RSVP Etiquette for Wedding Guests

RSVP letters on a wooden background

When you’re invited to a wedding—or really any big celebration—it’s customary to receive an invitation through the mail (or for your more tech savvy friends, an email or e-vite). But if you’ve never received an official formal invitation to an event, you may not know or understand the protocol that’s involved.

Let’s go over standard RSVP etiquette for guests: what it means, how early you should do it, and what to do if you’ve forgotten to respond and it’s past the deadline on the invitation.

What Does RSVP Mean?

RSVP is an abbreviation for the French phrase, “respondez s’il vous plait” or “please respond.” When you receive an invitation in the mail, it will likely have RSVP and then some simple instructions on how to respond back that you will be attending, not attending, or attending and bringing a guest along with you (if that’s an option that the invitation has included).

Types of RSVP

Just as there are different types of gatherings, there are different types of RSVPs that will largely depend on how the invitation is worded and whether or not it includes a response card.

  • Response card: The host has requested that you fill the response card out with your official RSVP decision. There should be a space for you to fill whether or not you will attend and occasionally for weddings there will be a space for you to check off what meal option you would prefer. Typically the host will have provided postage for you to return the card in the mail.
  • RSVP with telephone number: The host has requested that you RSVP with a phone call.
  • RSVP with email address: The host has requested that you RSVP via email.
  • Regrets only: The host has requested that you only RSVP if you don’t plan on attending. If you don’t respond then the host will assume that you are attending.
  • No reply requested: This would be highly unusual to receive a wedding invitation without a reply requested, but in this case you should contact the host by phone and tell them whether or not you are attending.

Wedding reception guest list

Can I Bring…?

When you receive an invitation to a wedding, it’s only natural to wonder who you might be able to bring along with you. However, it’s very important to pay attention to the invitation and not just assume that you can bring whomever you want just because it would make you feel more comfortable or be more convenient for you.

Weddings are expensive, and it’s likely that the couple has carefully budgeted for each individual. If everyone brought an extra guest then the food or drinks could run out or there might not be enough space in the venue. So, who can you bring to the wedding? Let’s go over the do’s and don’ts.

Can I bring my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend for a date?

If your invitation indicates a space for you to fill out a space for a guest (or if your invitation is addressed to the both of you), then it’s perfectly fine for you to bring a date. However, if the invitation is just addressed to you and doesn’t include a space for a guest, then it’s best not to assume or ask if you can bring a date.

Can I bring my kids?

Unless your invitation indicates a space for you to fill out multiple names or if your invitation is addressed to “The Smiths” or “So-and-so and Family,” it’s best not to assume that you can bring the kiddos along. Some invitations may even flat out say that children are not allowed to be in attendance, in which case you should respect the couple’s wishes and make arrangements for childcare.

a man checking his calendar on a laptop

What If I’m Late Responding?

It’s very important to be prompt when responding to a wedding invitation, but sometimes life happens. A wedding invitation will typically have a line that says “RSVP by ______” that requests guests to respond before a certain date. If you’ve missed that deadline, or if you were unsure if you would be able to attend and the RSVP deadline has passed, then as soon as you know your response you should contact the couple right away. Couples typically have a table or two set aside for guests who forgot to RSVP or who were last-minute additions. However, this doesn’t mean that you should leave them hanging. Definitely tell them as soon as possible!

Why It’s So Important to RSVP

Sending back an RSVP may seem like an outdated, Emily Post-type practice, but it’s beneficial for couples who are planning a wedding to know exactly how many people plan on being there because it helps them budget, plan seating arrangements, and have a general idea of what to expect when it comes to crowd size.

Find Amazing Vendors