RSVP Etiquette

How important is RSVP etiquette?
RSVP etiquette is still very important. Even in these hurried days, no one is too busy to respond properly to an invitation. Cathleen Hanson, who is one of the owners and founders of the International School of Protocol, which teaches proper etiquette to children, adults, educators, and businesses, states, "We must RSVP. It is not an option. Think of the host. It is a matter of respecting that other person's invitation. Even if you are going to decline, you should always contact the host."

Etiquette dictates that you respond to an RSVP as soon as you can, the same day if possible. If you need to double check your schedule or talk with your spouse, make sure to do so in a timely matter. The sooner the host and/or hostess gets the invitation back, the sooner he and/or she can make the final plans for the event. If the RSVP includes a phone number, then at least try to call with an answer. If you can not reach them for some reason, then send your acceptance or regrets by mail, but do so immediately. If the invitation includes a reply card or address as well as a telephone number, call first and ask if they prefer you to also send a reply by mail. (A lot of party planners and/or caterers do the head count off the RSVP cards.) If responding by mail and the invite doesn't include a card or a phone number, etiquette deems that you write your response in the tone of the invitation, either informally or formally. Cathleen states that you should always include:

1.) Your name
2.) Whether you accept or decline "the kind invitation of"
3.) The host's and/or hostesses name
4.) The type, date, and time of the event
5.) The reason for not attending, if applicable

It is also important for the host and/or hostess to send out RSVP invitations correctly in order to save them from scrambling at the last minute to determine exactly how many people will be attending their event.

Cathleen observes, "The other thing that we see these days is 'regrets only'. I am finding that people who are putting 'regrets only' on the invitation… are regretting it. People aren't calling at all. They really don't have a good idea of a head count." This also makes stragglers more apt to plan on coming and then change their plans at the last minute, not thinking about it as much as they would have if they had put their commitment to attend in writing.

If you are planning an event, always send out a card that requires a response for either acceptance or declining of the invitation; not one that states they have to reply only "with regrets" if not attending. It is better to have to call a few names on the list that didn't RSVP rather than trying to figure out who of those who didn't send "regrets" are really attending.