What to Do When Guests Don’t RSVP

Kunbi O / Tuesday August 1, 2023
Momental Designs

You officially sent out your wedding invites — now all you have to do is sit back, relax, and wait for RSVPs to fly in. The problem? Sometimes, they don’t. That’s right: Certain friends and family may not get back to you, leaving you to twiddle your thumbs and wait to hear their response.

When guests don’t RSVP, it can be frustrating. Fortunately, you can do a handful of things to make it easier—on your guests andyourself. We sat down with a handful of industry experts to hear what they had to say on the matter. Take a look at their advice and save it for your wedding planning experience!

Julia Wade Photography

Start with a detailed website

If you want your guests to RSVP on time, make it simple for them! Ensure they have as many details about your big day as possible. Creating a wedding website will give them a place to go if they need additional information before submitting their ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

“Provide guests with all the information they need regarding your big day through your wedding website, especially if it’s a destination wedding,” encourages Michael Vernon of Conch Concierge Weddings. “This knowledge will help your guests decide if they are able to attend.”

Jen Avey of Destination Weddings Travel Group shares Vernon’s sentiment, adding, “Being transparent with your guests about all the details of your wedding can help prevent any miscommunication with your loved ones.”

Do your guests a favor by providing details regarding your big day as soon as you have them, so they can easily commit and pencil it in their calendar.

Give yourself breathing room

Think some of your guests will be slow to respond? Give yourself some leeway! For instance, if your venue needs a headcount by April 15, avoid making your RSVP deadline April 14.

“Don’t stress if you don’t have everyone’s RSVP by the allotted date,” notes Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club & Events. “By adding a little breathing room to your deadline, you’ll have time to follow up, typically about a week after the RSVP date.”

Allowing a few days for you to make the rounds and follow up with people will help you worry less about any stragglers.

Provide different ways to RSVP

There’s a good chance you’re inviting folks from several generations, so adapt your RSVP approach to suit everyone’s habits! For example, your Gen Z cousin is probably more comfortable with an online RSVP, whereas your partner’s grandpa likely prefers to stick a card in his mailbox.

“Give your guests a chance to respond by phone, email, or mail,” suggests Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning. “This way, they can choose whichever method works best for them and ensure their RSVP is received in time.”

Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services notes, “We’ve seen an uptick in virtual RSVP options, which eliminates the wait time with a mailed ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I’ve even seen in-depth forms that give guests their meal selection choices, options to add a plus-one and their information, plus song requests for the reception. Making it as streamlined as possible for guests can increase their response time if you have a tight RSVP deadline.”

Meet your guests where they’re at to avoid hearing crickets after your RSVP deadline. Just make sure you’re keeping an eye out for RSVPs from all channels: your mailbox, your inbox, and your wedding website!

Get comfortable with no’s

The reality is that some guests won’t be able to make it to your big day — so they may assume you know this and not RSVP at all. Go into the process knowing people are going to decline, so you don’t find yourself confused or disappointed by non-responses.

“After a week past the RSVP due date, we consider this guest not coming and are marked as no,” confirms Samantha Leenheer of House of Joy.

Though we wish everyone would be on top of their RSVPs, some will simply forget! So while you may pop in to follow up by phone, don’t expect to hear a bunch of yeses after the deadline.

Photo by Mandee Johnson | @mandeephoto

Check your addresses

If you’ve had a longer engagement, there’s a good chance some of your loved ones have moved. And if you haven’t updated your address book in a while, now’s the time to do so! If you don’t hear from someone, check to ensure they received your mail and confirm their address.

Lilia Shatnaya of Plume and Stone Invitation Studio offers a reminder that “there may be instances where your invitations simply did not make it to the invited guest. There is a possibility that they moved, the address was wrong, or the invitations will be returned to you for no apparent reason at all. If this is the scenario, always reassure the guest that they were, in fact, invited and offer to send a new invitation (even if it is very close to the date).”

It’s best to order a handful of extra invites for situations like this, in case you have to send out a last-minute fix. So when picking out your stationery, be sure to add a few extra when placing your order. (Bonus: Your photographer will love having a clean invitation suite to shoot on the big day!)

Expect mail snafus

We’ve all had something get lost in the mail before — and while your invites are undeniably special to you, expect the postal service to treat them the same as any other piece of mail. So if someone doesn’t RSVP, you might want to confirm that the USPS held up its end of the bargain.

