Irresponsible RSVP: Non-response, unexpected and uninvited guests

by epi on March 7, 2013

Q: I would like to know how to handle non-responses to my daughter’s wedding. If we have not heard from certain people by the cut off date, do I have to call them? I work full-time and also care for an elderly parent so my time, as well as my daughter’s time, is very limited. If there is no response, can we just assume those people are not coming? And if they do show up after not responding, what do we say to them at the wedding when there is no place card at the table or no meal ordered for them? Also what do we say to anyone who comes with an uninvited guest?

A: It is never safe to assume a guest is attending or not. People seem to have forgotten the importance of RSVPs, so the best thing to do is call or ask a friend to call and ask whether the invitee/s is/are attending or not. This precludes the awkwardness of having invited guests who haven’t responded show up and being unprepared. No one should simply show up with an uninvited guest. If they add a guest onto their response form you need to call immediately and say you are sorry, but only those listed on the invitation envelope are invited and you cannot accommodate that guest’s guest. If someone actually shows up with an uninvited guest, you have every right to apologize but say you weren’t expecting someone you didn’t invite and are afraid you can’t accommodate the guest. The invited guest may leave as well, but you have the right to graciously not accept the uninvited. It is a difficult position to put you in, but you need to do what you have to do and if people are so unthinking as to put you in that position, honesty is fine.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle March 7, 2013 at 2:34 pm

If you have a wedding coordinator, you can often get them to do the follow-ups and call those who have not RSVPed. This can often be a much better use of time because guests usually will want to chat with the bride or MOB and see how everything is going, but they won’t with the coordinator.

Reply

kwiaciarnia internetowa March 31, 2013 at 12:27 pm

excellent submit, very informative. I wonder why the opposite experts of this sector don’t understand this. You should continue your writing. I am confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

Reply

Eileen April 12, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I have a question: If the brides prents have been divorced for 20 years, and the bride has only seen her father a couple of times in that time, if both parents are not re married, would it be proper to sit them next to each other at dinner?
Thank you

Reply

Winifred Rosenburg April 13, 2013 at 8:39 am

No, divorced parents should be at separate tables, each being the head of his or her own table.

Reply

DJ May 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I have a questing regarding etiquette for inviting guests and how to address an envelope for a particular situation. For my upcoming wedding, I have a male retaliative whom has three children that I wish to invite to my wedding. He also has a live in girlfriend, whom also has three children (I have never met her children, although they reside with the couple at least fifty percent of the time). For my wedding, I’d like to keep the guest list small, is it proper to only invite my relative, his children, and his girlfirend (date) but exclude her children? If so, how should the invitation be address to be clear the children of the girlfriend are not invited?

Reply

Alicia May 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm

If the kids live with the couple most of the time it would be really rude to include some but not all the kids in the household. Invite all the kids or none. Imagine explaining to the kids that the other kids in their family get to go but since the parents have not gotten married yet you are excluding them.

Reply

Cyra May 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Hi DJ,

That is a tricky one! Do you know the schedule of when her children are with them? If they are on a set schedule (every other weekend, every summer, that sort of thing) and your wedding falls on a day when they would be with their mom, then I would say that you do need to invite them. If their stays are not on a set schedule, or does not fall on the day of your wedding then I think you have a little more wiggle room, particularly since you’ve never met them. I would then address the envelope

Mr. _______ & Ms. __________
Kid 1, Kid 2, Kid 3
Address.

If your close to your relative (or close to someone who is close to him), you might also just want to ask. Your relative’s partner might be very understanding that you have no connection to her children, nor they to you, but she might also be wanting them to be part of her partner’s family and could be hurt that they’re not invited.

Hope that’s at least a little helpful, and best wishes!

Reply

Barb S. July 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

I have another sticky invite situation. My daughter is getting married in August. The guest list is well over 200 at this point and, and we had to draw the line to limit the number as we were getting way over budget and at our limit for seating. In making cuts, the decision was made for married or engaged to get invites as couples. Then anyone who was in a serious relationship that the bride and groom regularly socialize with (friend or family) was given an invite for the specific partner – so that in the case of a break-up, a random date was not going to be substituted. They want people at their wedding that they know, not strangers. The situation is this- two cousins (of the many cousins- all adults, some married some single) on my husband’s side were given invitations that include the boyfriend or girlfriend because the bride and groom are friends with them as well and regularly socialize on frequent occassions. Two other cousins (my husband’s sister’s daughters) were not given an invite to include a boyfriend because the bride and groom hardly ever see them, and only invited them out of obligation to invite family. One of the girls is not in a relationship, the other is in an on again – off again relationship with her current boyfriend. They do live together, but my sister-in-law has in the past expressed her dislike of the man and that they might split again. We saw no reason to invite her boyfriend to the wedding. The issue is that my husband’s sister called to ask why, and pushed the issue regarding the other two cousins. When given the rationale for the invites as far as the other two cousins have regularly socialized over the past few years and have become friends with the boyfriend and girlfriend, it fell on deaf ears and she hung up on my husband clearly upset with the situation. My husband has had a few sleepless nights over this and it is making for family issues. I feel his sister had no business pushing the issue and she is clearly out of line. Not to go tit-for-tat, but at his sister’s son’s wedding a few years ago, my daughter who had been dating and living with her now fiancee, did not get to bring her boyfriend to the wedding and other cousins were given a “plus 1″. We did not push the issue as we realized that money and space is always an issue.
My daughter wants to keep the guest list as is, with the hopes of getting the numbers down. If we allow all the cousins to add a guest, we could easily be up to 260! I say my sister-in-law will get over it and hopefully realize that she was out of line. Please – any words of wisdom?

