What Does RSVP Mean?

Répondez s'il vous plaît?

RSVP card

Getty Images / Design by Michela Buttignol

A small and beautiful envelope appears in your mailbox. It’s certainly neither a bill nor junk mail. No, this letter is far more important. You’re the lucky recipient of a wedding invitation. Whether it’s gold-trimmed, adorned, or printed on scented paper, the intent is the same: Your friends or loved ones request your attendance on their special day. As you scan the page, one part leaps out: RSVP, the abbreviation of the French phrase "Repondez, s'il vous plaît." It translates to "Respond, if you please" or, better still, "Respond please."

When you tear open the invitation and start reading, you need to pay close attention to the RSVP section. Usually, this part of the invitation will be a separate card, which you will need to send back to the soon-to-be newlyweds. It may include additional information, such as meal options and the name of your plus-one.

In some cases, there may be no card at all, just a mailing address or email address instead. In any case, you will need to write to the couple stating whether you plan to attend their wedding or otherwise.

How to RSVP 

Now that we understand the meaning of RSVP, let's dive into the actual response. If the to-be-weds included a pre-printed response card, they already did most of the heavy lifting for you. All you need to do is fill in the blanks with accurate information. Alternately, the response card may be blank. If there is no prompt to guide your answers, be sure to include your full name and any additional guests attending with you. Things get a bit trickier if there's no RSVP card included. Check the invitation or wedding website for further details or clues, like an email address or phone number for text replies.

Why It's Important to RSVP

Responding to an invitation is an absolute must, whether you intend to go or not. The chances are that the couple had to make some rather tricky decisions when creating the guest list. Put simply, every wedding guest costs. The price-per-head will always factor into the overall budget. So, the fact that you got invited may mean someone else did not.

With that in mind, letting the couple know whether you will be attending is plain good manners. Should you not be able to make it, for whatever reason, they may be able to invite someone from their ‘maybe’ list. On the other hand, if you’re planning to be a part of their special day, you need to let them know as soon as you can.

How to Cancel or Change an RSVP

Once you’ve RSVP-ed, there’s nothing left to do but wait until the big day arrives. However, life is full of surprises. You may find that your plans change and you need to tell the couple that you can no longer attend. Handling this matter delicately is key. Keep in mind that they will have already made arrangements ahead of time.

As soon as you know that your circumstances have changed, reach out to the couple. While you want to avoid an overly complicated explanation, you should include a reason.

Include a sincere apology as part of this message. Be certain to tailor this letter or email to your circumstances and be as earnest as possible.

RSVP Wording Etiquette

Responding to invitations promptly is polite. Much of the time, RSVP cards will include a line that tells you when you need to respond by. For instance, it may say “Please RSVP by May 31.” That’s a hard deadline but it doesn’t mean that you can’t answer faster. If you already know whether you can attend or not, go ahead and let the couple know.

If you’re struggling to find the right words, don’t panic. There’s a simple, standardized way to respond to an invitation. Fortunately, you don’t need to write an entire essay. Instead, keep things short and snappy. Here’s an example of how you can reply if you are attending the couple’s special day:

Dear [Insert Couple’s Names],

We would like to accept with pleasure the kind invitation to your wedding on Saturday, July 25 at 1.00 PM. We gleefully look forward to the event.

Kind wishes, 

[Insert Your Name(s)]

While the above example works for most circumstances, you may want to jazz things up. If you’re close to the couple in question or simply feel creative, you can add a splash of personality into your RSVP. See the following example:

Dear [Insert Couple’s Names],

Thank you so much for including us in your wedding plans. We accept with pleasure the kind invitation to your wedding on Saturday, July 25 at 1.00 PM. We cannot wait to celebrate your big day with you!

Kind wishes, 

[Insert Your Name(s)]

That’s all well and good, but what if you can’t attend the wedding? The golden rule here is not to overexplain the situation. The most likely reason you can’t make it is simply that you’re busy—nothing more, nothing less. Be sure to state that you have a prior engagement and wish the couple well. Here’s a quick example:

Dear [Insert Couple’s Names],

We would like to thank you for the kind invitation to your wedding on Saturday, July 25 at 1.00 PM. Regrettably, we will be unable to attend due to prior commitments. We wish you the best on your special day!

Kind wishes, 

[Insert Your Name(s)]

Needless to say, you may need to add more information to your personalized RSVP letter or message. If the couple has asked what meals you would like or for other details, you can include them here. Of course, you may also need to include the RSVP card and check the appropriate boxes too. Read the invitation fully and ensure that you follow the instructions down to the letter.

  • When does a wedding RSVP need to be returned by?

    While many couples will provide an exact date to respond to the RSVP by, there may not always be a deadline included. If the timeline is not specified, it's expected that you send your response at least a month prior to the wedding day. Remember, sooner is always better.

  • What should I expect on an RSVP for a wedding?

    At its core, an RSVP will simply inquire about the status of your attendance. However, some couples may ask you to select your food preferences or even pick a favorite song you hope to hear on the dance floor.

  • How do online RSVPs work?

    An online RSVP may be sent through an email or even shared through a text. In most cases, a couple will expect you to respond through a section on their wedding website where you can also find helpful information like the registry, the venue's address, or hotel blocks. Follow the prompts to submit your response—and save the link to refer to later just in case.

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