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January 26, 2010

"Koreans don't RSVP"

Did you know that the history of RSVP comes from the French?

Wikipedia RSVP: "Répondez s'il vous plaît", a French phrase that translates to "reply, please." or literally "respond, if you please". It is with this meaning that invitation cards and similar documents are often marked with "R.S.V.P." It is standard practice to reply to an RSVP request whether confirming attendance or declining. specifies "It does not mean to respond only if you're coming, and it does not mean respond only if you're not coming (the expression "regrets only" is reserved for that instance). It means the host needs a definite head count for the planned event, and needs it by the date specified on the invitation."

Wow, I learned something new today. You see, I thought the RSVP was only if you were planning on attending the event. Now i see that you respond regardless... hmmmm

*Tape rewinds to last year*

An e-mail conversation with my cousin who's wedding was in October 2008 and she is complaining of that very thing...
Cousin Q:
koreans don't RSVP apparently.

but ... "you should know that everyone will come..." (quoting her mother/my aunt)

except of course the ones that don't bother to let you know that they have other plans, and let you find out through the grapevine...

The funniest thing about this convo, was my first response to my cousin would be, "well you know everyone is coming"... of course!!! But with our mother's family of 4 girls and 3 boys, and then all us cousins and second cousins - it's very hard to keep track of things...

The truth of the matter is, I think the concept of the RSVP is just very new to Koreans (1.5 generation or less). And yes, this is a blanket general statement and does NOT apply to all!

Even now, many Koreans are still having the weddings with open invitations, no reply cards included, Buffet style with everyone from your church and beyond showing up. Centerpieces were gone by the time the bride and groom actually entered the church hall b/c the older women had already gotten their food, eaten it, disposed of it and were on their merry way with your wedding centerpiece in hand headed home...

The formal weddings with invitations and reply cards, seated dinners, place cards, adults only and more, is just a concept that we are only getting used to now. And by "we", I mean "my Korean relatives, friends and etc"... although i do think its pretty common... here's why:

After googling the topic, a couple similar comments on online boards:
Camille writes: "We still have about 100 potential guests who have not yet RSVPed. Our wedding is about 5 weeks away. Now here is the problem. About 50 of them are Koreans. As I understand from talking to my in-laws Koreans are not really used to RSVP. They just show up on the wedding day. Chances are also that they show up with their husband or wife."

Mrs. Butterfly writes: "I know people are horrible about returning RSVP’s to begin with, especially Koreans, so I’m hoping this will make it at least that much more convenient. Just fill it out and drop it in!"

So it's not just me... So, what i did for some of my relatives is that I didn't even include an RSVP card. Why bother? They won't send it back. I'll waste paper and a stamp. Even when i told my mother she needed to RSVP, she just laughed and said "but why, you/they know i'm coming."

But i will give credit where credit is due, a few of her friends did RSVP and they did it early. I asked her if one "ajuma" was married to a non-Korean. She responded "No, that ajuma is just kinda like that" in regards to her actually RSVP'ing... like she was the exception to the rule... Sadly, i think that's prevalent.

So what do you think? How best to ease non - RSVPers to RSVP promptly?  Are you dealing with cultural issues in regards to the process of planning your wedding?


  1. the RSVP is a concept that is lost on many African Americans. like your culture, many are still accustomed to the open invitations where everybody and their sister shows up to your buffet reception.

    in fact, i had trouble getting my mother to understand that i was not sending an open invitation 'anywhere'. the logistics would be a nightmare considering at this moment we are having a plated lunch reception.

    i'm certain that i'll be on the phone....a lot. trying to figure out whether or not ppl will be showing up.

    you're not alone....unfortunately....

  2. Honestly, the concept of RSVP is foreign to farmers here and people who live in small towns in general.

    I'm guessing the thought is that if you all live in a small town you're gonna know if such and such is gonna show up because you know what everyone is going to do at all times!

  3. I hate when people don't RSVP... screws up the food count, the favors, the expectation... I could go on forever but as soon as I know if I can go to a party, I respond!

    BTW - I will be using 'it's not in my culture' for things that I don't want to do... thanks FH!

  4. Mexicans don't RSVP either! Really it's a waste of postage because even putting postage ON the reply cards, they still won't RSVP. I've even known some people to peel the unused stamp off the reply envelope to use for later!

    The way we do things is you plan for alot and if you have leftovers.....then the whole family will have have them for a week! Plus, Mexican guests are known for taking extra plates of food home with them! Welcome to my culture :)

  5. Wow, I had no clue that RSVP's were taken so differently across culture. I did however know about the Korean concept of inviting everyone and their sister. Although, I'm not sure my source is accurate given that it came from Gilmore Girls... well, at least I now know their portrayal was accurate!

  6. RSVP... can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Haha! Left you something on my blog - check it out when you get a chance!

  7. haha! this is cute! and so true! one of my best friends is american and her fiance' is korean. she found out the hard way when tons of his family showed up at the wedding. it was a super fun wedding and she made it work, but it was a little overwhelming at first.

  8. My mom followed up with her friends (who made up the Korean Korean on the list). But thankfully most of the rsvp cards were sent back for us.

  9. ha! this post cracked me up...thank goodness my Korean relatives are in Korea and have never met me! RSVP's are even harder to collect when you're having your guests rsvp online. I didn't hesitate though, I just emailed everyone who didn't RSVP to remind them...then texted a few days later. We're still out a few RSVPS....but most of those guests can barely turn on a computer!

  10. Wow! I had no idea that RSVP was something different cultures reacted to differently! Most of my family ( not Korean - Albanian) RSVP'd but I did get a lot of "you know we are I need to send it?"

    I got stressed just reading your post! Good luck girl!


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