What Does RSVP Mean on a Wedding Invitation?

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 or adorned 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.

What Does RSVP Mean?

RSVP is an 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 get 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.

Why It's Important to RSVP

Responding to a wedding 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.

What if Your Plans Change?

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 their wedding. Handling this matter delicately is key. Keep in mind that they will have already made arrangements for you 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.

You also want to 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 wedding 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 a wedding 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 over-explain 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. If the timeline is not specified, it's expected that you send your response at least a month prior to the wedding day. But remember, sooner is always better!

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

    At it's core, a wedding RSVP will simply inquire about the status of your attendance at the soon-to-be newly wed's wedding. 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 wedding RSVP may be sent through an email or even shared through a text. But in most cases, a couple will expect you to respond through a tab on their wedding website where you can also find helpful information like the wedding registry, the venue's address, or hotel blocks. Regardless, follow the prompts to submit your response—and remember to save the link to refer to later in the case that you can't answer right away.

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