Is There a Polite Way to RSVP “No” When You Really Should Go

Wedding Wording & Etiquette

Your second cousin twice-removed’s fourth – but still surprisingly formal – wedding. Your college roommate’s third baby shower in as many years. Your husband’s annual – always potluck-style, never-catered – work party, held in the dank, gloomy break room in the back of the warehouse.

Maybe it’s for the benefit of your mental health, your wallet, the sake of convenience, or maybe you truly have a scheduling conflict; sometimes you’ve just gotta RSVP with a big old “NO” – even when you know you technically could, or should, RSVP “yes.”

But here’s the good news: When you get stuck in one of those “heck no, I won’t go” situations, there are a few ways to soften the no-RSVP blow.

Etiquette, Please

According to Ms. Emily Post, queen of all things etiquette, whether you reply “yes” or “no,” the rules of polite society dictate that you must RSVP promptly. That means responding a day or two after you receive the invite, regardless of how far in the future the event is planned.

After all, RSVP is an acronym for “Répondez, s’il vous plait.” Translated from French to English, that means “please reply” – in other words, a direct command, not a suggestion.

So get the dirty work done fast. Not only will the event host appreciate your quick response, it’ll give her more time to forget – and forgive.

The Prettier, the Better

Make your negative response more attractive by wrapping it in a beautiful package. RSVP cards, also known as response cards, provide a more formal – and by extension, more polite – way of turning down or accepting an invitation.

For even more positive impact, hand write your response. In today’s digital world, full of printed text and electronic communication, a note written by hand means so much more and sends a much more personal message – in this case, your regret at not attending the event.

As for the wording of your decline note, don’t feel like you must go into great detail or over-explain. A simple “I regret that I must decline your kind invitation” will suffice.

Following these etiquette rules will mitigate any potential hurt feelings that your no-RSVP may cause. Your polite courtesy – and the fact that you bothered to send a handwritten RSVP note in a timely manner – will be remembered much longer than the fact that you didn’t make it to the event.