You’ve heard the horror stories. Collecting wedding invitation RSVPs from your guests can be painful, but it doesn’t need to be! Traditionally, the RSVP process has started when the wedding invitations go out in the mail and you then wait…wait…and wait for the RSVP cards to be returned. In today’s world, you also have the option to collect wedding RSVPs online, which can be faster and less stressful.
Whether you go old school or adopt a modern-minded approach, here are some top tips on how to make the entire wedding invitation RSVP process run smoothly:
Be s.p.e.c.i.f.i.c – let your guests know *exactly* how to RSVP (e.g., please email your RSVP response to firstname.lastname@example.org) and what your RSVP deadline is. If you are asking guests to RSVP on your wedsite, include text on your invitation like “Please RSVP on our website at: davidandkate.glosite.com by March 1st, 2015.” (Oh, and make sure your wedsite host is set up to handle any responses sent by a guest who thinks your URL is an email address – e.g., email@example.com – because it happens more often than you’d think!)
Snail Mail Bonus Hint: if you are collecting RSVPs by snail mail, set the RSVP deadline two weeks *before* you actually need the responses to arrive. Most guests will feel good if their response is simply postmarked by the reply date (as the taxman has trained us to do…)
Give options - Do you have some friends who like texts and others who prefer email? Thought so! Make it easy for your guests by giving them permission to RSVP in the manner that they prefer: online, email, and text messages are easiest for some while mailing in an RSVP card might feel more comfortable for an older relative.
Snail mail bonus hint: If you’re using snail mail RSVP cards, make sure you include a pre-addressed and pre-stamped return envelope with adequate postage. Also, on the card, provide an alternative method to RSVP (like an email address or phone number.) That will help the busy guest who discovers the RSVP card in her “to do” pile 5 days after the RSVP deadline!
Stay organized – As the RSVPs start to roll in, make sure they are captured in one place so that you know both who has/has not RSVPed, as well what the responses are. If you’re not using a service like Glö to capture, organize and tally your responses, start a guestlist and RSVP spreadsheet. Here is an example spreadsheet in case you want to steal it! When you receive an RSVP, remember to add it to the spreadsheet right away so that nothing gets lost or forgotten.
Snail mail bonus hint: If you are sending paper RSVP cards in your invitations, number each one lightly on the back in pencil and mark down what number card goes with what guest or household on your spreadsheet. You’d be amazed at the number of cards that are returned without a name on them and this will make things oh-so-much easier to track.
Follow up (gently) – Your guests are interesting, fun people – but this means they are busy too. Although you are thinking about your wedding day and night, they are not, and there is *nothing* wrong with that. Many of your guests will need a gentle reminder that the RSVP deadline is coming up. Email is a great way to reach out.
Snail mail bonus hint: if you’re not using a service like Glö to manage your RSVPs and guest communications online, make sure you gather everyone’s emails and phone numbers together early in your planning so you have them when you need to follow up on those final missing RSVPs.
Plan ahead – don’t wait until 3 days before your catering numbers are due to start calling everyone in panic. Add some calendar invites to remind yourself when to send the first gentle reminder and when to start picking up the phone and dialing. If you’re collecting RSVPs online – consider asking guests to submit a tentative RSVP (i.e. using the “yes/no/maybe” question type on your Glö RSVPs) when you send out your Save the Dates. Their earlier you can start to get a handle on your attendance numbers, the easier your planning will be!One other tip is to build in some buffer for the unexpected yay or nay. Expect one or two guests to drop out at the last minute and one or two others to call at last minute and ask whether they can still come. If you are mentally and logistically prepared for this to happen, it will be less stressful when it does!
At the end of the day, the most important thing is not to panic. Collecting RSVPs just requires a patient and methodical approach. You will get there!
A version of this article originally appeared on A Practical Wedding