How to RSVP: Etiquette and Message Ideas


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When you receive an invitation with an RSVP, it might be tempting to pin it to the fridge along with the invite and promise yourself that you’ll deal with it later. After all, it’s no big deal if you forget to RSVP, right? Not quite. The truth is, RSVPs are a big deal for the person handling the event because they allow them to accommodate and prep for the right amount of guests. These tips will show you how to RSVP the right way.

What does RSVP mean?

The term RSVP stands for the French phrase “répondez s’il vous plaît” (please respond) and it’s considered impolite to leave your hosts hanging. An RSVP is a polite request for you to inform the host whether or not you’ll be attending their event so they can plan accordingly.

It’s important for the host to have attendance numbers so they can account for the amount of food needed and the seating arrangements. This will assure that everyone is comfortable and has a good time at the party.

When should you RSVP by?

Many invitations include a “respond by” date, but it’s best to reply as soon as possible. It’s all too easy to let an RSVP slip your mind until it’s too late. Responding early also shows enthusiasm and excitement about the event. If you aren’t sure what your plans are, contact your hosts and let them know. They may be able to accommodate a “maybe” for one or two guests.

Types of RSVPs

Whether it is a formal invitation with an RSVP card or an informal invitation with reply instructions, make sure to respond in the manner indicated.

Mailed invitation with RSVP card

Fill in the card and mail it back in the enclosed envelope before the date listed, or preferably as soon as you receive it. Check to see if the event allows a plus one. If it does, double check that your date can make it before you RSVP for them.

How to fill out a wedding RSVP

Wedding invitations commonly include an RSVP card and a pre-addressed envelope. The card may be as simple as writing your name and checking off a plus one and dining choices, or it may include a bit more space for a thoughtful note. If there is blank space on the card you are expected to write a note.

It is also common for a wedding RSVP card to include an “M” with a blank line after it. Following the “M,” you should write your title (Mr., Mrs., Miss) and name.

If you are unsure if you can bring a plus one, look to the invitation envelope to see if “and guest” is clearly stated. Asking to bring a guest if the wedding invitation doesn’t explicitly say that you can is considered inappropriate. It may cause a strain on the happy couple’s finances.

Mailed invitation with no response card

If you received a mail invitation with no response card, you can call, email or send a handwritten note to the host with your response. If they list an email, it’s best to send an email. If they list a phone number, you should call. This way the host gets the information in the preferred manner.

Telephone invitation

Let your host know on the spot whether or not you’re able to attend. If you aren’t sure, let them know that you need to check your schedule, but do get back to them as soon as possible.

Regrets only RSVP

This means that your host is planning for you to be there, unless he or she hears otherwise. Usually this type of RSVP is reserved for events with more than 250 guests, such as fundraisers or corporate events, where keeping track of attendees would be a Herculean effort. In this case, you need only worry about a response if you’re sure you cannot attend.

Electronic invitation

These days, invitations are often sent through sites like or via a Facebook event. You have the option to select “yes”, “no” or “maybe” (and may have the option to include the number of guests attending). Be sure to follow up later if you select “maybe,” so the hosts can have enough refreshments and favors on hand.

Emailed invitation

If it’s a personal invitation to an event like a bridal shower or birthday party, hit the reply button. For suggestions on how to craft a response, see below.

How to RSVP by email

When you get an email invitation, you’ll want to respond with a more thoughtful message than just “yes” or “no.” If you’re close friends with the host, you can respond in a more fun, casual way. If it’s a formal or professional event, you may want to be more official in your response.

Template for accepting an invitation

Hi [Name],

Thank you for inviting me to [event]! I will be attending and have marked the date on my calendar.

I really look forward to [personalize]. See you on [date].



Formal template for declining an invitation

Hi [Name],

Thank you for your invitation to [event] on [date]. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the event.

I appreciate your invitation and hope to have the opportunity to attend next year.



Informal template for declining an invitation

Hi [Name],

Thanks so much for inviting me to [event]! Unfortunately, I’m busy on [date] and won’t be able to make it.

Really sad to miss [personalize] Let’s catch up soon!



No RSVP requested

If you receive an invitation without an RSVP, you’re not obligated to reply. However, you may wish to drop the hosts a short note to thank them for the invitation and let them know if you you will be attending.

Changing your RSVP

It is impolite to change your RSVP for other social plans. If an emergency arises, let the host know that you can’t make it as soon as possible.

If you were unsure whether you could attend or you RSVP’d “no,” but later discovered you could make it, communicate that with the host. They may be able to accommodate a “maybe” or add you to the party late.

The most important thing to remember is that if you say you’ll attend, you should be there.  A host puts thought into making the event special for their guests, including you, so it’s gracious to accept or decline the invitation as soon as possible to help them plan. Now that you know how to RSVP and can check it off your list, you may be looking for the perfect gift to bring to the event with you. Personalized gifts are perfect for any type of celebration, and are a great way to show the hosts how happy you are to attend (which ensures more invitations in the future)!


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