On preparing wedding invitations
EDITOR’S NOTE: We are answering questions received before news about the coronavirus outbreak jumped to the forefront of everybody’s mind. In light of recent events, we would like to hear from you about any questions that address your concerns related to this crisis. What have you witnessed? What would you like us to address? Please stay well, and we look forward to the day when the current heavy news fades, and we can remember that people still face everyday etiquette questions and dilemmas that are part of our humanity.
QUESTION: I am helping the bride and groom with wedding invitations. Is it OK to ask guests to call or respond online with their attendance and food selections? We wanted to opt out of sending the RSVP card. What are your thoughts?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: When you say food selections, this makes me assume you’re having a sit-down dinner. If so, it makes your wedding more formal. Send the RSVP card and stick to the tradition. Either way, you’re going to have people that forget to RSVP.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Including a card separate from the wedding invitation might cost more money, but it makes sense for a formal wedding or even a large one. A couple of things to think about: Why would you want to clutter your beautiful invitation with all the RSVP details, like an email address, website or phone number, as well as ask them for their food selection? Why would you want to accept phone call after phone call from people responding just as you’re busy handling the final wedding details? You’d have to stop and take notes from everyone about their food choices. If you don’t include a card at all, traditional etiquette dictates a formal, written reply to respond. Even if you don’t want people to mail their choices back in, I think a separate card with details related to the celebration is necessary, including ways to connect with you. With a formal wedding, an RSVP card and a self-addressed response card are the most appropriate and familiar; you can include instructions on it that appeal to all ages, whether they’re more comfortable responding online or by email, by phone or by written note.
HELEN’S ANSWER: It is still meaningful to respond by using a RSVP card, particularly for a formal wedding. That is pretty traditional. For an informal wedding, you might include a card enclosure with the invitation, directing the guests to call or respond online. You might get a better response, particularly if you want them to reply to menu options.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Hilarie H. Blaney, senior vice president, BancFirst, and owner, Hilarie Blaney, Etiquette and Protocol Consultant: My first recommendation would be about your audience or guest profile and that should be one way to determine how you handle this question. I can understand wanting to save the cost of cards, envelopes and postage, however if you are thinking that people of an older vintage would understand and or appreciate calling in, or getting online, they might not.
Secondly, if you are asking for food orders, that means to me that you have a sit-down and plated wedding reception, which is a formal event.
If I am incorrect, and the wedding is informal, then maybe your plan is fine. I have seen websites on invitations to informal weddings, but I have never seen a phone number (for calling or texting) on a wedding invitation at all, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Also, I am curious how you would produce the list of food items — how would the guest call you to place an order if they are the “calling” type? I would really think through this process as it appears it is formal, based on that part of your question.
The younger generation could respond more quickly if they could do it online, but honestly these days, people don’t know what RSVP means even with a request for one! People will attend and have not sent an RSVP or not RSVP or attend at all and you have wasted money on food and drinks. In today’s world, people just don’t know or care, I guess, so be prepared to make calls, texts and emails to receive an accurate headcount.
So, I go back to my original comments — formal/informal and guest profile. If the wedding is formal, NO to the website and phone number on the invitation and you need an RSVP card. If it is informal, you might do a combination of RSVP cards to the guests who are over 50, offering emailing to a wedding website such as The Knot and giving people a way to somehow call or text. If the wedding is large, all those options could get out of control in organizing the event. The goal is to communicate with all kinds of people and get the answer that you need to plan for an important event to go as you wish. Good luck and best wishes.
Since 2009, Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen have written this generational etiquette column. They also include guest responses from a wide range of ages each week. So many years later, Callie is 20-plus; Lillie-Beth is 40-plus and Helen is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.