Determine if this response method is right for you after considering these points.
Credit: Greg Vore

In a world where digital correspondence rules the roost, paper wedding invitations are still seen as a big-day essential: Though there are some couples choose to send informal, online-only invites for their ceremonies and receptions, most brides and grooms opt for the expected hard copy. But asking guests to RSVP online seems like the best of both formats: You can design a stunning, traditional invitation that gives guests a simple, modern way to reply.

Proper correspondence etiquette still leans toward a paper reply, says Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas: "If it's a formal invitation, it's most appropriate to include an RSVP card with an option for a response." Even so, since the rules for all types of wedding rituals have relaxed, couples can tweak the process to suit their needs. "These days, you can do whatever you want for your wedding," says Gretchen Culver, owner and creative director of Rocket Science Events. "It is up to you to weigh the pros and cons of having an online RSVP with a paper invitation."

Pro: You can trim the cost a little bit.

"One pro associated with an online RSVP is that you can save money on the card and postage," says Culver. The savings may not make a huge dent in your budget, but they could free up just enough for dreamy vintage postage on the invite envelopes, upgraded printing on the rest of the invitation, or adding another other high-end, like a wax seal or handmade paper.

Pro: You can standardize the replies.

You won't have to number each invitation in case someone forgets to fill in the names, scrutinize hard-to-read notes about food preferences, or risk guests adding a plus-one who wasn't invited. "You can make the RSVP process foolproof," says Culver, "by having each guest answer all the questions, such as meal choice, correctly. This can save time so you don't have to decipher misplaced check marks or illegible handwriting or track down blank RSVP cards."

Pro: You can streamline your table assignments.

Choosing an online RSVP program that syncs with the rest of your wedding planning software makes the process of assigning table assignments much faster, too. "Many RSVP sites allow your guest response to be automatically imported to your seating chart software making that one less step for you," says Culver.

Con: The response rate is almost always lower.

But despite the positives, online RSVPs often come with one frustrating con: "The response rate by the due date is typically much lower," says Culver. "Simply put, guests forget! Without a card to drop in the mail to know that you have checked it off the list, it is easy to have the RSVP not be top of mind. They require more follow up." And guests who would usually never miss a response date—like your perfectly proper great-aunt Mary—might be thrown by an electronic system that's out of their comfort zone. "For older guests who might not be as technologically savvy, an online RSVP can be frustrating and off putting," says Culver. A modern couple's best course of action, says Gottsman: "If you would prefer they respond by email, you can add the option to the response card—but give them a choice, because not everyone may be interested in electronically delivering their response."


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