About Me

I’m Louise. Blogger. Wife. Designer of TruLu Couture Veils + Accessories.  If you’d like to know more, check out my bio.

Follow Me!



« Friday Funday | Main | CONTEST TIME! (And a word to my friend, Belinda...) »

The Art of the RSVP

From the French RSVP, répondez s'il vous plaît or répondre s'il vous plaît, meaning Reply Please.

Here's the cold hard fact about RSVP's: PEOPLE STINK when it comes to doing it. STINK! Like POOP!

And here's another cold hard fact for you folks who think you know what RSVP means for other people, but not you. YOU NEED TO EFFING RSVP. GET IT? I don't care if you're the BFF, the MOH, the favorite uncle, the freakin' MOB...when it comes to weddings YOU NEED TO RSVP. Do you get it now? Do you? I don't think you do. I swear, like the sanest and smartest people I know in the entire world are bordering on Corky when it comes to the RSVP. I take that back. I bet Corky RSVP's.

Here are some personal doozies:

  • I helped throw a wedding shower in California when I lived in Chicago. I coordinated with the bride's mom and the bride. I made out invitations, did little Google maps and stuff and sent them all out in plenty of time for people to manage their schedules. I included my phone number and email as well as the MOB's email and phone. NOT ONE PERSON RSVP'd to me or the MOB. And everyone came. When I complained (not too loudly, I hope) to the bride, she told me, "I saw So-n-So on campus and she told me she's coming!" Inside, I seethed. And all the people at the shower? In total and complete honesty? They all dropped a notch in my Human Approval Rating. Why? Because each and every one, by ignoring the simple task of RSVPing, was subtly telling me that the time and energy put into the event wasn't worth their time.Therefore, I thought less of them. Harsh? Maybe.
  • For our wedding we had a handful of people start to bark at us about not getting an invitation. They are distant relatives that neither of us had seen or heard from in over a decade. Suddenly, they wanted to see us so we sent them invites after several heated arguments between me, The Candyman and my mom. And you know what? No freakin' RSVP. Not only that, no communication after the invite went out AT ALL. To this day. Um, really?
  • We had 13 separate people not send in the RSVP cards. Two people did not RSVP and yet they showed up. We had 4 people RSVP yes who did not come, though two recanted the "yes" in time for us to adjust the numbers.

I recently had a bride tell me that on her RSVP, she wrote "Please Respond by October Thirtieth." A good number of people have openly complained to her...."how can we respond by the 13th when we just got the invitation?" Um, yeah. People, please READ before you go bothering the bride with your stupidity. Thirtieth is NOT Thirteenth. You see those little letters there? They spell shit.

And I had someone, a single someone, who wasn't dating ANYONE, reply with a +1 when a +1 clearly wasn't invited. I did a lot of online research to figure out the best way to tell her that her +1 was going to be a -1. In my research, I ended up on a lot of message boards and chat rooms where women had gone absolutely batshit crazy about who is supposed to RSVP and who isn't. AGAIN, if you get an invitation that requests an RSVP, you need to send one. There are no questions, no ifs, no ands, no buts. Are you getting it yet? 

If not, I will repeat: if you get an invitation that has an RSVP on it you need to follow the instructions on that invitation to reply. Don't call when it says email. Don't leave a message on Facebook (yup, I got one of those too). Don't assume the person who has so thoughtfully invited you to a function, enough so to personally send an invitation, knows your schedule and can keep up with it and the 150 other people she invited.

You know what it is to not RSVP? Or worse, have the  person hunt you down for an answer? It is simply rude. Rude. It's bad manners. That's right, manners. Not sure what those are? Here's a formal description via Wikipedia:

In sociology, manners are the unenforced standards of conduct which demonstrate that a person is proper, polite, and refined. They are like laws in that they codify or set a standard for human behavior, but they are unlike laws in that there is no formal system for punishing transgressions, other than social disapproval. They are a kind of norm. What is considered "mannerly" is highly susceptible to change with time, geographical location, social stratum, occasion, and other factors. That manners matter is evidenced by the fact that large books have been written on the subject, advice columns frequently deal with questions of mannerly behavior, and that schools have existed for the sole purpose of teaching manners.

I prefer this excerpt from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, probably the greatest book of all time.  

There's a scene where Scout invites a boy, Walter, to her house for supper. Upon being served, Walter proceeds to pour syrup all over his food and Scout explodes with some expletives of wonder and concern. Calpurnia, their nanny and housekeeper, yanks Scout into the kitchen with this retort:

Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house, they are company and don't let me catch you remarking on their ways like you were so high and mighty. That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear? And if you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen.

