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Miss Manners: Response cards a modern creation

Mon., April 22, 2013, midnight

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I just received an invitation to a formal wedding. There was no response card; we are expected to write our own note.

To me this is very cheap, and some people just won’t respond. There was no “respond by” date, and we found out by word of mouth – not on the invitation – that it is a black-tie event. Who knew? Thank you for your response.

GENTLE READER: Oddly enough, polite people who issued invitations always did expect the recipients to take the trouble of answering them, promptly and in their own handwriting. But polite people may have to deal with people like yourself, who are impolite enough to consider this expectation an outrageous imposition and ignore invitations, even those for events they plan to attend.

Stationers seized on the dismay of the hosts to suggest that the burden on recalcitrant guests could be eased if the hosts all but took over the job of answering the invitations, as well as issuing them. Thus, comparatively recently, the response card came into existence.

The response card did not solve the problem. In increasing numbers, prospective guests were not acknowledging invitations.

So the deadline was added, in the hope that it would signal that the need for a response was serious. Even that did not jolt those who lacked the sense and courtesy to respond. Miss Manners hears daily from frustrated hosts who cannot know how many guests they will have.

And now you have turned nasty because the crutches for guests, which you take as an entitlement, were not offered.

But yes, that invitation should have indicated “black tie” if that was what was intended. Once, it was assumed that evening clothes were required for a formal event in the evening, but even Miss Manners admits that this can no longer be taken for granted.

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