Reply

Just Laura July 5, 2013 at 10:14 am

I can’t find fault with your view, Barb.
It is the bride’s and groom’s wedding. They may invite (or not invite) whomever they please. They have created a rule to stay within their budget, and it isn’t an unreasonable one. When people try to force invitations out of others, that reflects poorly on them. They do this because in the past it has worked to their advantage to make others feel guilty and ultimately cave to the unfair request. Please hold your ground, for your daughter’s sake. If the issue is pushed any further, simply say you are “unable to accommodate the request.” Either the caterer already has the head count which can’t be budged, or the extra people cause too much of a financial burden… use whatever excuse you feel is necessary, but don’t cave. It will only cause stress and resentment for your family if you do.

Reply

Barb S. July 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

Thank you for your perspective Laura. I agree that the rule that made for cutting the list is reasonable, and that the applied rule of etiquette of inviting live togethers is not always do-able.

Reply

Winifred Rosenburg July 5, 2013 at 10:55 am

You are certainly not required to give every guest a “plus one.” However, the couples you are required to invite are couples that are married, engaged, and living together. So yes, you do have to invite the boyfriend that lives with the cousin, regardless of whether or not you like the fellow. It was still rude of your sister-in-law to demand an invite. Nevertheless, I suggest you apologize and invite the boyfriend as he should have been invited in the first place.

Reply

Barb S. July 5, 2013 at 11:12 am

Thnak you for your comment Winifred. However, if we allowed all the cousins to bring a guest (which really is the issue here since the 2 cousins bringing their gf/bf are not live-ins) we would be adding well over what our budget and seating will allow. Where and how do the bride and groom decide to make to cut-off? A rule has to be made at some point. And they should be the ones deciding who they want at their wedding.

Reply

Winifred Rosenburg July 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm

No one is saying you have to allow all the cousins to bring a date. Just the ones that live with significant others (or are married or engaged as you already pointed out. That is the rule. All others dates are subject to your discretion.

Reply

Barb S. July 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Winifred-
I think you missed the rule they used for the cutoff. The decision they made was this:
“In making cuts, the decision was made for married or engaged to get invites as couples. Then anyone who was in a serious relationship that the bride and groom regularly socialize with (friend or family) was given an invite for the specific partner”
Living together was not a deciding factor- social circle was!

Winifred Rosenburg July 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I didn’t miss the “rule.” I’m telling you the actual rule in actual etiquette. It seems you don’t want to know the answer to your etiquette question so I’m not sure why you asked.

Barb S. July 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Ahh Winifred-

I am finding mixed information on the living together issue. Some stand by the no ring-no bring theory, and others seem to side with your view point. So I am starting to think that the only etiquette that is true is the socially accepted recognition of a committed couple – married or officially engaged. Any other arrangements(living together) are still, in some circles, not socially acceptable- if we are talking “proper” behavior. More of a faux pas is the mom calling to insist on an invite for her daughter’s boyfriend. In whose book is living together proper…are those living together the ones who wrote the new etiquette rule? Just wondering…

Winifred Rosenburg July 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Every etiquette book I own, including by Emily Post and Miss Manners, say couples that live together must be invited together so I think it’s safe to rule out the conspiracy of unmarried cohabiting couples conspiracy theory. Your sister-in-law’s rudeness doesn’t justify yours. Also, good hosts are not judgmental of their guests life choices.

Cyra July 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

I agree with Winifred that any live-in significant others should be invited. When a couple moves in together they become a social unit, just as if they were married. If this cousin you don’t really socialize with were married to her boyfriend, I imagine you would invite him without a second thought. Live-in significant others work the same way.

As for significant others who are NOT live-in, they should receive a separate invitation if you wish to invite them. This shows that you really do wish both people to come since they are both friends, and eliminates the “Suzie got to bring her bf, why can’t I?” complaint because Suzie is not actually bringing her boyfriend–he’s coming in his own right. Does that make sense?

It would be polite to extend the invitation to live-in significant others who weren’t invited, but there is nothing impolite about holding firm on not accommodating dates.

