What Does RSVP Mean—and Answers to All Your Etiquette Questions

There are a few dos and don'ts of responding to an invitation.

Life is filled with events! A ton of planning goes into gatherings like birthday parties, weddings, reunions, graduations, retirement parties, anniversaries—and many more. RSVPs make life so much easier when throwing a gathering. Here are a few helpful tidbits of information whether you're sending invitations or responding to them.

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What does RSVP mean?

For a little over 70 years, we've been officially RSVPing to events, weddings, and social gatherings. The first recorded use was in 1953. RSVP is an abbreviation for the French saying "répondez s'il vous plait", which simply translates to "respond please". The official definition of RSVP is, "to respond to an invitation".

What are RSVPs for?

RSVPs are used to learn how many people are going to attend an event. This is helpful to whoever is planning the event. Knowing an accurate estimate of how many people are attending helps the host determine how much space, food, and the budget they need to make their event happen.

Types of RSVPs


Any time someone invites you to something it's an invitation! It can be verbal if they ask you to come to an event or you can receive a written invitation.

Save the Date

These are usually used to announce a wedding. Information about the date, time, and location of the wedding is provided. When you receive one, it's safe to assume you'll get a wedding invite soon—so clear your calendar!

Digital RSVPs

Great for less informal events like birthday parties and family reunions. Digital RSVPs can be received instantly over text, email, or social media. They also give the host the ability to see who is or isn't coming instantly.

Regrets Only

A regrets-only RSVP is when the host of the event only wants you to respond if you're not coming to the event. If you don't respond to the RSVP, he or she will assume you'll be attending and plan accordingly.

How to respond to an RSVP

Typically, the invitation will have directions on how to respond. Sometimes this can be a simple text or it can include a card you mail back to the host. The best practice is to respond as soon as you can! If you're not sure you can attend, reach out and tell the event organizer.

When to send out an RSVP

Depending on the scale and size of the event, you may want to send out your invitations sooner rather than later. Send out invitations 4-8 weeks in advance (more time for larger events like weddings). This gives guests around 3-6 weeks to decide if they'll be attending or not.

Tips for RSVPs

  • Respond as quickly as you can. This helps the host plan their event better.
  • Don't be afraid to decline. Life happens. They'll understand if you can't go, but save them from spending money on a dinner for you.
  • If the invitation clearly states who's invited by name, it's safe to assume only the people named are invited.
  • Be respectful of the event guidelines like guest limits, no child rules, or a dress code.
  • If you don't receive a plus one, it's best not to ask for one.
  • When the invitation says your name, then followed by "and family", the host is inviting you, your significant other, and immediate family members like children.
  • Don't bring your entire friend group just because you're allowed to list guests on the RSVP.
  • Whether you declined and can go, or you accepted the RSVP and can't go anymore, communicate with your host to find the best solution.
  • As a host, if someone doesn't respond to the invitation, reach out to them to confirm.
  • Always thank the hosts who invited you, even if you can't attend.
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