The RSVP card, also called response card or reply card, is arguably the most important component of a wedding invitation suite. This is what allows your guests to respond to your invitation and let you know how many people are attending. It’s also how you’ll keep track of everyone’s meal choices, allergies and dietary requirements.
Traditionally, guests fill out RSVP cards by hand and post them back to you. You’ll need to include a stamped, addressed envelope if this is how you want your guests to reply. If not, the response card (or invitation itself) must contain your e-mail address, telephone number, or a link to your wedding website.
This guide will disclose exactly what you need to include on your RSVP cards, when to send them, and when the reply deadline should be. We’ll also cover alternative ways to gather your guests’ responses.
What Goes on a Wedding RSVP Card?
RSVP stands for “répondez, s’il vous plaît”. This is a French phrase, meaning “reply please”, which has worked its way into modern English. If an invitation comes with a request to “RSVP”, it means you must indicate whether or not you’re attending.
Most weddings don’t have open invitations – your venue and caterer will need to know an exact head count before the big day. So, when you send your wedding invitations, include a RSVP card with each one. Make it clear on the invitation exactly who’s invited, so that your guests know whether their children are welcome and/or whether they can bring a plus one.
Here’s what you need to include on your wedding RSVP cards.
The RSVP deadline goes at the very top of the invitation. This is the date by which you’ll need every card returned to you.
Here are a few popular ways to word the deadline:
• Your reply is requested by 1st June
• Kindly RSVP by Friday 1st June
• Please reply on or before 1st June
It’s best to pick a date at least a few weeks before you really need the final head count for your venue and caterer. That way, if any of guests forget to reply, you’ll have time to call them and chase them up.
Blank Line for Guests’ Names
Next, you’ll need a blank line for your guest(s) to write their name, along with the name of their plus one (if you’re offering one). The line for the guest’s name on an RSVP card often has an ‘M’ at the start – this is supposed to act as the first letter of ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’, though it’s optional.
You’d be surprised at how many guests forget to write their names on the RSVP card. To deal with this, you have two options:
• On the back of each RSVP card, write the name of the guest(s) using an invisible ink pen that you can read under a black light.
• Write a unique number on the back of each RSVP card. Before sending out the cards, match each guest with a number on a spreadsheet.
That way, if you receive a RSVP card without a name, you’ll immediately be able to figure out who sent it.
“Accept” and “Decline” Check Boxes
Each guest will need a way of indicating whether they can or can’t make it to your wedding. Normally, this comes in the form of a check-box next to each option. There are many ways to word it. More formal and traditional wordings include:
• Joyfully accepts / Regretfully declines
• Accepts with delight / Declines with apologies
• Will attend / Will not attend
If you’d prefer a more casual vibe, you may prefer something more along the lines of these:
• Yes, I’ll be there / Sorry, I’ll be there in spirit
• Can’t wait to celebrate / Sad to miss it
• Would love to come / Would love to come, but can’t
• Looking forward to the free drinks / Can’t make it, but have a drink on me
The more guests you invite, the higher the likelihood that some people won’t make it. As a general rule, you can expect approximately 10-20% of your invitees to decline. That’s why many couples choose to invite a few more than their ideal number of guests.
Number of Guests Attending
For organisational reasons, it helps to include a way for guests to indicate how many people will be attending. For example, “__ guests attending out of __”. You can fill in the second box yourself, according to how many people you’ve invited.
This is important if you’ve invited multiple people with one invitation (e.g. families and couples). You’ll need to know how many can and can’t make it, and which guests will be bringing plus ones.
If you are offering your guests a choice of food, include the meal options on the RSVP card. Next to each choice, include a blank line or an empty box, and instruct your guests to indicate which meal they’d prefer. For example:
__ vegetable risotto
If the invitation is going out to a single guest, he or she can simply tick the appropriate box. If it’s a multi-person invitation, guests can write a number inside each box (e.g. 1 chicken, 2 lamb) or write each guest’s initials next to their choice.
Even if you’re not offering different meal options, your caterer will still need to know if any of your guests have a dietary requirement. It’s estimated that 5-10% of people have a food allergy or intolerance – and this figure doesn’t include food avoidance for religious or ethical reasons.
As there are so many different nutritional needs (halal, vegan, coeliac, lactose intolerant, nut allergy, etc.) it’s not feasible to provide multiple-choice tick boxes here. Instead, include a blank line for your guests to fill in themselves. If your caterer needs more information, you can call the guest to discuss it further.
Space for Song Request
Asking for song requests is a fun way to get your guests involved in the wedding, and it can inspire them to get up and dance during the reception. If you like this idea, simply include the words “song request:” and then a blank line for your guest to write their choice.
Stamped and Addressed Envelope
Finally, make sure that you include a stamped, addressed envelope with all of your RSVP cards. This is important for two reasons:
1. It’s impolite to make your guests pay to send their RSVP cards back.
2. It makes it much easier for your guests to return their card. All they’ll have to do is pop the card into the envelope and the envelope into a post box.
There are always some people who fail to return their RSVP cards. So, we recommend you make the process as simple and straightforward as possible for them. The last thing you’ll want to be doing in the run-up to your wedding is chasing down guests who haven’t replied.
When Do You Send Out RSVP Cards?
Send out your RSVP cards with your wedding invitations, as part of the wedding invitation suite. This should be approximately six to twelve weeks before the wedding, if you sent out save the dates.
You should send out your invitations and response cards a little earlier than this if you didn’t send save the dates – approximately 3 to 4 months prior to the big day. If you’re having a destination wedding, the earlier the better.
Speak to your venue and caterer to find out the date by which they’ll need a final head count. This is usually somewhere between two days and two weeks before the wedding. Give your guests plenty of time, and as we mentioned before, allow a few weeks between the response deadline and the actual cut-off date.
One week after the RSVP deadline has passed, give a courtesy phone call to any of your guests who haven’t replied. Don’t assume that anyone who doesn’t reply isn’t coming: their cards may have got lost in the post, or they may have forgotten to send them.
Alternatives to RSVP Cards
RSVP cards are the traditional and preferred way to collect your guests’ replies. However, there are a couple of downsides to them.
First, they’re an expense that can quickly add up – as well as the cards themselves, you’ll have to buy a stamp for each of your guests. Secondly, if your guests have to post their reply, some of them may not bother (out of laziness or busyness).
Here are some alternative ways to collect your guests’ responses:
• Include your e-mail address on the wedding invitation
• Include your telephone number and ask your guests to give you a call or text
• Place a reply form on your wedding website, and include a link to it on the invitation
It makes sense to offer your guests as many different ways to RSVP as possible- that way, it’s more likely that they’ll all respond on time. Busier guests can drop you a quick text, while less tech-savvy invitees might prefer to take the snail mail route.
The only downside to offering lots of different ways to RSVP is that you might lose track of who’s replied and who hasn’t. We’d recommend you make a spreadsheet of all of your guests’ names, and record their responses as soon as you receive them.