Reply

Alicia July 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Failing to invite the live in boyfriend who is a social unit with the cousin was mistake 1. The mother of the cousin who is being insulted calling to complain was mistake 2. So rudeness of both sides. The line was drawn agaist ettiquette lines. First married couples then engaged couples then those living together then and only then non social unit couples. At this point an invite and an apology should be extended from the bride and groom for the insult of failing to include the live in boyfriend.
Not all cousins need a +1 only those married engaged or living with their significant others.

Reply

Barb S. July 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Cyra-
I see your point, but in keeping the guest list down to numbers manageable, I guess they just don’t invite any not married or engaged…
“As for significant others who are NOT live-in, they should receive a separate invitation if you wish to invite them. This shows that you really do wish both people to come since they are both friends, and eliminates the “Suzie got to bring her bf, why can’t I?” complaint because Suzie is not actually bringing her boyfriend–he’s coming in his own right.” The cousin in question will more than likely interpret that as “her boyfriend was not invited”… The invites are out already, so it can’t be changed in that manner…damage has been done. I still don’t think I would EVER call on my daughter’s behalf to solicit an invite for her bf to her cousin’s wedding – totally out of my realm of etiquette.

Reply

Cyra July 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Agreed on that point! Soliciting invitations for others is usually pretty rude.

Reply

Barb S. July 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Just to clarify, I am not asking if I followed what you perceive to be proper etiquette, but how do we ease the tension between my husband and his sister and her daughter – and not increase the guest list. I believe that the proper etiquette was followed in making a rule for inviting guests and sticking to the rule. This is what we have read on many wedding planning sites with regard to deciding who to cut from a too large and unaffordable guest list.

Reply

Barb S. July 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Thank you all for your comments and perspective on this tricky situation. Let me add another twist…in discussing this with my daughter, she just now told me that when she contacted her aunt (the mom in question) for the current addresses of her cousins to send their invitations, her aunt said “oh I don’t know what they are doing. They are here then out, then back…just better send the invites to my house.” So she took it as the cousins were living at home. I just don’t know what to think about all this…We caved and extended the invite to her boyfriend to diffuse the situation.

Reply

Alicia July 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm

As she had initially invited the cousin why not send the live inn boyfriends invite to the same address she sent the cousins invite to? If he is a live in then his address is the same as hers.
Either way glad that you are being the bigger people in this melodrama.

Reply

Barb S. July 6, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Well it wasn’t clear. It sounded like she was constantly moving back in with the parents and then moving out and back in again… such an unstable situation ….hard to know what the status is of the relationship.

Reply

Barb S. July 7, 2013 at 10:02 am

And FYI he is not a live in boyfriend when she moves back to the parents’ house- she just moves back home at a whim and then goes back to the bf when they “patch things up ” – still an unstable relationship in MHO.

Reply

Elaine September 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Hi, I have a question similar to this one:
My social life is in a young professional culture that sets up parties on Facebook often and many times guests are allowed or encouraged to invite friends. Many people in my social circle like to have large parties (40 or more guests on the invite) and invite not only friends but many acquaintances or even encourage guests to invite others so bringing uninvited guests starts to be common. Because of this atmosphere I feel pressure to have a larger party when I prefer to keep a guest list more personal or to the friends I spend time with the most. Unfortunately if I do that I often end up with guests who are not happy that I may have excluded people. Is it snobby or should I feel badly for not inviting all of my acquaintance friends? How do I balance hosting an event in a way that is more personal than a party with a guest list of 40 or more vs. being thoughtful and considerate of those who might feel excluded?

Reply

Winifred Rosenburg October 1, 2013 at 12:27 am

You certainly do not have to have a larger party than you want to. I would start by not using Facebook to invite people. People tend to associate Facebook events with larger, more open events where inviting more people is appropriate and that’s not what you want. Plus it shows everyone who else is coming which makes it all to easy for them to suggest other people to invite. Try emailing (sending individual emails or using bcc) or calling the people you would like to invite instead.

You also may want to avoid using the word “party.” I know it seems silly, but your friends seem to have a certain idea of what a party is that is not what you’re aiming for. Saying “gathering” or “get together” may result in fewer miscommunications.

If anyone asks you if they can bring someone else, you are free to say “no, I’d like to keep this more intimate.”

Reply

Elaine October 1, 2013 at 10:41 am

Thank you for you suggestions. I invited 30 people on Facebook and did put on the invitation that guests could add or invite others (in an effort to please others with but not because of personal preference). It was for my birthday and I tend to go to Facebook because I do not always have the contact information I need. The particular friend who asked me repeatedly if I invited this person or that person was the only one not on Facebook so she would not have been aware that I did make it an open event in hopes that I would not feel criticized this for not inviting all my acquaintances. These were people she is closer friends with than I start to feel expectations put on me. I am wondering if maybe I should to explain to this friend (who I am close to) that having a larger party just isn’t “Me”? I will try using an email invite or the phone in the future to avoid the perception that it should be a larger event.

Reply

Just Laura July 5, 2013 at 5:58 pm

The Emily Post books does mention cohabiting couples as being a social unit, and therefore typically invited together. But every family is different, and that’s why I agreed with you.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: