RSVP Etiquette - Mistakes that will keep you off the guest list Email Box

Wedding season is in high gear.  Invitations to church, school, charity, Halloween,Thanksgiving, and Christmas events may also require your RSVP. If you don't respond did you know that you could land on the "do not invite" list for the next event?
All of us are busy people. Is it ever acceptable to leave an RSVP unanswered? If you decline an RSVP, do you need to go into a long explanation about why you won't be attending?

If I cannot attend an event do I have to respond to an RSVP?

Approaching the fall season, your mailbox may already be littered with invitations to dinner parties, receptions, dances, bar mitzvahs, and commencements that require an RSVP. The invitations will include an RSVP card with a stamped self-addressed envelope to make your response easier. Fill the card out and return it if you want to be invited to the next event.

The acronym RSVP comes from the French phrase Répondez s'il vous plaît. It literally means "Reply if you please" or "Please reply".  Responding to an RSVP is a polite way to give the host confirmation of your attendance. Some of these events are important life milestones and they require detailed planning.

If I don't respond to an RSVP doesn't the host know I am not coming?

The old adage "no reply is a reply" has become an accepted form of communication for many people. It is true! If you don't respond to an RSVP within a reasonable amount of time, you are viewed as having no manners and the event host crosses your name off the guest list. 


Why do I have to send a disappointing no to an RSVP? Is silence the best answer?

Leaving an RSVP unanswered shows an utter lack of appreciation and respect for the host and the event. It is important to answer every invitation within a day or two of receiving it. Even if you cannot attend the event your response is a common courtesy that allows the host to confirm the number of guests so the event will have enough food and be well planned. Events are expensive and a lack of RSVP could cost the host money. 


Should I say why I can't attend in an RSVP? 
If your response is "No" to an RSVP you do not have to offer an explanation. Keep your RSVP as brief as possible. If you know the person well (e.g. wedding invitation) write "over" on the right hand bottom of the card. After checking "NO" on the back of the card, respond with a brief sentence: "So sorry, we will be out of town."  

Can I ask my host if I can bring a friend? or can I bring my children?

It is not acceptable to ask your host to bring someone. If your invitation reads "and guest" you can put that person's name on the RSVP card.  It is rude to bring a random guest or anyone extra especially if the host has a certain budget for providing food and drink. Please don't even consider bringing children along if it is not stated on the invitation.  If you have unexpected guests on the date of the event simply decline the RSVP.


Can I change my RSVP?RSVP Card 2

If you have already sent your RSVP and something comes up, let the host know as soon as possible. It is not courteous in most circumstances to change your RSVP once the host has gotten a final guest count.  If you are changing your RSVP response from YES to NO, call the host immediately and explain the issue. You should express your regrets and send a gift (e.g. a bridal shower).

If you are changing your response from NO to YES call the host as soon as possible and ask if you may accept the invitation. If the event is a small dinner party for example, it is best not to change your response.

It is always kind and thoughtful to respond to an RSVP. When you don't respond, the host is forced to try and contact you because final guest count's involving food are due a week in advance. How embarrassing! In any case, returning an RSVP is easy and a way to show that you appreciate the invitation. 

Peggy Newfield revolutionized etiquette education for children. Founding her own company, Personal Best, Inc., in 1980, only laid the foundation for greater expansion. The American School of Protocol opened its doors in 2002 to a warm reception. Peggy has since welcomed over 10,000 students and is now a leading expert in etiquette. I sat down with Peggy to learn more about the woman who started it all. I would like to invite you to accompany me into her personal world!

By: Georgina Brown

Peggy Then and Now
Then and Now: Peggy teaching etiquette back in 1980 and Peggy teaching etiquette now to a group of professionals.


Peggy's  Childhood 3
Peggy on the farm as a child.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Warner Robins, Georgia, living on a farm with my relatives. It was a wonderful experience to be raised by such loving family and to live among all the special things that happen on the farm. There’s a certain kind of freedom in the countryside – I spent many hours caring for our animals and wandering the grounds.



What was your childhood like?

Warner Robins and Macon were small towns in Middle Georgia. I loved to sing and I had many opportunities to sing on the radio and television. Those were truly exciting times! My mother believed, as I do now, that exposure to the arts would build a solid foundation for education. The culture of the arts is our history, and familiarity with this history can help forge strong links with new acquaintances. My mother also stressed that a busy child was a happy child, so I attended piano, voice and dance lessons every day of the week.


