How to RSVP: Invitation Etiquette, Wedding, Event, Email

Years ago when you were invited to any event it was expected that you would RSVP. Back in the day, this would involve paper, twill pens, and ink. Responses carefully thought out then after lovingly written went on to be delivered by horse and cart. Sometimes arriving days or weeks later to its final destination.

Today we respond to invitations very differently as you will discover. So how do you RSVP?

You RSVP by responding promptly to an invitation. If it is a written invitation you should return an RSVP in writing to the invitee. For an invitation in person or over the telephone, you can RSVP on the spot. An electronic invitation RSVP either by return electronic response, face to face, or telephone.

Let’s go…

How to RSVP

What Is an RSVP?

An RSVP is a response to an invitation that you have been given.

The person who is hosting an event is called a host. Hosts need to have numbers before they can cater to the event correctly.

Some events can be quite large so having the correct number of guests is very important.

Event planning considerations you may not have thought of.

Budget is the main consideration when hosting an event. No matter the host they will all have to adhere to budget constraints.

Securing a venue that will be suitable for the event and the number of people that will be attending. This includes early booking of said venue.

The need to order the correct amount of food and beverages as under catering will ruin any event and over catering is a waste of money.

Most events require a cake, as you will be aware this can be a huge expense. Correct numbers for the catering of the cake are extremely important.

Where Did the RSVP Originate?

The word RSVP is derived from the French phrase Répondez s’il Vous plaît, source, which basically means please respond yes or no to an invitation.

Invitations That Require an RSVP

  • Weddings
  • Engagement parties
  • Bridal Showers
  • Baby Showers
  • Christenings/Baptisms
  • Bah mitzvahs
  • Graduations
  • Dinner parties
  • Lunch invitations
  • Party plan invitations
  • Corporate invitations

There are so many different types of parties you could be invited to. Great list here.

Most invitations will require you to simply pick up the telephone and verbally accept or decline.

But there are those formal events that will require a written response.


Types of RSVPs

There are many ways to be invited to an event.

Your rsvp response should be made following the instructions on the invitation.

Out of respect make sure you RSVP on or before the due date. Even if that means picking up the telephone and speaking to the event host or coordinator.

Written RSVPs

A written invitation would include important milestone events such as milestone birthdays, engagement parties, weddings, christenings or baptisms, bah mitzvahs, and other formal events.

Written invitations will more than likely require a written and posted response.

Written invitation etiquette (especially wedding invitations) usually requires that the invitee includes a response card as well as an addressed and stamped return envelope.

The importance of this type of response cannot be overstated. The event hosts need the final headcount to plan meal choices, seating arrangements with a seating chart, and place cards.

Online Invitation

Formal wedding invitations can also arrive electronically. In the form of wedding website invitations as well as social media even text invitations.

Online RSVPs are as simple as following the supplied links when you either receive your paper or your online invitation.

Verbal RSVPs

Verbal RSVPs are probably the most common replies we give these days. The easy use of mobile telephones has made this practice commonplace.

Verbal RSVPs usually are given for;

  • Informal gatherings
  • Impromptu gatherings
  • Family gatherings
  • Small parties
  • Dinner invitations

Electronic RSVPs

Along with the various traditional ways you can be invited to a party or event there are also electronic invitations. These include;

  • Text messaging an invitation
  • Email invitation
  • Electronic card invitations
  • Facebook invitations

App. RSVPs

There are applications (Apps) that work much like a wedding register where you can log in and leave your RSVP.

Instructions for this type of RSVP will be given when you receive the invitation.

If unsure, always pick up the telephone and speak to the host for any clarification you might require.

RSVP Response Time Frames

This is a tricky one. If the host has made it clear when the RSVP deadline is it is easy.

Based on personal experience it depends on what the event is.

If it is something like a wedding, baby shower, bridal shower, or milestone birthday party you can expect that there would be many guests. A large cake would be required and there would be extensive catering including food and beverages to be ordered.

The host would initially need a rough estimate of guests’ to cater for and so forth and would generally need at least a couple of weeks to prepare.

The best practice would respond as soon as you receive the invitation that way you will not forget to RSVP.

Unsure if an RSVP is Required?

Today with electronic devices attached to the end of our arms there seem to be so many “general” or “informal” invitations directed at us that it may feel that it is not serious invitation.

Those who receive the invitation should remember that organizing any event is a very stressful time.

So if the RSVP is not a straightforward yes or no the invitee should do their utmost to not make the host’s job harder.

If you want to go but it is a difficult time, busy time, or you are coming in late. Maybe the best course of action is to decline gracefully and wish them well.

Sometimes you can be given an open invitation or a written invitation that does not require an RSVP. Even in this case, it is always best practice when given an invitation to any event to respond yes or no to the host.

Think back to a time when you organized a party or an event and you needed to know sooner rather than later how many were attending so you could cater correctly.

When hosting an event there is sometimes slight panic that you will under cater or on the flip side be left with an abundance of food and beverage beverages.

Partners or Plus One’s

Hosts requiring an RSVP in most cases will make it clear whether a plus one is invited.

In some cases, it can be unclear if others apart from yourself are invited to the event.

If this is the case you should ask the host if you are to bring a guest or guests before you RSVP.

Under no circumstances should you turn up at an event with additional guests who were not invited.

Some invitations, such as a business event, may require that you advise the number of people you will have attending with you.

