Surprise your friends and family with your gift giving prowess.
Rsvp card and envelope

What’s the History Behind RSVPs? Do You Really Need to Reply?

2 minute read
Share article

To respond or not to respond, that is the question. Or at least, for this post it is. 

You may never have thought much about those four letters on invitations to parties and celebrations, but “RSVP” is meaningful acronym. Here’s everything you need to know about an RSVP, including where it came from, what it means, and best practices.

The history of RSVPs

You might imagine that ancient Egyptians were RSVPing to fancy parties thrown by pharoahs, but the truth is that the term hasn’t even been around for 200 years. That’s almost young in terms of cultural traditions.

The acronym RSVP is short for a French phrase that was first observed in 1845, “respondez s’il vous plait.” You can literally translate this to mean “respond if it pleases you,” but more commonly it means “please respond.”

(As a side note, any card that says “Please RSVP” is actually asking you to “Please, please respond.” But we’ll forgive it, since we always err on the side of being polite.)

In the early 1900s it seemed that RSVP was going out of style. After all, shouldn’t everyone know to inform a host whether or not they can attend an event? Turns out that no, everyone doesn’t know this, so RSVP stuck around.

The real meaning of RSVP

Now that you know the French phrase and English translation, let’s talk about what RSVP really means in modern society. 

The intent behind including this acronym on an invitation is so the host knows how many people will be at a party. They can plan food, favors, and even activities based on the number of attendees.

So do you only let them know if you can’t attend? Or only if you can attend? Both? 

That’s where RSVP gets tricky. A wedding invitation can be really specific and include a place to check whether you are “happily attending” or “regretfully declining.” But kid’s birthday parties and work events aren’t nearly this formal.

However, unless the invitation specifically says “RSVP if you plan to attend” or “Regrets only,” the host very likely means that they would like a response from you no matter your plans for their event.

RSVP best practices

Now that you know the history and meaning of “RSVP,” let’s talk about some best practices for hosting parties and attending them. These are our tips when an event requires some form of an RSVP.

When you are hosting a party:

  • Indicate that you would like guests to RSVP. 
  • Provide an “RSVP by” date and a contact name and method, such as phone number or email address. 
  • It’s acceptable to contact guests after the RSVP by date if they haven’t responded yet.

When you are invited to a party:

  • Respond by the deadline. If you want to attend but missed the deadline, ask politely if there is still the possibility of attending.
  • Respond whether or not you can attend, unless otherwise indicated on the invitation.
  • If you RSVP’d “Yes” but plans change, let the host know as soon as possible.

Hopefully you can enjoy your next party, celebration, or event without wondering too much about those four letters.

Share article

Want gift giving to be fun again?

Quit guessing and stressing over gifts. Share and shop wish lists with family and friends for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and more.