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Don't Be Rude

RSVPs and “Best Persons”

A wedding invitation arrives without an RSVP card, and a bride wonders what to call a female “best man.”

Dear Margaret,

My husband and I received a formal invitation for his cousin’s wedding (engraved, not hand written). The bride and groom are planning the event themselves as far as we can tell from the invitation. However there was no “RSVP” or response card or any other indication that the “favor of a reply is requested.”

My husband and I are traveling from far away to attend this wedding and I feel the need to tell them that we will be attending. Should we send a handwritten response card in the formal tradition (Mr. and Mrs. B——accept the kind invitation), should we just tell the parents of the groom, or should we not say anything at all and just show up?

Thank you for your thoughts on this perplexing matter!

Margaret says…

No sane person holds a large, and staggeringly expensive, gathering without a headcount. Therefore, it’s right to assume that your hosts are waiting to hear from you.

They didn’t include an RSVP prompter because, at one time, it was considered impolite. Printing an RSVP notation or card implied that guests were unaware of the proper way to respond.

Unfortunately, this nicety confounds guests who have come to expect not only an RSVP notation, but also a card, a pre-addressed, stamped envelope, and a “drop dead” date by which they should respond. Even then, some guests can’t bring themselves to mark a little X in the correct box and drop it in the mail. This forces the hosts to call and snap, “Are you coming or what?” when the caterer demands to know how much chicken to order. It’s reason enough to elope.

As you surmised, your hosts are expecting a handwritten note indicating whether you’ll be able to attend. This is the traditional way to respond, regardless of whether the invitation is handwritten, engraved, or printed on ducky-bride-and-groom novelty stationery. To accept, center the note on your personal stationery, and write:

Mr. and Mrs. Friends
accept with pleasure
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Wedding
Saturday, the eleventh of October
at five o’clock in the evening.

If you can’t attend, the note should read:

Mr. and Mrs. Friends
regret that they are unable to accept
the very kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Wedding
Saturday, the eleventh of October.

For cocktail parties, you can call.


* * *

Dear Margaret,

My fiancé is having his sister as his “best man”—what should her official title be? Best woman? Best friend? Best person?

Margaret says…

No matter where honor attendants are standing, the titles remain the same. Therefore your fiancé’s sister is his maid or matron of honor, and a gentleman acting as your honor attendant would be your best man.

The gender-neutral term for bridesmaids or groomsmen is “attendants.”