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R is for RSVP

Posted on by Beyond Bespoke

A-Z of British Etiquette

Most people with even the most limited knowledge of French know what RSVP stands for ­but many pronounce the S in the first word,Š when that S does not actually exist. Score party points by knowing that it is Œrépondez s’il vous plaît not Œréspondez.

Whatever form the invitation takes, it is fundamental that it gets replied to within a few days. Three to four days is really the limit. Formal invitations still to this day are correctly replied to in the third person.

‘Mr Alasdair Franks thanks Mr Peter Moore for his kind invitation to dinner on Friday, 12th November
at half past seven at The Gables and has much pleasure in accepting/regrettably cannot attend.’

The date of your response is then written underneath. Signing your name as well is a major gaffe and the old guard will spot an imposter immediately if this is done.

Invitations by telephone can be replied to there and then, although do not be afraid to say you will have to check and telephone back­ again, within a few days. Hosts should not put guests on the spot.

Invitations that have been sent by text can be replied to in the same manner that they were issued and Facebook event invitations take out any remnants of style and grace that have been clinging on through the digital medium by presenting the guest with three options: attending, maybe attending and not attending. Let us focus on that middle option for a moment. No one is maybe attending anything. You are either going or you are not. If you are free and want to go, you click Œattending; if you are free but don’t want to go, or are simply not free, then you are Œnot attending.

Once you have said you may go, go! Bailing on hosts is never groovy, unless you come down with an illness (telephone the moment you experience the second serious sniffle) or perhaps have to leave the country due to work or an extradition order. Offer profuse apologies and mean them. Send flowers the day of the party with a note attached saying how sorry you are for maximum social good-egg points.

William Hanson is the Etiquette and Protocol Consultant for The English Manner. He works with VIP households, diplomats, businessmen, schools and colleges and has advised multinational brands. He is regularly asked by global media to comment on modern manners and social mores.

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