And if you can't act fit to take an entire 2 minutes to reply to an RSVP, you shouldn't have been invited anyway. So there.

It's funny, I found an article on BitchBuzz (a fave, natch) that had nearly the same title I have given this post. What struck me the most about this article were the most common reasons why people do not RSVP.

They’re almost always one of three common excuses:

1) “I receive too many invitations.”

You mean you’re so popular that you don’t possibly have the time to let people know if you’ll be coming? Or, do you prefer to remain mysterious, leaving people waiting in hope that you’ll grace them with your presence? I hate to burst your bubble, but nobody is so busy or important that they can’t respond to an invitation.

Agreed. You are not that busy. No one is. And here's the thing, let's say I send you an invitation and you are one of the kinds of people who don't send it back. I am going to bet you a million bajillion dollars that if I TEXTED you something that was important to you at that red hot second? You'd reply. You know you would. That makes you lame. Yes, it does.

2) “I don’t like to say no to people.”

Many people find it hard to say “No”, and usually this is because they don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings. What is forgotten is that saying “Yes” when you really mean “No” is more hurtful than declining in the first instance. If you’re not planning on showing up, why say you will be?

I'm going to put this into the camp of the "yes" reply followed shortly thereafter with a "no" because "something came up." Yeah.....no. That doesn't fly either. Let's say you get invited to my house for a dinner party. You accept. Awesome. You show up at my house, dressed to the nines when the invite said Casual. You then inform me that you are just "dropping by" because you're going to the new restaurant that just opened and it was the only night you could get reservations that month. This actually happened to me and you know what? I'm not friends with that couple anymore. Not just because of that (although I think that was enough), but because of similarly rude actions that were just shy of saying, "You're really not that important in our lives, but we'll pretend you are if you pretend too." Yeah, eff that people. Just tell me you're not coming. I made a nice dinner that night for six people. I spent time and money and effort on a meal for six when a meal for four would have been cheaper, easier and less of a hassle. Hope those reservations were worth it!

3) “I’d like to go but I might have something else on.” If this is the case, say no. Don’t leave the host hanging because you’d like to keep your options open. You can always ask later on if it’s not too late to join in. But saying “Maybe” almost always translates as, “I’ll attend… if nothing better comes up”.

If this is your excuse, I don't want you as my friend. I don't. This may sound harsh, but it's the truth. If you are so popular that you cannot commit to a party, wedding, bat mitzvah, tea, you're probably too popular for the likes of me. Nobody wants to feel second rate to whatever uber-fabulous social life you think you have. And going back to the point in #2: if you commit to something with an RSVP of "yes" then anything else that comes your way? You say this, "Oh, thank you so much for the invitation but I'm sorry I can't come. I have a prior commitment. But please keep me in mind next time!"

Someone (maybe Grandmother Nanya) told me a long time ago that the point of good manners is to make other people feel at ease in your presence. I really like that explanation. No one wants to see you chomping food with your mouth open, it grosses some people out and makes them uncomfortable. Holding a door for someone gives them validation that they have been noticed, that they exist and it makes them feel good. Sending a thank you note for a gift tells the sender that it was both received and appreciated. And in return, the people you are polite to will know you were NOT just so busy and popular that you didn't have the decency to show a shred of politeness to a thoughtful person.

And I don't think that this would be a complete discussion of RSVPs with out the how-to's from the guru of etiquette, the Mistress of American Manners, Miss Emily Post.  Here are the rules:

How do I respond? Reply in the manner indicated on the invitation.

  • RSVP and no response card: a handwritten response to the host at the return address on the envelope. (FYI - I got a wedding invite like this once a long time ago and had NO CLUE what to do. I ended up emailing the groom my RSVP. Emily rolled in her grave, I'm sure) 
  • Response Card: fill in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope.
  • RSVP with phone number: telephone and make sure to speak in person – answering machines can be unreliable.
  • RSVP with email: you may accept or decline electronically.
  • Regrets only: reply only if you cannot attend. If your host doesn’t hear from you, he is expecting you!
  • No reply requested? Unusual, but it is always polite to let someone know your intentions. A phone call would be sufficient.

Is that your final answer?

