. 

If I were you, I would just let it go, have a really good glass (or two) of wine at your dinner party, and next time, make it clear that when you say "wait-listed" what you really mean is, "I will try my best to get you a table or a seat at our table and will let you know if and when that happens." When sending out your invites next time, include in the email that there are only 20 seats (or whatever number) available, and the first 20 people who RSVP "yes" will be included. No waitlist. Then they are on their own if they want to try and call and reserve a table on the same night. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)