Ask Team Practical: Late Wedding RSVPs

I’m getting married in November. We sent our our invitations in July. Our “RSVP by” date is approaching in mid-late October, and we’ve only received 10 RSVP cards back out of about the 50 invitations we sent out. Around the time of our RSVP date, we need to give our caterer the final head count so they know how much food to prepare.

This is where I’m concerned. We have a limited budget, and therefore want to know exactly (or as close to exactly as possible) how many people we can expect to feed. I’m worried that a majority of the people we invited will not RSVP (which I find incredibly rude—why did we send the card with the invitation…for sh*ts and giggles?) and simply show up the day of the wedding with huge appetites, clear out the buffet and leave those who were courteous enough to RSVP to go hungry.

Is it not “the done thing” this day and age to send back the RSVP card? Everyone I’ve talked to so far says that we should assume they’re all coming and provide enough food accordingly. I disagree. Why should I shell out more money to pay for food for someone who may not show up? In my opinion, if they want to be fed, they should be polite and RSVP. Everyone seems to think that’s just the way it goes, and it would be rude of us not to plan for everyone we invited to turn up. I don’t want to police people and start calling asking “Hey, are you coming?” (And I shouldn’t have to. After all, it’s a wedding I’ve invited them to, not a public flogging.)

Short of acting like a bouncer during my reception, wielding a megaphone and yelling at people to please drop the lamb chop and back away from the buffet, what is the best way to handle the situation?

Before I get into your question, we need to have a conversation about RSVPs. First some facts. RSVP is an acronym for répondez s’il vous plaît, which is a French expression meaning “respond, if you please.” Generally, it was an addendum to an invitation and you’d respond to the person sending the invitation with your acceptance or regret.  RSVP on any kind of invitation means that they are requesting a response from the people the invitation is addressed to; either a yes or a no, along with the name of your extra guest if your invitation was addressed to “and Guest.”  If the invitation says “RSVP, regrets only,” they only want a response if you are not coming.

Easy, peasy, rice and cheesy, right?

Nope.  That sound you just heard?  That was the sound of every single reader who is a current or former bride laughing in scornful frustration.

One of the most irritating things you may have to do as a bride is chase down your RSVPs.  The use of response cards have streamlined this process, though etiquette mavens like Miss Manners hate them as they eliminate the need for a personal, hand written note.  (Forgive us, M.M., but they make our lives easier, though Meg says she still writes a hand written note, if only in your honor.)  However, there are serial non-RSVPers out there.  They either always lose the cards, forget to mail them, assume you know they’ll be there or think that telling your partner that they’re coming is an appropriate response.  And, honey, it’s not.

Serial non-RSVPers, I get it.  I’m married to one of you.  You’re super busy and things come up and mistakes happen.  But there is no good reason for not sending an RSVP.  Unless you are ill, dead or on fire, you can send an RSVP.  Someone went through a lot to trouble to have teeny little cards printed that matched their invitation suite, buy adorable stamps that color-coordinate and then send it to you so that all you have to do is write your name on it and check a little box next to “yes” or “no”.  Respect that and send the dang card in.  And honestly?  Write a note somewhere on that card too, even if it just says, “So excited to see you get hitched!” or “Terribly sad we can’t make it.” There is something vaguely discouraging about getting a RSVP where “1” is scrawled by number of meals, with no return address, like you’re just ordering up a meal in a restaurant.  For free.  But that’s extra credit, not mandatory, and I digress.

The problem is that as busy as you are, so is the couple who sent you the invitation.  The reason they sent you an RSVP card is because they don’t have the time to send three emails and eight text messages going, “Hey, just checking to see if you’re coming???”  You already know if you’re going by the time the date RSVP date; if you don’t, pick up the phone and tell them that.  It’s not rude at all—things happen and you might not know until two days before the wedding if you can get off of work, find a sitter, etc. But tell the couple that, and let them tell you if they still can include you, or if they just can’t. A “maybe” is better than nothing at all, and it lets the couple decide what to do.

Now that I’ve gotten all the unsolicited chastising out of the way, back to the question. Yes, the polite thing to do is send in an RSVP.  And no, you shouldn’t have to chase these people down or beg for a response.  But, unfortunately, that’s what you’re going to have to do.  The problem is that, despite what I said previously, most people really do mean to RSVP.  However, if you have 100 guests, you can bet that about 9 of them will lose the RSVP card, 7 will be unsure if they can come at all, 4 will think they already sent the card, 6 will have told your mom/partner/father-in-law that they’re coming and assume that counts as an RSVP, and 3 of them will have lost the invitation altogether.  And every single one of those people will be apologetic and swear they ALWAYS send in their RSVPs.

Because of your loveable scatter-brained guests, you’re going to have to make some phone calls or send some emails.  Sure, it’s irritating, but what’s the alternative?  Stress and freak-out about the guest list until the day of?  Pay for an extra 16 pounds of mashed potatoes for guests who aren’t coming?  Copy and paste my previous paragraphs and mail them anonymously, hoping they get the hint?  Don’t use your wedding as a lesson in respondent etiquette.  Put aside a hour or two, send a mess of emails to friends, make some phone calls to relatives and vow to teach future generations better manners.

If you’re still worried, talk to your caterer.  They may swear that they need an exact head count for your event, but they’ve been in the business a while.  Your caterer knows that mishaps happen and they will have a few extra plates available for inevitable eventualities (and reality check: you might end up paying for a few people that don’t show.  You will probably want to light them on fire, but you will also live through it.).  Of course, your caterer is not going to tell you this because they want your count to be as accurate as possible.  But ask them what they do about extra guests who show up; they’ll be able to reassure you a little and you can breathe easier and put your megaphone down.

But before you do ANY of that, wait a bit and cut your guests some slack.  By my count, you sent your invitations at least nine weeks beforehand and while that’s plenty of time for your guests to make travel arrangements, that’s also plenty of time for them to forget they have a response to send in.  I have a feeling that you’ll get a mess of RSVPs back either the day of your deadline or a few days later.  And you can guarantee what happened to them was what happened to me recently: they put the RSVP on their fridge, forgot it was there until they noticed the date while grabbing a popsicle and screamed “Oh SH*T!” while racing to the post office.

Forgive us.  We promise to bring a nice present.

And finally, a pro-tip.  For those of you who haven’t yet sent your RSVP cards out, NUMBER THEM, and give corresponding numbers to your guest list.  You will be shocked by the number of people who send an RSVP card just marked “yes” without any hint as to who the hell is responding.  You can thank us for the numbering system later, after you’ve made note of which of your friends and relatives struggle with, well, logic.


‘Fess up, Team Practical.  Do you have an RSVP sitting on your desk right now that you need to send in?  How did you handle your lackadaisical guests?  Was there a megaphone involved?  Let us know in the comments!

Photo: Emily Takes Photos 

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  We’re not kidding.  It brings us joy.  What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!

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  • Our “RSVP by” date was yesterday. We’ve only received 56% of our RSVPs. We had both a postcard and an online RSVP method (which, on a side note, was VERY popular) Tomorrow, I will give my family a list of our relatives who have not responded, and my fiance will give his family a list of their relatives. And we’ll each contact our friends ourselves. Our message will be simple. We’d love for you to come, but there’s no hard feelings if you can’t make it. We just need to know for sure for the caterer. (and we’ll also briefly explain our “B-list” concept).

    • Amy

      This was exactly how we handled it. The person who knew the invitee best (myself, my fiancee, my mom, or my MIL) got to chase down “their” RSVPs. We started this process about a week after our deadline and aside from one or two “friends” who refused to respond to calls/texts got a reliable headcount pretty quickly and easily.
      Did I still steam and rant to my fiance about how gosh darn hard can it be to pop a pre-stamped card in the mail? Yes, totally. But more than anything I didn’t want my parents to pay an extra per head charge for people that I wasn’t sure would show up.

      • Yes! This is exactly what we did. By our RSVP date, only about half of the people had sent their cards in (cue scornful frustrated laughter here) so my mother graciously volunteered to be the one who went down the list calling. That worked perfectly. My parents knew most of the people coming, so that worked for us, and for the ones they didn’t know that hadn’t RSVP’d, my wife or I emailed just to check in and see if they were coming. (I like what Melissa said above- if you have a large number of people that know one person in your family or one side of the family, I think giving different lists to different people to check is a great idea.)

        It worked out perfectly for us– most everyone responded to that second wave of ‘hey! We really need to know if you’re going to be there!’

      • LZ

        We actually made our RSVP envelopes with a stamp, and we also filled out the return to address (ours) AND their addresses on the top-left, so all they had to do was fill out the card, lick, send.

        We got almost all of our RSVP’s back (and didn’t have to worry about the numbering…), but we did have to track down some family and friends. We didn’t do a plus one unless we knew both people (except for a couple of people who were traveling, and wouldn’t know anyone there…) — Which definitely caused a little , “Well, so-and-so wants to invite their boyfriend. Is that ok?) stress.