  • Changing a ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ is only acceptable on account of: illness or injury, a death in the family or an unavoidable professional or business conflict. Call your hosts immediately.
  • Canceling because you have a “better” offer is a sure fire way to get dropped from ALL the guest lists.
  • Being a “no show” is unacceptable.
  • Changing a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ is OK only if it will not upset the hosts’ arrangements.

“May I bring…”

Don’t even ask! An invitation is extended to the people the hosts want to invite—and no one else.

  • …a date. Some invitations indicate that you may invite a guest or date (Mr. John Evans and Guest) and when you reply, you should indicate whether you are bringing someone, and convey their name.
  • …my children. If they were invited, the invitation would have said so.
  • … my houseguest. It’s best to decline the invitation, stating the reason. This gives your host the option to extend the invitation to your guests, or not.

Granted some of these things may seem a little dated, or a little stiff. That's A-OK. You know why it's OK? Because it's good manners and manners are supposed to be a little stiff. It's polite. It's the right thing to do regardless of what your friends do, what's been done to you (I'm guilty of this one, I'll admit it) or what you read on some lame message board. I think that as a culture and a country we've become a little too me-centric in everything we do. I see it every day in the way we drive drve on the road together, how we treat total strangers, how the anonymity of the internet gives people a sense of power that really, none of us have. You could say this blog is a result of that trend. You could probably accuse me of a lot of stuff. I'm not perfect. But I do RSVP. Do you? And more importantly, why wouldn't you?


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (25)

Yeah! See, TSB was brought up RIGHT!! A true lady. (Ok, ok, I admit to a little prejudice...)

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMom

This post needs to be printed, distributed, and posted far and wide. I will NEVER understand what is so hard about marking yes or no and dropping a postage-paid RSVP into the mail.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber V

OMG. The +1 thing really got me going when we were waiting for RSVPs. Our invite directed folks to our website where it said very clearly that unless we specified a +1 on your invite, it's just you. So what did I get? A freaking text message from a friend asking if she could bring her "cousin." By marriage. Who she made out with three times. WTF! Haha! I swear I can't make this up. Her excuse? He gets along with all of our friends and they really like him! Um, my reply? HELL NO. You can't bring your fake cousin so you can just gross it up and make out at my wedding?

And another friend of mine tricked us. Oh yes they did! She asked if she could bring her boyfriend/guy she was seeing. I figured it was okay since my friend hadn't been in a relationship for some time she was really excited about this guy. So I emailed her, said it was okay and then added (I'm a sneaky devil too) "can't wait to meet your boyfriend!" And she replies with this (via email): "Oh, he's not my boyfriend. We're just talking. Actually it was his idea to see if he could come. Isn't that cute?" CUTE? TALKING? You've got to be effing kidding me. The toolbag showed up in a pink polo under a searsucker suit and the most organest of orange tans you'll ever see. Grr...

But yea, I'm totally over that now. :)

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

thank you SO MUCH for telling it like it is... i LOATHE when people dont RSVP, especially as I really try to make it easy on people to do so with LOTS of advance warning (as in 4 to 6 weeks for showers, etc) and i just think it shoes their rude manners--preach on lady!!

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternatasha

This drives me up the wall. For our wedding only about 5 members of my husband's family replied. 5, out of 40. We had to hunt down phone numbers, and then they were annoyed at us for bothering them! Well, excuse me, I thought maybe you'd like to share our happiness. If that's your attitude, I don't want you there.

Worse than the requested +1s, in my opinion, are when guests show up with +1s, even though they RSVPed as coming by themselves. My mother's best friend decided it was ok to bring her daughters ... one of which needed a child's meal (thank God for caterers who are amazing and flexible). They then proceeded to take over a table that had been reserved for part of our wedding party. When I mentioned to my mother she said "oh, it's fine, it's Joan!" ... as if that excused it. I'm sorry, I don't care WHO you are. DON'T DO IT, ANY OF IT.

Ugh. What a mess.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I got a mention in your blog! Awesome! Yup, people are sucking. I've gotten TEXT MESSAGES from FAMILY MEMBERS saying that they're coming. My reply to them? "Great! Are you going to send me your RSVP card? That way I won't forget." It kills me. I can't believe the number of people that misread the damn thing. We sent out a second batch of invites and I changed the damn date just to avoid this situation. My older brother that I rarely speak with and was what I call an "Obligation Invitation" is bringing a date. His invite did not say "and guest." He's not dating anyone. He was one of the texters. "I'm coming and I'm bringing a date. Don't know who yet, but I'm bringing one." I just laughed to myself. Should make for an interesting day! (I'll be very surprised if he actually comes.)

