RSVP Drama and More: Which Part of Wedding Planning is Breaking You?

Tears shed over scraps of paper

When we got engaged, I had a list of things I was worried about. I’m nobody’s fool, and I didn’t expect wedding planning to be a walk in the park. (I uh, had no idea exactly how un-park-like it would be, but I’ve documented that pretty thoroughly.) I was worried about stress over budgets, and bridesmaid dresses, and parental expectations. But there were a few parts of wedding planning that I cordoned off in my head as magical. Like the early engagement period. And receiving RSVPs. So maybe I am somebody’s fool, after all.

We had a long engagement. At eighteen months, it’s the one thing about wedding planning that I can decisively say I would change, looking back. But as we neared the end of that year and a half period, I figured we were heading into the good times. Creating our invitations had been my happy spot in planning, and I couldn’t wait for those blissful late spring days when we’d sit in our (briefly, suddenly) warm San Francisco apartment, and sort through the mail. We’d have a flurry of RSVP cards, with little notes, cute drawings, and other visible evidence of love. On those warm afternoons, all the borderline hell of planning a wedding we couldn’t quite afford would finally feel worth it.

Right.

(At this point, I feel like I need to put in a spoiler alert to remind you that our wedding was, in fact, pretty magical. But that magic did not extend to my afternoons sorting through blank RSVP cards.)

What I mostly remember about the RSVP period, other than frantically trying to get in touch with people who just. didn’t. respond., was the tears. Because I was so excited by the loving notes we’d get, we sent beautiful blank RSVP postcards, with tiny boxes at the bottom where you could mark the number of meals you needed, or didn’t need. And then the RSVP cards started landing in the mailbox. Blank. In fact, they were often blank with a little “0” marked under number of meals, with no signature, and no return address. (Thank the good Lord I was experienced enough with events to have placed a tiny penciled number on each RSVP card, allowing me to balefully check off exactly which rude person would not be attending our celebration.)

Every single person we invited to our wedding, we invited with a reason. Either we loved them and wanted them to be there, or one of our parents really wanted them to be there (given that they had smaller invite lists than we did), or we loved them and wanted to at least honor them with an invitation even if we knew they couldn’t attend. While we knew only a portion of our guests would be able to come, we cared about each invitation that we handcrafted and sent out. And when a good chunk of responses didn’t show any thought, let alone thoughtfulness, I was crushed.

There is a moral here, somewhere. There is the fact that I carefully saved all of the loving and thoughtful responses. (My grandmother’s response with a Piglet stamp, and a formally worded acceptance, lives on my office bulletin board.) There is the reality that the people that you need to be at your wedding somehow end up being the ones that show up and witness your love, and they are the ones who knit themselves into your community that day. There is the knowledge that love matters more in the end than thoughtlessness. Then, there is the fact that we really need to start teaching (written, formal) manners again, FFS.

But in the moment, none of that made the RSVP process easier for me. At the time, I wanted to know that I was normal. That I wasn’t the only person in the history of time crying over guests that I loved that couldn’t attend, or raging over guests that were flat out rude about non-attendance, or dealing with drama over various other RSVP problems. Or, holy fuck, being insanely frustrated over people who just didn’t RSVP.

I want to say that, with that experience under my belt, I never screw up now. I do, obviously, all the time. But I try these days. Hard. I try to always squash a little love note on my RSVP card, particularly when I can’t make it. I try to make everyone know just how grateful I am to be invited to their wedding (even if I forget to buy a gift till the day before). I know that being invited is an honor, and planning is tough, and a bunch of cards saying no can be hard—even if they’re expected.

today, I’m opening the floor to you. What is your RSVP drama? What secret crying have you been longing to have normalized? Which part of wedding planning is slowly killing you, even though you never saw it coming?

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