        BUT! trying not to digress from the topic — We definitely had to do the grapevine game, and the, “Mom — Will you call so-and-so and see if they’re coming? We haven’t received their RSVP, and we need to get a number to the caterers”… We made lists by family (i.e. — Hubby tackled his side of the family, I tackled my side of the family), and divied it up to other family from there to get the information to us.

        It IS frustrating to not get RSVP’s, but I agree — they are still people you cared enough about (or your family cares enough about) to be invited to a wedding….

    • Melissa

      I’d be careful mentioning a B-list. Some might not react well to that, though of course I understand the reality of it. You don’t want people wondering who the B-listers are (I assume you’re referring to people who were not important enough to invite on your A-list but who could be fit in if some A’s RSVP that they can’t come).

      • Thanks! Yep, that’s what I’m referring to. Although funny enough, all our B-listers know that they’re B-listers. I actually talked to them beforehand (mostly co-workers that I interact with daily but not outside of work, a few neighbors who have been helpful in looking after our house when we’re on vacation, and for instance, a close friend of my sister’s but someone that I don’t know very well). I just said that we’d love to invite you to our wedding, but unfortunately my fiance has a large family and we do have some space limitations, but if we find that we have enough space, we’d love for you to come. I’m not quite sure if this was exactly a great idea, but they all seemed understanding!

        • AnotherCourtney

          All of our B-listers knew they were on our B-list, too. It made it so much easier to give them an invitation two weeks before the wedding, when great-aunt-so-and-so finally let us know she wasn’t coming, and all of them were super excited to be included. Miss Manners may frown on it, but I didn’t get any hard feelings at all out of it.

          And we did an online RSVP system, too, which was also very popular. Of course, we did completely scrap the RSVP cards, since my already-married friends insisted no one returns them anyway. The online system (combined with a Google Voice phone number for the less internet-inclined) was a huge success!

    • GingerJess

      That’s what we did, too. The day after the RSVP date I sent lists to my parents and have my now-husband a list of his people to pursue as he saw fit.

      On a side note, I was amazed by the number of RSVPs that I got via text messages and facebook. I’ll bet almost half of them!

  • Oh, and I’m also very supportive of the idea to assume that they’re NOT coming if they don’t RSVP. There won’t be an escort card for them and there may not be even space for them to sit. Oh well, not my problem!

    • Claire

      I’d just like to ask if anyone has tried this? I agree with it wholeheartedly, but in reality what actually happens when a non-RSVPer busts in on your wedding and expects some seats/food? I was thinking maybe I can only send directions to the venue or other detailed info to those who RSVPed?

      • kristen

        two idea i have heard of:

        setting up a non-RSVP table for those that do not RSVP. they will sit at that table, and you can put it in the back or near the restrooms.

        having someone at the door who shows people to their seats. if someone is not on the “RSVP” list for dinner, the host can politely let them know that an RSVP was not received, and so a spot was not reserved, and then (nicely) let them know that they are welcome to sit at the bar until dinner is over and then join the dancing. of course, this must be done very nicely and kindly.

        i personally chose to give people the benefit of the doubt before getting frustrated. i did my emails/calls once, just to make sure that cards hadn’t gotten lost in the mail (which they had), and then reserved my frustration for the second and third rounds of emails/calls, before just giving up and assuming the rest were not coming.

        i KNOW, right? this bride feels your pain. :)

        • Alyssa

          I don’t know, guys, those options sound a bit extreme. I mean, these are still guests at your wedding, so you invited them for a reason and that reason is that you love them in some way.
          As satisfying as it might be to put a serial non-responder near the toilets or not serve them at all, the punishment doesn’t exactly fit the crime. These are still your friend and family! I think cussing them out to your partner and complaining about it on APW should probably suffice. :-)

          • kristen

            just to clarify – i did not do these things. i googled ideas right after my RSVPs were due, and these were quite common… just sayin’. i personally contacted each guest until I got an RSVP and then finally let it go after we still had only about 35 missing.

          • bec

            And also, remember that you are getting married!! This is the time where the little things can get you down, stress you out, overwhelm you. Don’t let that happen; step back and take a breather, because whether or not they RSVP, whether or not they get fed, you will still be MARRIED!!

          • Tamara Van Horn

            We did a destination wedding, so it was pretty important to get a accurate count, seeing as it was several hundred miles away from anyone invited’s homes. We had 22 guests and still had to track down guests. And some people wouldn’t confirm no matter how hard we tried to contact them. So we went ahead and assumed they weren’t coming. This included my dad, and as much as certain measures may seem Draconian, chasing after my students, my dissertation committee, my guests, and my FH was too much for my patience. So people were mad that we kept calling? OK. But we were already tapped out, and as people who we love “enough” to invite, they should respect that 4-5 guests had a huge impact on our budget. Because we are a passive-aggressive family, no one who didn’t RSVP, showed up, but I did have to tell a couple of FH’s husbands when their cut off was for arguing with the family and using attending our wedding as a pawn in that game. Sometimes, you neither have the time, patience, nor funds to deal with crazy people, no matter how much you love them. And I don’t think that this very special party should mean you don’t get to snap on crazy people as well. IMHO, it’s disrespectful to the Baby Family, and the institution of marriage, to do less than responding

  • Oh we had the same, in this day and age, busy people just don’t confirm. It was only people from older generations that RSVPed. So yes, If I can offer my humble advice that would be, just send a massive email politely reminding everyone that you really need to know by now for obvious logistical reasons who is coming.
    It does not make sense you having to send such a reminder, since that is the whole point of putting an RSVP note in the invitation or sending specific RSVP card, but I think that is just how the cookie crumbles. I would just do it online.

    • Amy

      I will say, the people who RSVP’d among “our” generation overwhelmingly tended to be people who had already planned weddings. It seems once you have to chase people for your own RSVPs it makes you much more likely to send them back for other weddings.
      And I still get mildly annoyed that only 1 out of my 5 bridesmaids RSVP’d because ‘you know I’ll be there!’. Yes, I know you’ll be there, but I’d also like to know if you’re bringing a date and what they’d like to eat!

      • Alyssa

        Honestly, I think the older generation had just as much trouble with RSVP’s as we do. They just have the luxury of time to erase their bad behavior.

        “Of COURSE, I ALWAYS RSVP’ed! And I never talked back to my mother. And I never did keg stands. Or ran away with a beautiful Ghanaian man for a week when I was 22. Uh uh, no way….”

      • We actually haven’t heard from a couple of couples–one of whom just got married in September! I want to email them and say “You should understand!!”

        • I have to admit, the first wedding we got invited to after we got married, I didn’t RSVP on time. It was my cousin’s wedding, and I knew I was going, and put the card aside until we could find out whether my husband could get off work (Friday evening wedding in a city 4 hours away), and it just slipped my mind. I got an e-mail from my aunt on the day the RSVPs were due asking if we were coming, and I apologized for being late, told her we’d be there with bells on, and said the card was in the mail. (Then I ran to closest mailbox and put the card in the mail.) I still feel bad – if anyone should know better!

  • Siobhan

    The last two weddings I attended switched it up a bit on the RSVP thing.

    1. Tiny , barely planned wedding, invitations sent out three weeks before, the RSVP was via facebook. The could then email all attendees at “wedding” and chase. Sadly this is a true story

    2. Massive wedding with 200 guests. The emailed all guests with the save the date and only sent invitations to those who replied to the save the date to say they could attend. So the RSVP was to the save the date and no RSVP meant no invitation.

    I’m not sure if either works massively well (one person at wedding 2 requested they made facebook event just so he would remember the wedding and could respond) but we are currently in the process of stealing thier save the date message because it really worked!

    People are always rubbish at RSVPs – I am. I always draft a note and then think I have sent it, then find it a month later at the bottom of my handbag. But I know I need to try harder and for weddings (I know it should be for everything) I always try to be prompt with the RSVP and even pushed M to reply to his brother and confirm we were both coming as we were invited, and the invite said RSVP!

    • Got a recent Facebook invite – except I didn’t see it or get a notification, so when the bride mentioned it, I was like “nope, haven’t seen it.” Facebook is the devil and I would NOT consider myself invited to a wedding that a mass Facebook event was created for. Call me a traditionalist.

      I actually like #2, as long as it’s clear that they need to say that they can attend!

    • I hope the couple who sent invites to the people who RSVP’ed to the save the dates included a message like “IF YOU DON’T RESPOND TO OUR SAVE THE DATE THEN NO INVITE FOR YOU”. It seems sort of extreme. I mean, I understand why they might want to do this, on one hand, but on the other, you send out a save the date to people you want to invite. If I got a save the date and then no invite (and didn’t realize I had to RSVP) I’d be hurt. I asked people to respond to our save the date (which was also email) with their address for the upcoming invite and I still had to chase down addresses for people like my brother, or my uncle who were both coming but didn’t send me recent addresses.

      We also did RSVPs to the invite online and I also had to chase down confirmations from people, like said uncle.

