Aug 18, 2016 by Celeste Kaufman

Tips from Event Professionals to Avoid Late RSVPs

One of the most stressful parts of planning an event is collecting RSVPs, and one of the most common worries is whether or not guests will respond on time, or at all. We talked with three planners to get their advice on how to help keep the process timely.

First, timing is key. “It is important to send your invitations with ample lead time without sending so far in advance to where it is put on a shelf and forgotten,” says Kristen Banta, an event planner in Los Angeles. “You should send your invitations around 8 weeks before your event, and schedule your RSVP date to be 3-4 weeks before your event. This gives your guests some time to decide and plan for themselves and allows you to have enough room to finalize specifics once you have your guest list settled.” (Remember that it’s best to have some flexibility with the number of guests. As frustrating as it may be, there’s always a possibility of people showing up who never RSVPed, or unexpected Plus Ones.)

People may not understand the importance of an RSVP, they’re being noncommittal, or they simply forget: Kristin Banta knows how to avoid late RSVPs.

“You’ll also want to design the invitations and RSVP cards to encourage a response as much as possible. Make sure the RSVP date is clearly and boldly printed in a prominent place on the card, and not tucked away in the corner or fine print as is so often the case. Use encouraging, but firm, language when requesting a response.” Bantas advice: Try “Please respond by” instead of “Your response is appreciated by,” for example.

Outlook is our main tool for organization. Kristin is constantly checking and sending emails. The entire office knows the dinging sound of a new event on her phone – it is loud enough that it keeps her on track.

It helps to communicate with your guests in different ways throughout all of the planning stages. Atlanta-based wedding planner Gail Johnson suggests, “to start with an early reminder before the RSVPs are mailed. Let your guests know via word of mouth, text, or a call that invitations have been sent out. When you’re getting closer to the RSVP date, reach out to people you haven’t heard from yet with a gentle reminder. If you’re planning a social event and are worried about being pushy, it helps to explain exactly why you’re asking again about their RSVP status. A lot of people won’t know why your guest count is so important for everything falling into place! Politely remind guests to respond by the due date so an accurate headcount can be given to the caterer (or whichever detail of your event is dependent on the size of the party)”, says Johnson. Be transparent, and your guests should understand.

For other kinds of events, an email follow-up would be appropriate. You can tap into your inner marketer to make these effective. “Use a really engaging subject line,” says Lauren Housley of Ryan Alexander Events in Chicago. “Emotional phrases like ‘last chance, don’t miss out,’ work really well at creating FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO is a powerful motivator because people hate seeing that they missed out on an event they should have been at.”

Lastly, advises Lauren, make it as easy as possible for your guests to RSVP. For mailed invitations, include a self-addressed envelope with a stamp. Whether you’re inviting people by mail or digitally, you should have a few different options available for their RSVP. Offering a quick and simple way to respond to invitations online can greatly reduce the hassle for both your guests to answer your invitation and for you to collect, track, and organize your headcount.