Jewish Stuff

Just Say No (Thank You): Bar Mitzvah Tales, Part 3

When replying to a formal event – where the hosts have sent you an actual printed invitation and provided you with a pre-stamped return envelope  — it’s proper etiquette to return that card with a yes or a no response, preferably by the date that is requested on the response card.

The whole point of providing reply cards is so that your host can receive a pretty accurate count as to how many guests will attend the event and begin to figure out table arrangements. It also helps us figure out how much booze to order and how many chickens and cows we’ll need to kill.

If people don’t send in their cardy-card-cards, your hosts are stalled in their planning.

Since we have just completed this stage of Tech’s bar mitzvah, it occurred to me that people are having trouble completing their response cards.

Never fear. I am here to help you.

It’s super easy if you plan to attend.

Here, let’s practice.

We’d love to attend.

(Check appropriate box. Stick envelope in the mail.)

And things are just as easy if you can’t attend.


Sorry we can’t make it.

(Check appropriate box. Stick envelope in the mail.)

You can even write nothing at all.

(Just check appropriate box, and stick the freaking envelope in the effin’ mail.)

Getting people to return their reply cards is one thing, but I can’t tell you how — upon receiving a reply card — I’ve wanted to holler like Meatloaf: “Stop right there!”

For the life of me, I can’t understand the people who feel compelled to tell me more than I need to know.

But this is why I know that in lieu of celebrating with us:

  • 2 people will be on a fishing trip
  • 2 people will be attending a rock concert
  • 2 people will be catching up on an entire season of The Voice
  • 2 people will be at home because they “wouldn’t feel comfortable around so many Jews.”

I know, right?

Is your mouth hanging open?

If these fine folks had just stopped at “Sorry we can’t make it,” everything would be much less…


At least we know where we rank with these people: somewhere below sea bass, Roger Waters, and a DVR filled with forgettable television singing performances.

Also, I learned that while a few Jews are acceptable, apparently, there is a tipping point.

(Still wrapping my brain around that one.)

In all seriousness, ‘tis the season of special occasions. If you are invited to a formal event, remember, the people who invited you, actually want you there, so don’t be a schmuck and make your hosts track you down and find out if you are coming.

People planning a big party know not every invited guest will be able to attend, so if you can’t make it, no worries. We understand. People make plans: often long-standing plans.

My son’s bar mitzvah falls on June 23rd, the first weekend where school is out for the summer in these parts. There are a zillion graduations. And weddings. And plenty of other conflicts. We know this.

If you know you can’t attend a party, just send the dang card back. Your hosts will be sad, but they will simultaneously love you for having such good manners.


Think about the way you reply. Choose your words carefully.

Channel the minimalists who seemed to understand less is often more.

What is the most lame RSVP decline response you ever received?

68 thoughts on “Just Say No (Thank You): Bar Mitzvah Tales, Part 3

  1. Seriously, I know you’ve put a ton of effort into this for months, dealing with everything from coordinating with family to touring celebrities. A couple of those responses just leave me saying ‘Wow’. Just wow. *shakes head*

      1. Etiquette? I don’t know, Renee. I’m still wondering about the Jew Density Level. Who even thinks that crap, much less says it?

        But yes. I do think people are informal to the point of rude as often as not these days. Manners were invented for a reason. Propriety has its place. I think it’s undervalued these days.

        1. Common sense isn’t common, and manners? I think they were lost on the first season of Survivor. 😉

          I think the person who made that comment (about too many Jews) is actual the dense one. Bazinga. That said, it’s easier for me to forgive that person who seemed to be confessing his own discomfort – an anxiety about doing something wrong or unfamiliar. But the people who just decided to go see a concert? Just. Decided. They can bite my tushy.

  2. We had someone decline to attend our wedding because we had also invited their former boss who fired them 10 months prior.

