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Your host’s success hinges on your RSVP

April 29, 2018 GMT

Bonjour. This week we focus on the French phrase répondez s’il vous plaît. Also recognized by the abbreviation RSVP, it translates to “please respond.” But its meaning, lost in translation, is often interpreted as “Let me know if you feel like it.”

By popular request, I revisit the topic of what to do when RSVPs go MIA.

I recently received an email from a young bride planning her wedding. Oh the naïveté in her optimistic voice. She thought that by sending out real paper invitations with an RSVP date (which has arrived), her invitees would respond appropriately (and six did). Shame. The poor girl is trapped in a veil of expectation. Surely she can tell the caterers to prepare food for somewhere between six and 50 guests. I’m quite certain the vendors will stand by to spontaneously add and set five more tables should the other 44 show up at the last minute.


When a host extends an invitation, they are making a financial and emotional investment in you. Absolutely every detail of an event hinges on the head count. As an invitee, you are one of those heads. By not responding expeditiously, your host plays a guessing game with their wallet and time.

Delaying or not responding to an RSVP sends the message that one is ungrateful or lazy, or that invitees are weighing their options — perhaps some better offer will come along.

At a time when every technology and method of communication is at our disposal, getting people to RSVP is like pulling teeth. In the olden days, one had to reply in writing, for example, to a wedding invitation. Brides didn’t include blank reply cards with a self-addressed, stamped envelope in the invitation suite. The invitees knew to reply in their own hand on personal stationery, and it is still the case in some parts of the world. In more recent history, one might pick up the telephone to RSVP.

In the modern era, brides and hosts alike are turning to the internet to create and email invitations for their cost effectiveness and minimal environmental impact. Online invitations from Evite and Paperless Post are quite common and acceptable for a variety of events. I pay more attention to them in my inbox because the sender typically chooses individual invitees rather than selecting an entire contact list. It feels slightly more personal than mass emails and therefore elicits my reply.

A Facebook invitation is often directed to the masses, an entire list of “friends.” I tend to take these less seriously because of the sheer volume of events, be they art exhibits, fundraisers, etc. I think the key to an electronic invitation is to personalize it in some way. But no matter the method, I do my best to reply, as it only involves the click of a mouse.


As we head toward another eventful summer season, here are some tips to keep a host from getting in a huff.

u RSVP translates to “please reply,” which makes it redundant to write “Please RSVP.”

u Follow the host’s instructions on what method of communication to RSVP with and do it ASAP. This includes both yeses and noes.

u The sooner you send regrets, the sooner your host can invite an alternate.

u Never assume your host assumes you’re coming or not coming.

u Stick to your reply. It is rude not to show up after saying “yes” and equally so to show up after sending regrets or not replying at all.

u A last-minute cancellation requires a phone call and apology.

What to do when your invitees have gone radio silent?

u Be prepared for 75 percent turnout or prep based on previous events you’ve hosted.

u You can contact each guest via email, phone, text, smoke signal. Disguise the correspondence as a cheerful reminder. Try: “This Sunday is our annual Harvest Hoedown. We want to make sure y’all have a full belly and drink in hand, so let us know if you’re comin’. If we don’t hear from you by Wednesday, we’ll see ya another time.” Or use that last line in any communication.

u In the future, include a reply cutoff or try writing “regrets” only with a deadline.

It’s an honor when friends offer to entertain us. Our response should be “OMG. I can’t wait to RSVP.” This polite gesture insures you’ll always be on the invite list and in good company, mon ami.

Bizia Greene is an etiquette expert and owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Send your comments and conundrums to hello@ etiquettesantafe.com or 505-988-2070.