RSVP cards might be the most stressful thing about wedding invitations. Even if you get everything right, you still have to rely on your friends and family to properly fill them out, send them back in a timely manner, or even reply in the first place. As much as we all love our friends and family...let's be honest, there are those amongst every circle who completely suck at this type of thing. RSVP cards have this magical ability to bring out the best and worst social habits in people. Generally people fall into one of the following categories:
A. Timely responders
B. Negligent responders
C. Negligent responders who will ultimately attend
D. Responders who are bad at following directions
The crazy thing is that RSVP cards didn't used to exist. This is actually a modern addition to the wedding invitation. Back in the day, everyone would have had their own personal stationery (I know right?! Shocking!) and would have sent their reply to a wedding on said stationery. Of course these days this type of RSVP card is long gone. Now we have what is currently known as the traditional wedding RSVP card, which typically includes the following:
- RSVP (Header of some sort: RSVP, Reply, Response Card, etc.)
- DATE BY WHICH THE GUEST IS TO RESPOND (typically 3-4 weeks prior to the wedding)
- M ____________________________________ (this is so you can write in your name formally: Mr., Mrs., Ms. etc.)
- A SELECTION OF ATTENDANCE OPTIONS (accepts with pleasure, declines with regret, number attending, etc.)
- MEAL CHOICES (Only applies if guests get the option to choose their meal prior to the wedding. This does not apply to buffet or plated dinners.)
Seems simply right? Wrong. I can't tell you how many times I see people screw these up. So below I've created a list of dos and don'ts when sending or receiving an RSVP card:
DOS AND DON'TS FOR GUESTS:
1. DO READ THE RSVP CARD COMPLETELY BEFORE FILLING IT OUT RSVP cards these days can have a lot of information on them: meal choices, multiple events, even song requests. So read the whole card before you start filling it out. This will save everyone a lot of grief.
2. DO RESPOND BY THE REQUESTED DATE Respond to whether or not you will attend a wedding in a timely manner, i.e. the date printed on the card. It's just common courtesy. Keep in mind that the bride and groom are tracking of all of these cards, and ultimately need them by the date they requested so they can let the caterer know. Think of it in terms of making sure you get the meal you've selected, you wouldn't want to miss out on the braised short ribs now would you?
3. DON'T FORGET TO WRITE YOUR NAME(S) This is not hard people! Just write your name down. How do you expect someone to know that it's your meal selection or that you'll be attending their wedding if you don't (A) write your name on the RSVP card or (B) write your return address on the envelope. I literally had a friend send me a photo last night of her first RSVP card that was returned with no names on it. The guest had very legibly filled out their meal choices, yet my friend had no idea who it was from because they forgot to write their name down (to be clear, the wording read: "Please fill in each guest's name and meal selection below" so there was no excuse). I'm convinced people just get so excited about the meal choice that they forget about everything else, including their own name.
4. DON'T FORGET TO WRITE YOUR RETURN ADDRESS ON THE RSVP ENVELOPE This goes along with writing your name on the card, but it needs to be reiterated. Think of it as the fail safe if you forget to write your name on the RSVP card. You would write your return address on any other type of mail, right? So why wouldn't you do it on an RSVP envelope?
5. DON'T ADD PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT INVITED I can't even begin to tell you how wrong this is. Emily Post would shit a brick. A wedding is not a house party. Bringing a few friends to tag along is unacceptable unless the bride and groom have specifically addressed your invitation with "and guest" after your name, and even then it's singular not plural. There is a lot of planning involved in a wedding. Each guest has been accommodated for. Significant money has been spent. A seating chart has been made. So don't be an asshole and bring uninvited guests.
6. DON'T BE OBNOXIOUS If you have a question for the bride or groom, call them. Don't write it on the RSVP card. This is not the appropriate space to write in a lengthy question about the best way to get Aunt Edna to the wedding, or how long it will take you to get to the ceremony (you laugh...but I have seen this, seriously).
