Saturday, 6 July 2013

Etiquette 101: The RSVP

Unless you live under a rock, the chances are that sometime in your life you will have received an invitation to a special event with the letters ‘R.S.V.P.’ on it.  Yes, in the world beyond Facebook where events require a simple click ‘Yes/No/Maybe’ there is a whole social phenomenon where people write things on paper and send them (by hand or snail mail)!  As we are in summer (!) and wedding season I thought I would explore what these letters mean and the etiquette behind it.

To do: R.S.V.P.
R.S.V.P. stands for ‘r├ępondez s'il vous plait’, which is French for please respond.  It means that someone thinks a lot of you and wants you to attend a certain event- however to aid their planning and to help them not turn into a stressed out crazy person they want to know if you will be able to attend or not.  (I think all of us have, at some point, invited some friends to dinner/birthday meal/celebration/wedding etc and then had a moment of panic where we fear NO-ONE will turn up and we will look like a sad loner, or that too many people will turn up and there won’t be enough cheese and pineapple on sticks to feed everyone….)  This is where the R.S.V.P. comes in handy.  You can keep inviting different friends and family until all the spaces are filled OR you can ensure the catering meets the number of people and you don’t end up with a) lots of grumpy hungry people fighting over the cocktail sausages on sticks or b) you don’t end up having to live on left over food for 3 weeks having massively over catered.  (I have experienced both of those scenarios as a guest and grumpy hungry people are not fun!)

Did you know that the R.S.V.P. appeared in English culture in the late 18th Century.  By the 1920’s American etiquette writer Emily Post noted that ‘anyone receiving an invitation with an R.S.V.P. on it is obliged to reply’.  It was deemed to be in inexcusably rude if you did not reply- let’s hope fewer letters were lost in the post back then!
R.S.V.P. to France!

Nowadays many invitations are still sent with a separate R.S.V.P. postcard allowing the recipient to easily indicate attending or ‘with regrets’ for a non-attendance.  This allows the host to follow up any missing replies.  However the invention of email has lead to many events including an email address or telephone numbers for replies.

When should I reply?
Traditionally the convention is that you send your R.S.V.P. 1-2 days after receiving it.  I think this rule has been relaxed a little however it is advisable to reply 7 days in advance of any R.S.V.P. date.  If not you might end up with a frazzled phone call from a bride/event planner or, even worse, loose your place at the event!

I think I under ordered for 30 people....
Etiquette essentials:
  • If you are unsure of your attendance due to external factors (i.e. a shift rota) just drop your host a message to explain.  They will usually hold your place. 
  • If your invitation is also your R.S.V.P. (tsk!), don’t forget to photocopy the invitation part for future reference. 
  • Put the dates in your diary immediately.  There is no excuse for sending an attending R.S.V.P. and then not turning up due to double booking. 
  • Don’t forget to add any dietary requirements for you (and your guest) with the reply.  There should be a space for this information. 
  • Remember how many people the R.S.V.P. is for, and don’t turn up with extra guests.

Although some etiquette is badly dated in 2013, I think the simple R.S.V.P. is a sign of sticking to your word- something which should never be seen as outdated!

Are you off to any events this summer?  How long do you leave an R.S.V.P?  Do you prefer a written card, email, phone call or facebook R.S.V.P?
A huge thank you to London based Collection 26, event and wedding planners who have sponsored a post on Computergirls Musings.  As always, the topic and words are my choice and not influenced by the blogger or company.  Please take a look at for photographs of their past events (and gorgeous wedding dresses) or to read their tips for planning a party or event!

If you are a blogger or company who would be interested sponsoring a post on Computergirl's Musings, please get in touch for a list of forthcoming posts which have space for sponsorship.  Spaces are limited.  Please note that positive reviews, or content can not be purchased and all sponsorships are disclosed.  Thank you.


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