  • HeatherM

    Okay, I realize that tracking down your guests is inconvenient for you, but typically people invite friends and family to weddings, so it’s not like you have to cold-call strangers out of the blue to ask if they are coming to your wedding. Your guests are people that you WANT to celebrate with on your wedding day. They are people who have raised you and been there for you at your lowest lows and highest highs, and helped you get where you are today. This is why most of us do not elope- because we want to share in our celebration with all of those family and friends that we love so much. I realize that if they do not return your RSVP cards by the date due, then they have committed an etiquette faux paux. But because you love them and you WANT them there, you will forgive them, and be curteous enough to give them a follow up call. By the time your wedding is all said and done, you will likely have committed a few faux paux yourself (because no bride is stressful) – maybe it will be the late or missed thank you note, or maybe that you just weren’t there for friends or family when they needed you because you were too busy with wedding planning. Part of being a friend or in a family is to forgive, and then move on and celebrate together.
    If it makes you feel any better, if anyone is throwing you a shower, they are likely going through the same frustrations with your same guests. Only they likely don’t know everyone they are inviting to the shower, so they likely do have to cold call strangers to ask if they are coming to the party.

    • HeatherM

      Oops, I meant “Because no bride is perfect, and wedding planning is insanely stressful”

  • z

    I’m still mad about an RSVP issue– a kinda-relative who announced to me that her college-aged son, who I barely know and felt obligated to invite, would be RSVP-ing late. She told me she was “moving his RSVP date so he wouldn’t have to stress about it”! I was shocked. Eventually I wrote her an email explaining that the head count matters for a lot more things than the caterer, and that I would take her response as a “No”. And in the end, someone else flaked out and I gave him that spot. But seriously, wow, that was so inappropriate.

    • Seriously? Wow. He was stressed about dropping a card in the mail? Did he also ask his profs to reschedule his finals to accommodate his stress schedule? That’s not cool.

      • z

        I think it was because the wedding was in October, so he wouldn’t know until he got his class schedule in September when his college midterms would be– not the worst reason in the world, actually, and something I probably should have anticipated. Watch out, October planners!

        But actually, I think the midterms were an excuse– it was because the mom wanted to make him go to the wedding and he didn’t want to. I was on his side 100%, because I wouldn’t want to fly cross-country for someone so tenuously related either. He doesn’t know me! The mom is dating someone in my family, and I think she wants to be more a part of my family, but they live far away, and being a pain and coercing people isn’t the way to go about it.

        How to discourage people from forcing other people to go to weddings, now that’s an interesting topic. Because it’s not very fun to buy a fancy dinner for someone who doesn’t want to be there, and I could have instead invited someone I actually know, who actually did want to come. And it just sucks to feel like your wedding is the source of family tension and unpleasantness, even though there’s nothing I could have done to avoid it. All I could really do is emphasize that I would completely understand if he didn’t come, but this one wasn’t about me so it didn’t help.

  • I’m surprised so many people have such trouble with RSVPs. We invited close to 250, and got RSVPs back from all but 3. (Maybe that’s why we had to have such a big wedding; all the people we know are awesome and polite!) One lost the invitation but told my mother-in-law she wasn’t coming; one close friend didn’t respond to the invitation, or the numerous e-mails and phone calls asking if he’d be there, and didn’t come to the wedding. I started to worry something had happened to him, but nope, he reappears 3 months after wedding saying “sorry, I couldn’t come, work was busy.” I’m still not over it. And the third, a moderately prominent public figure who had worked with my in-laws over a decade ago, didn’t RSVP, and it turned out that they didn’t have a phone number or e-mail address for him. If you’re not close enough to still be IN CONTACT, in the most basic sense of the word, why was he invited anyway? So I didn’t chase down his RSVP and just crossed my fingers that he wouldn’t show up, which he didn’t. If my friend had showed up anyway, we could have squeezed him in somewhere, but you can’t exactly do that with a public official, even a public official with no manners.

    • We were lucky as well, and I wanted to comment because I was TERRIFIED of the RSVP process because of things I’d read on the internet. It’s good to be prepared — we used the numbering system, and set the RSVP deadline 2 weeks earlier than we actually needed them so there’d be time for late ones to roll in — but ultimately we only had to chase down 2 responses and only had to actually use the number on the card once. And the responses we had to track down we sent our mothers after, ha! So, while I absolutely know that the RSVP system is hellish for some people, sometimes it’s not! And that goes for everything in wedding planning.

    • ellabynight

      My experience closely mirrors yours. We sent out 250 invitations and the only RSVP cards we didn’t get back were from a group of less formally inclined relatives who called my mom to say they wouldn’t be attending. (The fact that they were blowing off my wedding because they just couldn’t be bothered is a story for another day…) Our guests must have been particularly good in general, though, because we didn’t have any issues with unlabeled or late RSVP cards either.

    • Jo

      You know, I just realized President Obama never RSVPed to our wedding invite. Think he was busy that day?? :)

      • I’ve heard his response always comes late with a congratulations from himself and Michelle.

        • Rizubunny

          We sent them an invitation (early….sent it in April, and sent the rest out in July for our September wedding) and got a nice congratulations card by mid-August. I was excited :)

  • lolo7835

    Another tip that I had heard and totally came in handy for me-make your RSVP deadline 1-2 weeks before you actually need them for your caterer/hall/mom whoever. Out of 135 invites, I had received 40 by the deadline. Alot of people put them in the mail ON the deadline so they came in late. Having the cushion gave time for the mail to get stuff here, and for us/my parents to contact folks.

    Because of course, the last 10 invites or so were impossible to get a hold of but that’s another story. We did have to call everyone, but if you just say ‘head count for caterer/hall/mom’ people understand.

    • lolo7835

      And you know what’s even more annoying? RSVPing and then not showing up. I know stuff happens, but we had a few people who ended up not coming and we never heard from them about why. They are my parents friends, but still…crossing you off my christmas list right now.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Ugh. This. Brides-to-be, prepare yourselves to handle this so it doesn’t make your head explode.

        One of my uncles RSVPed “yes, 2” and then wrote me a letter which arrived the day of the wedding letting me know they wouldn’t be coming after all. Something about roofers doing work on his house. The excuse was lame and the fact that he cancelled so late and chose to do it in a letter not a phone call was both hugely inconvenient and very hurtful. As my father’s only brother he had a seat at my parent’s table. There was a lot of last minute shuffling to make sure we didn’t end up with empty seats or opportunistic “b-list” guest upgrading themselves to Table 1.

        It was so hard not to take that personally, but luckily greeting all my other guests was so much fun that by the time I was walking down the aisle I’d forgotten all about it.

      • I would definitely agree with this – we had two parties RSVP and then not show, and to make matters worse they were at the same table, so there ended up being a big empty table with only two of my husband’s friends at it… I felt awful that they ended up alone and we didn’t find out until it was too late to move things around.

        • I actually planned for a few no-shows by telling the caterer we had three less people coming than RSVP-ed. It was a buffet so this worked. Caterers always plan more food than actually necessary.

          It wasn’t meant to screw the caterer, if all 88 people who RSVP-ed yes showed up we would have paid the caterer the extra money. But guess what, exactly 3 people canceled at the last minute. I was annoyed b/c it was rude and they “didn’t get it” but not so mad because I hadn’t paid for their meal.

          I’ve been spreading this tip far and wide.

    • LBD

      Yes! My wonderful caterer let me in on this tip, and it saved my ass when it took a week to track down all my slacker friends.

  • Rosamund

    Oh man, this wound me up.

    The thing I found interesting was that everybody goes on about how this is a generational thing, young people just don’t RSVP unless it’s a Facebook event, yada yada (or at least they did to me) but our offenders were almost all of our parents’ generation. Apart from one friend who just didn’t respond until ten days out, and another who swore his response got lost in the post (aye, right), they were all older relatives and parents’ friends. (We won’t talk about the ones who all replied late because my mum (who’d asked me to invite them) forgot to give out their invitations…)

    It is rude. You shouldn’t have to chase them because you have better things to do. But unfortunately you’re going to have to. But at least you know that literally everybody who ever got married feels your pain…

    Oh, and serious love for this line “Unless you are ill, dead or on fire, you can send an RSVP.”

    • Yup, we had a few friend delinquents, but the majority of our guest list who didn’t bother to reply were from our parents’ generation.

  • Oh, APW, it’s like you live in my head. We’re two weeks away from the wedding, and although we’ve had most people RSVP (hurray!), there are a few outliers we’ve been hunting down. I feel terrible because I keep nudging my fiance to email/text them again because we’re trying to work out table arrangements, but I also don’t want to be a huge nag about this. I understand that things happen, but I think it’s particularly frustrating when people don’t respond to emails/texts. Right now, I’m just assuming that those outliers can’t come (they’d have to make some majorly quick travel arrangements) and move on if we haven’t heard from them by early next week.

  • Seriously, this is one of those inescapable annoyances. Here’s how I handled it, since I just ASSUMED lots of folks wouldn’t have their stuff together.

