I’m going to begin this post with an apology, because chances are this post may be full of gross generalizations. If you feel that is the case, then can I warmly encourage you to comment and let me know if you think I’m way off? It is by no means intended to offend anyone. It is just my own observations from years of cross-cultural friendships and marriage.
The elusive world of wedding RSVPs and +1s is something that makes most brides want to cry at the very least. You send them out hoping that you have given enough notice for people to make arrangements, and all you wish for is that people will let you know if they are coming or not… Nothing hard, really, but then, the RSVP deadline comes and you realise uncle Jo and his family of 5 haven’t replied yet, your friend who’s just decided to go travelling for a couple of months has completely forgotten to let you know if she’s back on time, and so on…
Now, this topic has already been discussed at great length by other bloggers, so the angle I’m going to take today is about guests not cooperating (i.e. not RSVP’ing or bringing +1, 2, 3 and even +10 (!)) because it is culturally acceptable or or it’s not traditional for them.
Let me give you an example: my husband is British-Jamaican and, as a most good Jamaicans, he likes a good party with plenty of dancing, curry goat and rice + peas… Their weddings are often huge affairs and bringing additional family members who haven’t necessarily been invited by the bride and groom seems to be acceptable.
The reality is, this only works when you’ve hired a hall and you have virtually no limit on the number of people attending (please note the ‘virtually’! Every venue has limits due to health & safety regulations), or when the catering is provided by you and your guests.
However, what happens when a traditional venue and caterer have been booked and your guests are not confirming attendance? Not being able to confirm the exact number of people attending could create problems with your suppliers. Last year we were invited to a family wedding at Nonsuch Mansion. I knew the caliber of the venue and tried to explain to my husband that it was not a hire hall where having 100 people instead of 80 made no difference. I tried to explain to him that his cousin needed people to RSVP so that the venue and caterers knew exactly what to expect. Needless to say, he didn’t let me RSVP and we still went to the wedding – ‘because that is just how thing are done in our family’…
I sure won’t be arguing with my husband about family traditions, but having been a bride myself and knowing what it felt like when some of the people we invited didn’t RSVP, I know full well that not knowing exactly how many people are due to turn up is the mother of all logistical nightmares and makes for a really uncomfortable conversation with your supplier!
So what are the solutions?
♥ Because this is a family or culturally sensitive issue, it’s important that you decide whether family relationships are more important to you than etiquette, and this should affect the choices you make when it comes to your suppliers. I know you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your dream wedding because you can’t get people to do a simple thing as replying to an invite, but the bottom line is, if this is part of your culture, you are not going to change the situation. So take into consideration the likelihood of this happening when choosing your suppliers. Flexibility is key, and if your suppliers cannot be flexible, then they are probably not going to be right for you.
♥ Clarify with your family how many people they expect to invite at the wedding (in some cultures it is totally acceptable for parents, siblings and even friends to be inviting their own guests). If you can only afford, say, 150 people, ensure that this limit includes a certain number of +1s.
♥ If feasible, check that people have received the invitation with a brief email, call, or texts message a couple of weeks after posting it. Use this opportunity to kindly remind them of the RSVP deadline and that if you don’t hear from them you will assume they are not attending. If you prefer, you can do this a couple of weeks before their reply is due. This way no one will be able to make excuses or claim they have forgotten.
♥ If you are inviting guests just for the evening reception, have a frank conversation with some of them to see if anyone would be happy to come to the whole reception in place of the last minute drop outs. I had to do this with some of the friends we invited for the cutting of the cake. As much as we wanted to, we couldn’t afford more than a certain number of people at the sit down meal, but some the guests didn’t actually confirm – some thought it was obvious that they would be there, and they did come, they just didn’t RSVP, others just waited until the last minute to decide and then didn’t come. Luckily I have some awesome friends who completely understood our predicament and happily took the slot of those people that dropped out at the last minute. This meant that our tables were full and I didn’t waste money on meals that didn’t get eaten. It also meant that I now had 3 or 4 additional spaces for the evening reception that could be taken by any unexpected +1.
♥ Hire a wedding planner who offers RSVP management. Not all planners do this, but I personally offer it as an ‘ad hoc’ service, independent from any other package. All you need to do is supply the list of all the people invited, expected numbers and contact details and I will collect all the replies and chase anyone who hasn’t responded for you. Granted, the issue of +1 remains, but you can at least leave the embarrassing conversation with those who have forgotten to confirm their availability to the professionals.
Do you have any other tips on how to manage guests who don’t RSVP, last minute drop-outs or unexpected guests? Are you in a similar situation right now and don’t know how to handle it? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!
Baci e abbracci!