5 Tips for Getting People to RSVP to Your Wedding Invitation

Now with a little less teeth-pulling

watercolor wedding save the date design

You’ve heard the horror stories. Getting people to RSVP to your wedding invitations can be painful, but it doesn’t need to be! Here are some top tips:

1. Be Specific. Let your guests know exactly how to RSVP (e.g., “Please email your RSVP response to ourwedding@thisemail.com”) and what your RSVP deadline is. If you are asking guests to RSVP on your wedsite, include that text on your invitation: “Please RSVP on our website at davidandkate.glosite.com by March 1, 2015.”  And make sure your wedsite host is set up to handle any responses sent by a guest who thinks your URL is an email address, for example, davidandkate@glosite.com—because it happens more often than you’d think!

Snail Mail Bonus Hint: If you are collecting RSVPs by snail mail, set the RSVP deadline two weeks before you actually need the responses to arrive. Most guests will feel good if their response is simply postmarked by the reply date, as the taxman has trained us to do…

2. Give Options. Do you have some friends who like texts and others who prefer email? Thought so! Make it easy for your guests by giving them permission to RSVP in the manner that they prefer: online, email, and text messages are easiest for some, while mailing in an RSVP card might feel more comfortable for an older relative.

Snail mail bonus hint: If you’re using snail mail RSVP cards, make sure you include a pre-addressed and pre-stamped return envelope with adequate postage. Also, on the card, provide an alternative method to RSVP (like an email address or phone number). That will help the busy guest who discovers the RSVP card in her “to do” pile five days after the RSVP deadline!

3. Stay Organized. As the RSVPs start to roll in, make sure they are captured in one place so that you know both who has and who has not RSVPed, as well what the responses are. If you’re not using a service like Glö to capture, organize, and tally your responses, start a guest list and RSVP spreadsheet. Here is an example spreadsheet in case you want to steal it! When you receive an RSVP, remember to add it to the spreadsheet right away so that nothing gets lost or forgotten.

Snail mail bonus hint: If you are sending paper RSVP cards in your invitations, number each one lightly on the back in pencil and mark down what number card goes with what guest or household on your spreadsheet. You’d be amazed at the number of cards that are returned without a name on them, and this will make things oh-so-much easier to track.

4. Follow Up (Gently). Your guests are interesting, fun people—but this means they are busy too. Although you are thinking about your wedding day and night, they are not, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many of your guests will need a gentle reminder that the RSVP deadline is coming up. Email is a great way to reach out to them.

Snail mail bonus hint: If you’re not using a service like Glö to manage your RSVPs and guest communications online, make sure you gather everyone’s emails and phone numbers together early in your planning so you have them when you need to follow up on those final missing RSVPs.

5. Plan Ahead. Don’t wait until three days before your catering numbers are due to start calling everyone in panic. Add some calendar invites to remind yourself when to send the first gentle reminder and when to start picking up the phone and dialing. Another sanity-saver is to build in some buffer for the unexpected yay or nay. Expect one or two guests to drop out at the last minute and one or two others to call at last minute and ask whether they can still come. If you are mentally and logistically prepared for this to happen, it will be less stressful when it does!

At the end of the day, the most important thing is not to panic. Collecting RSVPs requires a patient and methodical approach. You will get there!

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  • Ana

    We did a google form RSVP on our website that fed into a spreadsheet. The website with RSVP date was on the invitation. We emailed everyone who we hadn’t heard from on our RSVP date and included the link to the google form so they didn’t even have to type the website! We only had 2 non-responders out of 157 guests!

  • Stephanie B.

    Numbering the RSVP cards in pencil is a fantastic idea, and I did actually need to refer to the list of numbers with names…when my Dad returned his RSVP card without a name! That made me laugh. (When I teased him about it, he said, “Well, you KNEW that I would be there anyway!”)

    I shared that tip with a niece who recently got married, and when we received the invitation, I looked all over the RSVP card for an inconspicuous number. I couldn’t find one, and figured they forgot the tip. Later, I realized they worked a tiny number into the artwork around the edges of the card. Clever! (I told her that when I found it, my obsessive planner heart was filled with joy.)

    • Lisa

      I was hoping the final reveal of the number was going to involve a blacklight or something! Numbers in the artwork is super clever.

      • scw

        we’re using a blacklight for ours! I bought a ton of pens to ask my nieces and nephews to be in the wedding, secret agent style, and it’s a bonus that they’ll come in handy for the rsvps too!

