The Big Debate: The formal RSVP – what’s the point?

Picture this – I’m on the phone to a friend I’ve invited to the wedding. We’re talking about the wedding in general. I know he’s coming. He knows he’s coming. In fact, we’re talking about how much fun it will be, who will sit where… But suddenly out of nowhere I feel a stab of irritation:

“You haven’t RSVPd yet” I state.
“Er… but you know I’m coming…” he points out.
“Yes but you need to RSVP formally.”
“Why??”
“Because it has to go through the system” I lie. “It all gets put into a big list and then we can keep track of everyone.”

OK, not true. We asked people to RSVP through our wedding website to make it easier for them not because we have some big hi-tech system going on behind the scenes. Despite the fact that it looks a bit fancy, all it does is email us – true the emails are easier to keep track of, but really it’s not much extra work just to write down who’s coming and who isn’t.

But for some reason the idea that I needed that formal validation felt embarrassing. I had to fabricate a reason that sounded less… irrational. And it got me thinking about the formal RSVP. Even with our digital official RSVP, people still found it hard to reply in the way we’d requested. We got lots of texts, Skype messages, Facebook messages… but we’ve had to ask people more than once to use the website.

But lots of people have gone down the more traditional route of using paper RSVP cards – I sent Meryl out to investigate yesterday and see how you all felt about whether there’s still a place for the formal RSVP. So here’s the low down on RSVP options, their pros and cons and a final verdict at the end!

All beautiful stationery RSVP images (making the case for paper in pictures) provided by Knots & Kisses Stationery

Paper RSVP

What’s the point?

More than anything else, a lot of you liked the idea of having something tangible. And they can be so pretty too – they can really set the tone for your wedding and there are so many stationers to choose from out there!

 Several of you said the most exciting part was waiting for those RSVPs to arrive via the letterbox and it made waiting for the post something to look forward to.

Others put the need for a paper RSVP down to good old-fashioned manners – one reader pointed out that she ought to be worth the cost of a stamp to give her special day that extra exciting touch.

A paper RSVP may mean people take the need to RSVP more seriously.

How else are you to know people’s menu choices or dietary requirements?

What are the cons?

If you’re scatterbrained like me, paper invites are a lot harder to keep track of. With a digital RSVP you can put them all in a folder or a spreadsheet, with a paper RSVP you run the risk of losing one.

It’s more expensive. An email costs nothing – paper and stamps cost, especially in large quantities and if you’ve chosen to include a stamp on your RSVP return card.

You’re setting yourself up for stress. One reader pointed out: “It may seem a bit formal by today’s standards, but good manners and courtesy are timeless.” I totally agree. Sadly though, manners are quickly dying out. When I first started planning the wedding I had such cheerfully high expectations of people.

It took me a whole year of disappointment to realise I needed to seriously lower those expectations. While I would never leave an RSVP unsent, many people would. Their attitude would be that the world doesn’t revolve around your wedding and that they’re busy – and that can be very hurtful as we all know sending a letter takes about five minutes of extra effort.

The problem is, if you get it in your head that everyone must RSVP formally, you’ll end up stressed and upset with most of the people you know – and by sending it out in the first place, you’ll feel annoyed every time someone doesn’t send back the card as you know how much money and effort went into it.

It sets the tone for your wedding – which can be a good and a bad thing – if you’re having a more formal celebration then great, if you’re not people may expect it from the tone of the RSVP.

Email RSVP

What’s the point?

An email system means you have all the RSVPs in one place – most inboxes are also on the cloud so emails are generally easier to transfer data from and harder to lose.

In our case, it reassures us that they’ve been to the wedding website as we put a contact form RSVP on there. There are quite a few people who haven’t RSVPd formally – and guess what? They’re the ones with all the questions! Because they haven’t RSVPd via the email system on our site, they haven’t seen that all the information is right there – we’ve had every question under the sun from “what time should I arrive?” to “what should I wear?” – it’s all there in black and white – but the person who RSVPd via text or assumed I know they’re coming doesn’t know that. It does get frustrating having to spend half of my working day fielding questions when I’ve already put all that information out there.

It also worries me as all the travel and accommodation information is on there. If someone hasn’t looked at it a month beforehand, am I to trust that they’re all booked up? Or will they turn around at the last minute when hotels and travel are suddenly too expensive and say they can’t afford it?

A similar point, it also means they haven’t looked at our gift list. Don’t get me wrong I don’t expect everyone to get us gifts. But quite a few people have got in touch to ask us where we’re registered, or even bought us very generous things that we just don’t need. While that does sound a bit ungrateful and any gift is lovely, we set up the gift list for guests’ benefits as much as ours, so that they don’t spend needless money on something we already have as that’s a terrible shame and we don’t want people to waste their cash.

Again, dietary requirements. We’re self catering the wedding so we really do need to know about allergies and religious dietary requirements or we could end up poisoning or seriously offending someone!

What are the cons?

With an email RSVP people do take it less seriously and may think a text or a Facebook message is the same thing.

It is harder for some of the older generation who are perhaps less tech savvy to get the hang of it. We had about ten replies from one person who wasn’t sure theirs had gone through.

Again, it sets the tone for your wedding. People may think that if you have an email RSVP the whole thing is less formal and they don’t need to follow normal rules of etiquette.

Informal RSVP / Just let us know

What’s the point?

It eliminates the stress of waiting for formal RSVPs and having your expectations dashed.

What are the cons?

Well, lots. People won’t know how to let you know they’re coming. Some people really do need to be told what to do.

It’s so easy to lose track of who’s coming, who’s chosen which menu options and who’s declined.

It means that people will think that anything goes and that there’s no formality to the occasion at all, which could have ramifications later on.

No matter how you choose to manage your RSVP you will always end up chasing people. There will always be those who aren’t coming at all who don’t let you know – or those you have to nag into replying. But I still think the formal RSVP is important – it gives people a sense of occasion and helps you keep track of your guest list. Just don’t let it stress you out too much!

What do you think? Have you had a lot of trouble getting people to RSVP or is it still an expected formality? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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