What is your most-treasured childhood memory?

The farm was a treasure - truly! I loved lying in the fields, watching the clouds drift by and seeing their different shapes. But the memory that really stands out to me was when my uncle set aside one whole acre of land on which he planted thousands of beautiful flowers so that ladies from miles around could come and pick flowers for their small, Sunday-morning rural church services. As a result, I grew up surrounded by nature’s brilliant colors. My mother was a phenomenal gardener; we had flowers (or greenery in the winter!) on the table at every meal.


Peggy's Childhood 2
Peggy, as an infant with her mother and cousin.

What was your mother like?

Well, in addition to her gift for gardening, she was a selfless woman… My father died two days before my first birthday and almost overnight, my mother had to become the breadwinner. Her dream was that I would have the education that she never had, so she put a lot of time and energy into that. She pushed me to always do my best. We were extremely close; she was my best friend. It was a wonderful partnership.


So now that you live here, what is the best thing about Atlanta?

Opportunity! Atlanta offers every opportunity – of cuisine… of a world-class zoo… of botanical gardens… and theater and symphony abound! There is so much to see and do. The city is always bustling, yet the people here are still so warm and open.


Ritz Week 2
1987 - A group shot before Peggy and nine young ladies take off for London, England for Ritz Week.

What has been your favorite travel destination?

For four separate years, I had the pleasure of taking ten girls to the UK for a week in London and a week in the countryside. We spent our days with titled people (Lords, Earls, and Dukes) in their estates; it was like a fairytale for all of us. And the gardens! I cannot express how gorgeous they were with the roses and the perfect sweeping lawns! Our days were nonstop excitement but our evenings were just as great. The dinners were fancy affairs and afterwards, we played games and had discussions over tea in the drawing room. We were making face-to-face connections with exciting people, both young and old.

What this did for these girls was important. Their parents sent them to be exposed to fine culture, architecture, art, shopping and people. This was a glitz trip, yes, but the girls also learned so much from this exposure. Having this impact was the highlight of all my travels. The opportunities for both the girls and me have been astounding – coming from my simple childhood, I never could have dreamed of all the opportunities that have arisen. Another highlight was training our U.S. Space Team… loved those astronauts!

Ritz Week
In London posing for the BBC Television before an elaborate dinner with the Earl of Bradford.


Peggy Newfield, Spider Pin
Peggy wearing her beloved spider pin.

I’m dying to know: what is your favorite accessory in your closet?

It’s got to be the big rhinestone spider that I bought in London on one of the trips. Every time I put it on my shoulder (yes, it is that big!), I think of my time with the girls in London.



What does etiquette mean to you?

Etiquette truly is how you live your life. The word “etiquette” means ticket in French, and what this ticket does is allow you to actually have the kind of day that you dream of. Kindness and thoughtfulness bring only kindness and thoughtfulness back to you. I wish schools would recognize the importance of character education... Something needs to be done to help children, young people, and adults connect to one another. Technology is not doing that! Children and adults are spending so much time “screening” instead of communicating in person with others. I want to truly make a difference. To me, etiquette is the ticket to make that happen.


What lessons have you learned from running your own business?

Peggy With Student
Peggy and a young student.

Well, first be ready to adapt. I always said that I would only work with little people, not big people. But I learned to be flexible and offer what clients wanted. And I experienced the power of word-of-mouth. I never solicited business in the early years. But in two years, we went from having no colleges under contract to having 22 universities sign up for an MBA etiquette program. Never underestimate the power of reputation!

Finally, I recognize just how important it is to make personal connections. I like to call my potential clients to begin and establish a relationship with them; I want to know who they are! It has always been my belief that if you keep your classes tiny –no more than 11 people – you can give individuals so much more attention. We make our training personal and real – we bring people into our home. That’s unheard of! And yet, so many of our graduates follow our model because you really create a life situation. The students learn house rules just by being here. It is so much better than sitting in a conference room and being lectured to.


What advice would you give to women and men who want to enter the field?

Be passionate! Love the journey. I got a call from a graduate a few days ago and she said that every time she teaches a class, she wants to call to thank me for changing her life. These feelings and their comments are what has been the best part of what I do.

Peggy and a group of children who participated in the Etiquette Certification Program.