Welcome to Part 2 of the Building Your Invitation Series! In Part 1, I shared some broad thoughts about the role of the invitation in the scope of a wedding. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to start there. In Part 2, I’ll be discussing the next phase of planning for invitations: the response process. In a changing world, it’s no wonder that many couples are tempted to use websites and online services to capture RSVPs. To be fair, I have learned of plenty of brides who have opted for online responses and have been pleased. However, most stationers make a strong case for including a response card and envelope. Read on to find out why this seemingly outdated tradition has staying power.
WHY A MAILED RESPONSE CARD?
Few traditions of a wedding are lovelier in my eyes than the response card process. One of my bridal clients equated it to coming home from work each day to a mailbox full of love notes from future wedding guests. Imagine notes from an elderly aunt, “I’ll be there with bells on!” or from a college friend who says, “I am so honored that you wanted to include me in your day!” Sure, these notes can easily be passed on electronically, but there is simply no other time in your life when you’ll experience the joy of so much happy mail. Here are a few other reasons why the tradition has stuck around:
The response card represents one of the key tenets of wedding etiquette. While some pass off etiquette as an antiquated set of rules, the purpose behind etiquette is the care and respect of all people. The response card conveys the importance of the guest’s presence, as if to say, “We take your presence so seriously that we’re asking you to fill out this card and we’ve paid for you to return it back to us."
The response card can work better for the elderly or any guests who may struggle with technology.
The response card gives you a clear record for meal selections and dietary restrictions if your chosen website or address management service is unable to capture those details.
The response card provides an additional stylistic element to the design of the suite.
INFORMATION YOU MAY WANT TO REQUEST:
NAME: Modern wedding wordings have adopted the use of “Name(s)____” or the traditional “M_____," Both options require guests to record full names such as “Ms. Sarah King and Mr. John Bowen” or “Mr. and Mrs. David Smith.” The name line gathers information about the names of plus-ones and guests, if the invitation has been extended as such.
ACCEPTS or REGRETS: There are plenty of options you can provide guests to indicate whether or not they will attend. Common phrasings include the following: 'Accepts/regrets,' and, 'will attend/will decline.' Recently, casual phrasings have emerged, such as “Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” The range is endless and resources for options can be found here on my Pinterest board here.
WHO IS INVITED: While you can absolutely add 'number attending' to response cards to garner an exact count of replies, you may also want to include the phrase, 'We’ve reserved ___ seats in your honor' to clarify any potential misunderstandings about the number of extended invites. Time and again, wedding planners have communicated the frequency of wedding guests adding write-in additions to response cards. This social snafu often comes from a place of good intent, though the phrase can help guests better understand the boundaries of the invitation. If you are having a kid-free celebration, this may be a great option for you, and regardless, can save face for all parties involved—imagine the awkward conversations you can prevent!
MEAL CHOICES: Though it’s reasonable to begin the wedding stationery planning process before you have nailed down catering decisions, it’s absolutely vital that catering decisions are finalized before response cards are sent to print. From my experience, roughly half of my clients ask guests to indicate meal options on the response cards. The likelihood that a meal choice is necessary to capture often increases with the formality of a wedding. Nonetheless, if you choose a meal choice option, be sure to ask guests to indicate the guest initials by meal selection, or at the very least, the number of individual meals per selection. For full-service plated dinners, catering companies often require this information to better serve your guests, which often further demands the use of table and/or seat assignments. If you are working with a wedding planner (big smile and nod of encouragement!), she/he will be able to support you in making this decision. If you are planning your wedding without formal support, simply be prepared to check in with your catering point of contact and have this information ready before you meet with your stationer.
FUN DETAILS: Depending on the level of formality of your invitation suite, you may also choose to add a more playful element to your response card, such as a song request or engagement advice. Do what works for the spirit of your wedding day!
WHERE ARE THE RESPONSE CARDS SENT?:
In Part 1, we discussed that invitations are typically sent two months before a wedding day. Response cards are usually requested back about a month before the wedding day. But where do they go? The bottom line is this: response cards should be self-addressed back to the person capturing them and tallying the RSVP totals. However, there are exceptions to that rule, so please read on for some suggestions.
HOW DO I DECIDE WHO RECEIVES THE RESPONSE CARDS?
- Who is best suited to receive mail and manage replies? Perhaps you live in an apartment complex with an iffy mailbox system. Perhaps you travel for work and would rather a parent/the host manage replies. Choose the return address location that is the safest, driest, and least likely to encounter bumps in the road.
- If you’re working with a planner, is RSVP management included in your package? On occasion, brides opt for RSVP service, in which case your replies may be sent directly to the address of the planner or could be handed off.
- Is it important to you to honor the host with the response cards? This typically makes sense for black-tie affairs and other formal, traditional functions. In this case, regardless of where you're sending responses, the wedding host(s) would be listed as the recipient of the RSVP card.
- Is your wedding fairly informal? You’re likely to see tons of examples of less formal response card addressing when you peek at invitation suites online. For less formal occasions, it’s common to use examples such as “Sarah and Alex,” “Bride and Groom,” and other short and sweet recipient address lines.
- Are you or your guests conscious of living arrangements? This may seem silly to some, but I have heard some concerns from brides that addressing the response card to the bride and groom at a particular address may raise some eyebrows. It’s important to consider if this matters to you personally. There’s no wrong answer here. It’s your day, so make the decision that works best for you.
EXAMPLES OF RESPONSE CARDS:
Bride’s parents hosting and managing replies:
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
at their home address
Combination of hosts, but bride will receive the replies at her own place of residence:
Ms. Sarah Smith
at her place of residence
Bride and groom are hosting and are managing replies:
Ms. Sarah Smith and Mr. Alexander Jones
at the place of residence that makes the most sense (his, hers, or theirs)
Bride and groom are hosting and managing replies:
Sarah and Alex
at the place of residence that makes the most sense (his, hers, or theirs)
- The Future Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Jones
- Address routed to a wedding planner, if RSVP management is included in a planning package
CAN I USE A POSTCARD TO SAVE MONEY?
It is essential to add postage to any card that you’re asking guests to return. Many couples ask if postcards are an option. The short answer is yes, this is a possibility. You are apt to save about 10 cents on postage per invitation. However, post cards are missing the protective layer that an envelope provides, and your response cards are vulnerable to the elements. Please also note that postcards can not be larger than 4.25x6" when using postcard stamps.
Common response sizes are 4bar (roughly index card size) or A2 (small notecard size). Work with your stationer to determine the size that makes the most sense for your day. Remember that the more text you have, the stronger the rationale for a larger A2 card. Also remember that your guests will need to write their responses on whatever you provide, so avoid dark printed colors. For example, if you send an all-navy card with gold foil for the response card, your guests will somehow have to locate a metallic pen to respond. Make it easy for your guests to fill out their cards and return them to you.
It's hard to believe that there are so many nuances inherent in the response card process that an entire blog post could be devoted to this topic! However, the response card process is absolutely vital to your wedding planning (unless you are having a celebration that does not require an exact count).
Part 3's post is all about insert cards and accompaniments! See you there!
LET'S GET IN TOUCH!
I'd be happy to share any additional insight with you in the comments below. Leave your questions if you have them.
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