So, the people that did not RSVP at all, did you follow up with a phone call? I've heard of such. If yes, how do you word this? "Hello, So-and-So. Are you freaking coming to my freaking wedding, you lazy, disrespectful SOB?"

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristy V

@Mom - Maybe we should revise "lady" to "some ladylike qualities peppered with sarcasm and a potty mouth."

@Sarah -I would have booted that Joan bitch to the street. The NERVE of some people. And this is my point regarding the me-centric world that seems to invade all aspects of what is suitable and what isn't. We're so afraid to offend the offender. I just don't get it. Not like I need to be the social police, but if people don't wake the eff up, how will things ever improve?

One instance that I didn't mention above...years ago I stopped at the pet store for kitty food and as I was walking in, I held the door for someone who was right behind me. The woman walked in, didn't look at me, acknowledge me, NOTHING. I immediately felt like I was supposed to hold the door for her, like she was better than me or something. I was FURIOUS. So I said, "Fuck you too, Lady."
This snapped her out of her little me-centric world and she apologized all over herself. Did I over react? Oh, yeah. Did I make a point? OH YEAH.

October 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

@Christy - For the people who did not RSVP - I had The Candyman try to get in touch with them (at that point, I had to delegate) and he couldn't get answers. Basically, we decided that if they showed up, we would of course invite them to the ceremony, but that we would point blank tell them that we could not accommodate them at the reception until after dinner was finished. I mean, if you don't RSVP to a wedding, you can't expect to get fed.

October 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

What an amazing and well written post! I'm interested to see what is going to happen with our RSVPs. We have a hard limit of 60 people so we really have to crack down on +1s and there will be no kids. I certainly hope that a bunch of people don't show up with guests or else we are going to have a serious problem!! I'm trying to think of the best ways to get this across:
"We have reserved 1 seat in your honour" on the RSVP card?
FAQs on our website regarding guests and childcare?

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeana

O-M-F-G! Do NOT get me started on the RSVPs! Worst part of wedding planning BY FAR. I seriously dislike some people now. What is the problem? I pride myself on putting RSVPs back in the mail or responding in the situation appropriate manner in a TIMELY manner. The one time I haven't RSVPd and it was pointed out to me, I was horrified because I thought that I had. I couldn't apologize enough.

For the wedding, we had three different "units" reply with extra people AND 15 people replied "yes" that didn't show up. Um, can I have my $300 back that we overpaid the caterer for you lazy bastards? No?

The only redemption in my book for this sort of behavior is if you bought us a REALLY nice gift. A couple of people mentioned above did do that. Most of them didn't ... not by a long shot. That's a sad way to think about it, but RSVP is a signal that someone is putting a lot of time, effort and money toward and event. This post is fabulous!

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatosha

This is why I am treating our RSVPs like a marketing campaign - email, repeated email, 30 days out WTF email (all automatically scheduled now.) So many friends warned me that the RSVP cards were a giant waste of money and postage that I'm not bothering. Also, I can see who hasn't opened the email at 30 days out and I'll give them a call. Fun, no. Expected, yes. But it would be nice if everyone replied without needing to hunt them down.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

@Becca, I would have LOVED to have that kind of approach with my wedding. The sad thing is that good chunk of The Candyman's people do not have computers. We could not reply on that as a means of communication. I mean, I sent 9 invitation to the same address - a PO Box - so his dad could distribute since addresses couldn't be confirmed through FAMILY MEMBERS. Crazy, I know.
Even still, my tech-savvy family didn't bother reading the wedding webpage, hardly any of my friends did. When I sent an email blast with a link to the site to share details, one person actually sent me a reply asking for the link. That I had just sent.
It was effing ridiculously stupid.

October 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

This part was my favorite: "You see those little letters there? They spell shit."

Also, we were planning to include instructions to RSVP on our wedsite, but now I'm wondering if we need both the return card and the online RSVP. Damn.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

@Sarah - My knee jerk response was DO BOTH! But then I'm thinking that because people are so lame (see everything above), both might confuse the hell out of people. I dunno. I'm no help. All I know is that when it comes to the RSVP, most people suck.

October 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

For my wedding a friend of mine (who is a self proclaimed wedding etiquette nazi) hadn't RSVP'd yet. So finally a week before the wedding I emailed her and asked if she was coming. She apologized profusely for not responding sooner and said that yes she and her husband were definitely coming (remember 1 week before the wedding). Guess what they didn't show! 5 months later I still haven't heard from her as to why they didn't show. Though they did send a wedding gift. I was so pissed!

