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In the context of social invitations, RSVP is a request for a response from the invited person or people. It is an initialism derived from the French phrase Répondez s'il vous plaît, literally "Reply if it pleases you" or "Reply please".
The high society of England adopted French etiquette in the late 18th century, and the writings of Emily Post aim to offer a standard no more stringent than that tradition. Late 20th century editions building on her 1920s work say, e.g., that "Anyone receiving an invitation with an R.S.V.P. on it is obliged to reply....", and some recent editions describe breaching this standard as "inexcusably rude".
Emily Post advises anyone receiving an invitation with an RSVP on it must reply promptly, and should reply within a month or two of receiving the invitation.
While an RSVP request expects responses from both those attending and not attending - there is discussion suggesting many people misunderstand the concept and do not respond if they are not attending.
The phrase "RSVP, regrets only," or simply "Regrets only," is a popular modern variation on the Emily Post RSVP. The intention is to say "you need reply only if you are going to decline" with the effect "if you do not reply, that will be taken as an acceptance."
More specifically, if most invitations can be assumed to be accepted, a "regrets only" RSVP will reduce the communication required by both host and guests. The phrase "Regrets only" refers to the assumption that a decline will be worded with some variation of "We regret we cannot attend...," and it follows that if the guest intends to attend the event, any "regrets" will be missing from the reply.
Prior to receiving the RSVP invitation, the host may mail out a "save the date" card to advise the date and location of the party. This may be used when the event will be held in a distant location to allow for travel plans, such as a wedding, christening or any other important event.
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