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Destination I Do
Monday, January 9, 2023

Navigating RSVPs, Menus and More

Words by Elaine Hilbelink
Photos courtesy of Valorie Darling Photography

Adventures in Etiquette

Everything from overlooked RSVP deadlines and travel logistics to menu planning and plus ones is covered in this issue’s Adventures in Etiquette. Below we unpack how to navigate these sometimes treacherous situations and make it down the aisle unscathed and a little bit wiser.


(Vendors for the above photo: Photography: Valorie Darling; Wedding Planner: Jaime Kostechko of Wild Heart Events; Travel + Shoot Producer: Renée Strauss of Wedaways; Florist: Pinacate; Graphic Design: Swell Press)

Q: My RSVP deadline has come and gone and I still haven’t heard from quite a few invited guests. Should I assume they are all a “no?” What is a polite way to proceed?
A: Everyone can sympathize when guests don’t respond to your invitation. When you get radio silence to your invite, you absolutely should follow-up rather than assuming it’s a “no.” Partly because if they do plan to attend and just forgot to send in the response card, you could be left with an awkward situation, especially when they’re traveling for your event. 

The best way to proceed is to follow-up with a personal phone call or even a friendly text message. If some of the remiss responders are friends of your parents or future in-laws, you might delegate those phone calls to them. Try to remember that life is getting back to normal and a little crazier than usual, but a follow-up with your guests is totally okay.

Q: My fiancé and I are attempting to finalize our wedding menu and aren’t sure how many options we should give guests. So many people nowadays have dietary restrictions – what’s the best way to handle this?
A: Typically, three choices of menu options are more than ample. If you offer meat, chicken or fish, and a vegetarian choice, most people will be satisfied. Check with your food and beverage team to see if they provide any gluten-free or dairy-free meals if the need arises, but it is up to the guest to let you know if they require something out of the standard offerings. You can always include a question that asks “Any dietary restrictions?” on your RSVP card to give your guests the opportunity to share what they are.

If there are different meals offered or dietary restrictions, make sure you provide place cards so that guests and the venue or caterer know where to deliver each meal.

Q: My fiancé and I are working through the travel logistics for our destination wedding guests. Under what circumstances is it appropriate or expected for the wedding couple to provide transportation for their guests?
A: Traditional etiquette dictates that it is the responsibility of guests and the wedding party to finance their own travel expenses in regards to airfare or getting to the main destination. However, if you choose to help one attendant or family member and not another, word will likely get out and you could be faced with drama.

Hosted group ground transportation for excursions or to/from the host hotel, on the other hand, can really help ensure a seamless transition for guests and can help subsidize costs for your loved ones. It’s not expected per se, but a genuinely appreciated gesture if provided. Many tour operators or travel agents can assist in finding affordable group transportation, so check with either your agent or wedding planner.

When it comes to group transportation to/from the ceremony and reception, that should be hosted by the couple and clearly communicated to guests before the day of the event.

Q: I had a guest RSVP with a plus one when they weren’t originally granted a guest. Should I just let it slide or tell them they can’t bring someone?
A: How you respond to the unwanted plus one depends upon a variety of circumstances. If finances and the venue can accommodate the additional guest, you might just let it slide.  If you have constraints, you might call the guest and explain that your numbers cannot accommodate an extra. However, if a guest has a significant other, it is customary to include that person on the invitation.

Q: Ive been really stressing over what Im calling the guest list snowball effect.” Im concerned if I invite one member of a family unit, then I have to invite all members of that family unit. There are certain people I really want to invite to my wedding, but the numbers quickly get out of control if I invite everyone immediately associated with that person. Is there a proper way to handle this situation?
A: Guest lists can snowball, but there are acceptable ways to avoid an avalanche! Traditionally, if you invite one aunt and uncle you should invite them all, but you do not need to include all of their family unit. If you invite a cousin, you should include all cousins; if you invite children of one family, you should invite children of all families. Determine how many people you desire to have attend your wedding and begin your guest list with those friends and family members that must be included. Keep in mind the categories listed above. Hurt feelings are imminent if you include some, but not all, in a particular category.

One easy and acceptable way of reducing the “snowball effect” is to put an age limit on children. For example, if you set the age limit to no kids under the age of 12, that could reduce your numbers. If you do this, it’s wise to offer on-site childcare parents can take advantage of so they can still attend the event.

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