The Favour of a Reply Is Requested — What Ever Happened to Common Courtesy and the Proper Handling of the RSVP???

Good morning everybody!

Once upon a time, in a land not very far away, wedding guests knew how to properly respond to a wedding invitation.  And once upon a time, there didn’t have to be a pre-addressed, pre-stamped response card in the invitation in order for guests to favour the hostess with the courtesy of a response.  Nowadays, it takes a stick of dynamite and more than a few nasty voicemails to get some of your guests to reply even though you’ve already done all the hard work.  What gives?

Let me explain how I got on this rant.  Last night, I was cleaning out a box of family memorabilia and I came across a box of gift cards that I at first assumed belonged to my former mother in law (who was psychologically unable to throw out anything, ever).  Lo and behold, it was something of mine.  Or rather, something of my mother’s.  It was a box of every gift card she’d received for her bridal showers and wedding, along with all the RSVPs and the invitations to all of her events.

My parents got divorced when I was in college, and at some point when Bill and I were engaged, my mom shoved this box at me and told me to keep it.  I think at that point, she couldn’t stand to look at it but she realized that it might be fun for me.  Being the self-absorbed bride that I was at the time, I gave it a cursory glance and went back to opening my own wedding gifts.  But I kept it.  And when I found that box — a smaller box inside a larger storage box — last night, I had a blast going through it.  You guys don’t care about how many of the names on the cards I recognized, but let’s just say it was a lot of fun.

The entire second half of the box was filled with RSVPs to my parents’ wedding.  Not response cards, but actual, gosh-darned handwritten (properly) formal responses to my grandmother’s invitation to attend her daughter’s wedding.  I have a feeling that some of my readers haven’t ever seen a properly written RSVP so I’ll give you an example right here.

Mr. and Mrs. William Malone accept with pleasure the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Lofft to attend the wedding ceremony and reception of their daughter, Olivia Victoria, to Benjamin Thomas Woodson, on Saturday, the eleventh of February, at six o’clock in the evening.

That’s it.  All you do is mimic the language of the wedding invitation.  Magic!

I don’t know when the gentility of the handwritten response was lost to a pre-printed card that we stuff into our wedding invitations with the hope that our guests will check a box with a number of guests and insert the card in the pre-addressed envelope.  Then we hope and pray that envelope — which even came with postage on it — will make its way to the front hall table and eventually out to a mailbox.  Once upon a time, people took the time and effort to write a beautiful response on their personal stationary, address the envelope, and pay for their own postage!!!

Okay, I accept that handwritten responses have gone the way of muttonchop sleeves on wedding gowns (not a bad thing), and let’s face it, I use the printed cards to my benefit.  I tell my couples to include more than the usual information on their RSVP cards.  For destination wedding couples who want to deliver welcome bags to their guests rooms, you need to know when your guests are arriving and where there are staying.  If you’re doing a seated, plated dinner in lieu of a buffet, you will probably have to give them dinner options (beef, chicken, fish, or vegetarian will suffice, you don’t have to actually tell them what you’re serving) so that you can provide the final numbers to the caterer in advance of your wedding.  Those numbers can be due as far out as four weeks before your wedding.  Asking these questions on the RSVP card is a great way to avoid having to contact all of your guests individually to find out this information.

Which leads me to a popular point of discussion with most of my clients regarding destination wedding invitations, when to RSVP?  The answer is that you give your guests the same amount of response time you would if you were getting married at home — 6 to 8 weeks.  However, you may send the wedding invitations as far as a year in advance for a destination wedding thousands of miles away.  The earlier you send the invitations, the better prepared your guests can be, and the more realistic your budget will be.  But the RSVP deadline doesn’t change — never give them more than eight weeks.  Why?  Because they will lose the RSVP card, complete with that stamp you stuck on the little envelope.  It doesn’t take anyone more than two months to decide if they want to or are able to attend your destination wedding, no matter where it is.  I’m not saying it’s impossible for something to come up — job changes, pregnancies, deaths all have an impact on peoples’ travel plans — but for the most part, guests who commit on the actual RSVP will be there to see you glide down that aisle.

People who are unable to commit, who say they “don’t know,” or complain that they’re not sure they can afford to go are usually the ones who never had any intention of going.  They don’t know how to tell you this, so they don’t.  They drag it out and make it your pain in the ass to keep hunting them down when your wedding planner harasses you for final numbers.  Sometimes these invitees don’t even realize they have no intention of going, but let’s face it, if you can’t afford to go, you’d buy your ticket earlier.  Not dick around while the airfares continue to climb as the date approaches.  People who are trying to find somebody to take their children aren’t coming either.  You either have somebody you trust with your kids or you don’t.  The hemming and hawing about trying to find somebody is just a delay tactic.  See through it.  Sometimes it’s their way of pressuring you to invite the little darlings as well.

I get apoplectic when my clients want to use an e-vite for anything for their weddings.  I don’t think travel info packets, save-the-dates, or anything else should be sent out via email.  I’m not saying you can’t have a wedding website where you also post this information, but I think it says a lot to send a piece of paper in the mail.  I’ve had a few clients tell me they wanted to use their wedding website for their RSVPs.  I have to say NO.  No no no no no no!!!  That is so tacky!  Of course, at the end of the day, it’s your wedding and if you want to be tacky, that’s certainly your personal option.  But you hired me to give you my opinion, so that’s what I do.  You’re only going to marry this person once.  Hopefully, you’re only going to ever have one wedding.  Do you really want to send out e-vites and have your guests vote on a website about whether the two of you should be getting a pet? I’m just shaking my head here.  A little decorum, please!

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques!


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