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What Does R.S.V.P. Mean?

Updated on October 29, 2013
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Liz has been an online writer for over nine years. Her articles often focus on music & culture of the 20th century. She also writes poetry.

Alice was not impressed with the manners of these party guests...
Alice was not impressed with the manners of these party guests... | Source

Basic Good Manners

As the holiday season approaches, I'd like to air a pet peeve. Modern society seems to have forgotten its manners. Granted, the holidays are busy, and everyone is pressed for time, with many parties, children's events, and so on.

However, being busy is no excuse for being rude. If you get an invitation to a party, it is very rude not to let the hosts know whether or not you are able to come.

The hosts need to know how many people to expect, so they can have enough snacks, drinks, main courses, or what have you (or what dishes will be arriving if it's a pot-luck affair).

Don't get me wrong--this applies all year, not just at the holiday season. For there are birthday and anniversary parties; graduation parties; wedding receptions and all manner of other parties happening at any given time. Good manners and being punctual apply year-round.

So, What Does it Mean?

That little tag note at the bottom of the invitation, reading "R.S.V.P." comes to us from the French, and in French, reads, "Repondez, s'il vous plait." It translates as, "Respond, if you please."

  • R.S.V.P. does NOT mean, "I'll show up if I remember or have extra time that day,"
  • R.S.V.P. does NOT mean, "Sorry--I said I'd come, but I changed my mind, and I don't think it's important to let you know,"
  • R.S.V.P. most certainly does NOT mean, "I'll come unless I get a better/more interesting offer between now and your party,"
  • R.S.V.P. does NOT mean, "I can't make up my mind, and I'm waiting to see if something better comes along, so I'm not going to let you know until the day of the party."
  • R.S.V.P. does NOT mean, "I don't know--I'll see,."

The last three 'variations on the same theme" on the list are the pinnacle of rude and selfish behavior, and an excellent way to find yourself not invited to any more parties, especially if you make a habit of this sort of thing.

Always call and respond to a party invitation
Always call and respond to a party invitation | Source

When Do I Have to Reply?

R.S.V.P.'s normally have a deadline date by which the host needs to know how many of the invited guests to expect...the polite thing is to reply at least by that deadline, and preferably before.

After all, it takes time to put on a party, shopping for supplies, decorations, food and beverages. Add to that the time in extra clean-up of the house, making sure everything is sparkling clean for the guests, and the actual food preparation as well. It takes a lot of time and energy.

The host thought enough to invite you--be polite enough to reply in a timely fashion to show your appreciation.

But Can I Get Out of It?

In a word, no. If you have replied that you will attend, then do so!

If another invitation comes up later for the same day and time, you give your regrets to that one, saying you are very sorry, but you have a prior engagement. That is the polite thing to do, no matter how much you might rather go to the second party. They didn't get their invitation to you first, so, oh well; that's life.

Do not call at the last minute and give a lame, vague excuse that "something came up" in order to go to a different event. It is dishonest, and rude; it's in the same category as calling in fake-sick to play hooky from work.

If anything "comes up" to prevent you from attending, it had better be serious, like an accident, a death in the family, or yourself becoming ill with the flu or something. And be honest and forthcoming about that, giving the specific problem; the host will be sympathetic and understanding if you have encountered a genuine problem or loss. Not so much so if you just blow her off, pull a no-show, or give a no-reason lame excuse.

What Kind of Partier Are You?

What kinds of parties do you prefer?

See results

Let the Parties Roll!

In the words of a famous pair of nerds from a certain movie, "party on, dudes!"

But please, party responsibly, and courteously.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2013 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there alexadry,

    Glad to have been able to inform and (hopefully) entertain. I'm sure you'll get a party invite one of these days! Heck, if not, then host your own! Sounds like you might have a lot of 'doggie parties.' ;-)

    Thanks much for the comment and vote!

  • alexadry profile image

    Adrienne Farricelli 

    6 years ago

    Dear Lizzy, I loved reading this hub on proper party etiquette. I haven't been to a party for so long, but who knows maybe one day I will and will follow your suggestions. We live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, so not much socializing going on other than people dropping off doggies as they go on vacation. Voted up!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Oh my gosh, Catherine, how very rude that person was! I'm afraid my own response to that may have been a bit on the impolite side, telling her, "If that's how you treat your hosts, no wonder you don't get 'better' invitations." And then I probably would have 'un-invited' her. Yikes, and to bring extra people without asking first?? No class, really; none at all.

    Well, you now know who you will never invite again!

    Thanks for sharing that story, and the vote!

  • CatherineGiordano profile image

    Catherine Giordano 

    7 years ago from Orlando Florida

    Thanks for reminding people to have good manners .I actually once had a guest tell me she couldn't let me know until an hour before the party because she was hoping for a better invitation and then she came to my dinner party an hour late and brought two friends with her without asking me if it was OK to bring them. Voted up.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Suzanne!

    Yes, I know what you mean. I still deal with this today, from even good friends who should know better. We have an annual holiday party. It's always the same day every year: the second Saturday in December. I tell people, "If you can't make it this year, put it on your calendar NOW for next year!" Still, this year's invitations went out to about 24 people, and (as of this writing, just a few days left til the R.S.V.P. deadline), I've heard back only from 4 (2 of whom are my own daughters!) It is SO frustrating. I almost feel like abandoning the old "R.S.V.P." for something along the lines of, "PLEASE call, e-mail, message me on FaceBook, or Otherwise let me know if you're coming so I can know how much stuff I need to buy!"

    Do you think that would work?? LOL

    Thanks much for your comment and the votes!

