Reply cards are a modern invention. Originally, after receiving a hand written invitation, you would obligingly pull out your lovely writing stationery and send a cordial reply stating that you would be indeed attending the event. But as we careen further into a casual non-response world, the reply card was born essentially saying: “Dearest guest, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell us if we need to set a place at the table for you and your lovely friend.”
By the way, R.S.V.P. is a short cut to the french phrase “Répondez, s’il vous plait” which, translated into English means “Please respond”. So you don’t need to say “RSVP please” as it sounds a little desperate, you know?
IF YOU WANT TO KICK IT OLD SCHOOL
Just send a simple card with the phrase “Please reply by the 0 of Month”. I love this style and optimistically think that my friends would know what to do. They are supposed to write something like, “John and I look forward to attending your wedding. Sincerely, Jane Doe”. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what to do with that blank space and ignore it, leaving many brides in a panic because they have no idea if their fiancé’s frat brother is coming at all, much less with a date.
IF YOU WANT TO BE SURE YOU'LL GET SOME RESPONSES DO IT THIS WAY:
Most hosts include the reply address and pre-stamp the envelope to further encourage responses. You can also number your guest list and lightly pencil the guest’s corresponding number on the back of the reply so that if their handwriting is as illegible as my husband’s you can still have a chance of knowing who sent the reply. I’ve also heard of people forgetting to put their names on it at all, which is totally something I would do by mistake. This covers that scenario too.
Please reply by Month 00.
Kindly reply by the 00th of Month
RSVP by Month 00
We look forward to celebrating with you, kindly reply by Month 00.
GETTING YOUR GUESTS TO TELL YOU WHO THEY ARE:
________________ name(s) (I usually put the name part under the line)
*I do not like to use the “M” before the line. A pre-written “M” makes me feel like my host thinks I’m an idiot, and I don’t like how it looks when I write my name in. And lots of guests are Doctors, which doesn’t fit the “M” standard, right? Let’s eliminate this from our wedding standards, shall we?
THE “ACCEPTS/REGRETS” PART:
_____ accepts with pleasure _____ declines with regret
_____ will attend/_____ number of guests attending ____ unable to attend
_____ gratefully accepts ______graciously declines
will______attend (guests write “not” if applicable, or leave it if they are attending)
_______ looking forward to the celebration _______ sorry to miss the fun
If you’re concerned that even though you did not write that your friend could bring a guest, or their child etc, they might just bring one. You can use these options in which there is a great hint that they are or are NOT allowed to bring someone else with them:
______ of ______ guests attending (host fills in second line for them)
we have reserved _______seats in your honor (again, the host fills in the line)
If you have dinner choices, position them under the “accepts” phrase:
Please indicate your meal choice here (beef or chicken):___________
_______ beef _______chicken
Please indicate any dietary restrictions __________________
Please initial your meal choices here ________beef ________chicken
Some brides have been asking for song requests, which I think is cute. You can put that at the bottom of the reply.
You may include any other parties (like rehearsal dinner, cocktails, brunches, gold games etc) in the reply card as well. Just remember that you mustn’t do this if your guest is not invited to that party. That would be awkward for everyone, wouldn’t it?
REPLY CARD AND ENVELOPE OR REPLY POSTCARD?
I’d say that 97 percent of my clients are going toward the postcard option. It’s less paper (keeping it green and less bulky), less printing (budget friendly), and less postage. It can look every bit as formal as you need it to and remember that it doesn’t stay with the invitation so this is the place to cut costs if you need to. The size should be no smaller than 5 x 3.5” and no larger than 6.25 x 4.25” for the postal requirements on postcard stamps. The reply address can go on the same side as the reply information or it can be printed on the back of the card. I’ve had a few more well-known clients who preferred to keep things private for obvious reasons and choose to keep the envelope option. Also, the reply envelope is the most traditional and some brides just like to keep it that way. No problems either way, now you know your options!
WHOSE ADDRESS DO I USE FOR THE REPLY?
Traditionally, it is the bride’s parents requesting the information because they are the ones giving the party. But of course modern times are changing everything. Brides and grooms and anyone in between can receive the responses so my question to you is: Who is the most responsible party to record this very important information? If you are getting your doctorate and cannot manage the responses, then send them to your parents. If you are moving and won’t have a reliable forwarding address then send them to your parents/fiancé/friend. If you want to be in charge of the responses, then send them to yourself. This is really more of a practical issue than an etiquette one.
HOW DO I CHOOSE THE “REPLY BY” DATE?
This is usually determined by both you and your caterer. Usually caterers require 2 weeks before the party for the final numbers. You might want to give yourself a week before that to make any calls to those who have not responded at all and to collect your final list. Some brides require special timing for destination weddings and that should be taken into consideration. All in all, some people still won’t pay a speck of attention to the date and you’ll have to call them anyway. Expect this and give yourself some leeway for it so you stress less.
WHAT IF I WANT TO DO SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT?
You should do it! Adding your personal touch makes it fun for your guests. I’ve seen some hilarious puns, or language that relates to the spirit or theme of the event. As long as you are getting the information you need, you are free to be creative!