There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing that a good portion of your guest list didn’t bother to mail back their response cards—especially when you provided a pre-addressed and stamped envelope! While your outrage is understandable, you also have to realize your wedding might not be the most important thing to everyone on your guest list, so you may have to (gently) ask them for an answer. To help you handle this potentially awkward situation, listed below is the perfect wording to delicately ask late responders if they’ll be there to celebrate on the wedding day. And for couples who haven’t sent their invitations just yet, these suggestions are some ways to bolster your response rate, so you’ll have fewer people to chase down later.

Make it easy for guests to RSVP.

The traditional method is to send a mail-in response card with the invitation, plus a stamped envelope pre-addressed to whomever is keeping track (you, Mom, your wedding planner). This is still a popular option but there are others you that might boost your response rate, like email (set up a new address specifically to handle responses), texting, your wedding website, or Facebook Events, if you choose to create an invitation there.

Be clear in your request.

Older guests will get what RSVP means. Younger guests? Not so much. So make your wording super clear: A blank line for the guest’s name, followed by “Will attend” or “Will not attend” to be checked off. Skip using “RSVP” and say instead, “Please reply by [date].”

Be prepared to nudge.

Some people are serial procrastinators, and there’s nothing you can do to change them. Others will have simply forgotten to RSVP or are waiting for a better offer to come along. So keep these things in mind from the start and assume there will be a healthy number of invitees who don’t meet your deadline. The day after the RSVP date is past, start contacting the non-responders. They’ll be embarrassed, annoyed, surprised—so many emotions!—but if you’ve made contact with them, that’s a good start. Some will give you their answer immediately, while others will stall for more time. Give them a day or two but no more.

Use a polite but firm tone.

Whether you call, text, or email, your message should be clear and direct. Say something like, “I hope you received my wedding invitation a few weeks ago, because I haven’t heard whether or not you’ll be attending. I need to get a final head count by Friday, so please let me know by tomorrow at the latest.”

Don’t give them a tight deadline.

When you pick an RSVP date, take into account that you’ll have to follow up on many people. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to do this. So if you mail your invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding, your RSVP date should be three to four weeks before. (Your caterer will request a final guest count a week or two before the wedding.) Making the date any closer will only stress you out, and that’s not what you need a few weeks before getting married!

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