  3. I actually can’t believe this is true. WTF?

    For our wedding, a cousin from my husband’s side of the family called my mother-in-law to say, “My husband is gluten intolerant. Will there be a food option for him?”
    My MIL kindly explained that there will be baked potatoes and roast pork, all gluten free. Then my MIL added, “There’s even special food for all the kids invited.”
    To which the cousin asked, “Do you know what the special meal is? I’m very fussy about what my kids eat.” Then she went back to the gluten and asked, “Do you know what’s in the glaze on the pork?”
    At this point, my MIL’s patience was tried too much, so she said, “It’s on a wheat farm. There’s gluten in the air!” (This was after the cousin asked if they could pitch their tent on our lawn and use my parents’ showers…)

    1. Hahaha! Leanne! I almost emailed this post to you to ask you how to make it sound less bitter and more humorous. Yes, these are all true. Painfully true.

      And I’m not mad. Planning this thing has taught me who my friends are. That’s for sure. And that doesn’t mean everyone can come. It has to do with people understanding how important a day this is in Tech’s spiritual life. We are so proud of him.

  4. OMG! Did people actually write that stuff on the reply card, or did they mention it if you called to ask why they didn’t reply? Unbelieveable!

    Good news – just went through all my clothes this morning to pick out what I’m going to wear all weekend. And I bought new shoes. And ate Greek food. Very productive day! 🙂

    1. All. Over. That.

      Hubby and I have been having a good time pretend-declining future invitations. Humor is an excellent coping mechanism. I meant for this post to be funny, but it sounds pinched and angry. I don’t think I have a future in comedy. 😉

  5. I look at it this way. Thank goodness there are wonderful people that send it in quickly. The rest just have bad etiquette. I believe this problem has been going on forever and ever and ever.

    1. Have to tell you: very few sent in quickly. It was more like a slow trickle.

      I think people don’t know what to do with formal invitations anymore. It’s no wonder so many people are opting for online eVites.

      I would expect this from the kids, but there were plenty of adults who never replied. I had to hunt them down. Awk. Ward.

  6. Early on when we got the kids, they didn’t understand the RSVP cards and because the invite was addressed to them, they would not tell us, keep the invitation hidden, lose them, and remember the day before the event when their friend reminded them at school and then ask us if they could go. We have a better understanding now, and a better system.

    Many people for some reason feel compelled to give explanations that are not asked for, forgetting that “No” is a complete sentence, and that if they think that sounds rude, they can say, “No, thank you,” and even add apologies. While I am totally offended at the “so many Jews” comment, I am HOWLING at your line: “I learned that while a few Jews are acceptable, apparently, there is a tipping point.”

    When I sent my wedding invitations, an immediate family member expressed concern over being able to make it “on a holiday weekend”. It was Monday, July 7th.

    I’m willing to believe that (like me) lots of people open their mouths and pens before they think better of it.

    Here’s to the tipping point!

    1. JM: Honey. Really. What were you thinking? July 7? C’mon. I mean, you practically said “Don’t come” on the invitation. 😉

      What is wrong with people?

      And I would have expected craziness from the kids — and there was a little as a result of a difference in cultural expectations — but for the most part, they have figured it out. That said, I’llet you know what they end up wearing. It’s at a Country Club, so I thought that would be self-explanatory (read: dress nicely), but apparently that means fancy shorts to some boys. 😉 Honestly, I don’t care what they wear as long as they are well-mannered. And they tell me I look smokin’. 😉

  7. I think lots of people feel compelled to explain why they’re rejecting you, that they have a real reason for not attending. Also, so many people press you anymore, and won’t take no for an answer, that some of us feel compelled to explain.

    Having said that, your invitees should have kept it to the point and left off the reasons. I can see the fishing trip if it was paid for and involves outside parties whose plans would be ruined if it was canceled. But, seriously, The Voice? And “too many jews” is simply offensive. I can only hope these are simple minded people who really know no better.

    One thing to keep in mind, though, is that people outside of your faith (including myself) may not understand the deep spiritual importance of this event. That’s not an excuse for their rudeness. But try not to be too sensitive about people not holding it in the same light as you do. Some of us don’t know any better. Before you mentioned how important it was, I didn’t understand that.

