Confused about how to RSVP to modern invitations?

And is RSVP still important?

Knowing how to RSVP is a perfect opportunity to show that you are considerate and respectful of other people’s time and thoughts.

The term "RSVP" on an invitation is an initialism for a French phrase, "repondez s'il vous plait", meaning "respond if you please."

It is a polite way of requesting a response to the invitation, not a suggestion to the invited guest to respond if she feels like it! 

Whilst most invites are now sent via text or email, knowing how to rsvp still plays a very important part in acquiring flawless etiquette and manners, even if the way in which we issue invitations has changed over the years.

How quickly should you respond to an invite?

Knowing how to rsvp correctly simply means replying in the manner and timescale that your host has requested which then enables them to plan the event.

If no deadline is given then you should ideally reply within two, and definitely a maximum of five, days.

If you need to check with your spouse/baby sitter then it is good rsvp etiquette to acknowledge and thank them for the invite and let them know when you will respond fully, for example:

“Thank you for the lovely invitation, it sounds wonderful. I will check with “John” and let you know on Friday”.

Which Method of RSVP should you use?

Emailed & texted invites can be responded to in the manner in which they were sent. Always ensure you adhere to the timescale rules detailed above.

If you receive a written invitation then the RSVP instructions should be stated on the invite and you should respond in the manner they have requested. Quite often nowadays an email address is provided and that is fine to use for your RSVP.

If the written invitation contains an rsvp card then return this or indeed write your own. When you are accepting the invite it is good rsvp etiquette to use the same wording as is stated on the invite e.g. if the invite states “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” then you should not respond with your forenames.

The traditional template always refers to you in the third person and the reason for this is for speed so that the rsvp can be quickly processed by the host (or their event planning staff).

Formal responses should be written in fountain pen preferably on a correspondence card or fold over note. 

If you are unsure as to whether you can attend then it is good rsvp etiquette to call the host and explain you may have a prior commitment but that if not, you would like to be there.

It is polite to ask them what their deadline is but normally three days before is acceptable – and be sure to let them know.

What about if you can no longer attend the event?

If you have already accepted an invite but can no longer attend then you must let your host know as soon as possible. You will need to offer an explanation and be genuine with your regrets.

Never cancel an engagement just because you have received a better offer; you will most likely be found out! Simply not turning up is bad form.

What if you have declined an invite but can now attend?

If you have declined an invitation but are now able to attend then it is acceptable to call the host and ask.

Note this should only really be done if the event is a large party etc where an extra guest isn’t going to cause too much upset to the plans.

Other Correspondence Etiquette Skills to learn on this Site

Invitation Etiquette

Thank You Note Etiquette

Sympathy Card Etiquette

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About The Author

The Author, Emma Dupont, runs various courses in London during the year.

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