The RSVP The Whole World Can See

by admin on May 22, 2013

I have a question for the Hell’s Bells community. I checked the archives, but didn’t see anything quite like this.

My cousin is getting married this summer and invited me to the wedding. The invitation included a link to their wedding website (you know, with the cutsey “How we met” story, information about lodging, directions, registries, etc). There was no paper RSVP and people are supposed to RSVP on the website. I thought that was a good idea, as it saves paper and allows the bride and groom / wedding coordinators to handily see everyone’s RSVP together. HOWEVER, when I went to the webpage, it turns out that you’re supposed to respond, write a cute little note to the bride and groom, and then your RSVP is posted for EVERYONE to see. I don’t see why everyone needs to know whether or not I am going to attend, particularly the bride’s family and friends, whom I’ve never met and probably never will meet.

Also, I live on the other side of the world from my family and will not be able to make the wedding. Everyone knows this, and the invitation was sent to include me as a family member and with no real expectation that I would attend. I still feel very awkward declining in such a public manner.

This is the first time I’ve been invited to a wedding as an adult (with my own special invitation and not included with “Mom, Dad, and children!” Yippee!), so I want to handle this properly. Should I respond as the RSVP website requests? “Thank you for the invite, but I’m unable to come. Congratulations to you both.” Should I instead send a private message via email / facebook? What do you think? Also, what are your thoughts on the whole idea of public RSVPs?   0517-13

Just because someone inserts an RSVP reply card in a paper invitation does not mean you are obligated to use it and just because someone has an web based form for RSVPS does not mean you must use that either.   The proper form of an RSVP to any major life event used to be a handwritten note to the hosts and there are definitely situations in this day and age where it is still the best way to respond to an invitation.   I’d simply write a short declination of the invitation to the wedding on a cute note card, mail it and then send a second card congratulating them on their marriage and possibly including a gift card or check if that is your preferred wedding gift.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

WildIrishRose May 22, 2013 at 11:29 am

Admin took the words right out of my keyboard.


Margaret May 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

I agree that it is the traditional and proper thing to handwrite a note. The awkwardness is then that the OP appears in the “has not yet responded” category on the website for all of those other people to see and imagine that she has ignored the invitation. I would send the note, but also respond on the website with a generic message such as the one she suggested, or even a “Sending my best wishes separately.”


Ashley May 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I agree that it’s a bit odd that it is public. Is there really no way to make it private? Like some little box somewhere that you could check and then the RSVP goes to the couple without getting published?

In any case, Admin gives good advice.


Stacey Frith-Smith May 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Since it is their event and they have indicated their preference insofar as a reply- I’d honor their request. Privacy is rapidly becoming a creature of myth and legend. Of course, no etiquette mandate exists requiring you to use the website. If it annoys you to be tallied publicly, Admin’s advice is “most excellent”.


admin May 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

There are people, such as my best friend, who are practically Luddites in their avoidance of technology. Subsequently there is very little to find about her if one did a Google search. Privacy becomes a myth to those who choose to let it slip from their hands or freely give it away.


Maggie May 23, 2013 at 12:42 am

“Privacy becomes a myth to those who choose to let it slip from their hands or freely give it away.” Now that’s a keeper!


Marozia May 23, 2013 at 5:07 am

I agree. Admin was correct with the advice.
Everything has become so different these days of electronic media. Even invites are on facebook!!


Katie May 24, 2013 at 6:41 am

I agree- to an extent… while it’s possible to keep your socialising offline, it’s not so easy to do in work situations. In my line of work, it’s very very easy to locate someone, even down to the exact room and building they are in, and what events they are participating in. It would be virtually impossible to take yourself offline!


Library Diva May 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

It’s also not a good look in many fields. It’s common for employers to do a google search on candidates pre-interview, just to see what comes up and to try and substantiate some of the claims on their resume. Did they really win that award from their state’s Press Association? Is it true that they had an article published in the New York Times? If literally nothing comes up, it will make many employers suspicious.

Taking yourself offline also means you lose out on the benefits of technology. No gettingyour name out there by participating in professional discussion groups on social networking sites. No learning from others in your field. No quick, easy option to keep in touch with friends and family. Don’t like the selection at your local mall? you’re stuck with it. Deep in an argument with a friend over whether Patrick Stewart ever won sexiest man alive? Well, without the internet, the argument can continue indefinitely (he didn’t, although he should have. You are thinking of Sean connery).


Mer May 27, 2013 at 5:43 am

Actually, in my country I think it is illegal for employers to google/search potential employee from internet. Though I suspect that it still happens. But it’s nota reliable source of information. You can never know if the information you found is really about the person you are searching for. Actually, my brother, who does photographing, has a full namesake, also a photographer and about the same age. For a while they even lived around the same city. I found this “hard way” (more humorous though) after sending the other guy funny, but very random videos in the new social networking site. So smart employer never trusts the information found from internet.

