What to do if wedding guests don’t RSVP? Copy ‘n’ paste this polite message!

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"Inked" RSVP card design available here.
“Inked” RSVP card design available here.

My wedding is in exactly one month. Yikes. The deadline for returning RVSPs has come and gone… and I still can't get answers from 30% of my guests! I looked at some of Offbeat Bride's articles, like “3 ways to chase down RSVPs from lazy guests“, and I tried a lot of things… But there are still a ton of guests who haven't given me a definitive answer or answered at all.

All I get are “I'm still not sure what's going on with work.” Or “I really really want to be there. I just have to see how things go.” Or absolutely nothing. No response of Facebook or by mail or anything. And I unfortunately don't have their telephone numbers.

Do I make sure there's table space and food enough for this non-committal 30%, and hope that they show up? Or do I mark them down as a No? What if wedding guests just don't RSVP at all?!

I'm going to let you in on a little secret:

Most of us are lazy.

Most of us are busy.

Most of us have trouble pinning down our calendars.

If you have guests who just can't seem to get their shit together to give you a solid answer, you need to stop asking them questions and start telling them what's happening.

Simply put, anyone who hasn't committed a month before the wedding, mark them down as no — and then politely tell them so!

You don't have to be rude about it. Just a simple statement like this will work:

We have to finalize wedding catering counts this week and since I haven't gotten an RSVP from you, I've marked you down as unable to attend. If I don't hear back from you, I'll assume that's ok. Hope you're doing well, and let's catch up soon!

Here's the key: You're not asking them for anything. You're not giving them another item for their to-do list. You've told them exactly what's going to happen if they close the window and ignore your message, which makes it really easy.

There's no threats or rudeness, no games or manipulations to get them to answer.

You're just letting them know what's happening and why, in a straightforward and loving way!

This is a lesson I've learned that works great in business communications, too… when deadlines loom, at a certain point you stop asking questions, and just let folks know what action you're taking. No shame! Again, we're all busy and lazy, and that's okay.

You might then get some panicked messages saying, “Wait wait, I got my work schedule figured out!” but chances are decent that folks who haven't gotten back to you yet probably aren't going to make it, and you've just made their (and your!) lives much easier by letting them know that you won't expect them.

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Comments on What to do if wedding guests don’t RSVP? Copy ‘n’ paste this polite message!

  1. When this happened to me. I assumed 2 people weren’t coming based on what they had previously said. For a few others, I sent emails out saying,”I was worried that I hadn’t heard from you about coming to the wedding. I wanted to be sure that you got the invitation!” As it tuned out, 1 was assuming that I knew she was coming, which was not the case. More importantly, another person had not received the invitation. It had not been returned and so I quickly emailed her the details. It turned out that a neighbour that had been away for a couple of weeks had the invite mixed up in their mail. I was really glad I checked up on things.

    • Yup! I did the same thing “Did you receive your invitation?”. We had about 7 people not receive theirs, and one persons invite finally did arrive a few days after the RSVP date.

      We also broke our invitations up into two sets; out of towners and local. This way we received RSVPs from people out of town/state sooner, and if it opened up more room for a “B” list, we could add them and email their invitations out 2 weeks later with the locals and they’d never know they were “B” listed!

    • A huge THIS to wording the first check-in as making sure the invitee got the invite! Not too long ago, I was the the would-be recipient of a lost invite. I moved in between getting the save-the-date and getting the invite, and for some reason, the invite wasn’t forwarded to my new address like it was supposed to. So, I was sitting there waiting for the invite, which is why I hadn’t responded! I’m very glad the bride sent me a Facebook message to see if I was coming.

  2. Love it!

    Yeah, we had a few people who didn’t RSVP, whom we didn’t have phone numbers for, and whom we could only communicate with through social media.
    After they failed to respond to any and all attempts at contact, we simply followed up with a simple, “It looks like you’re really busy. We’re going to put you down as a ‘no’ for the wedding. Hope to hear from you when we’re both significantly less busy!”

    Quick, easy, short sweet.
    There were no last minute “Hey waits!”

    We had no unplanned no-shows either.
    Everyone who RSVP-ed (with the exception of a couple medical emergencies) came.
    Those couple expected last-minute no-shows were conveniently off-set by a couple unexpected +1’s so it all worked out 😉

    • I just did the same and I did have three yes’s come back. Two of them were from friends I was hoping could come but they were just very very busy. They apologized and I said no hurt feelings. The other was just plain a procrastinator but I am not surprised, still no hurt feelings though. He other two I sent an email to and we’ll, both my fiancé and I weren’t expecting them to show up at all so we hope as you experienced that that will be a deterrent for a show up unexpectedly ?

  3. Man, I wish this had been posted on Saturday. I’m trying to chase down a cousin and his wife now and since I’m coming up on message #3, I feel like I need to wait a day or two before I follow-up again or I might have just sent this message out instead.

  4. This is such a tough situation. I did exactly as the poster suggested at my wedding and it worked really well. After the initial contact of “oh hey, I hadn’t heard back and wanted to make sure you received the invitation” I basically wrote an e-mail or text or however the best communication with them went and said “I haven’t hear back from you for my wedding and have to give my final numbers to the venue, so I’ve marked you as unable to attend.”

    It’s funny because we were the first of our friends to get married and have had people I had to chase down apologize to me now that they’re getting married and understand how frustrating the chase down process can be.