“The mail is not perfect,” reminds Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events. “We often receive RSVPs for weddings several weeks after and see that they were mailed weeks in advance.”

Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss seconds this thought, stating, “USPS has been really unreliable the last few years. You can’t assume that your guests who have not RSVP’d have received the invite and are just being annoying! From shipping delays to addressing changes to everything in between, there is a multitude of reasons.”

When you reach out to those who haven’t RSVPed, confirm whether or not they received your invite in the first place. It’s possible they didn’t even know they made the guest list!

Lead with kindness

As you contact those who’ve ghosted you, it’s best to lead with kindness. Most adults have busy schedules; if they forget to RSVP, it’s not with ill intent — remember that they’re only human.

“Most people who have not gone through this experience may not understand how vital RSVPs are,” shares Diane Kolanović-Šolaja of Dee Kay Events. “Try not to cut out your first cousin forever because she has yet to send that RSVP.”

Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films agrees, saying, “It’s important to be polite and understanding. Some guests may have forgotten or may be dealing with unforeseen circumstances that have caused them to delay their response. We all live busy lives; by reaching out with a friendly reminder, couples can gently nudge guests to respond without appearing pushy or demanding.”

Wedding planning can be stressful, but remaining kind will make things easier for both you and your loved ones. Promise!

Kelly Hornberger Photography

Keep things positive

More than kindness, it’s also best to maintain a positive attitude as you check in with loved ones. For example, instead of highlighting the fact they didn’t RSVP, remind them that you’re excited to celebrate with them soon and hope they can make it!

“If you call, email, or mail a note, keep your message brief and upbeat,” recommends Joan Wyndrum O’Hear of Blooms By The Box. “Keep an optimistic attitude and embrace graciousness in your message, letting the guest(s) know the caterer must receive a final headcount.”

And if you don’t want to ruffle any feathers, stick to Wyndrum’s advice — simply tell your guests the caterer, venue, or entertainment needs to know their response!

Tag team your outreach

Don’t feel like reaching out to dozens of guests you haven’t heard from? You’re not alone — it can add up to become a lot of work! That’s why asking a friend or family member to give you a hand can make it a smooth and uneventful process.

As Kelley Nudo of Momental Designs notes, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and divvy up the list of ghosting guests (hopefully, it is a short one) to make some phone calls.”

Your maid of honor or best man should be able to help here! Or, if you’re dealing with difficult family dynamics, bring in a trusted family member to fill in, like a parent, sibling, or cousin.


Choose the right kind of communication

Even if you sent out formal invitations, it’s okay to text someone if they don’t give you an answer — as long as you know they’re comfortable with texting. It’s all about reaching people with a form of communication they’re likely to use.

“Make sure your method of communication is a good match for reaching out to your guests,” suggests George Wainwright of Coastal DJ & Video. “For example, you might have friends who never pick up the phone but will respond quickly to a text.”

So while a phone call might be best for older family members, a quick DM on Instagram is more than okay if you’re trying to reach your Gen Z guests!


Don’t stress

Let’s be honest — wedding planning is stressful enough. Along the way, remind yourself that getting every guest to RSVP on time is not your job.

Sarah Jobe of Twickenham House and Hall emphasizes, “Ultimately, if a guest forgets to RSVP to the wedding, it is not the couple’s responsibility to chase a response. Those who choose not to respond to a wedding invitation are typically not guests who are essential to the couple to celebrate the marriage. Therefore, letting the guest decide their actions and relaxing along the way for the couple is necessary.”

So many other aspects of the planning process are more enjoyable than hunting down RSVPs, so dedicate your energy to those areas. At the end of the day, your guests are responsible for their time and schedules!


Make it easier

Spending hours addressing and stamping RSVP cards might leave you feeling frustrated when someone gives you their answer with a quick text. But regardless of how people respond, remember that a headcount is a headcount.

“Make it easy on yourself and accept any kind of RSVP they give you,” recommends Wendy Kidd of Each & Every Detail. “Don’t hound them to turn in cards or go to a website; just mark them down as coming if they tell you they are. This saves you time and stress!”

When you send out wedding invitations, it’s normal to wonder why you haven’t heard back from certain guests — especially as the RSVP deadline approaches (or passes!). So if you find yourself in this situation, take a breath, reach out to those who haven’t responded, and accept that life sometimes gets in the way. Those who can’t wait to celebrate with you will be there, and those who ghost you will simply miss out on a heck of a party. Their loss!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.