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannonn

@Louise - Arg. You made me realize I probably need RSVP postcards for the old people we're barely related to. Grandparents, we are planning to call. But we don't even have phone numbers for the Great Aunt Marthas, who were only invited as a familial courtesy. Blerg. Blerg blerg BLERG. Ok. I revise my earlier statement. We're hoping for a 80% success rate on the emails, 10% on physical RSVPs and 10% on irritated phone calls.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

YUP- I was soooooooo delighted to read this post that I even forwarded it to a few friends with whom I've discussed this before. We had people go to our "wed-site" and RSVP...(idea from @BowieBride). http://www.wix.com/mfierle/weddingstravaganza - It worked splendidly for the first few days, but then people forgot to RSVP in general because they couldn't post a cute little card to their refrigerator or something. I had to beg, plead, and cry over this to get people to respond. It really didn't even matter for us because we weren't serving a dinner, but i did need to know in general how many people were coming.

THE WORST was my Mom who kept inviting distant uncles, cousins, dentists. She kept saying "Uncle so-and-so has been really important in my life...blah blah blah" and I kept having to remind her that if my fiance had never met the Dude and I don't even know him that well, he FO SHO wasn't coming to the wedding. I let her have TWO people that I couldn't give a shit whether or not they came, but that WAS IT. And I ended up being glad they came. All in all, it was the perfect most best wedding ever, and no one that I didn't know/want to come came. Actually, except some bitchy girl that a friend invited, but he had asked me VERY politely and apologetically if she could come. It was Vegas and all and everybody needs a date in Vegas, baby. But, she was a bitch. oh well.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarisa

Who is Corky???

We had to track down some of the hub's relatives. I got one of his uncles on the phone and all polite-like said, Hey, just wondering if you'd be able to join us. He said I don't know yet. I paused and said, well I have to know in the next couple days so we make sure we have enough seats and food for everyone. He replied, We'll know when we know" and hung up on me.

I marked them as a NO and decided if they showed up, I'd hand them a dollar and point them toward the vending machine.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaisy

@Abby - Dude. Corky, from Life Goes On, circa 1989-1993. Google it. As for that guest? Yikes.

October 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

I am making my invitations now and am struggling with the wording on the RSVP for just this reason. I guess it would be impolite to say "Please, for the love of G-D just let us know if you are coming so we can plan accordingly. XOXO"

October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

@Abby -- Who is Corky? Ugh. I'm old because I didn't even pause at that reference. Nope. I started humming the damn song.

October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

RSVP.. means respond.. so respond in kind.. send them a letter later saying .. loved having you at our wedding.. NOT!!!


October 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersara

Well, "LO-Weeze":

Well-written, completely to the point and sincere... but... am not sure how Emily Post considers the F-bomb and "stink'n" and "poop" in an explanation of culture, ethics and politeness. Certainly, harsh although targeted and well placed. I like and agree with your message. When teaching or speaking of manners, however, should not the mentor be above reproach in presentation? We Marines had a saying that "one should not shit in their own mess kit"... you may have violated that principle. Love you all the same! My best to The Candyman.


October 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJackal (aka Dick W)

@DIck - LOL! MY Dad said the EXACT same thing. And I don't know if "shit in my own mess kit" is the proper cliche here (assuming I know the precise definition on the USMC vernacular) I would use is "walk my talk." AND, I thought about adding this somewhere in the post, me talking about someone having bad manner is actually bad manners, right?

As for Emily Post, the basics of her rules hold steadfast and true, don't you think? Regardless of how fast the times around us may be changing.

October 26, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

Oh how I wish I'd had this a month ago when we sent our invitations. I would have printed it and stapled it to every RSVP postcard (which were pre-stamped, by the way, making them oh so easy to mail back).
So many family members just mentioned to my mom that they would/wouldn't be able to make it so we got the news third hand. We are limited budget-wise on how many people we can accommodate so we went out of our way to (politely) let people know that "plus ones" weren't included -- especially if we'd never met the person. We still got several responses adding their own plus one including one person who wrote "...and guest. I don't know who it is yet, but I'll find someone!" Yeah, no. We told her she could call of the search because "stranger you picked up on the street" wasn't invited. What is *wrong* with people?!?

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElle

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>