Responding to an Invitation

When an invitation includes the letters R.S.V.P. it is a signal that the sender wants to know if you will be attending or not.

R.S.V.P. is an abbreviation for the French phrase "répondez s'il vous plaît" which basically means respond please.

A host or hostess asks for a response because in planning for an event it is necessary to know how many to plan for.  There is nothing worse for someone planning a party, big or small, than to not know how many to plan for. Whether the event is in a private home or a public venue the planning of seats, tableware, food, and drink is a priority.  And since the arranging and purchasing happen in advance, it is only fair to the person planning to know in advance if you plan to attend.

R.S.V.P. to Help a Host PlanCredit: Laura Moore

It is quite easy to respond to an invitation.  Although in earlier years a printed R.S.V.P. indicated a written response, that is not true today.  If you receive an invitation just pick up the phone and call the host or send a quick email to the hostess.  If the invitation includes a response card, fill out the card and return it in the mail to the sender.

Respond to the invitation as soon as you possibly can. If you are waiting for a better offer and don't respond until the last-minute, the host or hostess will probably assume that is just what you are doing. If you have a valid reason that is keeping you from immediately accepting the invitation, telephone the host and explain your situation.  Be sure to give a definite date when you can let him know whether you will make it or not.

Not responding at all leaves a host or hostess in a quandary.  Should they plan on you or not?  If a table is set for a definite number of people and you haven't responded, but show up anyway, you may not have a seat at the table.  This is embarrassing for everyone involved. Forcing the host or hostess to call you several days before the event to see if they should plan on you is showing irresponsibility on your part.

If an invitation says "regrets only" you only respond if you definitely do not plan to attend.


  • An invitation that includes a request for your response requires you do so.
  • In most cases a telephone or email is a fine way to respond.
  • Respond within a few days of receiving the invitation.
  • If circumstances out of your control don't allow you to make a definite committment, call the host or hostess and explain your situation.
  • If you have accepted an invitation and something unplanned is preventing you from attending, call the host immediately.
  • If an invitation is left on a telephone answering machine or by email, it requires the same attention as a written R.S.V.P.

Follow these tips on what to do when you see R.S.V.P. to make sure that you will continue to receive invitations.