        • JDrives

          This is also what we did! I felt exactly like a secret agent doing our RSVPs. I was almost sad that everyone wrote their names so I didn’t have to use my blacklight!

    • ardenelise

      I just wrote the family name in the return address section on the back of the postcard RSVP instead of numbering. That way I didn’t have to look up people’s numbers when they didn’t write their names (and a SURPRISING number of people forgot to do this), plus it looked like I was being helpful and not making you write all of your return address information.

  • Jules

    From where are those pictured invitations? They’re all kinds of lovely!

    Great tips!

  • Jenny L

    We are right in the midst of this! :) We did ALL of the above and are having luck BUT there were a few days when I had to remind myself to calm down, you set an early deadline for a reason, etc etc :) ) On our RSVP due date, we had only heard from 50% of the folks we invited (despite having an RSVP email address, website where guest could contact us AND sending pre-addressed, pre-stamped RSVP postcards AND having our deadline clearly stated on the invitation…) We followed the advice I’ve seen here before – having parents track down their people, sending kindly-worded reminders via email, texting our close friends. We are pretty close to knowing now who will be there – but I can’t imagine what it would be like had we not taken the above steps!

    • Lisa

      This was definitely us. Most of my parents’ families didn’t bother to RSVP in any way, and we had to track them down. Turns out most of the ones who didn’t RSVP didn’t come to the wedding anyway. We used the AppyCouple site where we could send out e-mail reminders to the people who hadn’t responded. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we hadn’t been able to do that!

      • Jenny L

        That’s what we’re finding – the folks who haven’t RSVP’d for the most part are not coming. We are still tracking down one very unpredictable couple who may or may not show up and are great friends with my FH :) We’ve heard from most people at this point – enough to order our cupcakes and start our seating chart! Whew :)

    • quickj

      Good luck!!

      • Jenny L

        Thanks so much!!! We are getting close :) and we have almost all of them collected!

  • quickj

    At every occasion possible, we hand-delivered our invitations, and often (jokingly) said: we’ll take any RSVPs now! Surprisingly, a huge percentage of those hand-delivered one yielded immediate responses. This worked especially well for my rarely-RSVPs extended family, who were pretty much all coming to the wedding, but likely would have waited until after the deadline to respond (via snail mail, online, text message, phone, etc.)

    Another possibility: we asked (a very willing to help-in-some-small-way) someone to be a point person for different groups of people we didn’t know particularly well (this worked especially well with my partner’s extended family and/or my parents’ friends, etc.), who then touched base with the few people from each group (of which they were a part) to offer gentle reminders to send in their RSVPS.

    • Stephanie B.

      My husband’s best friend lives just a couple of blocks away, and has inattentive-type ADD. The day he received his invitation, he hopped in the car and drove the RSVP card over to us. (I told him, “But I stamped the envelope and everything!” He said, “Here, have a free stamp.”) I was touched by his thoughtfulness in returning it immediately because he knows his own tendency to forget details like returning an RSVP card. (He did a reading at the wedding, so he was also in the category of People We Know Will Be There, but it was still a very thoughtful thing to do.)

  • K.

    Did y’all pester your wedding party to officially reply or was that just assumed? If the former, is there a specific reason to make them actually send the card or was it just peace of mind?

    • Stephanie B.

      We didn’t pester anyone with an “assigned” role, like doing a reading, etc. But one reason I can see is if your RSVP card has a place for the guest to indicate which entree they want (beef/chicken/vegetarian), so the caterers have the info. But if your RSVP card is simple (just a no/yes and number of guests), then I wouldn’t think you’d need to pester them. (Unless you wanted to give them some friendly grief; my brother was our officiant, and I texted him every few days to ask him where his RSVP was, because that’s what sisters do.)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      We invited children, so we had to pester our groomsmen as to whether their children were attending.

    • Ellen

      We needed to know about food choices and plus-ones, so we asked them to return the cards. My memory is that some still didn’t, but they did convey that information to us in some other form. Particularly regarding plus-ones, I thought returning the card would increase the odds that whatever they reported would be an accurate reflection of who showed up–people would feel more committed and less like, “Oh, they said I could bring a guest, I’m sure it won’t be a problem to add someone at the last minute,” if they’d RSVP’d in a more formal way. We had no issues on that front, so I can’t tell you if the cards made any difference.

