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

Updated on October 29, 2013
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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

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