Sunday, April 17, 2011

RSVP Etiquette

Yesterday was the date by which we had requested our guests to return their RSVP cards. Most people responded in a timely manner - we had mailed out the invitations just over a month before the RSVPs were due - but it's surprising how many people simply did not respond.

Before we had sent invitations to the folks in our wedding party, we spoke to or e-mailed them first, asking if they would consider being bridesmaids or groomsmen. When they said yes, we mailed them invitations, not only for the sake of formality, but because we'd also wanted to know if they were bringing a guest.

However, there were a number of folks who for some reason or another just never responded, so yesterday and today Ed and I have been tracking them down. The lack of concern about replying by the actual RSVP date was immensely frustrating: We weren't inviting them because we don't care about their response; the caterers need to know how much food to have. How many people are coming affects how much food and beverage we're able to afford to serve (and whether we have a full bar, or just beer and wine, is a big chunk of that). I wasn't sure if our guests thought they only had to reply if they were coming; I wasn't sure if our guests thought they only had to reply if they weren't coming. Simply put, I wasn't sure if people recognized that we needed to hear from them either way.

I'd thought there might be some cultural aspects, too; we invited quite a few people from Ireland, a family from England, and one from Germany, all of whom we would have loved to have attend, but weren't really expecting to because of distance, cost, taking time off from work/school, having children in school, etc. (One of my mother's cousins, his wife, and their two daughters are coming from Ireland, which is fantastic.) Most of the international guests replied, but a few we haven't heard from. I understand that there might not be as much emphasis on replying, but I was hoping for a little more cultural awareness on their side. Perhaps the RSVPs got delayed in the mail; I'm half expecting us to get a few more RSVPs trickling in this week. A few folks were in contact with my mother, but again, Ed and I are the ones having the wedding and I would have appreciated hearing from the guests directly, and not secondhand.

The more frustrating non-responders were those who simply forgot to mail their RSVPs, or who admitted they had just been carrying them around for that last week. (Do people not realize that it can take the postal service a week or more to mail a letter from the one coast to the other? Obviously sometimes the service is worse than that for several factors, but mailing an RSVP three days before the requested date just seems like bad planning.)

Because we no longer live in a society where both the bride and groom live in the same part of the country or part of the world as their extended families do - because extended families are sprawled all over the place these days - we knew it would be an inconvenience for people to attend our wedding. It's an inconvenience for us to attend our own wedding, having to travel 2,000 miles for it; we certainly would have preferred to have it in Utah.

However, the economy and the cost of travel being what it is, having other family obligations that same weekend, not being able to take time off work, etc., people just aren't able to attend. But if you get to the point where it's a week before the RSVP date, and you have a pretty good idea that you won't be able to make it, holding on to the RSVP doesn't make a whole lot of sense, either.

Ed and I know that this wedding is more important to us than to anyone else, but whether or not the guests realize it, their holding on to their RSVPs - for whatever reason - gives the impression that our friends and family just don't care. Several people have told me they've simply forgotten to mail their RSVPs, which makes me wonder if they care about our friendship at all. I'm less worried about those in the wedding party formally responding, but if you're not in the wedding party, I need to know if you're coming and if you're bringing a friend. That date on the RSVPs is not a random date; we need to know quantities in terms of food, wedding favors, etc., even how many people to seat at a table.

It's hurtful when folks hold on to their RSVPs and don't communicate what's going on; whether it's intentional or not, their waiting gives the impression that they don't care what this day means to us, how much we might want them there, or whether we'd be inconvenienced waiting. A handful of guests hadn't received their invitation; when I e-mailed them, said outright they forgot about our wedding. That tells me our friendship means absolutely nothing to you, especially if we're in somewhat regular communication.

Flakiness is no longer accepted once you're an adult. Start realizing that if someone is holding an event, you need to make up your mind and communicate with hosts. Having this wedding shouldn't have made me reevaluate some of my friendships, but it has.

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