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20-40-60 Etiquette---RSVP Please

To ask an etiquette, email Helen—



By Callie Athey, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I recently saw these wedding place cards attributed to theoverwhelmedbride on Facebook. "I didn't RSVP but I came anyways." There were at least four of them signifying the four people who did not RSVP for a seated wedding dinner. But, my husband and I recently were hosts for our daughter's wedding reception where 50 people did not RSVP. Luckily, the food was served buffet style, but we could not figure out the appropriate number to give to the caterer. Would it have been bad manners to call all those people to determine if they were coming?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: People forget to RSVP all the time. I don't believe it is impolite to call and request their RSVP, although you should always account for someone coming at the last minute. It happens!


LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Perhaps your caterer could help you determine a close-to-accurate number based on their experience in preparing food for these events over time. But 50 people is a lot of no-shows - or unexpected guests - and expensive either way. I think it's fine to call those who haven't RSVP'd and ask, telling them you have a caterer deadline. That would get the 50 down to a reasonable number of unexpected guests. People appreciate the reminder, and most understand why you would want to know. While it's rude not to RSVP and people can be flaky or noncommittal at times (some, sadly, all the time), don't hold it against them personally or stew about it. Just ask. And save at least a few extra spots.


On another note, I can't figure out if "theoverwhelmedbride's" place cards are brilliant or tacky for calling people out about their shortcomings. I'm leaning toward the latter for a wedding. But even if those cards don't have a place at a formal and lovely wedding, that's an interesting way to hold space for unexpected guests without having to manage the seating changes during the event.


HELEN'S ANSWER: We continue to have questions concerning responding to invitations. The accurate number, give or take a few, is pretty important when you are entertaining. It gives an idea about how much food to prepare if you are cooking yourself and the number is really necessary when you are paying a caterer per person. If your cost was $50. a person and 50 people did not show up, you are out several thousand dollars.

Most wedding invitations include a self-addressed envelope for RSVPs. Show your good manners and use it!

GUEST'S ANSWER: Linda Miller, author of Fashion Matters Blog: It would have been perfectly acceptable to call those who had not RSVP’d. Whether it’s a buffet or seated dinner, an accurate number is needed for the caterer and sometimes for seating arrangements.

Weddings are costly enough without having to provide food for 50 people who may or may not show up.

If you feel uncomfortable making such a call, ask friends or family members to help. Simply inquire if the invitation was received and share that final numbers are due in a day or two. No reprimands necessary.

We all get busy, forget or wait until the last minute, but know that an acknowledgment is important for those hosting -- or helping paying for -- that wedding or event.


Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.


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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›