If you are hosting an event and are watching your event RSVP's slowly trickle in, you are not alone!
Okay...you followed all of the proper, written event etiquette...you sent out save-the-dates early. Then, you sent out your invitations early (eight weeks prior to your event) so that you could have time to fill in the 'Nays' and 'Non-responders' with your secondary list of guests! You set your RSVP deadline a month ahead of your event to allow yourself extra time to peacefully address just this type of situation.
Once you have received an adequate number of RSVPs you can finalize your meal count for the caterer, give the caterer your guests' meal choices, and purchase the proper amount of programs, favors, champagne, linens, etc. Without an accurate guest count, you could spend a lot of money buying more than is needed for your event. A lot of planning is riding on your final count!
Some people think that if they are not coming, it's okay to not respond at all! NOT! While others think it's okay to RSVP and then don't show up (for no real reason)!
Believe it or not, many people have never hosted an RSVP event and have no idea how much money is lost through no shows. Therefore, many guests have no idea how expensive per person events are to host. One day...when those same people have an event with no-shows or where guests respond very slowly, their eyes will be opened...and they will remember, perhaps, all of the events where they never responded. For example, If your caterer is charging $80 per person, and you have just 10 no-shows who RSVP'd--that's a loss of $800...think of what you could have done with that money!
Expect about 10% to 20% of invitees not to come (more realistically, 20%). If you get less response than that, it's time to call. There are also other considerations if your number of responses are still low:
* Are you one of those guests who never show up to invited events? Unfortunately, now your invited guests may return the favor and not show up to yours.
* Is your event near a holiday where people usually have already planned vacations?
* Are you having a destination wedding to an expensive location?
* Have you invited a lot of out-of-towners?
* Are you not allowing children? (It's very hard sometimes to find a sitter, especially when you're going out of town.)
* Did you allow guests to have a plus-one? (Anyone in a long-term relationship--that's known to you--should be given a plus-one, budget providing.)
* Did you leave off the stamp on your pre-addressed response card envelope? (Always include a stamp and a pre-addressed envelope.)
If you have one of 'those special families or that group of friends' and you know there are going to be a lot of non-respondents or late respondents, add an extra line on your response card that says 'Attendance by RSVP ONLY'. This may seem like overkill and is usually not necessary, but if it might work for you, try it! It's a firm, but polite way to stress it.
Here are some ways to increase your response rate:
* Give your guests several methods to RSVP. Your guests are all different technologically--some still use mail, others use mainly phones all the time, and the rest may be email or text message communicators! If you can, provide your guests with your mailed response card with a stamp, website address, email address, and a phone number to RSVP! Seems like a lot, but it gets the job done!!!
* Send out save-the-dates early. Then, send out your invitations eight weeks before your event with your RSVP deadline four weeks after. Do not give guests the entire six or seven weeks to respond...they will probably forget!
* Choose wording on your response card that asks for some type of 'attending' or 'not attending' response.
* A great place to make it clear to RSVP is on your wedding website. Clearly state that "Attendance is by RSVP ONLY! Deadline to RSVP is (date)". Again, provide your guests with several RSVP options posted on the website--RSVP online, RSVP response card, or a special automated RSVP phone line.
* Put fun things on your website that will keep your guests coming back to check for fun updates. In this way, if they don't RSVP the first time, maybe they will on a subsequent visit.
* As for your wedding party, just automatically add their names to your list if they have ordered and paid for their dresses or tuxedos and are actively communicating with you. They are doing a lot for you so forgive them if they don't have the time to RSVP too (even though most will).
Also, as a wedding planner, we have customized our response cards for our clients. The response cards correspond to the number of invitees for each invitation. The wording is "We are reserving XX seat(s) for you. How many seats will you need? ___ of XX seat(s)". This method has been very successful over the years. If the person needs more seats than listed, you usually get a phone call asking to bring more guests. If you get a response with a higher number written in, make the phone call (remember to be very, very polite.)
Some of your guests will wait until the very last day of your deadline to mail their response cards. You properly wait for about four days after your deadline ended to give the procrastinators' mail a chance to arrive. That's when you will start making follow-up calls.
Follow-up phone calls are great for your sanity where you can get a definite yes or no. Politely let the guest know you have to give a final count to your caterer or venue. This usually helps to get a definite answer. Sometimes it is as simple as the guests did not get their mailed invitation. To help with those calls and emails, here are some suggestions:
Sample follow-up telephone call-
"Hi (name), It's (name). I'm calling to make sure you received our wedding invitation. We haven't received your response and hope you can attend. We have to give the caterer a final count by Friday, so please call me back at (phone #) and let me know as soon as you can. Thanks!"
Sample wording for a follow-up email to non-responders-
We are checking with you to follow up with your invitation to our wedding on (date). Please confirm one of the following via this email address:
(1) We have reserved XX seats for you.
How many people will be attending? __ of XX seats.
Names of attendees:
(2) We are unable to attend __
We would love for you to celebrate our special day with us! Thanks, (hosts' names)
Never send out a group email to non-responders. Always send a personalized email to each addressed, invited guest. Ask the person whose guest it is to make the follow-up, the chances of a response are much higher--ask your fiancee, your parents, your fiancee's parents, etc. to call their friends/family members.
The important thing is to keep your patience and realize that this is a normal procedure of event planning! Your event will be fabulous and your family and friends will be there!