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While I understand the prim and proper etiquette schools and books have become a thing of the past I feel as though there is still a place for some etiquette guidance … especially when it comes to interacting with others {and where else do you interact the most, than at gatherings and events}.  So my etiquette series is continuing with the all important RSVP.

Before we get into the rights and wrongs of this request let’s first talk about exactly what it stands for and what it means. RSVP is an abbreviation of the French phrase “Répondez s’il vous plaît.” Translated it simply means “reply, if you please”.  While that is the correct translation, it should be replaced with “Please Respond” because if you have ever hosted an event before you know how important it is to know who is {or how many are} attending.

If you didn’t get my subtleness in the previous paragraph, the proper and respectful thing to do is RSVP.  I am PRO – RSVP.  I’m going to go deeper into why it is important, when and how to do so, and different types {yes, there are different types} of RSVPs.  However, first I’d like to touch on a few things RSVP does NOT mean:

  1. Reply If You Want To – this is just rude, if someone has requested an RSVP that means they need to know the amount of people for various reasons. {Food, Supplies, Seating, etc.} 
  2. Respond The Day Of – chances are if a host has sent out invitations and requested an RSVP he/she has put some preparation into this event and is not winging it day-of, so you shouldn’t either.
  3. Respond & Don’t Show – if you have responded with a “yes” then a place has been made for you, food has been accounted for you, and so on.  Some say unless you are sick or have a death in the family you should attend the event you RSVP’d for.  At the very least, advanced {more than 48 hours} notice you are canceling is required.
  4. I’m Family, Of Course I’ll Show – regardless of your relation to the host or honoree it is respectful {and necessary} to still RSVP.
  5. No Response – this is the worst because it requires the host to chase you down to find out if you will be attending and/or risk not having the space for you – if you do end up attending.




Simply follow the instructions on the invitation.  It may give a phone number to which you would call and let the host know “Yes” or “No”. Maybe is not an acceptable response.

In today’s technology age, I will say that if a phone number is listed it is ok to text your response as well.  Martha may say this is a no-no but I’m all about getting people to actually do it, so if texting is easier .. go for it.  Often times email addresses are listed as well as a way to RSVP.



Right away.  If you know that you will {and want to} attend the moment you open that invitation, then by all means do it right then and there.  It gets it out of the way, you wont forget and the sooner the host knows the better.  Many times there is an “RSVP by” date .. be sure to respond by or before that date.  If you do not know right away and there is no RSVP by date, a respectful amount of time is two weeks prior to the event – one week is pushing it.



Now I don’t want to discredit all the other events in which you are requested to respond BUT the Wedding RSVP is the MOST important to do so.  For one, the host is the bride and groom and planning a wedding is hard, stressful and time consuming.  Don’t add to that.  Second, the cost of their wedding – depends on your response.  An average per guest cost to attend a wedding is around $55 – Don’t mess with their bottom line.

Not to mention, the Wedding RSVP is the easiest as well.  It comes with a little card and all you have to do is put a little checkmark or number, put it in the PRE-ADDRESSED – PRE-STAMPED envelope and put it in your mailbox.  All the hard work is done for you.



Now that I’ve covered RSVPing for the guests {and if you haven’t gotten it by now, I’ve basically told you to take a page out of Nike’s book and JUST DO IT}. I want to touch on a few things for the host.

  • Don’t put “Regrets Only” it’s hard enough to get people to tell you yes or no – but to just ask people to tell you no, leaves that group that doesn’t respond at all open for question.  It leaves you with more “unsures” than “yes and no’s”  The ONLY time you should use this is for large invitation lists {200+ guest event that is not a wedding}.
  • When someone does respond with a “no” and does not give a reason, do not pry.  Just thank them for contacting you and move on.  No one likes a busy body.
  • When contacting people that haven’t RSVP’d be sure to ask {in a non-condescending tone} if they received the invitation and if they plan to attend.  Don’t reprimand or complain for their lack of response – although tempting could create tension at the actual event.

There you have it, my guidance on RSVPing.  Use common sense, if someone is graciously inviting you to their event be respectful and let them know if you plan to attend or not.  While it might seem frivolous to you it is important to them.


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