      FWIW, and a related issue: my in-laws handled the rehearsal dinner and didn’t ask for RSVPs; they assumed everyone would attend, because they knew everyone would be in town already. In fact, we had one older family member who was unable to attend (she needed the day to rest, so she could be in good shape for the wedding) and one wedding party member’s plus-one had made plans of her own with a local friend that evening (frankly, probably more fun than a rehearsal dinner for people you’ve never met before). All of that came out before the event, and it wouldn’t have been a huge issue if it hadn’t, but my takeaway is to not make assumptions about who will be where–whether it’s via the official medium or not, make sure you’ve clarified with all relevant parties.

    • SarahG

      I needed meal choices, so I had to email my brothers to remind them. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered — if they said yes to doing a reading I figure they said yes to being there :)

    • Danielle Antosz

      I didn’t worry about the wedding party RSVPing. I talked to most pretty regularly, and knew info like flights, hotels, etc, so I knew they were coming :)

  • Sarah

    We got our moms in on the action to track down family members who didn’t RSVP. My mom actually became a bit of a pit bull with this, but better her than me to get the answers! Our friends were the best at RSVP-ing…even through snail mail. We invited less than 90 (and many were children/families) so not sure how this would work for larger weddings.

  • Kelly

    Be very thoughtful about your RSVP wording. I thought “total number of guests” was very clear, but people replied 1 and some replied 2 for “Me and My Guest.”

    Also, I sort of wish I had put my fiance in charge of this. My head was spinning with details and his was… not. Hindsight: this would have been a good project for him.

    • You left the “number of guests” line blank? I’m trying to get around that by including a “we’ve saved ___ seats for you” line on our RSVP cards so it’s very clear who has a +1 & who doesn’t…but I still expect ppl to try to add other folks.

      • Kelly

        We gave almost everyone a plus one, so we weren’t in an awkward position there. It was more for me to know who was bringing a date and who wasn’t. I’m not sure what we should have done to make this easier….

        Of course, we did have someone with a plus one RSVP FOR A PLUS TWO.

        • SarahG


        • Sarah E

          I imagine that someone planned to have a REALLY good night.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Ours said “Please indicate number: ___ will attend ___ will not attend.” A lot of people just checked the line, rather than writing a number, but it was never unclear to us what they meant. We had no one try to add uninvited guests. Our biggest problem was getting people to make a decision about whether they were bringing their children.

      • Kelly

        Yes! I think people assumed that we didn’t have to pay for children’s meals, which was just not true. Several RSVPed but didn’t come.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          There’s the headcount for the caterer, and there’s arranging seating. There’s a big difference between 2 parents, and 2 parents and 4 school-age children in terms of assigning people to tables.

    • ardenelise

      Yeah, I’m still not sure what’s the best wording for RSVP cards to get an accurate number. We had “___ number attending,” which I thought was super clear. But then we had several people who RSVPed and showed up to the wedding ceremony, but didn’t come to the reception. Obviously we only needed the number for the reception food! Now, some of them were people’s teenage children, so I get that they had something they’d rather do on a Saturday night, but I still wish they either hadn’t RSVPed, or had honored their RSVP commitment. I’ve tried to figure out a better way to word it to make it clear you’re asking for a reception count (my brother’s getting married next summer, so we didn’t want him to face the same problem), but I worry it just gets overly complicated. Plus, it’s probably less of a problem if your ceremony and reception are in the same place.

      We also had an issue with a lot of people RSVPing and not coming. We had a big guest list (~200 RSVPs) and probably had 20 people who didn’t come to the reception. Around 5 came to the ceremony but didn’t come to the reception, and nearly 10 told us the couple days before the wedding that they wouldn’t be coming. (Most had great reasons– a father was dying, a mother fell and broke her hip, a daughter ended up in the hospital with a staph infection, a third cousin went into diabetic shock in the airport on his way there, etc.) Then we had an additional 5 who never showed, and never contacted us afterward to tell us why. I know we had a big guest list, so it was more likely that some people might not make it, and we did have an unusual number of medical emergencies. But I felt like 10% was a pretty big amount, and I really wish I’d subtracted some folks from our number for the caterer. Did anyone else run into this problem? Is there a recommended amount to reduce in your catering number?

      • ElisabethJoanne

        On the yes to ceremony, no to reception issue, I considered having separate lines for each event: “Please indicate number: ___ will not attend; ___ will attend ceremony; ___ will attend reception” but then we started hearing people wanted to skip the ceremony, and I didn’t want to encourage that. Ultimately, a couple people did RSVP “ceremony only” with a note on the RSVP card, and then a lot of people did only attend the reception, but generally with better reasons than “wedding ceremonies are boring.”

