RSVP Etiquette

20 May

Karen T. from Alabama emailed me with a two-part question. Summarized, she wanted tips on throwing a dinner party and secondly, wanted advice on RSVPs. I will start with the easier answer first and then answer the second half in another post. This is a tough pill to swallow, I will be honest. It is becoming increasingly difficult to attain RSVPs these days. People just don’t want to take the 30 seconds it takes to respond or make a commitment that is more than a couple of days away. I have struggled with people not responding to invitations, just like everyone else. If someone likes you enough and takes the time and effort to include you on their list of people invited, and obviously wants to spend quality time with you as a friend, do them the courtesy of responding to their invitation. That being said, I am going to refer you all to a couple of other people that say very much the same thing that I would. I’m not going to re-invent the wheel on this one.  Just use common courtesy.

The go to person on etiquette is Emily Post. Here’s what she says:

Invitation Etiquette
Whether it is to a wedding, a dinner party, shower or gala event, an invitation comes with some important obligations. Here’s a quick guide to keep you on the guest list.

From the French, it means “Répondez, s’il vous plaît,” or, “Please reply.” This little code has been around for a long time and it’s definitely telling you that your hosts want to know if you are attending. Reply promptly, within a day or two of receiving an invitation.

2. How do I respond? Reply in the manner indicated on the invitation.
•RSVP and no response card: a handwritten response to the host at the return address on the envelope.
•Response Card: fill in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope.
•RSVP with phone number: telephone and make sure to speak in person – answering machines can be unreliable.
•RSVP with email: you may accept or decline electronically.•Regrets only: reply only if you cannot attend. If your host doesn’t hear from you, he is expecting you!
•No reply requested? Unusual, but it is always polite to let someone know your intentions. A phone call would be sufficient.

3. Is that your final answer?
•Changing a ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ is only acceptable on account of: illness or injury, a death in the family or an unavoidable professional or business conflict. Call your hosts immediately.
•Canceling because you have a “better” offer is a sure-fire way to get dropped from ALL the guest lists.
•Being a “no show” is unacceptable.
•Changing a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ is OK only if it will not upset the hosts’ arrangements.
4. “May I bring…”
Don’t even ask! An invitation is extended to the people the hosts want to invite—and no one else.

•…a date. Some invitations indicate that you may invite a guest or date (Mr. John Evans and Guest) and when you reply, you should indicate whether you are bringing someone, and convey their name.
•…my children. If they were invited, the invitation would have said so.
•… my houseguest. It’s best to decline the invitation, stating the reason. This gives your host the option to extend the invitation to your guests, or not.

5. Say “Thank You.”
Make sure to thank your hosts before you leave, and then again by phone or note the next day.

The Continuing Importance of RSVP

No one is obligated to accept an invitation or to explain the reasons for not accepting.  Nor will anyone come running to your door and demand that you finally reply to that invitation that has been sitting on your coffee table for three weeks.  However, just as someone is being kind when inviting you to an event, you should be just as kind to reply to their invitation. To help you determine the proper etiquette for the RSVP, we’ve included a couple of important tips: 

1) Take your cue from the invitation

If you received your invitation by e-mail, then an e-mailed response is acceptable.  If the invitation is to a wedding and includes an enclosed card, then send your response by mail.  You can judge the required response by the formality of the invitation itself.

 2) Respond in a timely fashion

Generally it is best to reply as soon as possible.  For written invitations responses are made within several days of receiving the invitation.  For in-person or phoned invitations, you may provide your response when asked or await until you have checked your schedule. Simply let the person know that you will call as soon as possible.

 3) Keep replies brief

There is no need to go into great detail if you must decline the invitation. Write a simple and polite note of regret.  If you feel like you must offer an explanation, be sure it is brief.

 4) Reply even if you have a potential conflict

If you would like to accept an invitation to an informal or casual event but have a tentative conflict, contact the host or hostess to explain the problem. If the event is formal, however, your delay might inconvenience the host, so it’s best to decline the invitation.  

 5) When replies aren’t requested

If the invitation does not specifically request that you RSVP, then a response is not necessary. However, it is always polite to notify the host when you cannot attend.  A phone call will usually suffice, though you might send a personal note or an e-mail.

Take a look at this blog, too.  Jaime Lee Events.

Thoughts? Experiences? Solutions? Share a comment.


Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Life


Tags: , , , , , ,

2 responses to “RSVP Etiquette

  1. A

    July 5, 2013 at 6:00 am

    I truly love your website.. Great colors & theme. Did you create this amazing site yourself?
    Please reply back as I’m planning to create my own personal website and would like to know where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Thanks!

    • thewritemyers

      July 5, 2013 at 6:54 am

      Thank you, but I cannot take credit. It is a WP creation. Thank you for reading my post as well.


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