About the rsvp, if this is totally public info, I don’t think it’s very smart idea. However if the site is behind passwords or something like that, then it’s not so bad. One thing is good to remember in the internet: Never publish information when you will be away from home. Currently, this is in real life a one way robbers get their information when to break into houses.

Kirsten May 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm

The couple have decided that it is more convenient for them to have website responses. That’s their choice, it works for them, and there’s no reason not to respect it. I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal to have your response made public. It’s hardly intimate information.


Library Diva May 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I agree,Kirsten. I don’t see what the big deal is. All of these people will figure out that OP didn’t attend when they show up to the wedding, after all. That being said, I like the idea of the handwritten note. My wedding is approaching in a few days, and one thing that really surprised me is how much is stings to get those “declines” back. However, one friend took the time to write a lengthy note on hers, saying how sorry she was to miss the wedding, how much I mean to her, and how she’ll be thinking of me on my special day. It was so lovely and touching that I plan to save it along with the cards and notes I’ve gotten for my wedding and shower. Etiquette doesn’t demand that you do this sort of thing, but if you do, it will be a gesture remembered forever.


La May 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I can kind of see why someone would object to having their response posted on the internet. Firstly, if you decline to attend a wedding (or other large event), your absence will not be obvious. It may be if the guest list is 50, but for a larger wedding only a few people are going to notice – most of them being the happy couple and mutual friends. However, with the website, people can go and check, and it’ll be noticeable who accepted and who declined.
Also, some people are not very good at internet privacy settings. I’m not sure if I want Random Stranger to know whether I’m attending a wedding at Date in Place or not.


Ange May 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I agree. Your presence or absence will be noted at the event anyway so people having knowledge of it beforehand is hardly earth shattering.


Miss-E May 23, 2013 at 11:24 am

That was the first thing I thought too. I highly doubt anyone is trawling the website to see who’s making it to this wedding. And all those people the OP never met certainly aren’t going to be sitting at their computers saying “OHMYGOD cousin Fifi isn’t going to make it! How scandalous!”


TLS May 23, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Depending on how accessible this wedding website is (is it secured so that only the invited guests can see it or can anyone stumble across it while browsing) I don’t see a major problem with this either. OP is not going to make it, period. RSVP ‘no’ on the site, either leave no note at all or something short and sweet. Who cares if people that you don’t know can see that you aren’t coming to the wedding….they don’t know you either. Even if a handwritten note is sent, the couple may still update your response on the website to ‘no’ because that is how they are keeping track of the guest list.

I might check the guest list online to see who else was or wasn’t coming (not saying it would affect my choice to go or not); it would be nice to know in advance that my favorite uncle will be there or that my least favorite aunt won’t be there.


June First May 30, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Since they’re asked to write a cutesy note to the bride and groom, you might have some people who go through the website to see all the nice anecdotes. These are the same people who actually pay attention to the slide show of photos of the couple’s lives leading up to the marriage instead of (ahem) discreetly checking their watches and wondering when cake will be served.


No Wedding May 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

I agree, I don’t see what the big deal is that the OP is publicly (at least to the other people invited to the wedding) RSVPing, “no.” I’ve been invited on Facebook to events, though so far not a wedding, and I’ve both RSVPed both yes and no, and there were plenty of people on the guest list that I had no idea who they were, nor did I really care one way or the other if they were coming or not. I have checked the “yes” responders before the event, just so I could see who was coming that I might have an idea of names with faces, that kind of thing.


NostalgicGal May 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Odd, strange, curious, and not outlandish for EtiquetteHell/WeddingHell

I agree, take pen in hand, write a note declining, post it with enough postage, ASAP. Then send a separate card of congratulations and if you choose to, check or gift card…


AIP May 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Personally, I would use the site and say something like: “hi Cousin, thank you so much for the invitation to your wedding. It looks like it will be beautiful and although I can’t be there, I am sending you love and best wishes on your special day, and I can’t wait to see the photos”.

Nobody except the relative who has to stick her/his oar into everyone else’s business will care that you RSVPed no. It’s always good to remember that you wouldn’t worry about what people thought of you if ou knew how little – or rarely – they did.


AS May 23, 2013 at 9:44 am

I personally do like electronic RSVPs (as long as the links work perfectly). No papers, and nothing lost in the post. But I am not a fan of RSVPs being public. No one needs to know who are on the guest list; neither do they need to know who is attending and who is not.

We have received several wedding invitations which have requested e-RSVP. When we were getting married, I asked my now-husband whether we should do e-mail RSVP, or include an RSVP card. His reply was that not everyone (especially the older folks) is comfortable sending e-mails. Plus you need to remember to send the e-mail when you are on your computer next time; and if the e-mail address is not one you use too frequently, the invitee would have to have card nearby. Hence we should definitely have an RSVP card to give people the option.
We did have many friends who e-mailed us, many because they were not sure if they were too late and the RSVP would not arrive on time. Some lost the card (or they were lost in the post; we’d never know – USPS is quite efficient though) and e-mailed us. Some had not RSVPed, and said whether they are coming or not when we sent them a reminder e-mail to ask. But we are glad we had the option.


AS May 23, 2013 at 9:49 am

Adding to my above post, I was also wondering if the couple above did the internet RSVPs because lot of their relatives live in different countries. It is hard to have a return stamp in RSVP envelopes because a USA stamp will not be valid if posted from a different country.
I had a hard time when I sent invites to my friends and family in other countries because I did not have access to the stamps. Lot of them e-mailed me; some did buy a stamp and post. But usually it is an etiquette no-no to send an RSVP card without a stamp.


sjhaughty May 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm

You don’t see what the big deal is?
It’s perfectly reasonable to want privacy about whether/why/and where you are going to be.


Ange May 23, 2013 at 9:24 pm

It’s a public event though. I’m not explaining this very well but the way I see it is RSVPing in the positive means you already forfeit your right to privacy about your location as you will be at the event, therefore your attendance will be noticed. If you don’t go, well, you’re at home and I really can’t see how that violates the privacy of the OP who is in a different country. I’ve been invited to a wedding via a website and RSVPd for myself, I didn’t go trawling to see who was going to be there – especially not if that guest was to be coming from overseas.


sjhaughty May 26, 2013 at 1:35 am

It’s not a “public event,” it’s a very exclusive, invite-only event. And, once your are anywhere, yes, people can see you and know you are or are not somewhere. I don’t see any reason to divulge your plans on the internet for all to see, however. Responding to an RSVP gives the hosts the power to properly plan, but it doesn’t mean you give up all rights to reasonable privacy.

Maybe I come from an extreme example, but I have a stalker. I never post plans online, because I don’t want to be followed there. And I don’t have to have a stalker to wish my privacy.


Ange May 26, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Whether or not the plans were there for all to see isn’t known, they may have had the website on lockdown for invitees only. However, I can certainly understand your desire for privacy considering your situation. I had a stalker in high school and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, all the best.


sjhaughty May 30, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Unrelated, but thanks for the sympathy. It’s a nightmare. Lots of women have experienced it, I see.

Kirsten May 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm

But there’s a difference between saying you’re going to be somewhere, which might incite a stalker to follow you, or burglars to burgle your house, knowing that you’ll be out, and saying you’re NOT going to be somewhere. If I post online that I’m not going to be at a wedding in three months’ time, that doesn’t tell anyone where I am. It just tells them that of all the places in the whole world, I won’t be in one place on one day. The OP isn’t complaining about making her whereabouts public, she’s complaining about making her non-whereabouts public.


kellyrnh May 24, 2013 at 9:27 am

I agree with the admin, I think that just because there is an online RSVP, you don’t have to use it. On top of that, there could be people who don’t have the knowledge and/or means to use this online system. About 2 years ago I threw a baby shower for one of my friends, and thought since there were 2 other friends helping that if I did RSVP by email that they could get the responses as well (I used an email address specifically made for this event and they had access to it as well). It hadn’t dawned on me until the mom-to-be started telling me of RSVP’s from some guests – mostly grandmothers, etc – that had called her because they didn’t have email. It was too late for me to change the invites to include a phone number since they had long been mailed, but it was definitely a lesson learned.


Angel May 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I couldn’t imagine expecting guests to RSVP to my wedding using a website. I don’t think it’s fair to give that as the only option. Even if you take away the privacy issue, a lot of older people don’t like to use technology. Why should they be penalized just because they do not spend every waking moment in front of a computer? I have friends my age as well who just don’t like to be online–I am early middle age.

Personally if I were the bride in this scenario I would not be offended in the least if some people chose not to use the website, opting for a handwritten note, snail mail or personal email instead. Or a phone call. When I sent out invites to my daughter’s communion party last month, I gave both my email address and my cell phone # to receive responses. Our address was printed there too in case anyone wanted to write a note. The majority of the responses were received via phone call. For a wedding invitation honestly I have never seen anything other than a reply card with stamped envelopes enclosed. To me it’s just easier to have concrete paperwork with yesses or no’s on them. People can go online and change their responses and that to me would be a nightmare.


BeyondTheFail May 29, 2013 at 10:18 am

The public responses to the online invite seem inappropriate to me. There’s a way for those messages to be kept private, but the bride and groom chose not to use it, which is mildly tacky. I certainly wouldn’t do it for my wedding.


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