How to RSVP to a Wedding

If you've received an invitation to a wedding and you're not sure how exactly to respond? This is our guide to wedding RSVP etiquette, tips, and steps.

By Monica Mercuri

how to RSVP to a wedding
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Respond to RSVPs as quickly as possible and follow the couple’s instructions to ensure your seat at the wedding.
  • RSVPs can take the form of printed cards, online websites, or e-mails. Be sure to fill out all fields and any add additional (or optional) fun notes.
  • If you’re declining an invitation, respond to the RSVP with a definitive “No”, an explanation if appropriate, and a gift from their Registry in your absence.

With so many different ways to send out wedding invitations and RSVPs, it can be a little confusing to know what the best way to RSVP to a wedding is. In this post, we’ll walk through how to RSVP to different types of wedding invitations.

Things to Keep in Mind for All RSVPs

There are a few things to keep in mind for all RSVPs, regardless of the format:

  1. Follow instructions from the couple so your RSVP is not lost
  2. Include your full name(s)
  3. Include your response (Attending or Not Attending)
  4. Include the total number of guests attending
  5. If entree selection is requested, place the initials of the guest next to each meal selection
  6. Respond to any special prompts from the couple
  7. Send RSVPs back as soon as you can

What Does RSVP Mean?

The acronym RSVP stands for the French phrase “répondez, s'il vous plaît" which translates literally to “respond if you please.”

When Should Guests RSVP to a Wedding?

Guest should respond to the invitation as quickly as possible, but at least by the RSVP deadline listed on the invite. The RSVP deadline should be two to three weeks before the wedding - enough time for the couple to get a final headcount and make arrangements as needed. Late RSVPs are not only impolite, but can lead to you not having a seat or meal at the wedding as wedding vendors require final headcount by a particular date. Whatever you do, don’t show up to the wedding without notifying the hosts that you’re planning to attend.

How to Fill Out a Wedding RSVP Card

A wedding RSVP card will look different for every event, depending on the couple’s style and the formality of the celebration. However, there are a few things that are pretty standard across all RSVP cards. Here’s a breakdown of what you might typically find on a response card:

  1. A place for your name(s)
  2. A place to check off or write your response
  3. A place to choose your meal of choice
  4. A place to provide the total number of guests attending
  5. A place to answer a fun question from the couple
  6. A place to share a note with the couple

How to Fill Out The Name Line(s)

Here are examples for how the name line(s) might be worded:

– Name(s):__________________

Here are examples for how to actually fill it out:

M r. David Beckham & Mrs. Victoria Beckham
– Name(s): Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi

Pro Tips:

  1. Include the first and last name for each guest.
  2. Do not add the names of individuals to whom the invitation was not specifically addressed.
  3. Unless the invitation is addressed with a nickname, don’t use one on the RSVP card.
  4. Use proper titles if the name space has a capital “M” (see more on this below).

What Does The “M” Means on a Wedding RSVP?

On more formal wedding invitations, the name line is often preceded by a capital letter “M.” What does this mean, and more importantly, what is it for? It’s actually pretty simple. The “M” indicates that guests should fill out the line for their names with their proper title(s): Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss.

  • For example: M_ Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter & Mrs. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

What If There’s No RSVP Card?

If the invitation doesn’t have a response card included, look closely at the invitation for details about how to RSVP. It’s likely that the wedding hosts have opted to take RSVPs online (a common choice with couples who use Zola, since our Tools makes it easy to track responses and keep them all in one place). Alternatively, the host has included other instructions, like a phone number or email address, for how to communicate your acceptance or your regrets.

How to RSVP Online

How to RSVP online will vary depending on which website or tool the couple has chosen for gathering responses. Your best bet is to type the URL provided on the invitation into your browser and follow the steps provided. The same rules of etiquette apply if you’re RSVPing online (with the exception of those that only relate to paper response cards), so see our quick list of RSVP rules to follow below.

How to RSVP By Email

When the hosts ask that you RSVP via email, it’s important to honor their request and follow directions. Specifics will vary, but here are some basic guidelines.

  • RSVP on time. As with all RSVPs, do the couple the courtesy of responding by the provided deadline.
  • Respond to the email provided. It can be tempting to shoot over a text or use a personal email you might already have saved for the couple, but it’s important that you address your reply to the email provided on the invitation. It’s likely that the couple created a dedicated email address for the wedding to make it easier to keep track of responses.
  • Write a gracious note, regardless of accepting or declining. While a simple “yes” or “no” gets the point across, it isn’t the most polite. Take a few moments to write a personal message to the couple when you RSVP via email. Also, make sure to include your name, how many in your party will be attending or declining (if someone other than you was invited), and any other information the couple has asked you to provide (such as entree choice or song request). See sample wording just below.

How to RSVP By Email Sample Wording

Dear Charles & Audra,

Thank you for inviting us to join your wedding celebration. Matt and I are happy to accept your invitation to the wedding day and the rehearsal.