DOS AND DON'TS FOR THE BRIDE & GROOM:
1. DO NUMBER YOUR RSVP CARDS This is a game changer. I tell all of the brides I work with to do this. Lightly pencil small numbers on the back of each RSVP card and correspond those numbers to the names of your guests on a spreadsheet. That way if you get a blank RSVP card, you'll know who it's from. Trust me, someone will do this to you and you'll have no idea who sent the card so just take my advice and nip this in the bud ahead of time. It will save you time and energy three weeks out from your wedding, when you'll already have a million other details to take care of. Tracking down your guests is the last thing you'll want to deal with.
2. DO INCLUDE POSTAGE ON THE RSVP ENVELOPE Believe it or not, I've seen this happen. When you send out your wedding invitations, you are expected to provide postage for TWO envelopes: the outer envelope the entire invitation suite is going in, and the RSVP envelope. Obviously there are exceptions to this (RSVP postcards, all-in-one invitations, etc.). But for most couples this is what you'll be doing. Don't forget to put postage on the RSVP envelope. These days it's standard to do so. (Pretty crazy considering RSVP cards are a modern invention huh?).
3. DO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY Everyone's circle of friends and family is different. Some circles may be made up of super responsible people and others may not. Most are made up of a mix of the two. That being said, you may want to consider the "we have reserved ____ seats in your honor" line for your RSVP card. I always suggest this line to brides worried they have friends and family who'll bring uninvited guests to their wedding. It requires more time from the bride/groom, as you'll have to write in the number allotted for each RSVP card, but it may save you time in the long run. You know your friends and family best, so try to make the RSVP card as simple as possible for yourself.
4. DON'T PROVIDE A SPACE FOR DIETARY RESTRICTIONS I say this from personal experience, don't do this. It will backfire completely. Here's a couple reasons why: one, to be honest, it isn't going to change the menu you've spent hours deciding on. And two, people will write ridiculous things. If you're really hell bent on including this on your RSVP card, use the phrase "please let us know if you have any allergies." It's all in the wording. That being said, keep in mind, it's still unnecessary. Here's the thing, if you are inviting someone who is deathly allergic to something, or has a severe allergy, chances are they're going to call you beforehand to discuss their options for dinner, or they're going to make sure they take care of it themselves (this is what responsible adults do). There is no need provide space for someone to say they're gluten free or vegan or trying the Paleo diet. Again, if it's fatal or extreme, they're going to let you know. Most people in this situation are prepared for the fact that when attending a wedding their dietary choices may not be reflected in the menu.
5. DON'T SEND A "B LIST" This is super controversial, but I'm going to say it. This applies more to the invitations as a whole, but also the RSVP cards. Don't send wedding invitations to a "B List" group of people. People on the "B List" always find out, one way or another. If you can't accommodate everyone, just don't do it. Making a guest list is probably one of the hardest things you'll do as you plan your wedding and unfortunately it requires some tough decisions. If you're lucky, you have a max capacity at your venue that forces your hand. But, if you have unlimited space but not an unlimited budget things get much more complicated. The best rule of thumb I can offer is this: make a blanket rule that applies to all. For example, no kids. Or only immediate family. Or no co-workers. Obviously you don't want to exclude people, but I can tell you this, people will be much more offended if they find out they were your second choice, rather than not being invited at all.
6. DON'T PUT 'PLEASE' BEFORE 'RSVP' RSVP is an acronym for the French phrase 'repondez s'il vous plait,' translation: 'please reply', or literally 'reply if you please'. Thus when you put 'please' in front of 'RSVP' you are being redundant. It's like saying "Please please reply" or "please reply if you please."
So what is the solution? How do you send out the perfect no hassle RSVP card? Well, unfortunately there isn't one. Your guest will always be the unpredictable variable. But you do have two options:
1. Take my advice and do the number system I mentioned above on the back of each RSVP card.
2. Write in or have your invitation designer print the names of your guests on each individual RSVP card. Overkill, yes. Added cost, yes. Headache-free, absolutely!
At Foreword Press + Design we offer it to clients (.75/per card) but rarely get orders for it. Most couples don't think about this being an issue until they are physically receiving their RSVP cards back, faced with guests who aren't writing their names down.
Best advice - the simpler the better. Getting married is overwhelming. There is a lot of planning. So try to delegate as much as you can. Take help when it's offered and consider who you're guests are when wording your invitations and RSVP cards. Trust me, taking the time to do so will pay off in the long run.