Invitation Etiquette: The RSVP

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In today’s hectic and harried world, the simple courtesy of responding to an invitation seems to have, for many, fallen into the “optional” category. Such an oversight may be merely an annoyance when you’re hosting an informal weekend barbeque. But for an event the size and expense of a wedding, you’ll find that getting an accurate headcount is a necessity; both for finalizing your contracts with your vendors as well as for ensuring the smooth progress of the entire event.

Etiquette (which is a fancy word for “common courtesy!”) suggests that it is appropriate to respond to an invitation the day it is received, or at least within a few days. Knowing that few people follow this guideline, most couples opt to put a “reply by” date on their wedding invitation response cards. This strategy not only offers guests a gentle sense of urgency, but also provides the hosts with a clear date for when it is appropriate to begin contacting guests who have not replied. Be sure to set this date a few days ahead of the deadline for providing the caterers and other vendors with your final guest count, to give yourself time to track down those guests you haven’t heard from.

(And yes, it is perfectly appropriate to call or email guests who haven’t responded to your invitation in a timely manner. With a bit of finesse, this contact can be handled politely – and you can secure a more accurate guest count!)

The Abby invitation and reply card, in black ink.

One tip we like to offer our customers is to assign each invited family a number on your personal copy of the guest list. Lightly pencil these corresponding numbers in a tiny back corner of each reply card when mailing the wedding invitations. This way, if a guest returns the reply card, but forgets to write their name on it (this happens more often than you’d think!), you’ll have a sneaky secret for checking whose reply card you’ve received.

Knowing in advance that you’ll spend some time following up with “deadbeat” wedding invitees may help take the sting out of this irritating task. In the meantime, maybe we should start a Facebook campaign to change the general lazy attitude towards RSVPs?

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