Q Dear Miss Abigail:
I recently sent invitations for a birthday party and indicated R.S.V.P., but no one has replied. Do they think it means regrets only? I thought R.S.V.P. meant to please reply. Can you tell me what it really means?
A Dear Cindy:
You are correct, my dear. Your so-called friends, on the other hand, need some manners. Let’s hope they are reading along.
This might be a good time for all to refresh those “R.s.v.p.” skills as we prepare to plunge into the latest holiday season, full of parties and invitations. With luck, polite acceptances or denials will become a major part of this year’s traditions. Thank you very much!
1966: Répondez s’il vous Pretty Please
If you expect your invited guests to answer your invitation, add at the lower left the letters “R.s.v.p.,” which stands for the French phrase “Répondez s’il vous plaît” (Please answer). We prefer the capital “R” and the lower case “s.v.p.,” although it is used both ways in this country. In England and France, it is always written in upper-case letters ~ “R.S.V.P.” So you may take your choice. In some parts of our country the words “Please reply” are used instead, but this seems abrupt and not as smooth as “R.s.v.p.”
If you are giving a tea or cocktail party and do not expect invitees to answer, just omit any reference to responding to the invitation. If you want answers only from those who cannot come, add the phrase “Regrets only” under the “R.s.v.p.” . . .
It seem elementary to say that all invitations received must be answered ~ either yes or no ~ if an answer is requested. We frequently hear of cases where no response at all is forthcoming from some of the invited guests. This can only be attributed to ignorance. Even if no answer is requested, it is thoughtful if you telephone or drop a note to your hostess and say you are looking forward to the occasion ~ or that you are disappointed that you cannot come. Furthermore, invitations should be answered promptly, within one or two days if possible, and in the same way in which they are extended. A formal third-person invitation requires a formal third-person answer, a telegraphed invitation demands an answer by telegram, and so on. If you cannot give a prompt answer because of some contingency, tell your hostess when you will be able to let her know and ask whether that is ample time for her. Never, never stall in giving an answer with the hope that something more exciting will turn up. And once you have accepted an invitation, never renege because something more enticing does arise. If you must legitimately regret an invitation after you have accepted, do so at once and give reason. If you regret by telephone, don’t leave the message with Junior or anyone else who might not relay it.Be sure it reaches the hostess.
Source: Corinth, Kay and Mary Sargent. All About Entertaining. New York: David McKay Company,1966.
~ pp. 30-32 ~