RSVP Semantics


Jaya: This Facebook thing is freaking me out. Like, no, you don’t get to assume that if my plans open up I’ll be there. I think it’s very emblematic of the way we expect people to RSVP now. That if there is an event, unless they have previous plans or are deathly ill, they will come. Whereas no, you can just turn down an invitation and never have to give a reason, even as small of a reason as “I have other plans”

Victoria: Is that an expectation?

Jaya: I think it’s getting to be one. More like, if you say you’re not going, there has to be a reason. Sometimes you just don’t want to go!

Victoria: Hmmm interesting

Jaya: Or sometimes there is a reason but you don’t want to say it.

Victoria: I guess I don’t get invited to much that I don’t want to go to. Or like, it’s not a real invitation.

Jaya: Omg I get so many random FB event invitations.

Victoria: Haha

Jaya: And I know a lot of those don’t come with the same expectations.

Victoria: I think I have my notifications for events like that turned off?  Cause I just went to my events page and I’m like hey, a million events!

Jaya: Ahhh. But yeah I think it’s a difference. “Not going” is more vague. “Can’t go” suggests there is something preventing you from going.

Victoria: Yeah, definitely. Although, I suppose it’s just semantics. I can’t go [because I don’t want to go] still works. But yeah, I do think Not Going is a bit more neutral. I’ll get Mark Zuckerberg on the phone and let him know.

I did actually have a weird thing recently- I couldn’t go to an because I was out of town, but once I replied “Not Going” I didn’t seem to be able to post on the wall the reason why. But maybe that was a FB app issue.

Jaya: Hmmm weird. That might be a phone thing yeah.

Victoria: So that was much more annoying to me, that I couldn’t actually give a reason why I couldn’t go when I did have one.

Wedding Invitations

Dare I say that this invitation seems more modern than what you would expect for a royal wedding? [Via Flickr user markhillary]

We’ve talked about what to do with a wedding invitation for a guest, so now we have the etiquette of actually sending out wedding invitations.

Save the Dates

Save the dates are a relatively recent invention— a pre-invitation of sorts. They should be sent out as soon as you finalize your date and rough location. These do not have to go out to everyone you think you are going to invite. They should mostly go out to the most important people and especially the ones that live furthest away and will need to make major travel plans. If you send someone a Save the Date, you MUST invite them to the wedding, no take backsies (with a few exceptions), thus you should be judicious about sending them to only the people you are sure you are going to invite, lest you wind up in a position where you invite 100 friends and then realize your parents had a list of 200 relatives and your venue only fits 150. I should note that Save the Dates are absolutely optional, but something that many couples find useful.


The style of your invitation should match the style of your wedding. This helps guests have a hint of the style of dress to wear and what to expect. Never include information about gifts or registries, the invitation should be about your desire to have the guest attend your very important day, not about what towels you need. I do like a discreet wedding website URL on an invitation because then your invitation can be simple and elegant and your guests can get all the nitty gritty details online.

The great thing about wedding invitations these days is that the style can really represent your event any way you want. This is a far cry from back in the day when only engraved invitations on white, ivory, or cream paper (with no borders or other decorations!) were considered acceptable and all the old biddies would turn your invitation over so they could check for the slight tell-tale engraving indentation on the back. And don’t even get them started on mechanically-made embossing dies.

Invitation Wording

There are many ways to word an invitation. This is the very traditional formal version:

Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Humperdink

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter



Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

The Church of the Holy Rollers

New York City

and afterward at

“The Snobby Club”

Now this invitation is worded for the parents of the bride as the hosts and at a church wedding. If the wedding is not at a church, you would substitute “request the pleasure of your company” for the words “request the honour of your presence” (honour is always spelled with a u in formal wedding invitations and is only used for a church ceremony). Also, traditionally in Jewish weddings, you write “the marriage of their daughter Geraldine and Mr. Dudley Smith” (using “and” in place of “to”).  On a formal invitation, you can put RSVP in the lower left corner. Dress code does not belong on a formal invitation, except, Black Tie may be written in the lower left corner. (But please, do find a way to tell your guests what the dress code is.)

The modern formal invitation often acknowledges the joint hosting by the couple and/or their parents and often includes both sets of parents regardless of who is hosting. A modern formal invitation would look more like this:

Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Humperdink

and Mr. and Mrs. Irving Winklesmith

request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of

Miss Geraldine Humperdink


Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

The Church of the Holy Rollers

New York City

and afterward at

“The Snobby Club”

If the couple is hosting on their own, the invitation would look more like this:

The pleasure of your company

is requested at the marriage of

Miss Geraldine Humperdink


Mr. Dudley Winklesmith

on Saturday, the fifteenth of March

Two thousand and fourteen

at five o’clock

 The Snobby Club

New York City

Of course, these days you are welcome to do almost anything with your invitations! You should, however, include:

  • That it is, indeed, a wedding. (or a commitment ceremony or whatever, just some indication of what kind of event you are having).
  • Who is getting married (including the last names somewhere [in the examples above, Geraldine is used alone only following her parents names—if she had a different last name then them, she would be noted as Miss Geraldine Smith).
  • The date and the time (the time is traditionally listed as when the ceremony starts, but you might want to give ½ an hour or so buffer so everyone is definitely there before you start.) And don’t feel like you have to spell the date and time out, numerals are just fine.
  • The location.

