Printed invitations often include a tagline that reads, “RSVP.” Usually, this listing includes a telephone number or email address. Frequently, an RSVP deadline is also added. Formal invitations for baptisms, bar mitzvahs, confirmations, graduations, holiday parties, weddings, and other significant events may even include a pre-addressed and stamped RSVP card or note.
What does RSVP mean?
This acronym actually stands for a French statement, “Repondez s’il vous plait.” This sentence, issued in the most polite terms, translates this way: “Please respond.” The French phrasing employs the most respectful and cordial form of second-person address (“vous”), rather than the more informal and familiar one (“tu”). By doing so, it points to respectful invitations and responses for social gatherings and other events.
Why do invitations include an RSVP request?
Party hosts and hostesses, event planners and other organizers often ask guests to respond well in advance of the festivities for a host of reasons. Often, a fairly close head count of expected attendees is required by those who will set up accommodations, catering or food service, activities, gifts or other items to be distributed and even table seating. For example, a family planning a wedding may need to provide a confirmed guest list number to the banquet hall or hotel, as well as the caterer. With plated dinner service running $50 per person or more, a close count can be critical. Parents planning a child’s birthday party may be obtaining supplies for crafts or games, as well as goody bag contents and prizes. It is important to know how many children to expect for such a gathering.
Must guests respond, if an RSVP is requested?
According to generally accepted guidelines of etiquette, a guest simply must respond to a host or hostess in a timely fashion, if an invitation requests it (with an RSVP notation). Certainly, occasions will arise, in which a guest may not know in advance whether he or she will be able to attend an event to which he or she has been invited. In such cases, the most considerate action is to telephone the host or hostess and explain the circumstances. The host or hostess may then indicate whether the guest may simply leave his or her attendance open. In such cases, the guest may simply show up, if his or schedule permits it, at the last minute. Even if a host or hostess does not ask for an RSVP, a courteous and conscientious guest will respond anyway. The most polite guest will call the host or hostess to indicate whether he or she plans to attend, perhaps even offering to bring a dish to pass.
What if a guest declines an invitation, but later chooses to attend?
In many instances, hosts will welcome the change, as long as the event arrangements can accommodate the additional attendee. Ideally, such a guest will telephone the host at the first possible opportunity to ask whether it’s too late to change plans. Simply showing up unexpected is risky, particularly for a plated event.
Are there any exceptions to the RSVP?
An open house or drop-in event generally does not require an RSVP in advance. Most often, these gatherings are more impromptu, and folks may simply show up. In addition, guests may even be encouraged to bring friends or family members along with them. This is particularly applicable to in-home product demonstration parties, for which participants, hosts and hostesses may receive bonuses or discounts for including additional guests.