    1. Hi Michelle!

      We totally understand if people don’t know the significance of a bar mitzvah, but there is this cool thing called Google! You put in a term and a zillion articles on the topic come out! Incredible! 😉

      Seriously, I used it to figure out the difference between the first confirmation and the second confirmation! Super helpful. And I’m not hurt that people can’t come. That is to be expected anytime someone plans a party. One can never capture 100% of the invitees. I’m just shocked by the insensitivity of some of the responses.

      I guess I tend to look at new experiences as learning opportunities, but I have to remember that those same moments can be paralyzing for others. It is oddly easier to forgive the person who said he “wouldn’t feel comfortable around so many Jews” because he seemed to be confessing his own fear: a worry that might do something wrong or he is just so unfamiliar, he would be nervous about not knowing certain dances or blessings. But the people who are staying home to watch The Voice can suck it. TMI. That’s just rude.

  8. Those last responses are totally racist. I would never do more than smile and say hello and goodbye to those people. People? PIGS!
    I can’t believe you even get replies! The last big party I had, a quarter of the people didn’t respond at all. It must be a lazy Colorado thing!
    Hang in there Renee! I would be there with bells on, whistles and a band!

    1. It makes me feel better to know the fabulous Susie Lindau sent out invitations and 25% didn’t respond. My number was 20%. I had to hunt those people down. And THEN people sent in their reply cards. I was like: Whaaat? I told you not to bother; I’ve got your info now.

      So what did you do? Did you have to call people? Or did you just assume people were coming? If people even told me they were/weren’t coming, I wrote them down as such. Never bothered them again. It was the not knowing that was hard. I mean we invited over 200 people! We kind of needed some inkling as to how many people were coming.

      1. Your party is much more formal. Mine was a sit-down holiday tennis luncheon. I had RSVP on the last invite thinking I would get more responses than when I asked for “regrets only,” but I was wrong! I just think people are lazy and too casual out here. Nothing like the Midwest where we are from. We were always respectful.
        My feeling is if they don’t want to come, I don’t want them to come either. I haven’t had any big parties for two years. Now I often hear about how my party was the best of the season! Ha!

        I ended up with too much food. Did I mention that I made all of it for 45 women myself?

        1. Of course you made too much food. Holy cow! — especially if you made something with beef! 😉

          I am sure you throw the bling-iest parties in town. I’ve seen some of those pictures of you guys in your masquerade attire. So. Freaking. Hideous. 😉 IYKWIM.

  9. Oh, that’s so funny while at the same time crazy annoying. Why don’t they be even stinkier stinkers and tell you they’d rather stare at Christina Aguilara’s boobs then attend? OK, I’m really surprised at the Jew quota info. Not cool. I’m sure you know Mexicans have enormous parties for 15 year old girls. This is a formal and polite society, the party shops flourish. Any Mother receiving return regrets like that would flip out.

    1. Annette: I think you hit the nail on the head when you said Mexico is a “formal and polite society.” Do you remember life in the US? Um…not so much.

      I won’t lie; initially, I was hurt. Now I’m pleased as punch that none of these people will be attending the bar mitzvah. Fifty percent were people on my husband’s list: people I don’t know well but he felt obligated to invite. Sadly, that’s not true of the other 50% – but we know where we stand now. It’s good to have a reality check once in a while.

  10. I said ‘then’ when I meant ‘than’ regarding the TV regrets! You’re son will have a fab Bar Mitzvah since you planned it.

    1. Thanks Annette! And no worries about grammar. Seriously. I type on an iPad and 1/2 the time the words come out all crunched together connected by v’s. 😉

      And I know it’s going to be great because Tech is super ready and excited. The rest is just fluff!

  11. seriously, did someone really write “I have to catch up on the Voice” or “Fishing trip??” You know who your friends are when planning these things, but remember it is a “simcha” and don’t lose sight of that. Saw him today, watched him swaying this morning to the melodies of the service this morning. He told me he is very ready, and that’s what’s most important!

    1. Hi Stacy: Astoundingly, three of these responses are in writing. One came from a person who I happened to run into. It was past the deadline for RSVPs, so I asked. I wish I hadn’t. Or I wish that person had enough sense to just say, “We’re so sorry. We can’t make it.” Done. Seriously. I didn’t need to know more.

