You have been invited to a birthday celebration, dinner party, or wedding, and the invitation includes an RSVP. These letters stand for "Respondez, sil vous plait" which means "please respond," and helps the host or hostess get an accurate head count for the event. There is certain etiquette involved with responding to the invitation that you should be aware of, whether or not you are attending the celebration.
If You Are Attending
Guests should respond to the invitation according to the method the host gives. For instance, if an RSVP e-mail is printed on the invite, respond with your confirmation a day or two after receiving the invite; if there is a phone number, call the host to confirm your attendance. If you will be able to attend the event, and the invitation does not come with a response card, it is proper etiquette to send a hand-written note to the host at the invitation's return address. If the invite includes a response card, simply fill out the card, and use the return envelope to mail it back to the host.
If You Are Not Attending
Call the host if there is a phone number on the invite to express your regrets to the host if you will not be able to make it to the party. Or, e-mail by the RSVP date to let the party host you are not coming to the event so he can allot for the right amount of food and drinks. If an invitation says "regrets only," this means you should only respond the invite if you are not going to the party. Otherwise, just mark the date on your calendar and show up to the event!
Bringing a Guest
Unless the invitation suggests that you can bring a date, it is improper etiquette to ask if a guest can accompany you to a date, according to the Emily Post website. When you respond to the invite, make sure you give the hostess your date's name so the person throwing the party can complete the guest list. If the invitation does not say that children are welcomed, it is best to make arrangements for your children to stay with a babysitter while you attend the party.
Changing Your Answer
If you have already confirmed your attendance but later have to decline the invite, the Emily Post website suggests that this is only acceptable if you have had a death in the family, a work obligation you cannot get out of, are too ill to attend the party, or have been injured. In these instances, it is important to call the host right away to express your regrets for not being able to attend the celebration. If you originally told the host that you could not make it, but a change in scheduling now means you are available, call the party organizer as soon as you can so the host can tell you whether your attendance is convenient. For instance, if you were invited to a dinner party where a head count is necessary, ensure that the host can accommodate you.
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