    1. I sent out a friendly email reminder the week before RSVPs were due to all the folks I hadn’t heard from yet. Just your every day “hey folks, so, my wedding is coming up, and we haven’t heard from you so, ARE YOU STILL ALIVE? ARE YOU COMING? TELL ME PLEEZ?” But, you know, nicer. This meant that folks who hadn’t sent in an RSVP could just respond to this email (we also had a website RSVP, so I included that link and pointed to it… pointedly).

    2. Step 1 caught most of the dawdlers. The rest: well, I emailed individually, and that helped. I only had to call 3-4 people to track them down.

    All in all, it was fine. We had a couple of last minute cancellations, and a couple of last minute show-ups, so it all worked out.

    I’m glad we only do this kind of formal craziness for weddings. I don’t feel like doing it again anytime soon. Except maybe the next time my bestie comes over for wine-drinking. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a girl’s night out/in with your best lady-friend, and send her a formal RSVP for it? I’m on it…

    • Alyssa

      I love this idea! I might need to do this the next time I have a get-together.
      “Alyssa formally requests the pleasure of your company for her Buffy watching party. The theme will be all the sexy Spike episodes, so black tie attire is obviously required. Répondez s’il vous plaît.”

      • I ALWAYS want to mail out invitations for parties! My fiance thinks I’m nuts/it’s a terrible waste of time and usually ends up sending out an evite before I can get to the stationery store. He’s always cramping my style with the stationery. Wedding invitations shall be my revenge!

        • I’ve been dying to use Paperless Post for upcoming parties. It’s a lot like stationary but less hassle. We used them for our Save the Dates and got lots of compliments. Maybe your fiance will be cool about that. I love the idea of sending invitations to my parties but they’re never as formal as an invitation would make them seem. Maybe the solution should be to have a party SPECIFICALLY so I can send out invitations. And then make the party as fabulously detail oriented as a Martha Stewart wannabe.

      • Irene

        Oh my, I want to go to that party!

  • Clem

    Oh god, the RSVPs. Yes, you do have to chase. We tried to make it as easy as possible for people, by including an email address, people could use to RSVP with and having a WordPress wedding site, where people could comment on the home page as their RSVP. We even had one RSVP via Twitter.

    While a handwritten RSVP note is lovely, and we did really appreciate those of our friends and family who sent them (including my mother, who is terminally gracious, tho I had sort of assumed she and my father were coming!), they aren’t essential and we felt that, in 2011 we needed to provide as many easy ways for people to respond as possible.

    I’m afraid if you choose to interpret no response to your invitation as ‘not coming’ and adjust the numbers with the caterer accordingly, you will find that a good number of those people will turn up, expecting to be fed, and you will hardly be able to throw them out. It will in, fact become your problem. So you have to chase. It’s annoying and you shouldn’t have to, but, you do.

    Although I wish the vile uncle of my husband’s who responded with phone call, opening words: ‘Do you KNOW how much train fare to Bristol is??’ and proceeded to rant about how much it would cost him to come to his wedding, had never responded at all. He didn’t come in the end, and we didn’t miss him.

  • In my event planning life, I generally under-estimate for caterers. Why? Because if you over-estimate, they won’t let you remove anyone and you’ll get charged for the extra people who didn’t show, but if you underestimate, they’ll always let you add people at the last minute. Seriously. I’ve never had a caterer who said “Oh sorry, you can’t bring those three extra people to the event tomorrow.”

    • Amy

      I’ve also planned plenty of events for work and one of my standard questions is ‘what is your over set %?’ that is – how much extra food do you make to take into account for extra people/extra hungry people, etc. The industry standard (in NYC anyway) tends to be 2-4% (sometimes 5% but that is pretty rare). Anyone who wouldn’t say or ‘plays it by ear’ got scratched off my list. That amount should give you plenty of wiggle room for an extra few guests if you really need it.

    • Yes! And do this with the cake as well. Bakeries use the same size cake for a range of headcounts. We started out planning for 100, but scaled back to 85. The bakery charged by the person, and it turns out an 85 person cake and a 100 person cake are exactly the same size! At $5/slice that’s $75 savings for the exact same cake.

      • Holy cow! Good to know.

      • Amanda

        And sadly (I will eat your piece!) most people won’t actually eat cake – it usually goes to waste.

        • Yes! I practically force-fed the guests, pushed take-home boxes into their hands, and still had the rather large top tier leftover! (Which, alas, melted into a goo mound by the time we got home. a delicious sugary pink goo mound)

          Wedding cake is magical stuff that feeds 10 times as many people as normal cake.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            I’m pretty sure this is because wedding cake so seldom pairs well with gin&tonic. This is always my issue at weddings. I think “cake or g&t?” and the cake always loses.

            Cue online competition for pastry chefs to invent a dessert that pairs well with an open bar….

          • Englyn

            Now you have my cooking brain intrigued. And craving miniature lime pies.

        • This is why we decided to go cupcakes. Our venue, if you do cakes, will cut and serve the cake to each guest (for a fee of $75, which I totally understand because there’s extra plates and forks). The lady wasn’t willing to just have cake cut and put out on the cake table for folks to grab. But cupcakes are fine for us to just leave out on the cake table, and no extra charge, so cupcakes it was!

        • Heidi

          I know it’s a rarity, but I actually ran out of cake. We followed the bakers advice of downsizing the cake since not everyone eats it so I think we had a cake for about 120 servings for 150 guests. It was GONE in no time.

  • faith

    number system. genius. i still have one card that i don’t know who it was that responded and came to our wedding.

    • I actually did the number system and it was genius but it didn’t work for me because I lost the list that had the numbers correspond to the people. Oops. I only had one person leave off her name and was able to guess/make a call based on the post mark.

  • ellabynight

    I do want to put in a plug for having patience with those who RSVP late–sometimes circumstances are beyond their control. My husband and I are usually pretty good at responding in a timely fashion, but we did get a facebook message from the bride at the most recent wedding we attended wondering if we were planning on showing up. It turns out that our RSVP card accidentally got sent out with a book my husband had recently sold to someone. With no response card hanging around, we thought we had sent it in and were thus covered. Fortunately, the person who received it by mistake was kind enough to forward the RSVP card for us, so it got there eventually, but not without a bit of delay first.

    • Alyssa

      Definitely. Random circumstance is always going to happen. At least it makes for a fun story! :-)

  • Our biggest issue with RSVP’s wasn’t the non-responders, it was the non-deciders. We had several groups of 1-5 people who didn’t decide until a couple days before the wedding. We were lucky in that our reception was at a restaurant, so we never had to give an exact headcount, and our ceremony site had a few extra seats just in case, but I was shocked by the number of people who treat weddings like backyard barbecues.

    I did notice that the people who waited to respond, or who gave “maybe” responses (or added extra people onto their RSVPs) tended to be the unmarrieds. I think before you’ve been through planning a wedding, you don’t understand how many factors are riding on those RSVPs.

    • My husband and I were maybes for the most recent wedding we went to. We were so consumed with moving and trying to figure out if I could take enough time off for us to do the 16 hour drive each way. But I kept my friend informed of the status as much as I could. Finally she said she really needed to know . We sucked it up and said yes and crossed our fingers it would work out. Luckily it did.

    • Oh my God, the people who add extra people to their RSVPs is a whole ‘nother kettle of rage.

      • One of our guests RSVP’d “yes” for herself and “no” for her boyfriend, who we hadn’t invited. I thought that one was particularly funny.

      • At my sister’s wedding, our cousin RSVPed for herself and 8 non-invited guests – her sister-in-law and their combined 7 children.

        True story.

  • Jo

    “That was the sound of every single reader who is a current or former bride laughing in scornful frustration.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I started that scornful laugh the minute I saw the title of this week’s post. Such a key issue. And yet silly. And yet… necessary to deal with.

    Another piece of advice mentioned by another commenter that unfortunately won’t help this poster much but might help others is so key – leave a solid week or two (at least) between your RSVP deadline and your numbers (catering, chairs, etc.) deadlines. You will get a mess of them coming in the week before AND the week after your RSVP deadline. Plan for it. Because what is a wedding, if not planning around other people’s idiosyncracies?

    Otherwise, Alyssa nailed it. And wow, this is SO one of the major reasons I wouldn’t ever want to have another wedding. Not a fun experience, wrangling your peeps into telling you their plans. But, of course, totally worth it in the end. And, don’t be surprised when someone (cough, old, cough) comes to your ceremony but not the reception and leaves you paying for their meal. Or ends up getting sick and leaving. Whatever.

    By the time you get to your wedding, I hope you will have stopped adding up what each thing costs and started just enjoying it all. You do have to let go at some point. And let me tell you, it feels amazing! But maybe you’re not quite there yet. That’s ok too. :)

    • Or comes just to your reception. Like hello, I wanted you at the actual wedding, not just the reception.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        This seems to be a regional thing, politeness-wise. I would never, NEVER show up to a reception after skipping the ceremony, but I’ve been to several weddings in central IL where the reception has roughly 50% more attendees. No one else seems scandalized by this.

