If you’re reading this, you’ve probably reached the point in your wedding planning journey when you’re starting to think about sending out your invitations. But before you do that, you need to figure out when the RSVP deadline should be.
It’s very important that you set a deadline for when your guests need to reply. Knowing who is and who isn’t attending your wedding will allow you to design the table plan and decide how you lay out your ceremony room.
Your invitees will require some time to figure out whether they can make it, but you can’t leave it too long. You’ll need time to communicate with your caterer, chase up guests that haven’t replied, finalise your seating chart, and invite potential replacement guests.
But when should the RSVP deadline be for a wedding? What factors do you need to consider, and what do you do if people don’t respond on time? Let’s find out.
What Is An RSVP Deadline?
RSVP is an abbreviation of “répondez s’il vous plait”, the French term for “respond if you please” or simply “please respond”.
In essence, including a reply card with your wedding invitation – or asking them to RSVP in some other way – lets your invitees know that they have to tell you whether they will or won’t attend. They can’t just turn up unannounced!
But as well as asking your guests to RSVP, it’s equally important that you set a deadline: a date by which their response is needed. It’s no help to you if your guests wait until the day before the wedding to tell you they’re coming!
Including a deadline on your reply card will help to ensure that everyone lets you know in plenty of time whether they can attend your wedding. This then leaves you free to finalise those little details that can only be sorted once you know the final headcount.
Why Is the RSVP Deadline Important?
It’s absolutely crucial that you set an RSVP deadline that gives you plenty of time to work out all the final arrangements that need to be made for your big day. For example:
1) Your caterers will need to know the head count before they order the food for your wedding breakfast and/or buffet. They’ll also need to know about any allergies or dietary requirements
2) The venue needs to know how many guests are attending in advance. This helps them figure out things like how to lay out the ceremony room, and how many staff members to put on the schedule
3) You’ll need time to make a table plan, and you can’t do this until you know exactly who’s coming
4) Your budget will be affected by how many guests are attending, and most vendors will want you to pay the balance before the wedding date
5) You’ll need time to invite replacement guests from the backup guest list (also called a B-list) if it turns out that several of your invitees can’t make it
There are also so many little things, such as deciding on the final number of table centrepieces and ordering your wedding favours, that you can only do once you know exactly how many guests will be in attendance.
So, it’s crucial to set a realistic RSVP deadline with lots of leeway built in, to give you extra time to organise everything before the big day. If you don’t, you’ll be rushing around to finalise everything and chasing up guests last-minute – and who needs even more stress in the lead up to their wedding?
When Should the Wedding RSVPs Be Due?
You should send out your wedding invitations and RSVP cards somewhere between 3 and 6 months before the big day. This will give your guests enough time book time off work, arrange childcare, and so on.
But when should the RSVP deadline be? You don’t want to set it so close to the wedding day that it makes things stressful for you. But you also shouldn’t rush your guests.
As a general rule, we recommend setting your RSVP deadline around 4 to 8 weeks before the big day. This will allow ample time for guests to figure out whether they can attend, and post their reply cards. It’ll also give you enough notice to finalise the last wedding details, such as the table plan.
Your caterers and venue will likely need to know the head count around 1-2 weeks before the wedding, so including a grace period will let you chase up any guests who haven’t responded.
But there are many factors that can affect when you should set your RSVP deadline, and every wedding is different. Here are some questions that will help you determine when your cut-off date should be.
How Many Guests Did You Invite?
This should go without saying, but the more guests you’re inviting to your wedding, the earlier you’ll need to set the RSVP deadline. This is because it’s going to take you longer to chase up any guests who haven’t returned their reply card on time.
At every wedding, there will be at least a few invitees that return their RSVPs late, or don’t bother to get back to you at all. So, it follows that with larger weddings, there are statistically going to be more guests who miss the deadline. Build in plenty of time to e-mail and phone anyone who might have forgotten to RSVP. This could be around 10% of your guest list!
Do You Have a Backup Guest List?
Not every couple will have a backup guest list, or B-list. Maybe you’ve invited absolutely everyone that you wanted at your wedding, and if so, this section doesn’t apply to you.
But if you do have a list of “maybe guests” that you plan to invite if some people from the A-list can’t make it, you’ll need enough time to send out your second batch of invitations. You’ll also need to ensure that your B-list guests have enough time to get their RSVP cards filled out and sent in before you need the final numbers.
Will Your Guests Have to Travel?
