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Miss Manners: Canceling requires contacting all invited guests

DEAR MISS MANNERS: One sends out an RSVP invitation, and then, because of poor response, the hosts want to cancel. Those accepting the invitation should be notified.

A topic of debate within my household: Is the host under any obligation to notify those who did not respond?

GENTLE READER: Your implicit frustration with those who do not respond to invitations would normally find a sympathetic listener in Miss Manners.

But she finds herself wondering instead about the “poor response” you cite in justification of revoking an invitation that has been both issued and, in some cases, accepted. To these people the host owes an apology, an explanation and, ideally, a replacement invitation.

Given how many people are in the habit of attending events to which they did not respond, it would be wise to warn the non-responders as well, lest they appear on your doorstep expecting to be fed.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was invited to a dinner party hosted by my law school professor. It was on a Thursday evening and the invitation said dress was casual. I, and other students, wore jeans and a casual shirt.

I overheard the host discussing our outfits as uncouth and that we should have been wearing “business casual” attire.

GENTLE READER: Has the factor of context never come up in your law classes? Or the question of what the understanding of a reasonable person would be?

Actually, nobody knows the meaning of “casual.” As far as Miss Manners can tell – and she is as reasonable as one can reasonably be – it merely tells people that they don’t have to make any effort they don’t feel like making. Certainly, a reasonable student would interpret “casual” as meaning jeans.

But your professor seems to have trouble understanding context. Correcting students when they are taking his courses is his job. Disparaging his guests when he has invited them to a party is rude.