Note: Business events usually involve participants paying for themselves and their attendees. This type of invitation requires a totally different type of RSVP…

Accepting invitations

Before excepting an invitation make sure you are able and want to tend to the event. Make sure you confirm that your partner or plus one is able to attend before accepting the invitation.

Uncertain responses are not generally accepted well by hosts or planners, as their bottom line before event planning can begin in earnest are numbers.

Canceling a Party Invitation

Canceling an RSVP is not a pleasant task but let’s face it “life happens”.

Ensure you cancel your invitation as soon as you know you cannot attend the host will appreciate it.

If indeed you do have to cancel when you have already RSVP’ed yes make sure it is for a good reason.

A good reason would be illness, serious family events, or death in the family.

Much less than that the hostess will be upset and chances are you won’t be invited to further events.

Save the Date Cards

A new custom has emerged in the last couple of years.

When an important event or milestones like weddings, destination weddings, and christenings are coming up the host will send out a “save the date” card.

These are particularly useful when families and friends reside all over the country.

It confirms the upcoming event, but more importantly, confirms that you will be receiving an invitation.

Therefore you can save the date in your diary. It is pre-preparation for an upcoming important event and the invitation you will be receiving for this event.

wedding stationery

How to RSVP

If you have made the guest list, especially as a wedding guest you should respond by the rsvp date, or before, whether you are attending or not.

If available follow the instructions on the invitation itself. The invitation will state how (by writing, email, or telephone) and when you should respond.

Use these simple steps to RSVP to any event and you will have a firm grip on the art of RSVPing…

How to RSVP to a Wedding or Other Written Invitation

These instructions apply to any written invitation – just apply the following – as well as the instruction on the invitations themselves.

Written Invitation – with reply card included

The reason pre-printed a wedding RSVP card is included in an invitation is that the host or planner needs to be able to gather definitive guest information to proceed with the finalization of the event.

All RSVP cards will have their own layout. This is just one example.

invitation rsvp

Remember to complete the full names of the invitees only, no changing the names of guests invited or adding extra attendees.

If the name of your plus one has changed pick up the telephone and speak to the host.

I definitely would not add extra guests – weddings are usually heavily culled events.

It would be extremely unfair to ask a couple if your friend can attend when they have probably not invited people they would like to have at their wedding.

Written Invitation – without RSVP card included

If there is no RSVP card included you can buy an RSVP card or simply send your reply on plain writing paper and a matching envelope.

Example of a written invitation acceptance.

“Ms. Julia Jones and Mr. Jack Green wish to accept the wedding invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Witney. For Saturday, the eighth of August at three o’clock in the afternoon. At 911 Mockingbird Lane, Boise”

Example of a written invitation decline.

Ms. Julia Jones and Mr. Jack Green regret that they are unable to accept the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Witney for Saturday, the eighth of August.

How to RSVP to an Online Invitation

Online RSVPs are as simple as following the supplied links when you either receive your paper or your online invitation. You may even be instructed to make a phone call or a text message to a dedicated phone number.

You should assume that event planners have sent the invitation so always double check that your last name is clear when you answer the rsvp request.

How to RSVP to an Emailed Invitation

When responding to an email invitation to any event follow the lead (or voice) of the invitation. If the tone is casual reply in a similar tone, the same goes for an invitation with a more structured or formal tone.

Email Invitation Acceptance

Hi [Jane],
Thank you for the invitation to your [graduation]!
I will be attending and I look forward to [catching up with you].
See you on [August 8th].

Email Invitation Decline

Hi [Jane],
Thank you for the invitation to your [graduation] on [August 8th].
Unfortunately, I am unable to attend [wishing you all the best on your special day].
Hope to see you soon.

How to RSVP to a Party Plan Invitation

If you receive a card or paper invitation I would suggest that telephoning a verbal response is all that would be required.

You will, however, these days find you will receive a party plan invitation via email or even a Facebook or Messenger group invitation. So you would just reply yes or no via the electronic response system in place.

In fact, some of these electronic invitations are not directed to one person but to a group. You do not even have to respond to this type of invitation – but out of courtesy, I would decline if I am not attending.

How to RSVP on Behalf of Your Boss

rsvp boss

Those who manage correspondence for their boss know how many invitations have to be answered.

The rest of us would be surprised by how many there actually are.

The aim here is to be organized and streamlined to ensure the RSVPs get answered on time.

1. Make a list of the types of invitations that are received.

2. Make a response template for each type of invitation.

3. Set timelines for each invitation in your desktop calendar.

• Invitation Arrives
• Event Date
• Attending / Not Attending
• RSVP Deadline
• Check Still Attending

4. Find out if your boss will be attending – if yes send the RSVP – mark in your calendar the RSVP deadline. When the RSVP deadline arrives check with your boss that they are still attending.

5. If you need to change attendance – send a written response then call the event organizer and let them know verbally the attendance requirement has changed.

Related read: Gifts for Guest Speakers

Final Thoughts – How to RSVP…

Remember that if you receive an invitation to an event the person that is organizing the event needs to be organized. The first steps in the organization process are – attendance numbers.

The simplest way to handle invitations is to tackle the response as soon as possible so you do not tuck it away to attend to later. Especially if it is a significant invitation like a milestone birthday, engagement, wedding, anniversary, baby shower, or Christening.

So RSVP as soon as you can and do not be afraid if you have to pull out before the event – life happens…

I believe that in our impersonal world RSVPs are extremely important – whatever form they take.

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