I am also developing a new category of guests. We have "friends," "family," and "people who don't RSVP on time." I'm a control freak. I can't help it. Missing numbers and head counts that don't match up bug me.
A while back, Sweet T lamented the apparent inability of some guests to RSVP, or to give attending a wedding any more consideration than they would have given the kegger at Pi Kappa Alpha back in the day. I think part of the problem is that many twentysomethings may not have had much experience planning large events, and therefore don't have a strong grasp on things like the importance of RSVPs (yes, the "please respond by" date meant something) or how much it means to the couple if you can come. I've noticed that wedding IQ tends to increase drastically between the ages of about 22 and 30. My matron of honor, who got married right out of college, had to deal with some pretty crazy stuff from friends and guests who sort of didn't "get" the whole wedding thing (as in, "I can't wait to come to your wedding! It's OK if I bring my 4 housemates, right? You've never met them but I'm sure you'll love them"). Four years later, I've had far fewer annoyances to cope with.
For those who might need a bit of help navigating a wedding invitation, I humbly present Bride in Exile's Guide to Being a Delightful Wedding Guest: What to Do When You Get an Invitation
For the uninitiated: This is a wedding invitation. It requests the pleasure of your company at a marriage ceremony, followed by a reception. Image from DauphinePress.com.
1. RSVP promptly.
"Promptly" means "by the date indicated on the invitation, and preferably as soon as you decide whether or not you're attending." If you're like most of us, and you have giant piles of random papers and mail in your house, procrastinating on your RSVP card will probably mean it gets lost somewhere in those piles. So just drop the little card in the mail already, or call, or e-mail. Really, you have so many options, so why not take 3 minutes to let your friends know if you'll be there? (Note: even if you think the couple already knows you're coming/not coming, you still need to formally RSVP after you get the invitation. It will be really helpful to the hosts to hear official confirmation.)
Our guests were actually really great about this -- as of the RSVP deadline, only about 10% of RSVPs were missing, and many of those trickled in a day or two later. But I've definitely known other couples who had to call huge portions of the guest list to find out their head count. This adds stress and more work to the couple's already full plate.
If your plans haven't solidified by the RSVP deadline and you think you might be able to make it but aren't sure, talk to the couple and let them know what's going on -- but be aware that this kind of "maybe" RSVP is really only acceptable under extraordinary circumstances, e.g. if at the time of the wedding you will be 8.25 months pregnant (one of my friends RSVPd "yes, unless the baby is early!"). Otherwise, you're just being indecisive and annoying.
2. Stick to your RSVP response.
The morning of my matron of honor's wedding, my beloved-but-sometimes-clueless younger brother, who had RSVP'd "yes," answered a call on his cell phone from my mom. She was also attending and wanted to know what time she should pick him up. Bro responded that he'd sort of forgotten about the wedding and thought he might just skip it. So I will quote my mom, semi-directly: "You have got to be kidding me. You don't RSVP 'yes' to a wedding, let the family pay for your meal, and then not show up because you 'don't feel like it.' This is not a frat party!" The next time I saw Bro, he was seated in the pews next to my mom wearing a jacket and tie. (Now *that's* parenting!)
So to echo my mom: weddings (or really any event where you're asked to RSVP) are not frat parties. Nor are they like that "Welcome Freshmen!" BBQ at the college dining hall. Extra people or missing people will be noticed, and will annoy your hosts. So if you said you'd be there, be there. (Obvious exceptions for births of babies, family emergencies, canceled flights, and other events beyond your control.) Don't decide to skip it in favor of the TV Movie of the Week or drinks with that cute girl in your office who you think might like you. Conversely, if you said you couldn't make it -- or worse, if you didn't bother to RSVP at all -- don't show up and expect dinner to be waiting for you.
3. If the wedding invitation is only addressed to you, don't assume you can bring a date.
The invitation is intended to invite the person or persons to whom it's addressed -- and no one else. If the envelope says "Miss Mary Smith and Guest," obviously it's cool if you bring a date. If it just says "Miss Mary Smith," please don't respond for two -- at least, not without checking with the couple first.
I am of the somewhat unpopular opinion that it's OK to call and ask if you can bring a date, provided that you are asking on behalf of a serious boyfriend/girlfriend. Econo Boy and I received several of these calls and said "yes" every time. But not all receptions will have extra space or extra room in the budget. If the bride or groom says "no, we're sorry, that won't work," don't whine or pout or bad-mouth the couple to your friends. You're a grown-up. Deal with it graciously, and either go alone or politely decline.
And for pete's sake, don't call the morning of the wedding and ask if it's OK that your new girlfriend is planning to "tag along." #1 also applies to asking about dates.
I'm a bit cranky. Can you tell? I think it's the giant pile of boxes I'm staring at right now. Moving is not fun.