The Lost Art of the RSVP

Posted by mmaxfield on Feb 14, 2013

Respondez-vous s’il vous plait!

In short, Rsvp!

It comes in a variety of pleas: Reply by; please respond if declining; and, of course, the contemporary reply set, the formal card and envelope that formally requests that your guests put on paper their name, and decision, that they “will attend” or “will not attend,” and also answer the query: “Number attending.”

Oh, how the bride begs for a reply. She had a immediate “yes” to his question, “Will you marry me?”  Her response was quick, decisive.” Why then has her family, friends, and in-laws have all turned to be out-laws when it comes to a simple reply: “oui” or “no”?

Mid-century, a guest immediately responded to a wedding invitation by a formal note. No, it really was an epistle, the paper was the size of today’s Crane “Royalty” invitation–Texas-size.” With a fountain pen, filled with black ink, one would write on the ecru color paper: “Mr. and Mrs. James Marshall Maxfield accepts with pleasure the kind invitation…” and the wording follows the wording of the formal invitation. It was mailed that day and often the next day it would cross town onto the hallway table where all important correspondence found its final destination.

Twenty years ago, the reply set came on the scene. Why? Perhaps the era was less formal and the bride wanted to make the response to her wedding simple and easy. She would enclose a printed card with all the pertinent information:


_____will attend

______ will not attend

The favour of a reply is requested

before the twenty-second of February.

All the guest needed to do was: fill in the name, “Mr. and Mrs. James Marshall Maxfield,” and check off the correct line. One-minute response. The postage was already on the return envelope, which was addressed to the parents of the bride at their appropriate address.

Did I mention that it is customary to write a little sentence at the bottom of the card to the bride and her family expressing your best wishes and love?

Today, it would be simpler to send out a ranch hand with a lasso to rope a response from a guest. Not only does the guest ignore the expected response time: within three days of receiving the invitation in the mailbox; the guest just doesn’t send return it at all. One does wonder if there is a special receptacle, or trophy room in the home for ignored invitations.

The reason? Perhaps, a sense of entitlement. Bad manners.

Not long ago, it use to be that a certain guest may be known for waiting for the “best” invitation of that weekend, and thus delay the response to the event. Today, that has fallen by the wayside, and a no-response is the cavalier way to handle an invitation.

Excusez-moi, s’il vous plait!

However, the bride and her family need a firm head count for the venue, due in most cases one week prior to the event. The price of a no-response is enormous, and as guests normally comes in pairs, the costs double.

Likewise, for those guests who say “yes’ and are a no-show; the bride’s family will pay dearly for those guests who they count in and duck out that night.

So Mylene Farmer, the Parisian singer, songwriter, who has sold 30 million records and is among the most successful recording artists of all time in France, captures for us in song and lyric how many guests  respond to any invitation: Oui mais… no!

In my next blog, I will address how to best position yourself for the inevitable: few responses; and how to turn this around faster than an,”I do!”

Take heart!

Happy Valentine’s Day!