  5. I had exactly the same problem, so I’m glad I kept my wedding small and informal. We’re still not entirely sure how many are coming but the estimated number was so close to the full amount we’ve decided to cater for everyone. As we’re having street food and no table plan, it’s doable.

    If I was to get married again, I would use social media as well as send out invites. One of my best men said he didn’t receive his invite- it made me wonder how many others went missing, and whether the people I assumed were rude not to respond had in fact never received their invite.

    • And you can still keep it casual if it’s big too! We have 225 invites and a caterer but because we have no seating and passed dinner plates we don’t need to know until 10 days before the wedding because that’s when the caterer will finalize how much we owe her. Even if people change their mind after that, that’s fine too (it just might mean we pay for a couple of extra people but when you’re dealing with over 150 people, a few extras here or there don’t make a big difference). It is freeing to not feel like I *have* to know who’s coming, also to be able to change things around as a friend has a new boyfriend, another friend managed to change work and can now make it, etc.

  6. When we reached our RSVP deadline we were still missing a total of 32 reply cards which equaled 68 guests OR 37% of our guest list. Facebook became our greatest resource for tracking people down. Every single person who we hand’t heard from who was a facebook friend got a message and within the first day of chasing we had answers from half of the list who hadn’t responded. Why hadn’t they responded? They lost the card, they thought they’d mailed it, they hadn’t been sure if they could come and then forgot to respond, and my personal favorite “We thought you knew we were coming.” You know, because we regularly practice telepathy.
    With just over 3 weeks to go there’s only one person who hasn’t committed one way or another because his work might bring him close enough that week or he might be on the other side of the country. For him, we decided to include him as a yes because we’d rather have a spot for him and have him not show than the other way around.
    RSVPs were definitely the most stressful part of wedding planning for us. Because all of our centerpieces are different we couldn’t start work on them in earnest until all our responses were in and we had a firm table count. As someone who is very busy but always on top of my shit at all times it infuriated me that people couldn’t take five seconds out of their lives to put some check marks on a piece of paper and put it in the mail. But, I can’t control the actions of others, only my own and it all worked out in the end.

  7. When we get married, it will be small, 50 guests tops. I am naive…I think we will only invite very close friends and family who would of course RSVP immediately. My delusion may come from getting married previously with 15 guests. Everyone came. May need to rethink this…

    • We’re having a similarly small wedding (total number of seats is caped at 56), all close friends and family! We sent out our invitations several weeks ago, but only a couple of RSVPs have trickled in (it’s all web based so no waiting for the mail). I strongly suspect that MANY people haven’t and won’t RSVP until we track them down because an “of course we’re coming, you know that!” mentality.

  8. I threatened to give them a “Chicken or Fish” option even though we are not having a sit down dinner. Underneath the option in BOLD, I was going to write “Guests who do not RSVP will automatically be given a vegan option.” My family of meat-eaters would have responded lightning quick. Fortunately, I did not have to resort to drastic measures. They’re responding to my bossy requests just fine.

    • This is so funny. My wedding is in May and I planned to write “If you do not RSVP by mm/dd/yy, please bring a chair and a sandwich.”

      They may think I’m joking so I think I’ll use your option!

  9. I had exactly the same problem, so I’m glad I kept my wedding small and informal. We’re still not entirely sure how many are coming but the estimated number was so close to the full amount we’ve decided to cater for everyone. As we’re having street food and no table plan, it’s doable.

  10. I’M SO GLAD I came across this!! I have a situation where I have people that got invited to my wedding that was really just to be polite, and it’s been a week since their deadline passed! I just sent them all a quick message like this to resolve it! This works well if you find that you invited people you aren’t all that close to and are just inviting them to be “polite” when both parties know they weren’t coming and never had any intention to come for whatever reason! Thank you!!

  11. Thank you so much offbeatwed.com! Come one week before our rsvp deadlines, I had a number of people (25%) who had not rsvp’d so I decided, without knowledge of the process to follow up. I got many of those back and it came down to 5 people out of 57 original count. I was at a loss because I had tried the, I have to give my caterer a count this week, can you get back to me by then for an accurate count, and that still didn’t work for the three main guests of the 5 we were hoping would come. I google my dilemma and found your post and saw your sample message. I decided to give it a try for all 5 and got three yes! I understood two of the three were extremely busy and I let them know that I was not upset and understood. But that simple, direct, message if we will put you down as a no unless otherwise told did the trick! The other two are a couple that we did not really expect to come but out of courtesy, I sent an email and let them know that we were not expecting them to come per the sample message. We are now at 47 guests plus my fiancé and I which is just 1 under our planned count! 24 days till our wedding date and now I can relax and have fun with seating arrangements ? Thank you!

  12. As frustrating as having to hunt down people for confirmation that they were attending (never mind the money wasted on printing & postage for the RSVP card, if its solo cute & you want to keep it ok fine please just freaking email us!)

    What was more of an issue was guests coming to the ceremony but them telling me that they weren’t joining us for the reception. My husband & I cooked 75% of the food, chicken was purchased, we made food for 60 people but only had 40 eat…leftovers for 2 weeks! Full trays of food given away to friends. I really didn’t care about the really restrictive diet someone just started & the other person whom told me she was taking off work but then didn’t. Nothing changes your pov of your friendships like a wedding.

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