        On over/under for guest attendance: It really has to do with the groups you’re inviting, and luck. I think if you’re inviting more young adults, you’re more likely to have surprise can’t-make-it people balanced out with surprise-brought-a-date people. We had a lot of families and elderly people. No one brought a surprise date (In fact, a couple husbands attended without their wives.), but one car break-down meant 5 missing guests.

      • Danielle Antosz

        Agree with ElisabethJoanne, it def depends upon your group. We had about 10 people back out/not show up. Was really glad not to have to deal with plated food. I would also say it depends upon how you are having the wedding catered. If its a buffet, I’d for sure say drop the number by 5 -10, depending on your group/number of attendees. If it is plated, that could be really awkward if someone didn’t get a meal!

  • MDBethann

    We tried to keep our paper usage to a minimum, so we went with postcard RSVPs. If I recall, we used the numbering tip from the book, but I think we hid the numbers under the stamp – no one would know the number was there and we could always gently remove the stamp if we needed to see who didn’t RSVP.

    It worked out pretty well and I don’t recall that we had to hunt too many people down. Some people didn’t send their cards back and instead relayed their status through one of our moms. Fortunately, it wasn’t a problem because we had a buffet. I still didn’t figure out a good way to keep people from bringing an uninvited +1 (we fortunately only had one of those). That was frustrating because there was no “and guest” on the envelope & they never asked. They also RSVPed through a family member, so there was no good way to gently tell them no. We got lucky in that some invited folks couldn’t come so we had room, but we had 150+ people invited (large families) and space limitations.

    • Danielle Antosz

      We also had a (mostly self catered) buffet. Which was good, cause 10 people backed or just plain didn’t show up. I would have been sooo pissed if I had paid per head.

      • MDBethann

        We paid per head, but fortunately only one couple had to back out at the last minute after our head count was submitted (my one cousin is a pilot & his schedule was changed at the last minute & he had to be in the Midwest the day of our PA wedding). And our venue was SUPER awesome and I think let us remove that couple from the headcount at the last minute. We had our reception in a private room of a restaurant/microbrewery and they were so awesome and flexible. Not to mention the food was varied & fantastic & multiple guests loved the craft brews (but that’s an entirely different story from RSVPs!)

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Re #4: If you’re collecting guests’ addresses from other people, such as your future in-laws, tell them up-front that this is part of giving you the address – You need names for addressing the invitation, a mailing address, and at least one form of electronic communication (phone number or email address). We had to press this with my in-laws. They wanted to leave out at least one element for several of their guests, and we had to tell them we wouldn’t invite anyone unless we had names, mailing addresses, and, for overseas guests, an email address.

    For us, it was enough to have one form of e-communication for each adult guest, and often this wasn’t even an email address or phone number, but a Facebook connection.

  • Kelly

    Also, a phone call to each set of our parents answered a lot of questions, because they heard directly from Cousin Sam and Aunt Debbie that they weren’t able to come. We just had to trust their intel.

    • Jacky Speck

      Yup, same here. I was very surprised by how many relatives RSVP’ed by calling our parents instead of using the three RSVP options we listed on our invitations. They just assumed our parents would relay the information, while our parents assumed they would *also* RSVP directly to us.

      I guess it’s a generational/cultural thing, assuming our parents planned the wedding (nope, that’s why the invitations didn’t say “[parents] invite you”) and therefore would collect RSVP’s.

      • Eh

        My dad’s step-mum told my dad that she was unable to come. My dad refuses to be a messenger service for his grown children who live all over the country so he never passed the information along to me (as it was a casual comment – more like, FYI I can’t come – my dad also thought that she would RSVP directly to us). Originally she had said that she was planning on coming so I was surprised when I didn’t get an RSVP. A couple days after the RSVP deadline I called her to follow up and she was pretty upset that my dad had not passed on the information.

  • BB

    did anyone use Wedding Wire for the RSVP system/website? Any thoughts/advice?

    • Jess

      I don’t know how it is from a hosting perspective, but as a guest, the one thing I found to be a challenge was that there wasn’t an option for # of guests (for example, as my date was formally invited) and it wasn’t obvious that I should either RSVP again with R’s name instead or that I should write his name somewhere.

      I ended up awkwardly being like, “I’m really excited for you two! Also I’m bringing R because he was on our invitation. Byeeeee!”

      • BB

        Gotcha! Thanks for that!!
        I looked into that issue and it seems that as a host I can add a “Guest of …” under the “Household” name to those who we are giving a plus one. So hopefully that sidesteps the awkward comment issue for guests!