      My most favorite Brooklynites can’t make it because they are Shomer Shabbos — well, of course. They sent a lovely note saying they couldn’t attend, but they would be with us in spirit. Meant the world.

      Tech told me he saw you. He is sooooo ready. He knows his stuff. He can’t wait to show the congregation and his friends this other side of him. They really do grow up, don’t they?

  12. I also am having a hard time digesting the crassness and stupidity. Hope you have a wonderful celebration after all the hard work, Renee!

  13. Who wouldn’t want to be around Jews? And use it an RSVP excuse? Sheesh! I believe that there are more lovely, considerate people in this world than the opposite, but some days my belief is challenged. Discomfort can go away with some effort. Just sayin! Rooting for you and tremendous party success!

    1. Hubby and I were watching Inglorious Bastards last night. I usually share your world view, but Quentin Tarentino does something to the psyche. He’s so dark. Even the good guys are dark.

      The discomfort has become humor as we run around making up bad excuses for stuff we don’t want to do. Example:

      Q: “Can someone wash the dishes?”
      A: “I’m making candles out of my ear wax.” 😉

  14. so, rasj, my question is this: which is worse: not returning the reply card, or replying with too much detail about attend/not attend said event? just curious. keep writing. 🙂 peace

    1. Always return the reply card. Whatever stupid extra info an invitee provides is on his or her head. I just need to make tables. By the way, I meant for this to be funny. It’s hilarious to us that people RSVP’d like this. We are now certain that either we are living in the dark ages or aliens really do live amongst us.

  15. Thanks for preparing me for the idiocy that’s to come— x3 at our house. Well, technically x2 since I suppose the twins will share a bat mitzvah. But still. WTH are people thinking? And WHY do they put these things in writing? I’m at a loss. I don’t even know what to say to the one who would feel uncomfortable around Jews—if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s throw a party!

    sheesh. sorry you are dealing w/ this crap.

    1. Erin: It is now absolutely clear to me why G-d broke my womb after Tech was born. I could not do this again. I am so not a party planner. Seriously. If I knew what I know now, I actually might have hired someone to help me. Because then I would have had someone to laugh with about all this stuff. And frankly someone to handle some of details that I don’t care to do.

      I might frame those RSVPs when this whole thing is over. They are so ridiculous. I almost wish I had more.

  16. I had to read that twice to make sure I didn’t imagine it. The nice thing is now you can save money by not buying them any birthday gifts next year, too.

    1. And no Christmas or Hanukkah gifts either. Don’t forget that. Major savings. And if this one dude ever marries, I’m pretty sure I’ll be knitting a sweating from my dryer lint that night.

      Or day. 😉

  17. Holy cow! I am so sorry for you, but at the same time this is just COMEDY GOLD. If the people saying they were watching The Voice or couldn’t be around that many Jews were joking, I would want to be their friend. Stat. But I’m guessing that’s not the case and now I’m scared.

    We definitely had to hunt some people down before the wedding because they didn’t RSVP using their handy-dandy reply cards, but it really wasn’t too bad. The worst was probably the cousin who bailed at the last second, and then we saw pictures of her partying down the shore (where our wedding was) with her friends on Facebook.

  18. We have a slew of unusual situations. Here are a few.

    The couple that introduced my husband and me eventually got divorced, but we invited both of them to my daughter’s bat mitzvah. First, the husband wouldn’t come, if his ex was coming, then she said the same thing. Then she refused to come, period. We called to tell him “the coast was clear” and he could attend. He wasn’t at the service but he phoned during the reception to say he had a flat tire on the road, so it was too late to come anyway. (We assumed he never even left his house.)

    Also, we were attending a wedding some years ago – the year of the very first Super Bowl. During dinner and reception, nearly all the men disappeared into the lounge at the Temple, where they found a TV. Guess what they were watching? The women were embarrassed, but as the men came back reporting scores, some of them actually left for the TV too!