If you are having a destination wedding, or your guests will need to travel more than 1 hour each way to attend your ceremony, you’ll need to give them more time to RSVP. This is because there’s simply more that both you and your guests need to arrange: such as passports, plane or train tickets, accommodation, childcare, and so on. Your guests will also need to give their employers more notice if they need more than one day off work.
So, send out your wedding invitations 6 – 12 months in advance of your destination wedding, and set the RSVP deadline at least 3 months before the big day.
When Is Your Caterer Ordering the Food?
Caterers usually require the final headcount at least one week in advance of the event. However, every caterer will have their own rules and preferences. Some caterers might need to know the final numbers up to a month before the wedding – especially if they’re having to order in special or exotic foods, or you’re having a large wedding.
Don’t forget, they’ll also need to know in advance about any guests with allergies, intolerances, or dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian, vegan, kosher or halal). They’ll need time to plan alternative meals for guests that can’t eat what everyone else is eating.
When Does Your Venue Need the Head Count?
Giving your venue the final guest numbers at least a week before the wedding will help them out immensely. Knowing the head count in advance will allow them to:
1) Set up the ceremony room with the appropriate number of chairs
2) Lay out the tables in the dining room in an aesthetically pleasing way for the correct number of guests
3) Figure out how many staff will need to work your wedding, and put them on the schedule
4) Plan things like fire safety and evacuation routes
As with caterers, every venue is different with regards to when they’ll need the final head count. Check with your venue if you’re not sure.
Are You Ordering a Table Plan or Place Cards?
You can’t create or order your table plan or place cards until you know who’s going to be attending your wedding. If you try to figure out the seating chart before the RSVP deadline, you’ll create so many problems for yourself: even one or two guests RSVPing “no” can mean a complete redesign is necessary.
If you’re ordering your table plan online, you’ll need to factor in the amount of time it will take for the company to print and dispatch it to you. Most printers will advise you to order your stationery at least a month before the big day, just in case.
What Else Depends on the Final Guest Count?
Finally, is there anything else you need to buy, order, make, or hire for the big day that you can’t arrange until you know the final head count? For example:
1) Do you need to order your wedding favours?
2) Does your florist need to know how many table centrepieces you’ll need?
3) Are you hiring tablecloths or chair covers? When does the supplier need to know the final numbers?
4) Are you waiting to know how many bottles of wine you’ll need before ordering your wine bottle labels?
Make sure to factor in delivery times if you’re ordering anything online.
How to Word the RSVP Deadline
Setting a reply deadline is crucial so that guests won’t be tempted to let you know of their plans to attend the day before – or, worse, not tell you they’re coming at all!
Make sure you include the RSVP deadline in a large, clear and easy-to-read font on your reply cards. You can also include it on the invitation itself, to make absolutely sure that nobody misses it.
You don’t necessarily need to call it a deadline. The best way to word it is simply “RSVP by 1st June 2022”, or alternatively “Please respond by 1st June 2022”.
Put the RSVP deadline on your wedding website, too, if you’re having one, and keep your guests updated as the deadline approaches.
You may choose to send an e-mail or text a week or so before the deadline, to gently nudge anyone who hasn’t replied yet.
What If Some Guests Don’t RSVP?
Unfortunately, there will always be some invitees that forget, lose track of time, or simply don’t bother to RSVP.
Get in touch with anyone you haven’t heard from on deadline day, or the day after, to confirm that they have received the invitation.
You may find that some of your invitees have sent their reply card, but it’s got lost in the post. This isn’t a big problem, as you can simply get their responses when you contact them.
However, if some guests are still not sure whether they can attend – or you can’t get hold of them – you should give them one final warning, either by voicemail, text or e-mail. For example, let them know that you’ll need their response within 48 hours.
Make it clear that if they haven’t responded by this time, you’re going to have to assume they aren’t coming.
Order Your RSVP Cards from Bride and Groom Direct
If you’re looking for beautiful, high-quality wedding invitations and reply cards, look no further than Bride and Groom Direct, the UK’s foremost wedding stationery supplier. With hundreds of designs to choose from, you’re bound to find one that perfectly matches your wedding theme and colours.
What’s more, we also offer a beautiful range of place cards and other wedding stationery and accessories, so that you can create a cohesive look across your entire celebration. All of our designs are fully customisable with your wedding details and a choice of fonts.
Once you’ve approved the proof and placed your order, your personalised items will be with you within 5-10 days. Start planning the wedding of your dreams now with Bride and Groom Direct!