        It also seems more common at weddings with a long delay or drive between the ceremony and reception. I don’t get it, but with that thought in mind I specifically scouted venues where we could do both the ceremony and reception.

        • Amy March

          I also see this with church weddings- some people just aren’t comfortable with them, but are happy to celebrate.

  • Umpteenth Sarah

    On a related note, I GREATLY appreciate those people (especially the No’s) who RSVPed with a note… or even better, called me. One of the most heartbreaking things in our wedding process was when people RSVPed No who were really good, close friends I was sort of expecting, and certainly hoping, to come to our (granted) very-far-away wedding. One of our groomsman RSVPed no on the RSVP card. Would it hurt to call? I queried about this in a public forum and encountered such a total negativity/shame storm — things like “obviously, they shouldn’t call, it’s way more work for you if they call than if they send in the little card,” and “isn’t that what RSVP cards are for?” that I’m almost afraid to mention it. Ideally, perfect world, call/write with regrets and RSVP with the card.

    And brides/grooms, I’m a strong proponent of hunting those suckers down and forcing the issue. We had a few people who were truly on the fence, but knowing that made it easier to account for them to vendors.

    • Celia

      Our RSVP cards actually facilitated and encouraged guests to write notes – they simply said “The favor of your response is requested by [date]” and then the rest of the card was blank. We numbered the cards so that we would know who the respondent was, but everyone wrote lovely notes to us, regardless of whether or not they could attend. My mom compiled all of the RSVP cards and put them in an album for us – it’s amazing to look through and read all of the well-wishes from our friends and family.

      Of course, having a mostly blank RSVP card does not allow you to ask people to choose a meal – we had just one option so this was not an issue for us. But if you are able to do it, I thought it was a really lovely way to allow people to express their congratulations and excitement for the wedding and the marriage.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Ooooh. (starts trying to figure out how mostly blank RSVP cards would go over with our very international crowd)

        • Irene

          We did the blank cards as well and it worked terrifically. We asked for song requests and dietary restrictions – not everyone mentioned anything, but both were helpful. We knew how many vegetarians were coming, and we knew that if someone was allergic to walnuts maybe we should put a little sign out on the buffet regarding the muhammara! Or whatever. =)

    • AnotherCourtney

      I wish you hadn’t gotten a negative reaction to this! I completely agree. Fortunately most of our closest friends and family were able to make it, or we knew early on that they wouldn’t be able to (my cousin’s due date was the week before the out-of-town wedding, for example), but everyone that we invited was close to us in some way, and I really appreciated the notes on the “No” RSVPs (and the people who called). I think a lot of people know this, and we got some wonderful well-wishes and explanations on most of them, but the few we got with nothing kind of stung a little. Which seems silly, but still true.

      See? I’m glad you mentioned it.

      • Umpteenth Sarah

        I was surprised at how much the No RSVPs stung — in an academic sense, it feels like it should be a non-issue — if you can’t come, you can’t come — but in a personal sense, it still hurts a little, especially if you feel like something that’s important to you is just a box to check on a card to someone else.

        • M

          I had a guest who had clearly checked yes, then whited it out and put no. He also told us he decided not to come because weddings aren’t his thing. That was worse than people just putting no!

    • It would be one thing if the groomsman was just a guest – not to say that wouldn’t sting, too, but that’s at least cordially acceptable. But, for a groomsman to drop out via RSVP card??? That’s worse than text message!

      • Umpteenth Sarah

        Yeah. I was blown away — we were suspicious he wouldn’t come even though he was all-systems-go for a while, but the ultimate notification that he wouldn’t be attending came via RSVP card. And the note on the card? A frowny face. Grrrrr.

  • streamnerd

    I am totally guilty of not RSVPing to the majority of weddings I have been invited to in the past but I have also never attended a wedding that I did not RSVP for. I did not previously understand that you were suppose to answer one way or the other. I thought you only answered if you wanted to attend. Now that I am planning my own wedding, I see how it goes and why one needs to know one way or the other. However, I will assume that any guest who does not RSVP by the deadline is not attending and they will not have a seat at the reception.

    Thanks for the numbering RSVP cards trick. What a great idea! RSVP # is now a new column in the master wedding spreadsheet.

    • LNF

      Me too. I was invited to a high school friend’s wedding over 4 years ago, when we were just out of college, and it was the first wedding I had been invited to – I didn’t really understand that I had to respond no matter what. Now that I know better, I still feel guilty about not responding.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I kind of knew that a lot of people only rsvp “yes” so we included something like:

      __ Devastated to miss the big day
      __ Can’t wait to see you tie the knot, here’s who will be there

      We got better “no” responses than I was expecting, I think because it was more engaging to the reader than “check yes or no”.

  • amigacara

    We thought about doing the numbering thing, but in the end we just wrote everyone’s name on the RSVP card *for* them….perhaps not proper etiquette but it worked out okay. I did not really expect most people to RSVP, so I had no problem with calling/emailing people after our due date…that was the plan. My fiance was kinda hurt that people didn’t RSVP though!

    The only thing that still bothers me is one or two friends and cousins who keep wavering on rsvp-ing because (i think) they pretty much want me to find them a free place to stay…but since it’s my fiance’s hometown, we can’t offer them much more than a sofa or air mattress at one of his relatives’ houses…I know travel and accommodation is expensive, and I feel bad for having an out-of-town wedding, but I just wish they would be adult enough to figure it out and make a decision on their own.

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    Another tip related to numbering: if you’re planning to number using invisible ink, as I’ve seen some people do, you could just invisibly write their name across the back of the card. That way you don’t need to worry about comparing back to your master list of numbers.

    • Alyssa

      QUOI?!? What is this invisible ink thing you speak of?? Do people do that often? Why didn’t I get to use invisible ink at my wedding?!?

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Search amazon for “invisible ink pen”. The ink is visible under UV light (like those stamps for clubs where they put your hand under a black light). Now run around leaving secret notes around your house :)

        Maybe this is just my family, but with visible numbers sometimes people get fake-offended if they’re not a low enough number. Also, my father finds it amusing to use a ridiculous name and tamper with the visible numbering when rsvp-ing to people we know really, really well… and then tell them later, of course.

        • Alyssa

          I need this in my life.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          At my friend’s wedding we hid the numbers between the layers of the response postcard (they were just two pieces of cardstock glued together to make a little border). We had to destroy the card to find it, but no one could be offended by alphabetical numbering. We only ended up tearing open 4-5 cards, but we were super grateful for the secret clue :)

      • Jennifer

        It’s awesome. The pens I got had little ultraviolet lights built in at the end and the ink shows up when you shine it on the seemingly blank card.

        And after you do your wedding invitations, you and your partner can use them to write each other secret notes. “Don’t forget the coffee creamer xoxo” is much more exciting when written with a spy pen.

    • THIS IS GENIUS. Also, writing in invisible ink will make me feel like I’m in Harry Potter, so I’m obviously going to do this.

  • amigacara

    Also, when I get invited to weddings I am really bad about rsvp-ing generally…somehow it seems physically difficult to remember to put the card in the mail! Online ones are better but even so…can be difficult. I feel terrible but to be honest I usually don’t remember until the couple emails me to remind me….oops!

    • Alyssa

      I’m married to you. That’s why I’m the social director of our marriage…and why I always make him drive to the weddings. “If I didn’t RSVP, they wouldn’t know we were coming. THEREFORE, I get to nap while you drive 5 hours to Houston.”

      • FawMo

        Hooray for social directors! I am also tethered to a “we can talk about it later…” and omg, SO frustrating sometimes.

        We usually know, in advance of the invitation, whether we are going to be able to go or not, so I respond as soon as we receive the invitation. If not, it gets added to the gmail to do list.

  • Oh, the RSVPs. We did a similar process to what someone said above – looked up the no-responses and whoever knew best followed up – my mom called my relatives who hadn’t RSVP’ed, her mom did the same, and then we got to follow up with our friends.

    Some people don’t RSVP because they don’t want to tell you they’re not coming because it might be painful/awkward. I had this happen with several of my high school friends who told me they were coming and then weren’t (extra frustrating because it meant we took a loss on the hotel block). (Side note: book less of a hotel block than you think for this very reason and save yourself a loss)

    I still don’t understand the person who told me (after we had to hound them for an RSVP) that they weren’t coming to my wedding because they wanted to go to someone else’s wedding the following week more and could only travel to one. I mean, I get it, but dude, sometimes you don’t have to explain.

  • It was really hard for me not to be a stickler about our RSVPs – I also had the wedding party/siblings surprised that I expected them to send the card in. Another (29-year-old!) friend wrote me a novel of an email about how she was seeing this guy and it was going really well and she could totally see bringing him but at the same time she’d have fun with her friends without him and oh gosh well can you just tell me whether to bring him or not? (This was two weeks after the deadline had passed.) I almost had a Howard Beale moment there, but instead managed to practice incredible restraint and just wrote back. “Um, sorry babe. Your call.”

