Wait…Should I Know the RSVP Meaning, History & Origin?

Time for a mini French lesson.
Wedding invitation collage
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Oct 19, 2023

Getting your RSVPs back is crucial to finalizing your guest list (and, in turn, wrapping up every other aspect of your wedding). But have you ever wondered about the RSVP meaning? Turns out, the popular abbreviation is from the French, and its usage has changed since it originated. Here, we break down the RSVP definition, what it stands for and every other burning question you have about the term.

We promise that once you know the meaning, you won't be able to stop using it. "Can I include my dog in my RSVP for your wedding?"

In this article:

RSVP Meaning | What Does RSVP Stand For? | How to Use RSVP | RSVP History

What Does RSVP Mean?

RSVP means "respond if you please," "please respond" or "please reply." People use the phrase RSVP to confirm a person's presence for an event like a wedding, birthday party or work affair.

RSVP meaning definition card of what it stands for
Design: Tiana Crispino

What Does RSVP Stand For?

RSVP is an abbreviation of the French phrase "répondez s'il vous plaît." So if you're wondering, "What does RSVP stand for in English," it's "please respond." While the RSVP meaning is straightforward, the rules around its written format are incredibly flexible. Some couples spell out the French phrase, while others include periods in the RSVP abbreviation. All the following usages are correct: R.S.V.P., RSVP, R.s.v.p, r.s.v.p. Though most dictionaries leave off the periods and you're welcome to as well. Choose whatever feels right for your wedding—it's your day after all.

How to Use RSVP on Your Wedding Invites

For those unsure about how to use "RSVP" in an invitation suite, don't stress. A wedding invitation typically includes an RSVP (or response) card, where guests can let the couple know if they can attend. Generally, RSVP cards are used on reception invitations or for combined wedding ceremony/reception events. On its own, RSVP wording indicates a reply should be sent to the return address on the outside of the invitation. Although RSVP cards are optional, we recommend including other information on the card, like a line for names and the menu choice for the meal.

Here are a few examples of how to use the term now that you know the RSVP meaning:

  • Hi, Sarah! Do you mind RSVPing through our wedding website instead of through Instagram?
  • Babe? Do you think our RSVP cards should be bubblegum pink or steel gray?
  • I'm so excited about the wedding I RSVPed as soon as I got the invitation.

The History of RSVP

According to linguists and historians, RSVP isn't used much by modern French speakers—even though its use in English has been cemented. The original RSVP meaning encouraged invitees to respond promptly with their intention to attend an event, but around the 1900s, things changed. People thought it was common knowledge to "please respond" to a formal invitation, which made putting RSVP on the stationery redundant. Now, the modern use of the phrase (for English speakers) is more flexible since it's used for just about any event requiring a headcount, from weddings to Facebook invites for Christmas parties.

RSVP in Spanish

After a deep dive into the term's meaning and history, we found that some non-English speaking countries don't really use it for their invitations. In some countries, calling your guests to ask them if they can attend your event is the best way to get an immediate response. Another option for couples is to add the note "Declinations only" or "Solo declinaciones" in Spanish, which pushes guests who can't attend to respond.

But if you're wondering, "How do you say RSVP in Spanish," many Lantinx forums vary in their answers. Here are a few uses of RSVP in Spanish examples:

  • Responda, por favor antes del 18 de octubre. | Translation: Please respond before October 18th.
  • Confirmar asistencia antes de la boda. | Translation: Confirm attendance before the wedding.
  • Confirma que irás. | Translation: Confirm that you will go.
  • Puedo RSVP para la boda de mi hermana mañana. | Translation: I can RSVP for my sister's wedding tomorrow.

Where Did RSVP Originate?

The RSVP origin is French, and some believe the term was first used in 1845. Other sources say it originated in 1825 in the book Domestic Duties; or, Instructions to Young Married Ladies, on the Management of Their Households and the Regulation of Their Conduct in the Various Relations and Duties of Married Life by Mrs. William Parkes. The book (with the longest title of all time) was made to help young housewives manage everyday life, which included how to properly write invitations and RSVPs.

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