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What to do if guests don’t RSVP but show up anyway

by | 25 November 2017 | Couple

RSVP. You might not know exactly what it stands for (respondez s’il vous plait, if you were wondering), but you know what’s expected of you when you see it. Respond by the date, damn you!

But despite giving people the heads up with your save the dates, some people remain tardy when it comes to RSVPing. While others don’t respond at all, even though you’ve got a seating plan to arrange, caterers to brief, and accommodation or shuttle transport to book.

So how do you chase up RSVPs, and what happens if the guests that don’t respond to your invitation rock up at your wedding anyway?

Chasing up RSVPs

It’s a pain having to chase people to come to your wedding, but sometimes life gets in the way and RSVPs slip people’s minds. (Or at least that’s the fair outlook to have.)

So if you find yourself in this situation, wait until your RSVP date has passed and then set aside some time to hit the phones. Call the non-respondents about 3 or 4 days after the deadline – that way, the post office has enough time to deliver any stray responses to you.

If you’ve got a load of calls to make, ask your Best Man or Maid of Honour to help. And keep each conversation short and sweet. Politely ask people if they’re coming and who they’re bringing. And if it’s necessary, what meal they’d like and/or if they’d like a space on the shuttle you might’ve organised for guests.

In most cases, people would’ve genuinely forgotten, they’ll apologise profusely, and you’ll get your answers then and there. But if some people are umming and arghing, make it clear to them that you have to let vendors know final numbers pronto. Then give them until the end of the day to get back to you.

If they don’t respond by your agreed deadline, you can do one of two things. You can put your foot down, not plan a seat or food for them, and essentially un-invite them to your wedding. Or you can have a backup plan to incorporate the stragglers.


popup London wedding invitation - RSVP

No RSVP but they show up anyway

Bizarrely, some people still think it’s okay not to RSVP to a wedding. But for such a huge event, which requires so much planning and budget, rocking up just isn’t okay. And rocking up and expecting to be fed and seated really isn’t okay. But it happens. So, what do you do?

The hard-line approach

If you’re one of the many nearlyweds getting married on a tight budget, the only way you can avoid having to veto spiralling costs is to have final numbers ahead of the big day. This is especially important for the catering budget. Those who fail to RSVP or return your chase-up calls can’t expect to rock up and be fed. Especially if the average UK wedding is anything to go by, where £3,000 of your £24,000 budget goes on catering alone!

So if you’re taking the hard-line approach, assume the non-RSVP’ers aren’t coming. Don’t plan a seat at the ceremony for them, and don’t count them in your catering round-up. You could send them a text or email outlining this, just so they know. But chances are, if they haven’t responded to you on the first two occasions, they won’t on the third. And if they have the cheek to turn up at your wedding anyway, ask your best man or maid of honour to send them on their way.

Chasing Wedding invitation meme - RSVP

The softer approach

You might still be fuming from some people’s lack of RSVP manners, but if you’re taking the softer approach (and you’re not working to a strict budget), you might be able to plan for a few stragglers. The catering for this is easy to handle if you’re having a buffet set-up, or if you’ve got a large venue and a free-for-all seating plan. Just plan for a few extra buffet portions and ask the venue to have some additional seats on hand.

If you’re having a sit-down meal however, it’s a bit trickier. But, if budget isn’t an issue, it’s not impossible.

Some caterers and venues might be able to give some wiggle room on your numbers if you give them plenty of notice. If that’s the case, plan for an even number of extra meals and seats – say 6 or 8 extras. And have a spare set of table decorations and blank place cards available. That way, if people do rock up, the venue staff can throw up the spare table and divvy up the food portions, so everyone’s got a plate. (Good caterers tend to make more food than is necessary anyway.)

But know that this is an extremely generous standpoint for couples to take. And it’s up to you whether you take the hit financially and plan to cater for the non-RSVP’ers, or you say enough is enough and don’t cater for them at all.

Spare table at wedding - RSVP

Has your wedding planning come to a standstill because guests still haven’t RSVPd? Or have you dealt with the situation before and experienced what it’s like when non-RSVP guests just turn up to your wedding? Share your insights with the Popup Weddings community in the comments below.

About the author

Jo Wigley

From her word-nerd studio (way) down under in New Zealand, the copywriter in Jo crafts websites, advertising campaigns, scripts, blogs and brochures for businesses across the world. While the creative consultant in her helps brands, big and small, find their voice in one heck of a noisy world.


Couple What to do if guests don’t RSVP but show up anyway