    I was pretty touchy about the RSVP heroes and villains of our guest list in the weeks leading up, and thought that people’s behavior had changed my opinion about them, but now I don’t care.

    • Englyn

      That really was incredible restraint, and I doubt you’ve had nearly enough appreciation for it, so please consider this some appreciation.

  • Jennifer

    We were pretty lucky – I think we only had to track down 2 responses. Possibly this is one of the benefits of marrying later than most of our friends — the vast majority of our guest list had either gotten married in the previous decade, or had children who’d gotten married in the previous decade, and so they remembered being on the other end of the RSVP hassle?

    We did the numbering thing, too, sort of – I didn’t bother assigning numbers, but just wrote the zip code on the back of the card. We only had a handful of zip codes with more than one invitee, and I figured in those cases, odds were at least one would remember to write their name, so we could easily deduce who the other one was. I got an invisible ink pen and everything; I was almost disappointed when no one forgot to write their names in. (We did have two that wrote their name but forgot to check whether they were coming or not, though.)

  • Sio

    Thanks for all the advice, everyone!

    I’m just frustrated about it right now, especially since a lot of our invited guests are good friends, and it hurts a bit that the majority haven’t responded. But this is something i’ll get over.

    Looks like some phone calls and e-mails are in my future

  • Thank you. Amen. I just *don’t* understand this! People are better about RSVP’ing to a backyard bbq than they are about RSVP’ing to your wedding. And, in our case, we actually asked them to RSVP on our wedding website – so it wasn’t even HARDER!


    But, yes, I had to send a mass email to the entire guestlist that was ostensibly updating them about wedding related things but surreptitiously reminding them to actually RSVP. And then, two weeks later, I had to chase the stragglers down individually by phone or email.

    On the caterer front, I don’t know if our guy was just super awesome or what but he didn’t need a final, final headcount until about 3 days before the event.

    • Amy

      Our venue didn’t require a headcount until we gave them the final deposit, a week before the wedding. I can see how smaller caterers would need more time to find/buy/prep ingredients, but for us it was yet another reason going with an all-inclusive venue was so much easier.

  • We did an online RSVP which worked REALLY well. Some people did still send notes to my folks (our invites were technically from them).

    My (lazy girl DIY) tip is that you don’t need anything fancy-dan to do this. I made a form on google docs that linked to a google spreadsheet. Then copied the code into the blog we used as our wedding website.

    • This is smart! I didn’t find out about that option until after I’d already paid for a glosite. I’m still thrilled with our glosite, and it will work well . . . but I am usually so techy and could have done this myself. I keep telling myself it’s worth it to spend $135 and save myself some trouble during my last semester of grad school coursework.

  • Our RSVP date was 10/15. On 10/18 my Fiance made calls to his guests who didn’t RSVP…all of my guests had responded due to my relentless pestering (or passive aggressive comments along the lines of “I know you’re coming, you’ve booked a room, sent me your hotel itinerary and flight information, but I haven’t gotten your card yet with your food option…I’m sure it got lost in the mail, but….”)

    After reading this, I’m realizing how lucky we were to only have to call about 10 invitees out of 98. Of course, now I’m dealing with my fiance and his kind-hearted comments like “Well, so-and-so can’t give us a response until a week before the wedding….is that going to be a problem?” And my general freak out of “YES! That WILL be a problem! Either they are coming or they aren’t, what is so difficult?! *&(*&^#!!!”

    • Alyssa

      Also remember to take notice of the other brides who’ve commented that they stressed about the RSVP’s, but didn’t notice on the actual day of. That might help take your freak-out down to a more manageable grumbling that can be placated with a cookie.

  • Esme

    Great advice everyone! I think this is one of those wedding things that you can just complain about on APW and to other recently married friends and then you just have to get over it. Annoying, but true.

    Our bugbear was that we deliberately didn’t put our address on the invitation because we wanted people to RSVP online. We did, however, put our home phone number and email address. The handwritten cards and notes we got were a lovely added surprise, but so many relatives just told our parents that they couldn’t come. Er, hello? WE’RE hosting this wedding, as it says on the card. Yes we’re inviting you because we have to, but would it be so hard for you to pick up the phone and call us? In the least it would be nice to hear from you. The main reason this was annoying was because my now in-laws are pretty bad at passing on messages, though…

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Enter the shared google doc RSVP tracker.

      I gave my mother and fmil access and every time someone gave them a verbal they added it to the spreadsheet. There was a separate column for the formal rsvp, but when some people didn’t send it, we didn’t bother harassing them via email or phone. Worked out pretty well, but you have to have good buy-in from the parental units.

  • This was one of the only things I delegated to my maid of honor (sister)! I gave her a list, she stalked them through my Facebook friend list and then I didn’t have to hear anyone’s excuses and apologies. And my sister didn’t even make them give her apologies or excuses, just sent a gentle note encouraging them to send us an email RSVP asap. This worked so well and I didn’t have to think about it!

  • I’d advise wedding undergraduates to set your RSVP deadline a week or two your caterer needs a head count so you have time to track down the stragglers. Because, as the post mentions, you’re going to have stragglers to track down. It’ part of the process.

  • Stephanie

    I think it’s a bit rude not to respond to RSVPs when requested but it does happen. At my friend’s wedding last month, she received some RSVPs the day before the wedding and quite a few people showed up the day of who had never responded to the original invite nor any of her follow-up messages. I’m sure the non-responders/late responders have good intentions but still. Very frustrating.

  • Jamie

    For the late RSVPers, I set my mom loose on them. Within days I had every missing RSVP except for one (which we got when we returned from our honeymoon. But we kinda knew she wouldn’t be there anyway). I have no idea what she said to them, but I remember how when I was younger she could say something to me (about my grades, behavior, etc.) that made me wish I was dead. So she was very effective, but in a non threatening way since people were still speaking to her and enjoying themselves.

    I still had an entire family of people who flaked out on me two days before. The weddings that they are used to going to are much less formal affairs (not that ours was formal) so I guess they thought it didn’t matter. One of them sent me a facebook message telling me that they were going to send us a gift, but they figured we were rich enough to buy whatever we wanted (which….what the hell?) since our wedding was so “highfalutin” with RSVP cards and a hotel reception. Whatever. More cake for the rest of us!! And now that I know what they really think, I don’t need to talk to them anymore. It’s a win win, really.

  • Jackson Riley

    Always ask nicely, when you do (inevitably) have to follow up. Several of my invites had gotten lost in the mail, so there was no RSVP card to return….

    Word o’ the wise.

    • Alyssa

      Ooo. Yes. I once got a snarky message about an invite I didn’t receive. Turns out she got her lists mixed up and I was on the B-Team and never got sent an invite. Oopsy.

      And I STILL sent a present. Cause my moral high ground is super comfy….

    • Carrie

      Yes, this. A few of mine got totally lost in the mail. When I called one couple to ask whether they’d be able to come, they said “We never got an invitation!” Then I felt awful (especially since they’d already sent us wedding gifts).

      So yes — be aware that it is very possible for invitations to get lost in the mail.

  • Jo

    Not getting your RSVP’s is incredibly frustrating. I want to kill everyone, but Miss Manners says no. I managed to frame ours nicely “Some got lost in the mail, wanting to track it down!” but I was appalled at how many didn’t respond to the emails, facebook, texts, letters, phone calls…and I was never sure if they were going to show up to the wedding.

    I love Alyssa’s blue comments!!

  • Julie

    We had a small wedding, less than 35 people, and I still had to chase down RSVP’s. It wasn’t so bad, as there were only a few that I had to call. However, I do want to add one post-wedding crabby note:


    About a third of the people who indicated they were attending failed to appear, which lead to a waste of food and a waste of money. We had a very small budget to begin with, and that really didn’t help matters.

    • Ugh. There is at least one on our list who will not shock me in the slightest with these shenanigans. She invited herself, but didn’t tell us, rather another (actually invited) friend with whom she was trying to make travel plans. Rather than deal with the drama, we just sent her a save-the-date anyway, so she’s “actually” invited now. SHE STILL HAS NOT EVEN OPENED IT. (We know this because we’re using Glosite and you can track who has viewed your e-correspondence.) Meanwhile, she continues to pester other friend, who would rather not travel with her, about making travel arrangements. She has not ONCE mentioned anything to us about coming, or not coming. I will not be in the least surprised if she either a) RSVP’s yes, then doesn’t buy a plane ticket and just doesn’t show up, or b) RSVP’s no or not at all and turns up on the day anyway. Either way I will be annoyed but at least I am prepared for that eventuality.

      • z

        seriously, wow. Self-invites would be another great Ask Team Practical.

    • We had a few who RSVPed they’d be there but then were unable to make it. One was because of a migraine/kidney stone combination that had them at the hospital and the other was having to drive quite a ways in the blizzard we had for our wedding. Both sent their regrets as soon as they realized what was happening though.

