|Photo Credit: Matt Hutchinson|
You would be hard pressed to find a couple who hasn't experienced surprise, anger, hurt or disappointment about who didn't come to their wedding and who did not RSVP without having to be asked (after the deadline).
What is going on with people? Why aren't they able to fill out a stupid card with a stamp already on it and tell you they are going to come or not come to your wedding? And then show up if they said they were coming!
The RSVP deadline is where the rubber meets the road in wedding planning. Until this point, you can live in fantasy land. You dream of the big day, you count everyone you want to be there and budget accordingly, finding the right reception space, deciding on the food and festivities surrounding the big day. The mythical princess moment is just around the corner and soon, you will have The Final Guest List or the final cast of characters to witness your Cinderella moment.
Getting those RSVP cards in the mail every day can be as exciting as the actual wedding gifts.
Ironically, this is often the small window of life when you diligently RSVP to friends' weddings. When you're single, you have no clue about the enormous task of wedding planning, and when you're married, you either get amnesia, or you're busy having your last pre-child moments, being pregnant or raising children. A simple RSVP card is just another item on a busy checklist of activities for those marrieds/singles. I remember a married-with-kids coworker of mine said to me about RSVP cards, "I figure if I don't respond, they know I'm not coming." I wanted to strangle her.
I admit, I'm in the amnesia camp with the exception of one guest who was unreachable until after the final catering count and who, to add some extra blood pressure, was also bringing an uninvited guest (someone he barely knew but had a crush on). This was two days after the catering deadline, plus an uninvited guest. The person is still living because he was a guest on my husband's side, so I stayed away from him (with a strong warning of my parents and husband to chill out). The woman he invited did end up dating our guest.
The bubble bursts when you find out that your Cinderella day turns out to be just another day for most of your guests. Your rational side knows this is not the biggest day to them, but you are shocked that they can't just respond, or you are hurt and disappointed when they decide not to come for lame reasons. (I recently heard about guests having a lot of household chores that weekend, so they wouldn't be able to make it. I was at a wedding with a half empty reception hall because a full 70 people RSVP'ed yes and no-showed. There was clearly some family drama going on there!). Hopefully, you have enough cheerleaders to keep you from being weighed down by the emotion of it all.
How do you, then, rethink your wedding when you estimated for 200 and only 100 will make it? Or when you have a huge ballroom and it will be half empty instead of brimming full? Or when the reasons cherished guests give for not coming are shockingly pathetic and dismissive on your big day? Or when they don't show and don't bother to call you to explain?
First of all, I hope this article normalizes what you're going through. You are not alone -- far from it. For any story you have, there is going to be someone else with a way worse story. Then, it's a matter of letting yourself feel whatever you are feeling about it. (Your emotions may range from, "Oh well, the important thing is I'm getting married" to "What a flipping idiot!" to "I can't believe someone would be that rude!").
The next choice is how you are going to set aside strong negative emotions, temporarily or permanently. You can't let these people ruin the build up to your wedding. Are you going to forgive or forget or stew? You can ask yourself if this is worth altering a friendship -- maybe yes, maybe no. For sure, now is not the time to make nasty phone calls or worse, write flaming emails. I encourage you to talk with your spouse-to-be. Life is full of disappointments and hurts, and this is a perfect time to remind yourself that you are marrying this person for his or her support. You can let them know what you need in the moment. Sometimes, it's as simple as, "Honey, I am going to vent right now. Please just listen!" or you may want to actually ask to get a rational perspective on why the wedding will still be wonderful and life will go on with or without the offending persons or the modified guest list or altered plans.
Once you have wrapped your head around the new wedding guest list, remind yourself of the love and support you are getting from everyone who will be there in person or in spirit. Weddings are a community event, and the number of people who are there has nothing to do with the quality of your supportive community. Most of us would take one great friend over 10 acquaintances. Your wedding day is a huge day for you, and nobody can change that by their inconsiderateness. Bask in the glorious day surrounded by those who love you and are witnessing the beginning of your married life.
Elizabeth Doherty Thomas is a co-founder of The First Dance, along with Marriage and Family therapist father Bill Doherty. The First Dance is a 2007 Modern Bride Trendsetter award-winner for taking on the complex family dynamics of wedding planning. See what engaged couples and wedding professionals are saying about their book "Take Back Your Wedding." Their entire website is dedicated to offering advice on working through the people stresses of wedding planning as a couple, with your families and how to strengthen your upcoming marriage through this enormous first task of married life.