In regard to entree choices, Matt and I would both prefer fish.

Looking forward to the big day!

Warmly, Matt & Shea Simmons

How to Decline a Wedding Invitation

It’s okay if you are unable to attend the wedding, but it’s important to let the hosts know by declining their invitation formally. Don’t assume that not responding at all makes it clear that you won’t be present. Here’s how to properly decline a wedding invitation:

  • RSVP with a “No.” If you need to decline an invitation, it’s proper etiquette to RSVP via the host’s preferred method (online, response card, etc.) with a “no” or “regrets.” It’s never okay to not respond at all. If you’re particularly close with the couple, it can also be a nice gesture to send them a handwritten note or call them in addition to expressing your regrets formally.
  • Make sure to still send a wedding gift. Even if you cannot attend the wedding, it’s important to still send the couple a wedding gift from their Registry.
  • Don’t change your mind. Once you have declined, it’s bad form to change your response later. The hosts are required to give final guest counts to their caterer and many other vendors before the wedding to ensure that there’s enough seating and food for everyone. Although the couple may be overjoyed that your situation has changed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can accommodate you. And whatever you do—never show up at a wedding after you have responded no to the invitation without speaking to the hosts first.
  • Don’t make up excuses. If you have a legitimate excuse for declining the invitation, it’s fine to share with the couple why you cannot attend their celebration. However, it’s not necessary—and it’s sometimes better to decline without details if the reason behind your absence could hurt the couple’s feelings.

How to Decline a Wedding Invitation Sample Wording

Dear Charles & Audra,

Thank you so much for inviting us to join you at your upcoming wedding. Unfortunately, we will not be able to attend as we will be out of the country on business that weekend. We are sad to miss this special event and will be celebrating with you from afar on the big day.

Sending our love and best wishes. Congratulations!

With love, Matt & Shea Simmons

What to Do If You Can’t Attend A Wedding After RSVPing Yes

Life happens, and there will be instances where you are unable to attend a wedding after you have said “yes” on the RSVP. Whether it be inclement weather, an illness, or an emergency, there’s a right and wrong way to inform the couple that you won’t be able to make it to the celebration:

  • Have a good reason for your cancellation. Only back out if the circumstances are truly serious, such as a severe illness or a family emergency. Time and money have been dedicated to preparing for your presence at the wedding, so don’t disregard your commitment lightly.
  • Don’t bother the couple if it’s the wedding day. If you need to cancel on the day of the wedding, don’t reach out to the couple. Instead, touch base with the planner or the maid of honor or best man to inform them that you are unable to attend. The couple should be focused on getting married and distractions like these will only cause stress.
  • Apologize. Even if the situation was outside of your control, it’s good decorum to apologize to the couple for missing their big day. As mentioned before, lots of planning was done to secure your spot—let them know that you appreciate all their prep work by issuing a sincere apology for your absence.

Wedding RSVP Etiquette

  • Don’t add additional guests. You should never add additional guests to your RSVP. Only those to whom the invitation is addressed should respond and/or attend the celebration.
  • Don’t swap out +1s. If one or more of your party cannot attend the event, note that it isn’t okay to swap out the guest that cannot attend with someone else. In the case that the invitation reads “with guest,” note that you may bring whomever you like. Traditionally your guest would be your romantic partner or spouse.
  • Don’t (attempt to) RSVP to a wedding you haven’t been invited to. Period.
  • Fill out the response card fully, if provided. Do the hosts a favor and make sure to fully fill out the RSVP card with all requested information. They are likely already juggling a lot of planning details, so don’t make them track you down for your preferred menu selections, too.
  • Follow instructions and the host’s preferred RSVP method. Similarly, make sure to RSVP using the method the hosts have requested. If they’ve asked you to respond online, don’t shoot them a text, a call, or send them a DM on Instagram. Using anything other than their preferred way of gathering responses will make it difficult for them to keep track of everyone and maintain accurate totals.
  • Use the RSVP card, if provided. If a paper response card is included with your invitation, use it let the hosts know if you can attend or can’t make it.
  • Use the provided stamped envelope. Don’t go rogue with the response card envelope either. If there’s an RSVP card included with your invitation, traditionally an envelope (complete with a return address and postage) is included is well. Don’t let that stamp go to waste!
  • Respond even if you can’t attend. Even if you can’t attend the wedding, you should always respond to acknowledge that you’ve received the invitation and to politely decline.
  • Respond to all wedding event invitations. You should receive separate invitations to all wedding-related events, such as the engagement party, shower, and rehearsal dinner. RSVP to each event individually (again, using whatever RSVP method they’ve requested). Don’t assume that a “yes” to one is a “yes” to all, or that you can just send blanket “regrets.” Also, an invitation to the wedding doesn’t mean that you’re automatically included on the guest list for all pre-nuptial celebrations—use your invitations as guides!

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