RSVP Meaning & Why It's Still Used on Invitations

Updated March 22, 2022
Wedding R.S.V.P. place card with dinning table

If you open your mailbox and pull out a pretty invitation, chances are you'll see the abbreviation "RSVP" somewhere on the note. Those four little letters are an important part of planning a party or wedding, and they're also a request for information from you. Technically, RSVP means "Repondez, s'il vous plaît" in French or "respond, if you please" in English. It's a polite way of asking whether someone is planning to attend a party.

Basic RSVP Meaning and Why It Matters

Although RSVP is a French abbreviation, it's used in lots of languages when people plan major parties. When you see it, the host is asking you to let them know if you'll be at the event, and it's proper etiquette to reply. Usually, you'll also see a date when the host needs to know your plans, such as "RSVP by June 13." Sometimes, there's a section for choosing what you would like to eat at a dinner.

Couple making photo with wedding invitations

While they may seem like a small thing, RSVPs matter for party planning. If someone is hosting a wedding or large gathering, they need to know how much food to order, how many bottles of wine to have on hand, the number of tables and chairs their guests will need, and other details that depend on the number of people at the event. If everyone RSVPs, the hosts can have an accurate sense of how many people will be there. If not, they have to guess.

Other Ways to Say "RSVP"

Because not everyone knows the meaning of RSVP and the abbreviation can be a sign of formality, hosts sometimes use other words to ask you if you're attending the event. You may see the following RSVP wording and phrases:

  • "The favor of your reply is requested."
  • "Let us know if you'll be joining us."
  • "Your response is requested."
  • "Please let us know your plans."

How to Know if You Should RSVP

If you receive a request for an RSVP, you should always answer. However, you may not be sure if you're supposed to contact the host about your plans. There are a few ways you may see a host requesting your response:

  • You see the letters "RSVP" printed below the event details on the invitation.
  • There's a small, separate card with the host's address printed on it.
  • The host's contact information is listed on the invitation or other materials that come with it.
  • The invitation says "regrets only" and gives contact information.

How you RSVP to a party, wedding, or other event depends on the form of the request. Let the style of the invitation and the wording used in it guide you in choosing the best way to respond. There are a few common situations you may encounter.

When There's an RSVP Card

It's easiest to respond to an RSVP request when there's a separate, pre-printed card. Usually, an RSVP card will have a section for your name, the name or number of guests you are bringing, and a spot to check whether you will attend. You may also see options for your meal. Often, the card is already stamped and pre-addressed.

Replying is very easy when there's a card like this. Just fill out your details, add a stamp if there isn't one, and drop it in your mailbox. Be sure to do this by the date requested.

When There's No RSVP Card

If there isn't an RSVP card with the invitation but the host is asking you to RSVP, you have to contact them separately. Take a look at the wording used and the contact information they provided. If it's casual wording and an email address, you can simply send an email about your plans. If it's formal wording and a full mailing address, you should write a note letting them know if you'll be attending.

Either way, your RSVP can be short and simple. Two or three sentences is plenty. You don't need to explain why you can't attend if you aren't going; simply saying you have other plans is enough.

Woman writing in card on table

When You Need to RSVP Electronically

Evites and other electronic invitations sometimes request an RSVP. In this case, it's usually just a link you follow. You answer a few questions about your plans and submit your response, similar to a web survey. If the event is casual, you can also reply by text or phone. The key is communicating clearly and in a timely fashion.

RSVP Etiquette Tips to Keep in Mind

It's polite to RSVP if the host requests it, but there are a few other etiquette considerations you should know. Keep the following in mind.

RSVP by the Date Requested

Generally, RSVP requests include a date. Always send your response by that date. If you forget, send it as soon as you remember. If there isn't much time before the event, it's better to make a phone call, send an email, or text to let the host know about your plans in time.

Respond Even if You Can't Go

You should send a reply even if you can't attend the event. This helps the host keep track of who might be going and who is definitely not attending. You can politely decline the invitation and help the hosts with their planning. Some RSVP requests say "regrets only," which means you only need to reply if you are not able to attend.

Contact the Host if Your Plans Change

If you responded that you could go and then have a sudden change in plans, you should let your host know you won't be there after all. This can be a simple phone call or email, especially if the event is coming up soon. If you have the time, it's nice to send a note of apology about missing the event.

Mention Food Allergies if There Is a Meal

If the host is asking you to select a meal option but you have food allergies, you should make a note of this on your RSVP. You may also want to contact the host directly to discuss the food and offer to bring an alternate meal for yourself.

Take the Time to Communicate About Your Plans

Whether or not you plan to attend the event, it's important to understand RSVP meaning and why it's important to reply. It's considerate to let the host know about your plans, and everyone involved will appreciate you taking the time to communicate.

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