This week, I’ve seen a couple of posts on the upcoming postage hike (you only have until May 11 to get the “Forever” stamps at the lower rate!). So, I thought for this week’s Protocol Prompts post, I’d talk a little bit about the sticky topic of RSVP’s.
Let’s start with the “good old days” of responding to wedding invites. RSVP cards are a relatively new phenomenon. In days past, guests were expected to respond using their personal stationary-and their own stamp (or footman, in days further past…)!
In the digital age, however, good luck getting your guests to even reply, let alone do so on their own stationary (I think proper stationary is an utterly charming shower or bridesmaids’ gift, by the way) — check out this great article on “botched RSVP’s.” However, with any wedding, the numbers are one of the most important elements — think of the horror if half your guests didn’t get to eat because you didn’t know they were coming!
So what is a modern bride to do about making sure her guests don’t go hungry, without resorting to 200 personal phone calls? Since there is no wrong type of RSVP in etiquette terms (after all, the traditionally proper method would be to leave guest to their own devices), we’re going to talk about a few etiquette considerations related to the “how” of choosing your RSVPs.
1. Consider Your Audience
This is without question the most important aspect of selecting your RSVP method. Who will be returning them? Planning to save postage costs by having everyone online? If half your guest list is above 50, think twice (sorry, Boomers – I know plenty of you are tech savvy, but a lot aren’t).
If, on the other hand, your guest list consists of all your buddies from your web design program, there’s a good chance they will be completely comfortable with it.
2. Consider Your Wedding Style
If you’re having a black-tie (or white-tie, in a perfect world…) dinner for 300, most of your guests will expect to see either the most traditional “RSVP” in the corner of the invitation (leaving them to respond on their own), or the “new tradition” of including a response card (NOT the pre-printed kind if your ceremony is that formal!). Don’t disappoint them.
If you’re running off to Vegas on the spur of the moment and inviting six of your best friends, a delightfully tacky Evite (with its built-in response tracking) may strike the right note. Yes, Evite has wedding designs (including a Vegas one). Yes, I’m horrified. But running off to Vegas is not my cup of tea either.
3. Consider Your Personal Style
You are the people getting married. Your guests know you. If you live your life on Twitter (maybe you even tweeted your proposal?), your guests would probably be disappointed if you did a traditional RSVP. Or maybe you’re editors for a kids magazine? How about this Mad Lib RSVP? The sky is the limit, really, as long as you remember a few simple rules (below, because you know I couldn’t get through this post without at least a few rules!).
4. Consider Your Situation
The economy is in the tank right now, and you may be feeling the pinch in your wedding budget. The RSVP cards (and the accompanying postage) may well be the first thing to go. As long as you are considerate of your guests, there is nothing wrong with that. For example, I love what Jessica did with her RSVP cards:
She didn’t include an RSVP card for guests to mail back. Instead, she created a card that explained how to RSVP on the wedding website. Economical and considerate. Because, when it comes down to it, etiquette is all about being considerate — that’s the whole point!
The Rules: Ok, so you knew it was coming! Yes, there are some rules. First and foremost, remember what we just talked about: it’s all about consideration. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re making life as easy as possible for your guests — after all, they’re making the effort to come celebrate with you. Next, if you’re going to include an RSVP card to mail back, include the postage. It’s the standard now. If you want to go for old-fashioned etiquette, don’t put the card in there at all — if you include it, include postage. Next, keep it tasteful. Humor is great (trying to find the photo of my favorite, tastefully funny response card), but this is your wedding.
Finally, some hints on dealing with guests. If they respond for more than you invited, they are in the wrong. You are perfectly within your etiquette rights to call and gently explain that “for x reason, we won’t be able to accommodate extra guests.” If they don’t respond at all, you are also perfectly within your rights to contact them with a gentle reminder. You can delegate this task to a helpful family member or friend if you like. And this should be obvious (I hope), but on a response-related topic: no bouncers at your wedding. I was at a wedding where a guest brought someone uninvited, and the maid of honor told them that only the invited guest could come to the reception, and would have to bring his date home before he went. Needless to say, neither came. Yes, it’s terrible etiquette for someone to bring an uninvited guest to your wedding. But if that happens, just be gracious — the faux pas was probably unintentional, and you will definitely not be following the spirit of etiquette rules if you point it out to them!
What kind of RSVP system are you going with, or what is your favorite?