Every soon-to-be-married couple has one problem in common: invitees that don’t RSVP. For some reason, there are always some potential guests that refuse to respond to their invitation. It’s not always clear why, but it’s important that you find out whether they are or aren’t coming – otherwise, you can’t finalise your table plan!
What should you do if your wedding guests don’t RSVP in time? Politely remind them to respond, first through email and text, then by calling. If you can’t get in touch with them, consider meeting them in person. If they still won’t respond – whether it’s because they’re embarrassed, unsure whether they can attend, or simply can’t be bothered to – then it’s safe to assume that they aren’t coming.
This guide will talk you through the proper way to handle guests that refuse to RSVP by the cut-off date. The most important thing is to stay polite and calm – and remember to enjoy your big day no matter what happens.
How Long Should You Give Your Wedding Guests to RSVP?
You should give your guests plenty of time to RSVP. This is because some people might need quite a bit of time to work out whether they can attend. They might need to organise their budget (for the wedding outfit, travel, accommodation, etc.), try to book time off work, or arrange childcare. They’ll have to fix all of the above before they can give you their firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Send out your wedding invitations – along with your response cards – around six to twelve weeks before your big day. You should include a ‘RSVP deadline’ on the response card. This is the date by which guests must indicate whether or not they’re attending. But when should this deadline be?
To set a RSVP deadline, first speak to your venue and your caterer. Find out when they need to know the final head count – this will likely be somewhere between two days and two weeks before the big day.
Then, set your RSVP deadline roughly two weeks before the actual cut-off date. So, if your caterer needs the head count on 15th July, your RSVP deadline should be around 1st July.
This two-week window acts as a ‘grace period’, as some guests will undoubtedly forget to post their RSVP cards, or be too busy to do so. Having a gap between the deadline and the cut-off date gives you a chance to get in touch with anyone who hasn’t replied, and find out whether or not they’re coming.
How Do You Politely Ask Guests to RSVP?
If it’s looking like some of your invitees won’t RSVP in time, it’s not impolite to send a gentle reminder to them. How you do this is up to you, but some ways are more effective than others.
What many couples don’t appreciate is just how many people won’t respond to their RSVPs. This isn’t an issue specific to certain weddings - it’s a seemingly-universal problem that you will definitely experience. There will always be people that you need to chase down to get their reply.
Some will be embarrassed that they can’t come, and will have put off responding because they don’t want to disappoint you. Others may have been busy, or completely forgotten that they haven’t posted their reply card, and just need prompting. But most people, let’s face it, are just lazy – they know they have to RSVP, but they haven’t bothered to do it yet.
And that’s okay – nobody’s perfect. But you really do need that all-important head count. So when the time comes to do a little hunting—and it will come—use the techniques below to politely but firmly ask for their response.
Send an Email or Text Reminder
Your first recourse should be a quick and polite reminder, to gently nudge late responders into action. Email or text is the easiest way to do it, since you can send out your reminders in bulk. Send out the first reminder before the RSVP deadline, to give to anybody who has forgotten to respond the chance to do so before it’s too late.
Ideally, your email or text should go out about a week before the RSVP deadline. All you do is write out a brief generic message, like:
Hi, [guest name]! Not long now until the wedding – [partner] and I are so excited! This is just a quick reminder that I need your RSVP by [date]. Don’t worry if you can’t attend—I just need to know who is and isn’t coming, so that I can confirm the final head count with the caterer. If you’ve lost your RSVP card that’s fine, just drop me a quick message to let me know, or give me a call!
You should hopefully get a few answers back with a minimum of effort. For most guests, a gentle reminder is all they need. You may even discover that some response cards were lost in the post!
The problem is that people find it very easy to ignore emails and texts, so it’s likely that there will still be some invitees who don’t make the deadline. Allow a few days for the person to respond before moving on to another method of getting in touch.
Deadline Day Phone Call
If your RSVP deadline day arrives, and you still haven’t received all your responses, your next step is to get your invitees on the phone. It’s likely that they will have noticed your email or text, but haven’t had the time (or bother) to reply - so calling lets them know that you’re serious.
It’s not nice to feel that you have to chase after people, but a wedding is serious business, and the sooner you get their responses, the sooner you can plan the rest of your wedding; so you’re entirely justified in trying to get their RSVP.
If they answer, there’s no need to scream and shout. They likely weren’t being rude in not replying. Rather, it’s likely that they felt embarrassed that they couldn’t come and didn’t want to say. Or, they may be unsure if they can attend. They may have even thought that since they’re family, or part of the wedding party, they didn’t need to RSVP!
What the reason is doesn’t matter; what matters is that you finally get their response. Try calling a couple of times, but don’t pepper them with dozens of calls as this will just make them annoyed. Instead, call twice. If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail so that they’ll get back to you when they’re available.
If they aren’t able to give you a straight answer on the phone – or you have to leave a voicemail – then it’s important to stress that time is running out. Politely let them know that if you don’t get their response within a certain timeframe (48 hours, for example), then you’ll assume they can’t attend.
Meet in Person (Optional)
Some guests won’t respond to your texts and calls, but you may be able to meet them in person. It’s a last resort, but you could go to their home when you know they’ll be there and ask them face to face whether you can expect them at your wedding.
Of course, this isn’t a practical thing to do with every single one of your guests –especially if you’re having a big wedding. But if you haven’t had a response from someone very important – such as a close family member or friend – then it’s perfectly reasonable to drop in on them.
Again, there’s no need to be annoyed or angry, as they certainly wouldn’t appreciate you tracking them down to chew them out. Let them know that there’s no issue if they don’t want to attend, but that you do need to know, and now. If they can’t give you a straight answer by the time the caterer requires the final head count, then as far as you’re concerned, they’re not coming.
Assume They Aren’t Coming
If the cut-off date has long passed and you absolutely can’t get hold of some of your invitees, it’s probably fair to say they aren’t coming. If it’s been more than a week after the RSVP deadline, then you can safely count their lack of a response as a ‘no’.
At this point, you can – if you would like – send them one final text message along these lines:
Hi there [name], I hope you’re well. I’m just letting you know that since the RSVP deadline was last week and I haven’t heard from you, I’m assuming you can’t make it to our wedding. If you are planning to come, please let me know by the end of today. If not, no worries. Take care!
The problem is that you can’t wait forever for them to get back to you. It’s only once you have your full guest list (along with plus-ones) that you can finalise your table plan, and confirm the number of meals you’ll need from your caterer. There will come a point when your caterer needs to know your final head count. When that day comes, the invitees that haven’t replied have simply lost out.
Of course, there is a chance that some people who didn’t reply will turn up unannounced. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a few extra chairs, just in case. But if your caterer can’t feed them, that’s not your fault!