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R.S.V.P. is derived from the French phrase "répondez s'il vous plaît" which translated into English means "please reply." This is a very traditional method to ask for your response to an invitation in order to firmly know for seating and catering, who is able or unable to attend and how many guests to prepare for. Even if you are unable to attend, it is still custom to reply to an invitation indicating your inability to attend.
Responses can be handled through many methods depending on the formality of the event. Your guests can respond by email, phone, a "fill-in" response card or a more formal and traditional handwritten response on personal stationery. You only need to note on the bottom left hand corner of your invitation:
R.s.v.p. by May 15th (or Please respond by)
to Mary George at 555.555.5555
R.s.v.p by May 15th
A fill-in response card:
The favour of a reply is requested
by the fifth of May
_______ accepts (or will attend)
_______ regrets (or will not attend)
Requires hand written note from guests:
R.s.v.p. by the fifteenth of May or
Please reply by the fifteenth of May or
Please respond by the fifteenth of May
If you need your guests to know there is a dress code for your party, such as a coat and tie, or black tie or to let them know that they can dress casually - you can note this on the invitation. You would have this information printed in much smaller letters on the bottom right hand corner of the invitation. Words such as Semi-formal, Coat and tie, Black tie, Resort Casual, Swimsuits and sandals, or Halloween costume required, will let your guests know what is expected from them before the event and make everyone much more comfortable at the party by being dressed appropriately.
When writing names and addresses on envelopes for adult party invitations use the following examples as guides:
Formal to informal party:
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Five Elm Street
Lumberton, North Carolina 28358
For a very informal party you can use more abbreviations for the street or state or name the guests as Jane and John Smith (never seperate the man's name from his last name).
There are several ways to note that your party is an adult party and children are not invited.
One way is to set the time late enough so that parents understand this is not a kid-friendly party i.e., 7:00 or 8:00 pm. Another is to state Cocktails (or Cocktails & Dinner); again, most people understand that cocktails & kids don't mix. If people are in doubt, they will ask.
Be sure to address the invitation to the adults only. However, if you want to be absolutely clear, you might state on the invitation, in small text, opposite the RSVP line: Adults Only Please.
Many etiquette experts do not like this information printed on the invitation. They believe that printing "Adults Only Please" on your invitation adds a negative statement to a positive invitation. They recommend that you only spread this type of information by word of mouth and confirm your request when people contact you to R.s.v.p. Communicating why you made the decision not to invite children may make an angry parent understand your position better than if they just noted it on the invitation and read into it whatever they wanted.
You can note on your party invitation that you or the guest of honor would not like to receive any gifts. Just have printed,on the bottom right hand corner of the invitation, in smaller letters:
No gifts please
Your presence is your present
Your present is your presence
Your presence is my present
Or you can spread your request by word of mouth.
In the strictest sense of etiquette, it is not proper to ask guests to pay to attend a party. Etiquette experts agree that hosts should deploy cost-cutting measures (have an informal dessert party, whittle the guest list, etc.) rather than requesting guests foot their own bill.
While protocol does not advocate putting cost information on a party invitation, some people do in this day and age. If you do opt to put it on the invitation, it's best to place it in the corner opposite the RSVP invitation, as shown below:
Please join us
in celebration of
JOHN's 60th Birthday
DAY, Date at TIME
$20 per person RSVP: 333-333-3333
Remember to consider the feelings of the honoree in this decision. If the honoree is rather traditional and conservative, they would likely be embarrassed by such a request. If you must pass a cost on to your invited guests, the best way to spread the word is by word of mouth.
Use your invitation wording to inform people that the party is a surprise party. By adjusting the wording your guests will know the exact arrival time, where to park, and to keep the party a secret.
Casual surprise party:
Shhhhhh...Can you keep a secret?
Please join us for a
Surprise Birthday Party
in honor of
Friday, March 5th
555 North Elm Street
arrive before 5:00 pm
park at least one block away
to the right of the house
R.s.v.p. to Jane Smith
by February 22nd, 555.555.5555
Depending on the complexity of the invitation, if there is assembly involved and the printing method you choose (flat, thermography, engraving), some invitations can take 1 week to print and some can take several weeks to print (mainly during the busiest seasons - wedding and holiday).
Be sure to plan your party and order your invitations at least 8-12 weeks in advance. Then you will receive in plenty of time to address, add postage and mail.
Most formal parties need to be mailed 2-4 weeks in advance so people can reserve the date for your party. More informal parties can be mailed 2-3 weeks in advance.
If you have many out of town guests attending you may want to mail the invitations as early as 6 weeks in advance so everyone is sure to reserve the date for your party so that they can attend. You can also send a "Save-the-date" card 6-12 weeks in advance so they know to "save" the date of your party for you. You would especially want to do this for a formal party or a 50th anniversary party so everyone is sure to attend.
There are so many ways to express the type or theme of birthday party you are hosting. You can use creative wording and beautifully designed invitations to clue your guests in on what type of event they will be attending before they ever walk through the door.
Consider sports, cigar and bar, bbq, or a "groovy" 70's party for a man. (Think Austin Powers for some terrific invitation wording - Groovy Baby!)
How about a garden party, martini, luau, or 50's "poodle skirt" party for a woman. An old fashioned "sock-hop" would be fun!
What are their interests? Do they love the beach or are they crazy about frogs? (Hop on over to Anna's 30th Birthday party...) Are they more modern or traditional? Is it a "shin-dig" or a "soiree"?
There are 1,000s of invitations to suit everyone's tastes. Think outside of the box and plan a party that your guests are not likely to forget for a long time.
We found a response to a somewhat similar question from Peggy Post, etiquette expert and author of the revised Emily Post's Etiquette, and have included the excerpt below:
"Question: My husband and I want to throw his mother a sixtieth-birthday party in a private room at her favorite restaurant. How do we word the invitations to make it clear that the guests will pay for their own meals? We don't want them to be surprised when the time comes to divvy up the bill.
Peggy's Response: I'm afraid you're the ones in for a surprise. When you host a party, you pay for your guests' food and drink. It's that simple. Now you have several options: You can cut back the guest list or change the party's locale to make it more affordable. Or, you can convert your hosted party into a night-on-the-town gathering of friends and family. When calling people to invite them, say, "We're meeting next Saturday at the such and such restaurant. It's a little Dutch-treat get-together for Mom's birthday." Just be crystal clear that you're not the hosts."
Therefore, you would call your guests and have them join you for the "Dutch-treat" party but you would not send out a printed invitation for a "Dutch-treat" party.