répondez s’il vous plaît : the lost art of saying yes or no


You are surely familiar with the acronym “RSVP.” This collection of letters is typically found at the bottom of a written invitation. It derives from the French “répondez s’il vous plait,” which simply means, “please reply.” These four little letters are the signal that your host wants to know if you will be attending his or her event.

Ask any event planner, fundraiser, bride, or party-thrower and they will tell you how critical it is to know whether or not you are attending. Planning accordingly for all aspects of the party- seating, food and drink, favors when appropriate, the host simply wants everyone to feel at home, and have a good time. All that is required is that you respond as to whether you will be attending or not.


These days, the RSVP seems to be a lost, or at least dying, art. In the past, when invitations were issued for a social event, hosts (and hostesses) received prompt responses from guests as to whether or not they would attend. People have become apathetic when it comes to confirming or declining invitations. The RSVP seemingly rubs against the grain of contemporary life. By asking someone to commit to a plan in the distant future, you are demanding an action that Americans no longer practice. We like to remain flexible, solidifying plans incrementally as the date approaches; perhaps even holding out for a better offer.


With convenient resources like Facebook, Twitter, and email at our fingertips one would think it easier than ever to effectively communicate a reply. This beckons the question, what is preventing us from executing this basic social task? Are our lives so busy, so overbooked, and so overwhelmed? As Gertrude Stein said, “everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” Regardless of how inundated we are with information on a daily basis, an RSVP is a simple task that only requires a “yes” or a “no.”


Here are some tips for sending an RSVP in the age of information overload:


When to respond.

Generally it is best to reply as soon as possible. Ideally, one should reply upon receipt of an invitation.  Once you check your calendar, respond!  This affords the planner ample time to accommodate guests.


How to respond.

In responding to invitations, you should reply in the style of the invitation. If you received your invitation by e-mail, then a response by e-mail is acceptable. If a response card or phone number is included, respond accordingly.


Keep replies brief.

There is no need to go into great detail if you must decline the invitation. Write a simple and polite note of regret.

Follow through.

Once a proper response has been made, follow through as stated.  Indicating that you will attend means… you will attend. Last-minute cancellations have become rampant but that does not make them any less rude. If an emergency arises, immediately advise the host of your change of plans and express your regrets.


A party is a gift; an invitation is a gift, and it is polite to respond. Whether the response is sent via phone, e-mail, response card, or carrier pigeon, the bottom line is, yes or no, just say so!