5 RSVP Nightmares to Expect While Planning a Wedding (And How to Manage Them)

Wedding RSVP Nightmares

Ask any married couple about their biggest frustration when planning their wedding, and their answer will likely involve RSVPs! 

From chasing down late responses to dealing with unexpected plus ones, managing your RSVPs can get seriously stressful. Our tip? Try to equip yourself with the knowledge you need to deal with these frustrations when they arise – or better yet, be proactive to avoid them in the first place.

Keep reading as we share some of the most common RSVP nightmares to expect while planning a wedding, and some strategies to help you manage them.

Photo by Feather & Twine

RSVP Nightmare #1: Overdue Responses

This is hands down the most common complaint you’ll hear from couples planning their wedding. With so much relying on the final headcount (such as creating your seating plan and settling final invoices), dealing with those last-minute stragglers can be incredibly frustrating.

How to manage it: First things first, take a deep breath. We know this situation can be painful (how hard is it to tick a box and return an envelope, right?!), but try not to let it turn you into a total bridezilla. It’s unlikely that your guests are doing this to purposely annoy you – they may have genuinely forgotten, lost their invitation, or even assumed you know they’ll be there.

Our number one tip here is to be proactive. Think about how you could encourage more timely responses before you even send out those invites. For example:

  • Set your RSVP deadline at least 2 weeks before you actually need them. This way, if you do need to follow up with guests, you won’t be dealing with pressure from your venue and caterer.
  • Opt for online RSVPs as opposed to traditional RSVP cards. Online RSVPs allow your guests to respond in just the click of a button, so they don’t need to procrastinate on a trip to the post office.
  • Automate the process. The last thing you want to be doing is chasing down each guest individually. Instead, use an online RSVP tracker that can follow up with late guests on your behalf.
  • Get creative with your RSVP wording. Can you personalise your invitation message to make it more interactive and fun? You could ask a question (for example, a dance floor request or best piece of marriage advice) or even inject some humour to make your RSVPs more memorable. Read our proven tips for getting guests to RSVP here!
Photo by Molly Gilholm

RSVP Nightmares #2: Unexpected Plus Ones

So, one of your solo guests has RSVP’d with a plus one – even though they weren’t actually assigned an extra guest. Awkward! Whether they’re genuinely clueless or are intentionally requesting an additional guest, you’d be surprised how common this scenario can be. 

How to manage it: First, you’ll need to decide whether to make it an issue or not. Depending on your relationship with the guest, you may decide to accept their plus one request, particularly if other guests have declined and you have some extra seats to fill.

However, this is absolutely optional. You should never feel obliged to accommodate another guest if you don’t have the budget, venue capacity, or simply don’t want to! In this instance, you’ll need to get in touch with the invited guest and let them know you’re unable to host their plus one. Keep it short and sweet by saying something like:

“Hey (name), thanks so much for sending back your RSVP. Unfortunately, we are sadly unable to accommodate plus ones due to venue restrictions. We hope you understand and can’t wait to celebrate with you on the day!” 

Better yet, try to prevent this from happening in the first place by setting clear expectations upfront. For example:

  • Be super specific in your invitation wording. Make sure the invitation is addressed only to the intended guest, and include the sentence “We have reserved 1 seat in your honour”. 
  • You may also want to address the issue of plus ones on your wedding website. A simple statement like “Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate plus ones due to our venue capacity” should help to clear up any confusion.
Photo by Allen Tsai Photography

RSVP Nightmare #3: Ignoring Child-Free Requests

Kids at weddings are always a hot topic! Planning an adults-only celebration is totally your call, but don’t be surprised if parents still RSVP on behalf of the entire family.

How to manage it: Again, you’ll need to first consider whether to make this an issue or not depending on your relationship with the guest and their individual circumstances. 

A little bit of understanding and flexibility may be required here – for example, if your guest is a nursing mother with a newborn baby, or if you’ve planned a destination wedding involving travel. In these situations, a guest may simply be unable to attend without their child, so you’ll need to weigh up your options and decide whether you’re happy to make an exception. Read our guide on planning a child-free wedding without being selfish here!

Ideally, you’ll want to mention the child-free nature of your event on your invitations or wedding website to give families plenty of time to make arrangements. For example:

  • Be crystal clear with your invitation wording and don’t leave anything open for interpretation! Instead of being vague (i.e: “To the Smith Family), address your invitations only to the intended guests.
  • Make sure you highlight the child-free nature of your event in a tactful way somewhere on your invitations or wedding website. Instead of a blunt statement like “Apologies, no kids allowed”, try something like “As much as we love your little ones, we have decided to host an adults-only celebration. We hope this advance notice means you are still able to share in our special day (and enjoy an evening off!)
  • If your guests still decide to RSVP on behalf of their kids, you’ll need to get in touch to reiterate this. Approach it lightly by saying something like: “Hey (name), thanks so much for sending back your RSVP! We can’t wait to celebrate with you. Unfortunately, our venue is unsuitable for children under 16, so this will be an adults-only affair. We hope you can understand, and look forward to seeing you there!”
Photo by Melissa Marshall

RSVP Nightmare #4: Last Minute Cancellations

So the big day is just around the corner, all of the tasks have been ticked off your to-do list, and you’re finally able to relax and get excited. But then… a guest decides to cancel at the last minute! This situation can be seriously stressful, especially if you’ve already finalised your seating plan and paid all of your invoices.

How to manage it: Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done. If a guest has cancelled at the last minute, they probably have a valid excuse – whether that’s due to illness, a sick family member, or other arrangements falling through. 

If you haven’t yet paid your final invoices, get in touch with your caterer ASAP as you may still be able to reduce your head count without losing any money. If not, see if this cost can be redirected towards your bar tab instead. Be aware that this isn’t always possible, so you may end up copping this cost on the chin. 

Alternatively, if you would simply prefer to fill their seat, you can always extend a plus one to another guest.

Photo by Jaimee Morse

RSVP Nightmare #5: Unexpected Guests At The Wedding

On the flipside, what if an unexpected guest rocks up on the day? We’re not talking about random wedding crashers, but rather guests who initially RSVP’d “no”, guests who didn’t RSVP at all, or plus-ones that weren’t originally invited.

How to manage it: Kicking out an unexpected guest is probably going to cause a scene and make things incredibly awkward. Instead, see if there’s any possibility to seat and feed an extra person. If not, you’ll need to politely (and discreetly) let the guest know that you’re unable to accommodate them for dinner, but they’re welcome to stay for the wedding. Ideally, you’ll have a wedding planner, family member or maid of honor who can do this on your behalf! 

To avoid this situation from occurring, make sure you manage your RSVPs properly before the day. Every non-RSVPer should be contacted before the wedding to confirm their attendance. 

Keep Calm and Carry On

We totally get that dealing with RSVPs can be stressful, but don’t let these scenarios dampen your wedding planning experience. This is what wedding planning is all about – expecting the unexpected! Simply follow the strategies outlined above, and you’ll be able to navigate your way around any RSVP dilemmas with ease. 

Big day just around the corner? Read our guide on creating your wedding day timeline here.