Let's be polite, party people!

By Betsy Cribb
Cropped Hand Of Woman Holding Paper With Text Against White Background
Credit: Poh Kim Yeoh / EyeEm/Getty Images

Whenever I'd waffle back and forth on whether or not to include someone in a gathering, my mom consistently encouraged me to extend the invitation—even if I already knew that person could not attend: "It's always nice to be invited," she'd say. (That woman is never wrong, bless her.) Invitations, whether to something as casual as a Wednesday lunch or as special as a wedding, are an expression of thoughtfulness and inclusion. Therefore, invitations always, always, always deserve a gracious response. Here, we're tackling the complexities of RSVP etiquette. Turns out, it's not as easy as you'd think!

When the Invitation Arrives and Says "RSVP"…

RSVP is the abbreviation of the French répondez s'il vous plait, or "please respond," so your host is literally asking you for a response to their event. So respond, and respond quickly. Invitations should be responded to within 24 hours. Wait what?! Yep. A speedy reply ensures the host can plan accordingly, plus it demonstrates enthusiasm for the event and appreciation for being included. If your schedule won't allow you to respond so quickly, call or text the host to let them know you'll be in touch with your RSVP as soon as your schedule is hammered out. One more note: Responding on the day the RSVP is due is technically permissible, but it's far more polite to send your RSVP in well before the due date.

When the Invitation Arrives and Says "Regrets Only"…

While you're only required to respond if you're unable to attend, it's still polite to reach out to your host and let them know you're looking forward to the event. Typically, though, "regrets only" is reserved for large events (think 250 guests and up) and should not be used for smaller gatherings.

When the Invitation Arrives and Doesn't Say Anything about Responses…

You should still reach out to the hostess and let her know whether or not you will be able to attend. Once upon a time, hostesses didn't have to list RSVP on their invitations because people took social graces as law and replied without any prompting. What a wonderful world!

When a Wedding Invitation Arrives With No Response Card…

It wasn't a mistake! Here's the short explanation: Invitations to formal weddings typically forego the included RSVP card, and as such, you're expected to send a handwritten note in reply. Learn how to write a proper response notehere.

When the Invite Arrives Via Text or Email…

Technology is a beautiful thing, but it's muddied the waters when it comes to etiquette. Generally speaking, it's appropriate to respond to the invitation in the same manner as you received it. For instance, if your friend texted you about the birthday celebration he's hosting next month, it's appropriate to send a warm, friendly text in response, whether or not you can come. Because of the more immediate nature of texting, it's best to respond as quickly as possible. If you don't know at the moment of receipt if you'll be able to attend, thank the host for his invitation and let him know that you'll be in touch as soon as you've had time to check your schedule. (Then be sure to follow-up. The follow-up is key). The same thing goes for email. Just be sure to tailor the formality of your response to the original sender: Professional invitations, for instance, will require formal salutations and closings, while an email to a friend can be more casual and light-hearted. Evites, like Paperless Post, make things especially easy: All you have to do is click a button to reply! If you can't come, though, it's always nice to type up a quick note to thank the host for the invite and express appropriate well-wishes for the occasion.

When Your Guests Don't Respond…

Hosts, this is for you. If Susie Slacker and Polly Procrastinator have yet to respond and your event is just weeks away, it's fine to reach out with a gentle nudge. You can say something like, "Hi Susie! I hope you received the invitation to our dinner party. I'm putting the last few touches on the meal now and would love to get a final headcount. Please let me know today whether or not you'll be able to join us. Hope to see you then!"

WATCH: How to Cancel Plans As Politely As Possible

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans fall through. Kids get sick, meetings come up, and sometimes, you're just wiped out. Life happens. But when it does, there are a few ways to politely manuever cancelling plans. Here are some expert-approved ways to handle the sometimes awkward task of bailing.