Monday, July 6, 2009

RSVPs have turned me into a crazy person

I don't know if anyone else is finding this to be the case, but as we get closer to the caterer's final deadline, I'm starting to see our guests, our beloved friends and family, almost purely as numbers on the spreadsheet -- as 1s in the "yes" column or 1s in the "no" column, as chicken, beef, or vegetarian meals, to be carefully color-coded on the place cards and reported to the caterer.

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

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.


Anonymous said...

I loved this entry so much I made my mister read it too. And he also loved it. A lot of our friends run with sort of punk/indie crowds which means that they're basically wedding illiterate. Those who RSVP-ed promptly were pretty much those who are married themselves, or are just "normals" enough that they have been to a million weddings. The rest just have no idea! And think we're nuts for having chastised them. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, here's a bonus in "RSVPs make me crazy-land": My dad refuses to ask any of the folks on his side who haven't RSVPed yet--says it's "rude" and he won't do it.

SG said...

AMEN! Love the post. So true on all accounts.

LPC said...

Perhaps you can start an Internet meme. Like read this in a video on YouTube. With music. Millions of people getting married will thank you.

One Barefoot Bride said...

awesome! you've done a huge service to all wedding goers & rsvp-receivers. as a former clueless wedding guest, i'm hoping all *my* guest will read this great post!

(ha! my word verification is 'reertatd', which is scarily close to retard, for those people who don't reply.)

Abbie said...

With less than three weeks left, I'm STILL calling, then following up with emails. Seriously. J has told me that he NOW understands why it's important to RSVP. Ha. The worst part... most of the non-RSVP's are family and my best friend from back home!

Bride in Exile said...

Looks like a lot of you can relate! Now, how do I circulate this post to likely wedding guests so that no brides or grooms will ever have to explain the concept of RSVPs again? ;-)

A., Econo Boy has been very resistant to asking people about missing RSVPs as well! He says he feels like he's bothering them or being accusatory.

LPC, in my bored moments, I sometimes contemplate writing a "Guide to Being a Grown-Up." It would include a chapter on weddings and other social occasions, but also useful information on things like "Writing Business E-mails" (hint: emoticons are not acceptable in business communication unless you work at and "Cleaning Your Bathroom" (seriously, I've been shocked at how many twentysomethings have never picked up a toilet brush in their lives). But I'm liking this YouTube idea, I could turn it into a series!

class-factotum said...

Bride, add to your guide these things:

1. "Dude" is not an appropriate form of address for everyone you meet, especially your parents' friends.

2. It is not appropriate to use the "F" word in casual conversation, at least not around your parents' friends. Really. It's not. And "freakin'?" It's a polite (as it were) way of saying the "F" word.

Elissa said...

YES YES AND YES. 5 days away from the RSVP deadline and we've gotten 50% of the response cards back. Sigh.

Bride in Exile said...

Elissa -- only 50%? Wow! I feel for you. What's so hard about sending back that little card? That said, I'm sure your number will climb in the next few days, some people just like to stretch it out until the last possible minute for whatever reason.