I’m RSVPing for your party

The holidays are here and that means a lot of parties. Perhaps you’ve received a few invitations for holiday functions. Whether the invitations are for a holiday cocktail party or a summer barbeque the invitation most likely has the acronym RSVP on it. Let’s talk about that acronym and why people add it to their invitations.

RSVP is an abbreviation for the French phrase “Repondez S’il Vous Plait”, or “please respond” in English. When you see “RSVP” on an invitation it means “Please tell me if you are attending my party or not.” The host(ess) adds that so that s/he knows how many people to plan for. It’s hard to know how much liquor and food to have on hand if you don’t know how many people are attending your event. There’s nothing worse than running out of spirits or goodies during your party.

For some reason, despite RSVP or another request to respond yay or nay being on most invitations, many people do not respond. This is where I’m going to be firm. It is terribly rude and maddening to not respond to an invitation, even if you can’t attend.

I have heard so many horror stories about people’s bad manners when it comes to responding to invitations. Here’s the worst. A friend of a friend, who was expecting her second child, endured in one terrible day the loss of her husband and house, and learned that she was bankrupt. A baby shower had been planned for a date shortly after the horrible day. Of eight people who were invited only three responded they were coming. Two of those who said they were coming didn’t attend after all, and two who didn’t respond ended up showing up.

This poor woman! In her worst circumstances even her friends let her down. Now obviously most hosts are not destitute, but it is simply unacceptable to not respond to an invitation.

The other thing that seems to be a regular problem is people who say they are coming and then don’t show up. Perhaps you have said you were attending an event and then at the last minute decide you don’t want to go. Maybe you think, oh, I’m sure she won’t miss not having little ole me there. But I can guarantee you you’re not the only one who does this. Suddenly, the host who planned for 25 has only 12 people attend.

Here are the rules. If you are invited to a function of any kind whether it’s via evite or a mailed invitation, you must respond that you are attending or not within 48 hours of receiving the invitation. If you said you were attending, please attend! If you said you weren’t attending, please don’t attend!

And lastly, when you do respond, it’s not grammatically correct to say “I’m RSVPing to your event.” Simply say, “I’m responding to your holiday party invitation. John and I will be there.” Or “I regret John and I can’t attend.” If you can’t attend, you don’t need to give an excuse. But if it makes you feel better, simply say “we have other plans that night.” Those plans could be to watch Seinfeld reruns, but the host doesn’t need to know that.

Have you hosted a party where people didn’t respond? If you’re guilty of not responding, what kept you from doing so? Why do you think people don’t respond to invitations? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Carole on December 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I entertain quite a bit, so always respond and always do what I say I’m going to do.

    I think the worst offenders are those who don’t entertain, so are clueless as to what it means to plan and host a party, and the effect their rudeness (lack of RSVP or don’t do what they said they would do) has on the host(s). These wafflers (as I like to call them), also tend to do things like, bring 2 extra guests at the last minute.

    My worst response rate recently was a party where 65 people said they were coming, and only 40 showed. 25 no shows! I was pretty miffed.

  2. ArdenClise on December 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Carole,

    I think you are right, that it’s often people who don’t host parties that don’t understand how hard it is on a host to not reply to the invitation. There is no better teacher then when you are the host of a party to feel the sting of 25 no shows. I can understand how miffed you were.

    Good for you for being a good guest. Nice to hear from you.

  3. PartyHostessMom on November 25, 2014 at 9:32 am

    ArdenClise What do you consider a standard response rate for a mid- Dec. holiday party where you are inviting families and their children?  It will be catered, so I don’t have to do a lot of work, but need a head count. Also, sending out invites two weeks prior. What is rule of thumb on the top number to invite in a home??  Think adults and young children.

  4. ArdenClise on December 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    @PartyHostessMom I’m so sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I just saw your comment. For any party, the standard response rate should be 48 hours upon receiving the invitation. If you don’t hear from people a week or two before the party call or email them to follow-up. 
    As for how many to invite it really depends on the size of your house, if it’s a cocktail type party or a sit down dinner. You need to decide how many you’re comfortable having in your house, your budget and if they are sitting, how many people you can accommodate. 
    I’m sure you had the party by now. I hope it went well.

  5. No One on August 2, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    We live in an electronic age and today’s invitations often come in an electronic format. One of the worst examples of poor etiquette that I’ve encountered was a repose posted on an invitation site. The invitee responded MAYBE, and commented “It all depends on if we get a better offer”. The poor misguided soul thought they were being funny. Sadly the comment was posted for all to see. Other invitees found the response offensive and commented on the individuals lack of social skills and common sense. Some suggested a that perhaps a gift of social skills training with a qualified therapist would be an appropriate gift for the respondee.

  6. Dianne on June 5, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    When you RSVP through email, what should the subject field say?

  7. Arden Clise on June 6, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    HI Dianne,

    It could be a few things. “Responding to your party invitation, “I will be attending your party!” ,”Regrets for your party invitation”, “Thank you for the invitation”

    I hope that helps.

  8. Giles on November 10, 2020 at 9:26 am

    I was always taught that RSVP means – Reservez votre place. (Reserve your place)

  9. Arden on November 10, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    Hello Giles, well that is very clever, but the correct translation is “Respond please.”

  10. […] to feel slighted. Consist of the date, location (with instructions), drop-off and pick-up times, and R.S.V.P. info. Spell out anything to bring, such as swimwear and a towel. If you’ll be serving lunch or […]

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