i get my share of party invites. i try to attend the ones that seem most interesting, but quite honestly often choose a quiet night at home over socialite gatherings with very little added value. in short, if the party offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences or seems essential for my career, i'll go. moreover, parties organized by friends always make my list. i suppose there's nothing special there.
i am, nevertheless, not even near enjoying an it-girl status or your average pr-pro, and many of my friends, who either have more upscale jobs than i or just hang out in cooler circles, get tenfold the invitations i do. as of late i've noted a trend i briefly brought up with a friend of mine who spends almost every night of the week at some event or another, and she agreed with my observation without hesitation.
the trend i'm talking about is the cutting down of invitations for two. an increasing amount of invitations are for one person only -- sometimes rashly accentuated by an addition of "this invite is personal" like at stockmann's opening party of the f8 restaurants as if manufacturing fake invites or handing down an invitation posed a real problem for organizers.
i am not claiming that there weren't a myriad of other reasons at work here, but the correlation between sending single invites and the phenomenon of poor attendance seems rather strong. it is understandable that cutting down expenses is essential these days, but my observations have been corroborated by many of my friends': the parties are more extravagant than ever, but there are almost no people at the events themselves. free flow of champagne cannot cover up the fact that (important) people do not show up.
sometimes i hear people receiving party invitations less than a week before the event which simply means they only made the b-list and the a-list did not rsvp. not only is sending last minute invitations unprofessional and kinda desperate (and rude), it should tell the organizers that something is seriously wrong although the event seems well-planned.
finnish event organizers have steadily been improving the basics and these days the food and booze are classy and yummy. realizing that more and more often the tables are superabundant with finger food and filled glasses of drinks when the party is starting to fade seems weird at a time of recession talk: at these desperate times free fun should work like a magnet!
but it comes down to simple psychology: we feel more comfortable going with someone. if it is strictly business, we'll attend, but most of the events i'm talking about reside prominently on the socializing (i.e. eating, drinking and music) side of things with the sporadic product placement or promotion. the people who will show up at these events are a small group who have time to call each other and compare calendars and dresscodes. that is, they also make sure they are essentially going with someone.
a lot of people don't call people they know to enquire whether they also were invited and whether they're planning to go for the simple reason that most people just don't have the time. most people, if in doubt, will choose not to attend, and it does not mean they aren't sociable or well-networked -- quite the opposite.
my friends tell me constantly that they decided to decline an invite because they got a single invitation. they feel comfortable mingling, but don't look forward to doing a whole night of it in case no-one close enough decides to show up. closer to home, my sweetie received an invitation to have dinner at kämp and see tina turner, but turned it down because a night with some random and unknown corporate faces was not seductive enough for a world-class sit-down dinner and a concert. sure, there could have been some networking opportunities, but after brief consideration a night at home watching a movie felt better. therefore, a no-show.
if saving on expenses is the reason, skimping on invitations seems to create more problems than it solves if the result is a party with very few of the guests you wanted to show up. it also reveals that many organizers cannot appreciate the added value a spouse or a friend may provide an event; i think it is quite uninventive to believe that the only valuable guests are already on the list to begin with. it feels presumptuous that organizers believe that the event is amazing enough to lure their guests in unaccompanied. additionally, the sudden change has created some speculation about being less valued as a guest when others might be receiving double invitations -- a feeling any business, i'm sure, would like to avoid.
i say, bring back the avec! cut down the guest list if needed, throw away the goodie bags (which are usually frivolous anyway) and even skimp on the menu, but make your guests feel appreciated. one of the worst fears of people is to end up standing alone at a party. in the company of friends they are sure to enjoy almost anything you've got to offer.