  • Suzanne Day profile image

    Suzanne Day 

    7 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    I wish I could hand this out to the parents of the schoolkids I invite to my children's parties. They never RSVP and then you can't tell if anyone's coming or if you're going to end up with 40 kids. Maybe I should just write RSVP in GIANT letters across the top of the invitation and see if they grasp it? Or maybe I will just write the link to this hub in the invitation ;) Voted.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Audrey--

    Gosh, that could run into a lot of money! I hadn't even thought of that, having never been in charge of a pay-per-plate dinner; I was only thinking of the inconvenience to the hosts at their home, having shopped for all the goodies, and maybe bought more than they'd need. I guess, in a way, that amounts to the same thing. Good point!

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment and the share!

  • brakel2 profile image

    Audrey Selig 

    7 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Hi Lizzy. You have lots of responses for this one. I have been guilty of this one, so it is a good reminder. I have never just shown up without responding. Once I was in charge of a dinner and had to pay for the dinners of no shows. I wonder how often that happens. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Blessings. Audrey. Sharing.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Thanks, moonlake! I bet I'm older! LOL I know there are still many of us from the 'before texting' days...some of them have lost their manners, as well. Thanks much for the compliment and the votes!

  • moonlake profile image


    7 years ago from America

    Great hub and I think there are lots of people that don't understand what RSVP means. I'm old and know we were using that before texting. Voted up and more.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, WiccanSage,

    LOL...I know--many don't know the original meaning/translation, but it used to be common knowledge what it meant you were supposed to do. Common knowledge doesn't seem to be so common anymore. I'm glad you liked the article. Thanks very much!

  • WiccanSage profile image

    Mackenzie Sage Wright 

    7 years ago

    I always wondered what it literally meant but never thought to look it up. I hate when people don't RSVP, or say they'll come then don't show up-- drives me nuts, lol. Great article.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, tillsontitan,

    I agree. It is disgusting that adults should have to be given lessons in good manners! Thanks so much for your comment, support and the votes!

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    7 years ago from New York

    It is so embarrassing that society as a whole has forgotten its manners. This is a perfect reminder to some and education to others about responding to invitations, especially when they include an RSVP!

    No matter what, manners never go out of style.

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi drbj!

    Yes, I agree. The state of our society is the problem--too many people have gotten so selfishly self-absorbed. It's all about "Me, Me, ME!" You see it in how people drive, as well.

    Consider yourself invited...but be advised, we live about 3,000 miles apart... ;-)

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    7 years ago from south Florida

    Must be the state of our society today, Liz, that you even have to mention the importance of R.S.V.P. But if you invite me, I will attend. Promise!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello MsDora!

    I agree--small courtesies add up to a smoother social life, less angst and hurt feelings and fewer misunderstandings. I appreciate your input and thanks much for the kind words and the vote!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    7 years ago from The Caribbean

    You made very good points to which I totally agree. We shouldn't allow these little but important courtesies to disappear. Voted useful.

  • Nellieanna profile image

    Nellieanna Hay 

    7 years ago from TEXAS

    My pleasure, Ms. Lizzy! (Y)

  • Nellieanna profile image

    Nellieanna Hay 

    7 years ago from TEXAS

    My pleasure, m'dear! :-)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Writer Fox!

    Thanks so very much for your contribution and vote. Much appreciated, and I'm delighted that you found the article worthy. Cheers!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Nellianna!

    I agree with you 100%! If you are less than sure about the "fun factor" of the invitation, politely decline, and as you say, if your sorry self ends up home alone, that's the way the cookie crumbles, and you got what you deserved!

    Thanks very much for the support and well-put comment. Thanks, too, for the vote and share!

  • Writer Fox profile image

    Writer Fox 

    7 years ago from the wadi near the little river

    This is an excellent subject and I'm glad you're getting the word out. Hosts and hostesses go to a lot of trouble and expense to plan gatherings and to prepare enough refreshments for all guests. It truly is rude not to respond seriously to a formal invitation. I've attending wedding receptions where meals had to be paid for dozens of guests who didn't show up. Voted up.

  • Nellieanna profile image

    Nellieanna Hay 

    7 years ago from TEXAS

    Thank you for this one, Ms Lizzy! It's a timely and excellent subject, well presented! It gets my vote and high praise. It bears sharing, as well!

    This has been a major peeve of mine, too, for many years. It seems to have begun during the 1960s, when other 'old-fashioned', responsible, restrictive civilized rules of conduct and good behavior were questioned. Granted, many of the old rules were either inapplicable or impractical, but any etiquette standard which impacts the other parties more than superficially certainly should not be ignored or discarded. If one is invited to a party which will require preparations in proportion to the number of guests who will be attending is not superficial. If one doesn't know about it, the proper reply by the deadline is "No, thank you." If it results in sitting at home alone that evening, so be it. If one hopes for a 'better' deal, then one should be willing to pay the piper by waiting for it and if it comes, to act responsibly to THAT invitation, as well, by letting the host know, unless it's announced as being unnecessary. There is no excuse for disregarding the welfare and feelings of others and for being irresponsible for one's conduct.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ mathira-- I'm glad you liked the article. Many thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    @ janshares--Hell0! You are so correct. I'm pleased to have been of "service." ;-)

    @ ChitrangadaSharan--Thank you so much for your comment and input. I'm pleased you found the article useful.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    7 years ago from New Delhi, India

    Nice hub and a good reminder to everyone about the courteous mannerisms, one should exhibit after receiving an invitation.

    Nice thoughtful hub!

  • janshares profile image

    Janis Leslie Evans 

    7 years ago from Washington, DC

    I agree, RSVPs should be honored and taken seriously. In fact, I have one I need to respond to now! Thank you, DzyMsLizzy, for this timely hub and reminder.

  • mathira profile image


    7 years ago from chennai

    It is basic etiquette and much needed reminder for the modern society to remember this common courtesy we owe to the host. I liked it.


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