Tips for Tracking Down MIA RSVPs from Tacky Wedding Guests

Written by scott on June 26th, 2013

Are Americans just becoming ruder every day, or is it my imagination?  The number one thing that stresses out my wedding clients is something that I don’t think should even be an issue – wedding guests who don’t respond to formal wedding invitations, causing lots of wasted time tracking down responses and worrying about an uncertain budget.  So rude it’s unbelievable!  And gay weddings have just as bad an RSVP track record as straight ones, so don’t be pointing fingers.

The art of the RSVP is becoming a lost one.  I don’t even mean in the strictest sense of etiquette – I mean that wedding guests have become some of the laziest, tackiest people in the world if reports from my brides and grooms are accurate. Almost one hundred percent of wedding invitations today have an easy way to respond to the invitation – in fact, most have a pre-stamped envelope to insert the fill-in-the-blank response card.  So easy that “even a caveman could do it.”  And yet, my couples are reporting as many as fifty percent of their guests have to be called, or sent an email, in order to find out whether they’re attending the commitment ceremony or not.  Surprisingly – a lack of response doesn’t necessarily indicate they’re not coming.  Only that they don’t have enough respect for the brides or grooms to send back a prompt response.

Let’s back up and educate the general public who may be confused.  RSVP stands for “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which literally means “please reply” in French.  In the strictest form of etiquette back in the day, the invitee was actually supposed to hand-write a response to the hosts (usually the bride’s parents), but that nicety has given way to the pre-printed card they can send back.  I’m sure that was invented by some desperate bride in modern times (note to self – look that up).

What is horrifying to those who fight changes in wediquette (gay or otherwise) is the birth of the online RSVP – but even that hasn’t solved the lack of response problem.  Whether it’s an Evite or some fancy wedding website with responses you can click (and even choose your meal), advocates of formal wedding traditions will tell you it’s a bad idea to forego the traditional paper invitation and response card.  Let’s just face it folks – not everybody opens Evites or even special links to wedding websites sent personally by the bride and groom.  Even members of the bridal party have confessed to never having opened the web pages the brides and grooms so carefully and lovingly designed to share with their invited guests.  Swear to God, the track record on RSVPs done on digital invites is actually WORSE than the old fashioned paper kind.

So what can brides and grooms do to make life easier?  Here are a few tips that my clients have found to be helpful… sometimes.

–       If you’re having a destination wedding, send out your travel info packet and wedding invitation as soon as possible – but give them the traditional 6-8 weeks to reply.  You will know how many guests you have months ahead of time.  But you’ll also have time to track down all those MIA.

–       Assuming you’ve sent out a nice paper invite and response card, a follow up email the day after the RSVP deadline to guests whom you haven’t yet heard from is not inappropriate.  Some guests will remember to put it in the mail, others will email you back a response.  Whatever it takes, you just need the info.

–       The bride or groom who invited the tacky non-responsive guest (sorry, long day, I might be a little crabby on behalf of my clients) should call that particular guest to follow up if it gets to that point.  Don’t make your future husband or wife call your college friends who’ve been unresponsive.  That’s not fair.  You invited them, you hunt them down.  And definitely do not expect your fiancé to call your long-long relatives.

–       When all else fails, involve a third party.  And I mean after you have each called and emailed your respective invitees.  The third party can be your mother or your wedding planner – doesn’t matter which – trust me when I say that even the tackiest guest in the world will not ignore that phone call or email.  You’ll have shamed them into responding.  It’s not pretty, but when it needs to be done, it’s the best way to do it.

Expect to see brides and grooms (gay and straight) struggling with the RSVP issue and so many more etiquette and basic manners challenges on our new reality TV show, “Wedding Island,” premiering on TLC on Wednesday, July 17th at 10 pm Eastern/Pacific.  The show features me and my husband Bill and our fantastic island crew as we struggle to survive daily life while executing dream weddings and commitment ceremonies on an island where everything has to take two boats or two planes to get here.  Season One does feature a gay wedding – but that’s all I’m going to tell you so that you make sure to set your DVR and remember to watch!  For the official skinny, check out the official TLC press release

Dwayne and Rodney with cameras

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!  And good luck hunting down those RSVPs.


Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.  She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events.  She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004.  Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas.  She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada.  Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island), Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm), and Boutique in Vieques (a clothing and home décor shop).  Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post  and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients!


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