        • Kelsey

          WeddingWire worked well for us, mostly. My one piece of advise is if you put people together in a
          household, and the guest RSVPs for some but not all of those people,
          the status of the unedited people goes blank and can’t be edited by
          guests. That sounds really confusing, but what it amounts to is this:
          When multiple households had the same last name, and I didn’t know who
          went with who (fiancée’s family) I just put all of them in one
          household, under their last name. The first couple went in and RSVP’d.
          Later, another couple tried to rsvp and couldn’t, because their RSVP
          status had gone from “no response” to blank. I had to go in and change
          them all back to “no response” for it to be changeable from the guest
          side of things… This was the cause of a handful of people being unable
          to RSVP (despite the fact that there was an alternative way of RSVP’ing
          by phone, but apparently people were afraid of that option–I only got
          4/100 responses that way). This would also happen if, say, someone knew they could come but another family member was still waiting to hear about time off.

          • BB

            Thanks, Kelsey! Appreciate it!

        • Jess

          Ooooh interesting! Very cool. Glad I could help.

          Their website was pretty useful for the rest of the information finding/layout. So that was good!

    • We did! We asked people to RSVP on our Wedding Wire website and only one person had any issues. I have no complaints about their system (except the minor thing that you can’t change an RSVP … we had someone RSVP yes and then have something come up … I had to manually delete his entry and make another one and mark that as a ‘no’ RSVP to keep the headcount accurate). What’s really great is that you can make it very clear who is invited – when someone goes to RSVP, they search their name (first or last or both, whatever setting you choose) and out pops their household – which has everyone’s name. So, each couple is a household, each single person is their own household. We loved that because we didn’t do +1s — we just invited everyone’s boyfriend/gf/partner by name.

      • BB

        Great! This is all super helpful. Thank you!

  • Danielle Antosz

    Was seriously amazed (though I should have known from reading here!) by the number of people who didn’t RSVP. Our mistake was writing “Save the Date” on the front of the card, when the back included info on where to RSVP (website). A lot of people didn’t even bother to read the reverse of the card!

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  • Planning ahead is huge, and I love what you said about if you’re mailing set the rsvp day for 2 weeks before you really need it. SO smart !

  • The Logical Bride

    Great tips! It really is appalling the number of people who
    don’t RSVP to events these days, in particular weddings. It is so rude to not let people know whether you
    are attending or not, especially when it’s a catered event and cost per head. I find it most insulting when guests who are
    married themselves fail to RSVP on time.
    Surely if you have organised a wedding yourself you understand the
    importance of knowing guest numbers to finalise your bookings.

  • RobertRonzioNECC

    Listen, fear is a great motivator and I use it to get what I want in every aspect of my life because I am a gifted communicator. I call my guests and tell them I need an answer at once or else there will be a problem. After I get them to say yes, I introduce my gift envelope system> I tell them my wedding gift should consist of 2 envelopes omne made out only to me with cash inside and the 2nd envelope should be made out to my future gumba and me. I tell them the first envelope should contain at least 75% of the wedding gift and the minimum contribution allowed is $200 or else. I get my broad ready for marriage by telling her she will do what I say or else. This approach works fine for me even though I have a few ex wives and ex children in Nevada. America was built on the take. You gotta take it to make it in every facet of your life. Rules are for suckers and women are only needed to watch the kids and service me whenever I snap my fingers. I do what I want when I want without considerations for others or the law. My friends all look up to me and call me gangsta Rob. I stare in the mirror everyday and I am amazed at the man staring at me. I am magnificent. That’s why I am a feared sales manager at a compounding pharmaceutical company and let me tell ya business aint fun unless you cross a few lines.

  • Jermaine Hall
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  • Bridgette Goeman

    I am trying to arrange my RSVP’s now and a bit stuck to say the least, I don’t want to go down the traditional route of physical RSVP cards as trying to save money and time but realising that if we go by another form such as email, text, calling etc its going to be harder to manage dietary requirements and i know for a fact that we have lots of people who will want to specify that they are gluten intolerant/ vegetarian/ vegan/ intolerant to all food and I don’t want people to show up and be unable to eat food because we didn’t send formal RSVP’s so they didn’t realise to include this information….. HELP!!! PLEASE!!! thank you

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  • More than likely a follow up will be needed for some invites, Facebook messages are often a good solution and helps keep costs down. We have some articles covering this issue on our blog http://kerryharvey.ie/blog/ thanks in advance for checking it.

  • Valerie Linares

    Thanks for the tips, but I don’t understand what you mean when you say,
    “Most guests will feel good if their response is simply postmarked by the reply date…”

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