Whether it’s to a wedding, a dinner party, shower or gala event, an invitation comes with some important obligations. Here’s a quick guide to keep you on the guest list.


This little code has been around for a long time. It stands for a French phrase, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which means “please reply.” Proper etiquette requires that if you receive a formal, written invitation, you should reply promptly, perhaps that same day or before the response due date. For a host, this is important because they need to know how many people to count on and how much food and drink to buy. More important, though, is the simple courtesy of responding to someone who was nice enough to invite you, even if it is to say that you regret that you will not be able to attend.

How do I respond?

Reply in the manner indicated on the invitation. Here are some examples of different ways to reply based on the information provided by the host.

  • Response Card included with an invitation: fill in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope.
  • RSVP by phone number: telephone and make sure to speak in person – answering machines can be unreliable.
  • RSVP by email: you may accept or decline electronically.
  • Regrets only: reply only if you cannot attend. If your host doesn’t hear from you, he/she is expecting you.
  • No reply requested: This one is 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 unacceptable, but sometimes things beyond our control do happen. Make sure to call your host immediately. Canceling because you have a “better” offer or just not showing up is a sure way to get dropped from ALL future events. Believe me! Throughout the years I have stopped inviting people to my own personal events because they would reply attending and not show up or call the day before to change their response.

“May I bring…”

This is one that makes my blood boil, but I also understand that some people don’t know better and others just don’t have any shame. An invitation is extended to the people the hosts wants to invite—and no one else. So, don’t ask! Here are some situations I commonly see:

  • …a date. Some invitations indicate that you may invite a guest or date. For example, the envelope is addressed to “Mr. John Evans and Guest.” In this case it’s been made clearly that you are allowed to bring someone. When you reply, you should indicate whether you are bringing someone or not, and convey their name.
  • …my children. If they were invited, the invitation would have said so. There’s no worse feeling then putting your host in an uncomfortable position. Don’t even bother asking. If your kids where invited your envelope would have been addresses to “Mr. & Mrs. J. Smith and Family” or “Mr. & Mrs. J. Smith, Samantha & John”  on the next line.
  • … my house guest. 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.

Say “Thank You.”

Make sure to thank your hosts before you leave their event. Remember, unless you covered some of the expenses, they really didn’t have to invite you.

Reality is, no one has ever gotten seriously injured because they replied to an invitation. So make sure you return the favor and let the invitee know whether or not you’ll be attending.

Xoxo, E.