Some informal invitation wordings that I like are:

Geraldine Marie Humperdink


Dudley Michael Winklesmith

request the pleasure of your company

at their marriage


Together with their parents

Geraldine Marie Humperdink


Dudley Michael Winklesmith

request the pleasure of your company

at their marriage


Please join

Geraldine Humperdink


Dudley Winklesmith

at the celebration of their marriage


See many more great examples here.

Addressing Invitations

In the interest of space, please see this post on forms of address.

If you are using both an inner and outer envelope, you can use the formal address on the outer envelope and then just use first names on the inner envelope. The inner envelope is also a great space to include the names of kids you are inviting—parents only on the outer envelope and then everyone by first name on the inner.

Mailing Invitations

Invitations should be sent out 6-8 weeks ahead of time, especially these days with the abundance of Save the Dates, the actual invitation is really more of a formality.

Response Cards

Technically response cards are against etiquette because including them insultingly implies that the guest doesn’t know to RSVP correctly (which is technically with a handwritten response on their own stationery). However, nowadays, many people don’t know how to RSVP “correctly” so I think they are a useful tool. If you do use them, make sure to include a self addressed, stamped envelope. And for your own sanity, make sure to include a line asking for their name so you know who is responding! Email, phone, and wedding website RSVP instructions are all perfectly acceptable as well.

How Do I Decide Whose Holiday Invitation to Accept?

Get it? Because multiple invitations feels like a tug of war! [Via Flickr user futureshape]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I’m trying to come up with some sort of question in something resembling eloquent English about holiday parties and invitations and respecting RSVP and how do you handle roommate/friends/family invites. Also, if you have multiple invites (lucky child) what is a good way to decline or accept or whatever. You covered parts of this in your “RSVPs are for real, yo” thing, which people know for weddings, but tend to forget/be more lax about when it comes to holiday dinners and then if no one shows, boy your friends are jerks and now you have an entire turkey and a vat of creamed corn and it’s just sad. But basically, if your friend invites you to a holiday dinner first but then your brother invites you, does family trump friends? If your roommates parents have invited you to dinner 8 times and it hasn’t worked out, at what point do you make that plan a priority over all other plans? Help.


I Don’t Know Where I’m Going



You still have to let people know if you are or are not coming to everything you are invited to. Especially holiday dinners. Etiquette has no say about where you go, you have to make that choice for yourself.


Jaya: This is one of those times where I wish I were a kid again. When you’re a kid you just go where your parents go. No need for decisions.

Victoria: Yeah, I guess it’s lucky in a way that I don’t have close-by family, so my sister and I just hang out at home and make some food and watch some movies on Thanksgiving. And I just go to my parents’ house for Christmas. But I think we are in agreement that your family trumps friends for holidays. If someone invites you, you just say, “I’d love to but I have to do family things, so sorry.”

Jaya: I think in general yes, but also, everyone’s family is different. My mom has always said if I wanted to do Christmas with friends or just go on vacation elsewhere, it would be totally fine. But we’re pretty lax about holidays in general. Divorce does that. So just, know your audience.

Victoria: I mean, family trumps if you want to/it’s important to hang out with your family.

Jaya: If you know it would mean a lot to your friend, and your family is cool without you, then go hang out with your friend.

Victoria: I guess by trumps I meant more like, if you can’t come to a friends house for a holiday because of a family thing, they should understand.

Jaya: Oh yeah, definitely.

Victoria: But then again, you don’t really owe anyone an explanation for why you are or are not able to come.

Jaya: Right, but I think it’s understood for holidays that you may have family obligations. But also, even if it is your family, you should give a firm RSVP.

Victoria: Totally! Especially if its not JUST your parents.

Jaya: If you tell your mom the day before that you’re not coming, then that screws them. And even if it is just your parents, that might mean your parents are having dinner alone!

Victoria: Ahhh yeah! So sad (though maybe not if you have siblings). Your single child privilege is showing, JAYA

Jaya : Oh yeah, cause that’s a privilege. WORRYING ABOUT YOUR PARENTS EATING ALL ALONE ON CHRISTMAS. Showing your sibling-ed naivite, Victoria.

Victoria: Yesssss.

Jaya: Let’s talk about for situations with multiple RSVPs.

Victoria: Sure.

Jaya: There is something that I’ve been dealing with recently. If you know about one event first, but don’t receive a physical/official invitation to it until after you’ve been invited to something else on the same day, which do you go to?

