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Etiquette AdviceInvitations and RSVPs Saying Thanks Table Setting Being a Good Guest
The Meaning of RSVP
The initials R.S.V.P. are often found at the end of an invitation. These initials stand for the French phrase "repondez s'il vous plait," which means "please respond." This means that the hostess would like to know whether you plan to attend her party.
When R.S.V.P. is written on a personal invitation, it isn't an optional request. It means you must inform the hostess whether or not you will attend. The only time this may not be true is if the R.S.V.P. requests "Regrets Only", meaning the hostess assumes you will probably be coming, and only wants to hear from you if you cannot. An R.S.V.P. request usually carries a date by which the hostess needs a response. Aside from illness, death in the family, or another emergency, you are committed to the party once you R.S.V.P. that you plan to attend.
As much as an R.S.V.P. request may seem fussy and old-fashioned, it really serves an important function. It lets the hostess know how many people to expect at her party. If this is to be a catered party, she will certainly need to give the caterer a head count by a certain date, and that count will need to be accurate because she is obligated to pay for the given number of guests.
Even if the hostess isn't using a caterer, she will need to know how much food to buy, how many bottles of wine to have on hand, how many places to set at the table, and the number of party favors to prepare.
Ways to Ensure Your Guests Respond to Your R.S.V.P. Request
Since we know how important it is to get an accurate head count for our parties, what can we do to assure a response? For one thing, write your R.S.V.P. request very clearly on the invitation. Don't put it in a smaller type font than the rest of your invitation, and don't bury it among the graphic designs.
Remember to include a date by which you'll need to hear back from your guests. If a firm date isn't planted in their minds, it will be too easy for them to put the invitation aside and forget to R.S.V.P.
Although it may be proper form, using the phrase "Regrets Only" is asking for uncertainty. When you don't hear back from a guest on this type of request, it's easy to assume that they will attend. But how will you know that your invitation was even received? With a regular R.S.V.P. request, if you don't hear back from your invited guests by a certain date, you can call to confirm that the invitation was received and your guests merely lost track of the date for a response.
Easy Ways to Get a Response
On an informal invitation you can simply write your phone number as the way to respond.
Add your email address to an informal invitation as an alternative response method. This is especially convenient for guests who are unable to make a phone call during daytime hours.
Response cards are included as part of formal invitations. These will include an envelope that has been addressed to the hostess and has postage already on it. This leaves no excuse for a guest not to return it.
There are now online services that will help you send your invitations, manage your R.S.V.P.s, help with your party planning details, and track your responses. Here are a few of the larger ones:
Evite is one of the oldest invitation and party planning services on the web.
Sendomatic is another well established party planning service online.
RSVP HQ is a simple online response tracking service. The party planning services on this site are limited.
My Punchbowl is the newest site in this group. Designed by a group of computer programmers, this site has an easy interface for hostesses to use.