Given the choice, most people generally prefer a summer wedding. Warm sun and agreeable weather certainly makes just the getting to and from the event preferable, even for those just having a quick civil ceremony in a registry office. For those choosing an elaborate affair at a church or stately home, spring or summer become all the more sought after. As a result, if there is to be a wedding this year in your life, it makes sense to expect to see your invitation in the next few months.
Traditionally, wedding invitations, like others to the posher sort of event, come with a formal invitation with the letters RSVP written atop them. RSVP is French for “répondez, s'il vous plait”, or reply if you please. It is a formal request for a reply from the recipient put on the invitation to assist the host of an event, wedding or otherwise, to get a proper estimate of how many people will attend.
Origin of the Phrase RSVP
Every society has its rules on etiquette, on what is good manners and what is insulting. For example, in Singapore the laws are so strict, that you are required to get formal permission from someone before you may hug them in public or risk a fine.
What we regard as etiquette in the western world today largely stems from the court of Louis XIV, King of France and known as the Sun King. It was here in his palace of Versailles that rules of behaviour were codified and written down upon tickets, from which the word “etiquette” is derived.
Throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, French was seen as the language of high society and, as generally only members of high society were having such grand parties, the idea of RSVP filtered through into English speaking countries and from there worked its way down through the social strata to the point where now everyone uses it, but relatively few people actually know what it means.
What to do when you get an RSVP
If you receive an invitation for a wedding headed with RSVP, it means that the host is expecting a reply whatever that might be. Not responding does not send an implicit answer that you will or will not be coming. A variation “RSVP Regrets Only” has gained some prominence and expect a reply only in the case the guest will not be coming.
In any case, responding to the message of the host is considered necessary, not only to allow them to plan properly but also as a matter of politeness.