How quickly should I respond to an invitation?

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By Cindy Edwards

If you have ever given a party or planned a wedding, then you truly appreciate the many hours of preparation that go into a successful occasion. Knowing how many people to expect is key to orchestrating the perfect party or event.

Let’s back up for a bit and remember what we know about being polite: Quite simply, it is behavior that seeks someone else’s comfort before that of your own.

A hostess spends many hours planning her event: setting the date, selecting the menu and finalizing her guest list. It is a special occasion for her and her guests.  Numbers are crucial to the success of her party. After all, she gave serious thought to including you and you should show respect and consideration for her by responding quickly.

Quickly means as soon as possible. Therefore, check your calendar and make arrangements in order to attend or regret promptly if you know that you will not be able to attend.

How should I reply?

Reply in the same manner that you were invited.

If…

… your neighbor calls and invites you and your husband over for a barbeque, you may accept or regret immediately. Or, check with your spouse and call back in a day or two.  I recommend checking with the spouse first!

… you receive a beautiful invitation in the mail with a phone number and a deadline for reply, please check your schedule and reply quickly in the manner requested. The same courtesy should be extended to an invitation that lists an email address. Of course, make sure that you reply before the deadline. Keep your message or call brief, and do not feel obligated to give an excuse or explanation for a regret.

… you receive a formal invitation the requires a formal written response, follow the form or style of the invitation. If it reads:

Mr. and Mrs. John Edward Doe
request the pleasure
of your company
for cocktails and dinner
Friday, the third of June
at half past seven o’clock
234 Shadow Brook Lane
Savannah, Georgia
R.S.V.P.

Note: R.S.V.P. is an abbreviation of the French phrase “respondez s’il vous plait”, which is a request for your reply. I have seen it in all caps (RSVP) and with periods (R.S.V.P.) in several different etiquette books. It may also read “the favor of a reply is requested” or “please reply”.

Simply pull out your informal note cards or your beautifully engraved half sheet stationery and pen the following response spaced in the same manner as the invitation:

Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Michael Watson
accept the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. John Edward Doe
for cocktails and dinner
Friday, the third of June
at half past seven o’clock
234 Shadow Brook Lane
Savannah, Georgia

If you need to regret, it would read:

Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Michael Watson
regret that they are unable to accept
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. John Edward Doe
Friday, the third of June

Note: It is not necessary to repeat the date, time and place of the event in a regret, but it is nice to repeat the specifics in an acceptance so that the host is confident that you have the correct date, time and place.

What if…

… your plans change? Inform your host as soon as possible. You should only change a yes to a no for a very good reason. Only change your response if it is unavoidable and do so as soon as you know. An illness, death or professional conflict is an appropriate excuse.

…  you have out-of-town guests or want to bring a date? Consider the invitation. If it is for you and a guest, it would be fine to notify the hostess of your guest and bring him/her to the party. However, it is just not acceptable to ask to bring someone extra. If you inform the hostess that the reason you are regretting is because you have houseguests, she may extend the invitation to your guests. But, if she is working with tight numbers, do not expect this inclusion and bow out gracefully.

… you can go, but your spouse cannot? Use your judgment. If you receive a casual invitation from your best friend inviting you and your husband to come over for dinner on Friday night and only one can make it, you should explain the conflict.  She will either ask you to come alone or she will offer to include you another time.  You just simply follow her lead. If the invitation is for a more formal or seated dinner, I would probably regret and try not to complicate the situation. 

As always, thanks for reading!

Properly yours,
Cindy

Cindy Edwards embodies everything pretty, perky and proper about the South. She's a wife, mother, volunteer and freelance writer. Cindy volunteers enough hours to exhaust most by serving on the Board of Trustees for the Telfair Museums, the Savannah Book Festival Board of Directors and the University of Georgia Honors Advisory Board. She has also served on the Boards of the March of Dimes and Young Life Savannah. Cindy has been married to her college sweetheart, Dr. Joe Edwards III, for 25 years and is the proud mother of two sons: Joe IV, a senior at the University of Georgia, and Jack, a freshman at Ole Miss. No matter how busy, Cindy always makes time for a competitive game of bridge.
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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
Gladys Rainesl in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

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in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

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Patricia in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 9:14 am