Victoria: Okay, so the rule about RSVPing is not that you go with the one you were INVITED to first, you go to the one you RSVPd yes to.

Jaya: Ooooooh.

Victoria: So if you get two invitations before you have a chance to respond to one, you get to choose!

Jaya: Good to know!

Victoria: You just can’t change your RSVP to, “I got a better offer.”

Jaya: Though what if you RSVP’’d to one event and your sister all of a sudden decides to get married. I mean it sucks but people would probably understand?

Victoria: That’s why I really like save the dates for weddings, or sending out invitations for other events on the early side. But in that case, it’s basically a family emergency, as long as it’s not the day before or something.

Jaya: Also your sister is annoying in that case.

Victoria: So she also asks about prioritizing an event you’ve had to reschedule like, 8 times, and I definitely think after a couple of reschedules, you should pretty much drop everything to make it happen- if its important to you to have dinner with your roommate’s parents, or whatever the situation is. Otherwise, you end up looking really flaky, which is not a good look.

Jaya: Right, especially if it’s been your “fault” every time. Though if you’ve rescheduled a bunch because you just don’t want to do it, maybe just come out and say that.

Victoria: And if you are flaking to get out of doing it, then maybe just own up to it. But in general, just try to make things a priority the best you can, and stick to your RSVPs whenever they require action on the host’s part.

Jaya: Whether that’s cooking you Thanksgiving dinner, saving you a seat at a wedding, or telling a bartender how many people you’re bringing.

Wedding Invitations for the Guest

Make sure you know your stance on bells before RSVPing. (Via)

Make sure you know your stance on bells before RSVPing. (Via)

Welcome to our first how-to etiquette post! In this feature, we will be giving you a guideline for a basic etiquette situation. As these are guidelines, always take into account your situation and circumstances when applying them. If you have a tricky situation, write us and we will answer!

Wedding invitations have their own crazy etiquette (which we will definitely be talking about later on) that can be intimidating and confusing for the first time guest. There’s really formal language and it looks so fancy! And there are so many inserts and what’s this little stamped envelope? Should you be judging people based on their fonts? Let’s break it down:

Save The Dates

Save the Dates are sometimes sent out WAY in advance to let important people know the wedding date. They might be a cute card or a little magnet to stick on your fridge, or it might just be an email. They do not require a response, they are simply a notification of the wedding date and that you can expect an invitation. However, they are an opportunity for you to start planning. If the wedding is far away, you will want to start making travel arrangements. And if you know for a 100% fact that you won’t be able to make it on that date, let the couple know.


RSVP stands for respondez-sil-vous-plait, which is French for “please, please tell me if you are coming by the deadline posted here so I can give the caterer a headcount in time.”

There may be a little card included in the invitation with its own stamped envelope (though sometimes you will have to stamp it yourself!). On this card there might be a M___________. You are suppose to write Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms. YourFirstName YourLastName on this line. Sometimes I forget the title in my excitement and just write my name. Or there might be a box for you to write the number of people. Just make sure your name is on there somewhere so they know exactly who it is that is coming. Send it back ASAP and definitely before the deadline if given.

If there is no response card, either call or email as directed- the important thing is to make sure they know you are or are not coming. You MUST still RSVP even if you are not coming.

If you want to be really fancy, you can write your response on your own stationery as follows (try to mirror the formatting and language from the invitation):

Ms. Honoria Snodgrass

accepts with pleasure

Mr. and Mrs. Doodly’s

kind invitation for

Saturday, May 31


Generally, the only people invited to the wedding are those listed on the invitation. If Mr. and Mrs. Chatterton are the only names on the invitation, they are not welcome to bring their 5 charming children. “Mr. and Mrs. Chatterton and Family” is sometimes used to invite the whole family, though it is nicer to write out the names of all the kids. Sometimes though, single people will be invited with an “and guest” or “plus one”. In these circumstances you are welcome to bring a date. DO NOT BRING A DATE IF YOU ARE NOT INVITED TO BRING ONE. Whew! Also, you can’t just write plus one or Ms. Tiddlywinks and Mr. Fancypants (Mr. Fancypants being your uninvited date) on your RSVP if you haven’t been given a plus one in the first place. You also cannot substitute an uninvited guest for an invited one who can’t make it- wedding invitations are not write-in ballots.

Inserts and the Wedding Website

Often an invitation will come with a bunch of inserts of information. There might be directions and hotel info or registry info. There might even be a little card with the groom’s parent’s names (this is very old fashioned and unlikely- it is used when his parent’s names aren’t on the invitation so that their side of friends and family will be reminded of who the groom is).

Nowadays, more people are putting this information on their wedding website and they will either send the address along with the invitation or will announce it or email it to you some other way.

Do I have to keep the invitation?

No! Keep it handy until the wedding so you will have the information about the time and location, but after that feel free to discard or keep as you please.