How far in advance of a wedding do people need to RSVP?

Years ago, wedding invitations didn’t even include RSVP cards. Instead, people wrote their own responses on their own stationery, and knew exactly when to mail them. It would have been extremely offensive during Victorian times to include a pre-written response card with a requested reply-by date, implying that your guest did not know how or when to reply. Even today, Crane’s Blue Book suggests that certain old-fashioned guests could be offended by a requested “reply by” date.

However, things are different today, and almost everyone (I would be curious to meet the people Crane refers to) expect and are grateful for a pre-made, pre-addressed, pre-stamped RSVP set with clear instructions. So, for what date should you request a reply?

You should request “the favour of a reply” on your RSVP cards for three weeks before the wedding date. This gives people adequate time to respond (3-5 weeks, if you mailed the invitations 6-8 weeks before the wedding), and gives you adequate time to get all the loose ends tied up before the wedding day – and you’ll probably need every day of those three weeks.

There are a few reasons you need to give yourself a three-week buffer between the response date and the wedding date. First, once the response date passes, you will have to go through your guest list and figure out who has not responded. Unfortunately, it is highly, highly unlikely that everyone will respond to your invitation, whether it’s because they genuinely forget, the card got lost in the mail, or they’re just too busy. You will probably find yourself calling or texting or facebooking a handful of your guests (or asking your mom or his mom to) to find out if they’re coming. It takes a few days to contact those people and get responses from them so that you can get a final guest count.

Once you’ve got that final number, you may have to communicate this to other vendors, especially caterers and the reception location. The ceremony location may need to know how many chairs to set up, so there are not too many empty ones on the big day. The final tally may also affect parking situations.

Finally, once you have your completed guest list, you can make your table cards and/or place cards. To make those last few weeks as easy as possible, it’s best to decide on a style and display method for your cards, and just put it together in the days leading up to the wedding. A less stressful way to manage table and place cards is to just order one for everyone that you invited, and then throw out the cards of guests that aren’t coming. That way, you can order the cards months in advance, and just set up the display a few days before the wedding (or have someone else set it up the day-of if you’re so lucky!)


Haar, Amanda R. The Wedding Blue Book. Dalton: Crane, 2007. Print.