This tip is for both hosts and guests alike, because there seems to be a lot of confusion about the meaning of the term RSVP. Often, guests will see those letters on an invitation and not be sure what they're supposed to do about it.
Friends and readers often express frustration, and I often experience it myself, that even when you put an RSVP request on an invitation, guests don't do anything about it. This leads to the problem that hosts can't tell how many guests plan to attend their parties. This could mean either one of two things. First it could mean that rudeness is a growing trend in our society. Or, as I would prefer to believe, people no longer understand what the term means. Assuming the best, and that the reason guests don't RSVP to an invitation is a case of ignorance, not rudeness, I will clarify this for the record.
What RSVP Means
The term RSVP comes from the French expression "répondez s'il vous plaît", meaning "please respond". If RSVP is written on an invitation it means the invited guest must tell the host whether or not they plan to attend the party. It does not mean to respond only if you're coming, and it does not mean respond only if you're not coming (the expression "regrets only" is reserved for that instance). It means the host needs a definite head count for the planned event, and needs it by the date specified on the invitation.
Why It's Inconsiderate Not to RSVP
An incomplete list of respondents can cause numerous problems for a host including difficulty in planning food quantities, issues relating to minimum guarantees with catering halls, uncertainty over the number of party favors and difficulties in planning appropriate seating, among other things.
So the next time you see RSVP on an invitation you receive, please call your host and respond promptly.
If you'd like to find more of Donna Pilato's advice on hosting parties and entertaining friends and family you can visit her at The Delicious Dozen.