6 Secrets for Getting Event Guest RSVPs

    The big event is coming up soon. The date is circled on the calendar (or, you know, saved in your iCal). The vendors are booked. So, what’s that status of your RSVPs?

    Whether you’re prepping for a wedding, birthday, graduation, or other celebration, the invitation is a crucial part of planning. You want people to show up, after all. If you’re merely picking out a fun design, slapping stamps on envelopes, and dropping your invites in the mailbox, we’re here to tell you: there’s a better way. 

    Event planners know that getting people to commit to an event and actually attend can be tricky. With that in mind, we gathered a few of our best tips to increase RSVP and save-the-date commits to ensure people follow through on attending.

    1. Start with Save-the-Dates
    What was once done through the grapevine is now a standard, formal practice for larger events, such as weddings and graduations. Save-the-Dates are simple mailers or notes that alert your guests that a date has been picked for an upcoming event, they’re invited, and details will follow. This works to give people plenty of notice, and secure the interest and availability of those who may have a hard time deciding which events to attend during the busy seasons. 

    Graduations, for example, have a better presentation rate when you can reach out months in advance with a confirmed date and time of day. You can sort out the details for the official invite later, but this lets your guests know you expect them to share in the celebration. No RSVP is required for these notification-only mailers. 

    2. Don’t Always Ditch Traditional for Digital
    The trend in digital-only invites is strong. Many budget-conscious planners opt to invite guests via social media or email rather than investing in paper invitations. While this type of invite can work for casual get-togethers among friends, it’s not entirely appropriate for all events, and it can certainly have a negative impact on your attendee rate. 

    Leaving your event at the mercy of Facebook or another digital invite service means your party is more likely to get lost in the digital shuffle of overflowing email inboxes and social media notifications. Even worse, seeing all those digital “yes” RSVP may send the wrong message about who is attending. If the assumption is that everyone will be there, it’s easier for attendees to justify backing out at the last minute. Facebook, in particular, offers that nebulous “interested” option that leaves the host wondering whether or not someone actually intends to show up.

    While using tech to streamline the event planning process is generally a smart move, this is one area where it may not be the most effective. Give your guests the impression that they are worth the price of postage and that their presence is meaningful to you or your event host. Even just investing in a well-designed but simple postcard will likely increase your RSVP numbers. 

    3. Give 3 Ways to Reply
    Did you know that one in four smartphone users haven’t used it to make a call in the past week? The trend to use other methods of communication, such as texting or email, to get important messages across should be reflected in your RSVP strategy. 

    If you have the bandwidth, consider including multiple ways for people to RSVP. Those who still largely rely on phones should have a number they can call or text to RSVP. Those who are avid about email should ideally be able to RSVP through this medium as well. When it comes to getting the most RSVPs, it really pays to please everyone. 

    (If the budget allows, RSVP cards are nice to include — but don’t make them mandatory. Some people will lose them, while others might forget to make a trip to the mailbox. It’s an extra step that, while classic, just doesn’t work for everyone.)

    4. Explain “RSVP”
    Not everyone will know what it means to “RSVP by May 12th.” So, you might consider using language that makes the ask more clear.
    “Reply with your confirmation of attendance and choice of chicken or veggie dish by May 12th.”

    Sure, it takes up more space, but the extra clarification will be worth the cost and effort. Some planners even send out “regrets only” invites, meaning those who plan to attend don’t need to take further action. (Be cautious of this method, though, as confirming with guests is always the best bet.) 

    5. Track and Nudge
    If your event depends on every single place setting to be perfectly planned, there’s no room for guesswork on your RSVPs. Do a thorough job of tracking the responses, as well as the lack of responses. If the catering deadline is coming up and you don’t see a friend or family member’s reply, it’s OK to give them a call or shoot them a quick text to remind them that the deadline to reply is coming up fast. 

    6. Clarify the Unknowns
    Often, people don’t RSVP on time because they have a question that impacts whether or not they can attend. To minimize this, be sure to address as many questions as possible in the invitation itself. Are children allowed? Will the dress code be formal? Will it be indoors or outside? Does the menu accommodate various dietary restrictions? Is it a cash bar? 

    While the answers to these questions shouldn’t move guests to reply one way or another, it’s true that those who may be on the fence can hold off on an RSVP out of fear of the unknown. Put their worries at ease and be proactive about answering the most common questions. Even if the answer ends up being “no,” you’ll have a more accurate guest count to work with at your event. 

    Unless you plan events for a living, you may not realize how much a well-thought-out RSVP strategy can impact attendance. The truth is, however, that there would be no event without the guests. Do your best to anticipate the needs of your attendees, from the very first moment they receive your invitation. Will they feel welcome, involved, appreciated? By setting a tone of gratitude and celebration, you are ensuring that your event starts off on the right foot before it ever begins.