    If people do not return their reply cards, I recommend telling them, if they are brave enough to show up, “Sorry. We only planned for those who responded. We don’t have a meal for you.” Are you brave enough to do it?

    1. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to turn people away, but my caterer will happily tell them there is no food… because there won’t be. There definitely will not be a table for non-responders to sit. 😉

      And now I will have to make sure the venue has their gigantic TV’s turned OFF.

  19. I went to Univ. of Alabama which has always been a big football school. Several people declined my wedding invitation because it was a game day. The rest of what I`m thinking right now can not be printed.

    1. Emily, I’m probably thinking the same thing — but you know what? I’m thinking you were better off without them. Especially if they were just going to sneak off and check the scores (as in Marlene’s scenario above).

  20. 1 – If I lived north of the Mason-Dixon Line, I’d be there. Whether I was invited or not.

    2 – Someone (presumably an adult) is concerned about the presence of Jews at a Bar Mitzvah? For realz?

    1. Leeeeeesh:

      1 – Would love to have you. (Would it be your first?) I’m telling you a bloggers’ table would be the best table in the house. Can you imagine everyone with their laptops open? 😉

      2 – I think this person probably MEANT to say their family was uncomfortable because they don’t know the customs like our super-secret handshake or something. I HAVE to believe that.

      1. LOL! In the 80s, Rob and I lived in the Baptist Belt for a few years. There, being Catholic was quite a curiosity. One of my Catholic co-workers got married, and many of our colleagues felt that way about attending a Catholic wedding. I assured them there was no hocus-pocus, and that it wasn’t that hard to figure out when to kneel. 😉

        I’ve been to one Bat Mitzvah and one Bar Mitzvah. They are beautiful ceremonies. I can’t wait to hear all about Tech’s big day!

        1. It is amazing to me to think that Catholics would be considered curiosities. As you know, I told you I think many of our rituals are very similar. Except for the kneeling thing. (You know, Jewish mothers and their hips. They don’t like to kneel so much.)

          I love going to all different kinds of services and seeing how everyone prays, but I know not everyone feels this way. Next time I’m in Nola, let’s go to church, k?

  21. I cannot even find the words to describe my horror at that reply. Seriously…wtf is WRONG with people? Holy geez.

    I’ve never had a weird reply, but will confess that I was very lax about sending out thank you notes from our wedding. In my [poor] defense, I wrote out MOST of the cards, sealed ’em, addressed ’em, stamped ’em and put them in the box, intending to finish them all and mail them out all together.

    And then….I dunno what happened. Somehow, I thought I’d mailed ’em and then MONTHS later, opened the box and was horrified to find ’em.

  22. When “they” say truth is stranger than fiction, they arent kidding! It’s also denser, ruder, and overall my head-shakingly …serious?!

  23. Wow- some of those rsvps are unbelievable. My son’s bar mitzvah is the same day and we haven’t gotten any responses like like(Do we just not know the right people? Thank goodness) however, we did give a website for rsvps rather than a response card to be more green. Good luck to Tech and much nachas!

  24. Wow wow and wow. And then some more wow. I’m not sure which one I find more disturbing, honestly.

    My husband and I, back in the day when we were engaged, bristled with much righteous indignation when we were waiting for some people to RSVP. It was indeed aggravating to have to track people down. Hello, I was BUSY! But then, after we were married, we discovered, to our horror, that we were those people who didn’t RSVP. We were horrible at it. Horrible. It was mortifying (and probably also karmic, since I was so indignant about people RSVPing to our simcha). Anyways, we have now developed a method where as soon as we get an invite, we pop that reply (and a check, if relevant) in the mail ASAP.

    There’s my confession. I was the non-RSVPer for at least a couple years. But it is possible to change. And I never tell people why I can’t go (though my reasons are obviously way better than those freaky ones you got. Wow!)

  25. I’ve heard and seen a lot of excuses on response cards in my day, but some of these definitely take the proverbial “cake”. Hope all your response are in now and that you’ve been able to tackle the last couple of planning hurdles – table seating, catering counts, etc. without too much additional headache. Thinking about you!

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