    • I had one friend who I was semi-sure wasn’t going to come, though she had RSVP’d yes. She did come – I saw her during the cocktail hour – but I suspect she left before dinner, because I didn’t see her the rest of the night. I try to give her the benefit of the doubt, and I’ve stopped myself from asking the other guests at her table whether she was there for more than half an hour, because I’m afraid I don’t want to know.

      • Sarahkay

        Just want to offer my story re: your friend who came and left- I had a very close friend marry several years ago, and I was working a crapy menial job that paid for essential things like food and electricity. I asked weeks in advance for days off, and my request was denied (two days prior). I’d rsvp’d yes. I got off early(because of my super-human powers), I drove a hundred miles an hour across southern Cali, changed in the car(ever try putting on pantyhose while stoping down the gas pedal?) I was also pregnant at the time (but hadn’t told anyone) and all my dress buttons popped off in the parking lot, as I was walking in, so I had to leave- sneak out and buy a repair kit, sew my boobs in, and I made it to the reception…And the bride was so offended that we weren’t there for the ceremony that my dear friend wasn’t ‘allowed’ to hang out with us anymore….Why do I tell you this? Sometimes you just don’t know. Your friend made an appearance, try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • april

    We only had to track down about half dozen non-responders, which wasn’t too bad. Two people never even mailed back their RSVP cards, which I found so completely rude. They did finally e-mail my husband with a reply, but still – there was a stamped envelope with the invitation. Seriously – how hard could it be??

    The most frustrating part of our RSVPs were the people that didn’t initial their meal selection. Or, even worse: the people that made a new frickin’ category on the RSVP for their meal choice. We offered only fish, filet or veggie entrees and had three people that wrote in “chicken”, another who requested a specific vegan meal, and another person that had the nerve to ask if the filet was a “real filet mignon”. =/ I nearly lost my mind.

    • Amy March

      Next time I RSVP I’m having lobster. And caviar. Love this system

      • april

        L-M-A-O!!!!!! Don’t forget the Dom Perignon… ;-)

  • Sarah

    Bang on with the tip about numbering the cards. We got one back that said “we” will be attending. Husband got all Sherlock with the postmark, dietary requirements and handwriting; I just looked at the little number beneath the stamp. Problem solved.

  • Another Tip for those who haven’t yet sent out their RSVP’s — if you’re planning to use an A and B list system, be sure not to have the A list’s RSVP date on the invite. We received an invite to a friends wedding after the RSVP date on the card had passed, and we felt like assholes for RSVPing after the date (our mailman routinely loses mail or delivers it late). It wasn’t until I called my friend to apologize and he kind of stammered about “er..yes..we sure did send out our invites late…” that I realized we were on the B list so my friend probably thought we were calling to passive aggressively complain.

  • Rose

    When I was a bride, I did have to chase some of my friends to get an answer out of them, and I think if you think someone might be coming, you should do that. (I didn’t chase everyone, just those that I hadn’t heard about through some other means.)

    However, I have also received invitations with RSVP cards and thrown both directly in the trash and not felt at all bad about it. I don’t see why it’s rude as an invitee to not drop everything to go out and buy a stamp (because who keeps stamps around?) to write back to someone who had no reason to invite you in the first place that they should not be expecting you. (If there were an e-rvsp, maybe I would have rvsp’ed no, so that’s a factor.) I do hope that those people put two and two together and didn’t order food for me, which I think is perfectly appropriate, but if they didn’t that’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

    • melissa

      It IS their problem, but hopefully they’re not friends with you anymore if there was no reason to invite you to their wedding. And who doesn’t put a stamp on the RSVP? That’s sort of uncommon.

      • Rose

        Not friends, distant relatives. If stamped rsvp cards are the norm, that puts the disgruntlement here a bit more perspective for me. Most of my friends do e-rsvps, so I wouldn’t know the norm.

    • Rose, just curious to know who these people were who were inappropriate in inviting you to their wedding. Distant relative? coworker?

      I feel you on the stamp thing for corporations. It makes me mad when a magazine or college or something can’t pick up the postage when I send them a check, but I can’t think of anyone who could offend me by inviting me to their wedding.

  • I’m throwing a bridal shower for a friend in about a month and a mutual friend of ours responded the other day with “I usually don’t RSVP for stuff for close friends when I consider that it’s just a a given that I’ll be there, but I remembered you’re kind of an admin Nazi about this sort of stuff, so yes, I’ll be coming!”

    Say what? Haha. Hey, I’ll take that reputation if it means people send in their damn RSVPs.

    • Edelweiss

      Vent alert – I don’t get that. I just threw a surprise 30th birthday party for Walrus. I sent out an email to everyone coming with the three places we’ll be going at the three different times with addresses and links (shuffleboard, dinner and a bar). I included a note that said that people should feel free to invite whoever to meet us at the bar. And that was pretty much it. And I had multiple people making kind-toned jokes about how “crazy” and “micromanaging” I was about the schedule.
      Weddings have a lot more emotions and diverse personalities to juggle, but at the end of the day, adults don’t like being told what to do and even if it’s well-intentioned and/or subconscious, they are going to occasionally drag their feet or make snarky comments. All we can control is how we react to that.

  • melissa

    A week after the deadline, I had 25% of my RSVPs. By the end, I was leaving voicemails/writing emails that said, there won’t be food for you, so don’t come.

    But I’m not bitter about anything wedding related. Nope, not at all.

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  • Marisa-Andrea

    We had 2 RSVP dates— the date we gave to guests and the REAL date because we knew people would RSVP late. The RSVP date for guests was about 2 weeks before the real date. For the most part, people got their RSVPs in by the guest date. My mother basically called everyone who hadn’t sent theirs in to get a confirmation from them about 1 week before the guest date. And for those who didn’t bother to respond at all — we just paid for about 10 extra seats above the RSVP count and left it at that. I figured we’d get some people showing up who had not RSVP’d and we wouldn’t see some folks who did so that might open up some extra seats as well. And if it didn’t, my attitude was oh well. It was just something I absolutely refused to stress about because I can’t control people or make them do anything and I was content to let things lie. It ended up working out. I stressed about other things, but that just wasn’t one of them, by choice.

  • So, just a little tip from a stationery person. The less time you give people to RSVP, the more likely they are to actually do so. I recommend you give people only a week or two from when you expect they’ll have their invitations in hand. So if you’re sending yours on October 1st and most everyone is going to receive them on, say, October 4th, then try an October 14th reply-by date (even if your wedding isn’t until November 30th). I know it bucks the system a bit but if someone really needs more time, they’ll call and ask you for it.

    • See, *this* is the kind of advice that should go into things like “The Kn*t’s Top 25 Things You Need to Know about Invitations!” – not stuff like “your invitation sets the whole tone of your wedding and lets people know your color palette and if you don’t get it right, you’re dooooooooomed.” :)

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Totally a genius idea. Especially since if you did save-the-dates you can kind of postpone the actual invite send out until pretty close to the wedding. People have a way better idea if they’re able to make it 5 weeks before the wedding than 5 months. Insist they rsvp in the next week and everyone is good to go :)

      • Edelweiss

        I think the Save The Date part of the advice is key. As someone in a relationship with a partner that gets paid hourly and has to work weekends (* you economy), the tight turn-around time for RSVPs is tough – BUT as soon as we have the Save the Dates the discussions start, and the invite with a tight turn-around gives Walrus the kick in the pants he needs to ask for time off.

    • occhiblu

      Yes! I keep reading on other wedding bulletin boards about people sending out invitations super-early and setting the RSVP deadline super-early so that they “have time [like, a full month] to track down missing RSVPs before the catering deadline” — and I very much agree that giving people a ton of time to respond *and* asking them to respond too early just compound the problem.

  • Vanessa

    oh man! This whole thing made me SO MAD when I was planning our wedding over the summer. But remember- for you, your wedding is the biggest thing ever, and you are so excited to see who is coming to spend it with you! You know what a BIG DEAL this is, but for other people, it just it’s just hard to see how details like a RSVP matter.

    I was so stressed that my lack of RSVPS meant that (a) no one was coming or (b) our friends are a bunch of juveniles who, if they can’t even manage to RSVP, were probably going to show up to our wedding in cargo shorts and mesh tee shirts. But after one (maybe two) sweet-but-firm emails, most of the (overwhelmingly affirmative) responses came in, often with “I’m so sorry that this is late!” notes on the back of the card. And everyone came appropriately clothed.

    And please, for future generations, teach those who you are able to RSVP.

  • Rowany

    I’m pre-engaged, but I had low, low expectations for the RSVP capability of my boyfriend’s work-friends. For RSVPs, I made a Google Form breaking down what people could go to (yes, no, maybe) for my boyfriend’s multi-locale pirate birthday party. The best part is that you can then incorporate the form into whatever–I sent it via e-mail so they can respond WITHIN the e-mail, but you can also link it, put it on your website, whatever, and it all goes to the same spreadsheet. It’s amazing how saving people ONE CLICK can improve response rates.

    I also agree with upupcreative–reasonably shortening the response turnaround will make it much less likely that they lose the invitation/e-mail by the deadline date, and pushes the guests to figure out their arrangements right away.

