Wedding Etiquette: Filling Out an RSVP Card

Tips for guests who need to send a response.

If you have never been invited to a wedding as an adult before, you naturally may not fully grasp all the customs when it comes to sending in an RSVP card. Use this post as a guide to a proper response.

Photo: Jessica Claire Photography

wedding guest etiquette filling out rsvp card

When we discuss wedding etiquette, we usually focus on the host of the nuptials or other pre-wedding events. Of course, proper behavior is a two-way street, and it is important for guests to be courteous and polite as well. One of the first issues a potential attendee has to deal with is the RSVP. For those who have gone to many similar occasions, the etiquette comes naturally. However, everyone has to start somewhere. If you have never been invited to a wedding as an adult before, you naturally may not fully grasp all the customs when it comes to sending in an RSVP card. Use this post as a guide to a proper response. One note that applies to both guests and the future newlyweds: pointing out someone else’s faux pas is itself improper etiquette, so while it may be frustrating when someone does not follow those rules, it’s important to be gracious and understanding. 

Send your RSVP back on time.
If you only learn one thing from this blog, it’s this: RSVP on time. This is easily the most crucial thing to do. Late responses can throw off the guest count and leave someone without a seat, or cause the couple to have to pay for someone who did not attend.

Don't wait for the deadline.
In fact, not only should you send in your RSVP before the deadline listed on the card, you should do so as soon as you know your ability to attend. The only reason you should wait until the final date is if you are genuinely not sure if you can make it and need that week or so to sort out your schedule.

Don't RSVP by call, text, or word of mouth.
Even if you see the lovebirds all the time, you cannot RSVP in person. You still have to send in the card – they probably have spreadsheets involved, they already paid for a stamp – just make it easier.

Pay attention to who is invited.
Always remember, the people listed on the envelope are the people who are invited. If nothing explicitly says you have a plus one, do not bring a date. If the RSVP card says “we have reserved two seats in your honor,” do not write in that you are bringing your children as well. There is likely a space to mark whether or not you have accepted the invitation: write in the number that corresponds with each option. For example, if your spouse can’t make it but you can, write a number one in each space and be clear about which person will be there.

Make sure your response is clear.
In some cases, the card will include the entrée options. It is best to use your initials to mark which you would prefer, so it is clear who wants what. 

Pay attention to the format.
For some formal weddings, you may find that the RSVP card is largely blank. This is because traditionally, guests would use their own stationery to send a written reply. The modified version still requires people to handwrite whether or not they will be in attendance. However, nowadays most couples provide more of a template. If there is a line following the letter “M,” that is an indication to fill in your prefix (Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss) and name.

Express your excitement, if possible.
If there is space, it is polite to add a note about your excitement about attending or regrets about declining. 

For more wedding tips and advice, discover eight etiquette faux pas at least one wedding guest is bound to make, and how to be the best plus one

Opening photo by Maya Myers Photography; Planning & Design by Sterling Engagements