    • We used a google spreadsheet on a page of our website and for a lot of people that worked better.

      Except when I showed it to my husband so he could check it out, he RSVPed “no.” He still showed up though.

  • kathleenm
  • We got a few who didn’t even mark yes or no, they just pulled it out of the invitation and put it back in the mail.

    We had to chase a few down. We had a few (family, oddly) who never sent them back nor responded on our website, but we knew were coming.

    What got me though was our caterer who seemed confused that I was even asking for RSVPs in the first place. When I politely inquired how she expected me to know how many people we would need to feed if I didn’t ask for RSVPs, she actually said, “guess” because apparently we weren’t spending enough per plate to try to get an accurate count. Um, no.

    • My best friend’s caterer told her not to do RSVPs because no one ever replies anyways. So that is what my friend did. BUT when my friend was making a guess about how many were coming, the caterer turned it around and said, “But you have no idea how many are coming! You have to assume they all are and have enough food for them.” My friend said no and gave a number that was over what she expected, and they ended up running out of food early anyways for their heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet (even though we are fairly confident the guest count was right around that number or less.) But the caterer said that there was definitely way more than the estimated number and blamed it on the bride. Pretty stinky situation, and I would never recommend that caterer to anyone. But I guess she had worked up “advice” that worked to her advantage…?

      Because of that, I am a fan of knowing how many to expect. But we avoided much of the stress by doing a dessert reception without assigned seats, so there was no need to be too exact.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I only skimmed the comments, but something I will insist on for myself, my future husband, my parents, and his parents: Have an electronic means of communication (e-mail or phone) for each invitation at the time you send the paper invitations. We’ve got extended family guests where, sure, there’s a 5-year-old phone number in a file at the bottom of a stack of papers no one’s touched in 4 years. When Cousin Susy misses the RSVP date and must be e-mailed or called, the last thing I want is to first have to e-mail or call my parents to get Cousin Susy’s phone number. Nope, all contact information up front.

  • Rhiannon

    I started to refer to my loved ones who didn’t respond as RSVP deadbeats… it made me chuckle just enough to not go on a murdering rampage.

    The people who really pissed me off where the no-shows or those who brought an unexpected guest… pick-up a phone send an email… not that hard! I just had to remind myself that although my wedding was the center of my world, the center of their world is them, and that is really OK.

  • Melissa

    It is truly amazing that even with Save-the-Dates, blocking off hotel rooms, sending self addressed stamped envelopes for reply cards, FB/other social media, that folks can’t figure out until just a week(s) prior if your wedding if they will attend. And that they can’t find some way to inform you. Our wedding (3 weeks ago) was fairly stress free except regarding RSVPs even though we were prepared for terrible etiquette. You definitely get some weird perspective on friends and family based on their ability to properly RSVP or not.

    The positive I see from having to deal with this RSVP nonsense yourself, it makes you acutely aware in the future to be a better guest.

    Also on the etiquette tip – If you want folks to RSVP on time, that means you should send your thank yous on time too! I personally hate the “1 yr to send Thank You” rule because that is at least 10 months too many. A rule of thumb for any gift received (at showers, wedding, but also for holidays, birthdays, etc) to help you get those Thank Yous out: You cannot use the gift until you have properly thanked the giver with a real, snail mail thank you. I promise people will be so happy to get them and you both will feel warm and cheery inside. :) Plus writing them soon means you can remember and include details from the event that truly make the thank you sincere and personal.

  • North Star

    my husband’s cousin sent his sister a facebook message saying “sorry, can’t attend. can you tell them for me?

    another of my husband’s cousins sent her rsvp saying she & her husband would be attending–2 people. the night of our wedding, her husband ended up being unable to make it and she brought all 5 of their children. at the reception, she was upset because the caterer had to throw together 5 kids’ meals unexpectedly so their meals were slightly delayed. my husband & i ,along with our parents didn’t worry about it because if she’d rsvp-ed properly in the first place & included the children., she wouldn’t have had the issue.

  • Just sent back an RSVP card yesterday, thankyouverymuch!

  • Eliza

    I’ve only skimmed the comments, so forgive me if this has been mentioned: unless you’re having a destination wedding, I think it’s more common to send invites 4-6 weeks in advance. I’m not all about following the wedding-industrial complex standards, but I think that traditional etiquette serves a purpose here: when you send invites super far in advance, they are more likely to get lost in the shuffle. My sister sent her invites out 3 months in advance and had a much bigger issue with this than I did.

    FWIW – tracking down non-RSVPers was one of my least favorite wedding tasks. I delegated to parents when possible and sent out an email to the rest.

    • I sent mine out about 8 weeks in advance, but only gave 4 weeks to respond. I did this as it was “semi-destination” – no one had to travel far (except a couple of people who happen to live far away), but everyone had to travel far enough to make some sort of arrangements. It was also on a Friday, so many people needed to take time off to attend.

      My caterer only needed a headcount as of 1 week prior (and the venue was wonderfully gracious when I had a couple of emergency additions and subtractions that were only a couple days before – I was lucky), so this gave me 3 weeks to track down the stragglers.

  • Sam

    I recently messed up an RSVP. My Mom was like growing up with Miss Manners in residence and I was so embarrassed that I had forgotten. It was my friends’ wedding and it was small and on a budget, and we’re getting married in the summer, and I just felt terrible. My friend was wonderfully gracious and sent out an email (it was an electronic RSVP) that she had not heard from us and would we please reply to this email. It was terrible!

  • Englyn

    I was going to boast that we had ONE only non-rsvp. And an email sent two days after the deadline sorted that out in an hour. And that wasn’t the guest whose invitation genuinely got lost in the mail, who had to take time off work, and still got his rsvp in. But – we did have only 50 guests, around half of whom were close family and didn’t rsvp because we knew they were coming. – although we didn’t expect an rsvp from a groomsman, it would have been helpful as they’d said they were planning not to bring the kids and we didn’t find out they were until a week prior… – the only rsvp option was my email address. Worked great as the only non emailing person is my grandmother who came from the other side of the world and I helped sort out her flights.

    Which is a rambly way to say, it may actually be fairly stress-free. Don’t worry about it unless it happens.

  • Heather

    Oh my goodness! RSVPs were the bane of our existence as fiancés! We called, we had our parents call, we sent emails, we talked to people at work…..

    In the end, it all worked out. We only had 3 people not show up who had said they were coming. Apparently, you can count on 10% not showing up after saying they will so we were pleased.

  • Amy

    We also did the divide and conquer and call your own non-responders technique, and got answers for everyone.

    BUT the weirdest thing was that BOTH my parents and in-laws, even after they had done the dirty work of tracking down their non-responders, didn’t send in their own RSVP cards. (!?!?) I finally got up the nerve to ask why, and it turns out my MIL wanted to keep the invitation suite complete, and decided that rather than asking me for an extra, she would just keep it. And make me worry and endlessly question my memory because SURELY they’ve replied. So keep some extra invitation suites on hand, and maybe even send them out to the parents with the original invite, with the instruction that even if I KNOW you’re coming, send the dang card. Send it.

  • We only did RSVPs on our website. BUT we were quite late in sending out our actual invites, so much so that some people thought they’d been uninvited because they received the Save The Date 6 months ago and then no invites. So we actually spent a fair amount of time sending out emails to friends explaining that we were behind and to have them please tell us whether they were coming, and that the paper invitation would be coming soon. And even after all that, there were still a couple of guests who didn’t know until quite late, and there was one who never replied at all.

    And then I just was a week late RSVPing to a friends wedding because it turns out the boy didn’t want to go (and the timing’s not great for us), but instead of just saying that so that I could respond to my friend, he kept saying, “let’s look at flights tonight” or “let me check my work schedule”. So finally we had an actual sit down conversation about her wedding and about communication in general to get it all sorted.

  • Good luck!

    When I was married in August, we got most of our responses around the RSVP deadline. There were a few early birds, but not as many as I would have liked.

    We had many people not send in any RSVPs, and I asked my mom to follow up with her family, my dad with his, and my husband’s mom to follow up with my husband’s family. Since I didn’t get to delegate too many wedding tasks to others, this was a pretty easy one to not be too involved with and it felt good to not have to deal with it!

    Even with all the follow up, we still didn’t have answers from everyone, but were able to make good guesses.


  • WOW! What great advice here and so many other added suggestions and comments. I’ll be sharing these words of wisdom to my clients!

  • Everything is very open with a clear clarification of the issues.
    It was truly informative. Your website is very useful. Many thanks for sharing!

  • Pingback: For those of you who haven't yet sent your RSVP cards out, NUMBER THEM, and give corresponding numbers to your guest list. You will be shocked by the number of people who send an RSVP card just marked "yes" without any hint as to who is res()

  • Pingback: For those of you who haven't yet sent your RSVP cards out, NUMBER THEM, and give corresponding numbers to your guest list. You will be shocked by the number of people who send an RSVP card just marked "yes" without any hint as to who is res()

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