Setting up Text Message Wedding RSVPs through Google Voice

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rubber stamped wedding invitations

Photography by Spindle Photography

Our wedding invitations weren’t incredibly formal (I made them with a rubber stamp), and I didn’t love the idea of asking people to mail a reply card to RSVP. For one thing, extra paper products and extra stamps cost money. But I was also concerned about people remembering to drop their cards in the mail at all — in a world of paperless billing and email, it’s hard to remember to bring a card to an actual mailbox.

It is not, however, hard to remember to text. I’d noticed this when I ran Church Street Coffee & Books, so I’d set up text ordering through Google Voice at the shop. It worked really well, so I set up the same thing for our wedding RSVPs.

With Google Voice, you get a free phone number that’s connected to an email. This is handy if you need to give a phone number for, say, work purposes, but you don’t want to hand out your personal phone number. But we used Google Voice for its text messaging. When someone texts your Google Voice number, that text is delivered as an email to the Gmail account the number is set up through. After that, you can just reply back to that person using email by hitting Reply, just like you normally would. 

There are drawbacks: You can’t originate the message; you can only reply to texts that have come to you. (I assume this is so scammers don’t use it to send mass texts to strangers.) You can’t add the phone number to your email address book, so it’s hard to see who’s texting you. (I got around that by asking people to include their name and number of people in their party in their reply; when people forgot, I just texted them back to get their names.)

This system worked really, really well for our wedding. People seemed to get a kick out of being able to reply this way, and we got a super accurate headcount. We also had a quick way to communicate with anyone coming to the wedding (like the people bringing our potluck dishes) because we had their phone numbers and we could text them quickly.

There were some drawbacks, of course: The text system was confusing for a couple of older people on our list. And a few people thought this number went to our actual phones and tried to send us personal messages through it. (We got the messages anyway and responded, so that wasn’t a big deal.) 

All in all, I’d choose text message wedding replies all over again. They allowed us to track responses, they saved us money in reply card postage, and it seemed like people liked them. 

I’m not going to include actual setup instructions here because Google changes them regularly and you can, well, Google it. But here are a few tips:

Set up a separate email

I wanted to keep these messages separate from my regular email account, so I set up a new Gmail with my married name and set up the Google Voice number through that account.

I actually used this separate email for all our wedding stuff, and it came in really handy — I was able to give the password to my mom and sister so they could help me out, and the constant advertisements that come as you sign up for wedding registries went straight to my separate email so I didn’t have to see them every day.

Choose a number

Google Voice used to offer a lot more phone number choice. It’s pretty limited now, but I was still able to find a number with our area code so it was less confusing for people.

Set up a voicemail

I figured some people would get confused and try to call the number, so I set up a voicemail for it through Google Voice settings just in case. We did get one or two calls, so I was glad I did.

Test twice

I hope this is obvious, but it’s a good idea to make sure the system is working before sending out your invitations. Test by sending a text using your phone, and then reply back through the Gmail. If you get a response on your phone, ask someone else to do the same thing (I asked my mom) just to be sure it’s working correctly.

Double, triple, quadruple check that you’re giving people the right number

This isn’t your usual phone number, so it’s easier to get it wrong.

Respond to the emails

Because this isn’t a “normal” way to do RSVPs, we figured people would be worried about whether or not we actually got their message, so I tried to respond with a confirmation message fairly quickly. Once the invites went out, I checked at least once a day and sent out a confirmation.

I prepared a couple of short confirmation text scripts so all I had to do was copy/paste them into the email field. I confirmed that the guests were coming (or not), and I sent a link to our wedding site and registry (because we decided not to include registry information on the invite). If they forgot to include information I needed (their names and the number of people in their party), I emailed back to ask for the information.

Include the number or your wedding website

Wedding websites seem like a very silly thing, but they can be a handy way for guests to easily access important information (like the wedding date and time), so we set one up. I included our RSVP number on the site — since it wasn’t my actual phone number, I didn’t have any reservations about listing it publicly on the site (and we didn’t have any problems). I know some people found it there because we got a couple of RSVPs before we’d even sent invitations out. Here’s what we wrote on our site:

Please RSVP by texting your name and the number in your party to 205-686-3585. You can also text questions and any clarifications you might need to that number and we’ll answer. Don’t worry if you don’t see a response immediately; we’ll be checking in every few days.

Keep track of your responses

The email sender shows up as the phone number, not the name of the person who actually sent you the text. I asked people to include their name in the text to us, so it wasn’t hard to figure out who’d sent the message — but it helped that I added their name, phone number and RSVP count to a spreadsheet (just a free Google Sheet) immediately. That way, if I ever needed to look someone up by phone number later, I just ran a Find on the Google Sheet and could easily see whose name matched up with the number. I also had a running headcount of total guests from the sheet.

Throwing a big wedding on a small budget was a challenge, but I’m glad we did. Here’s a roundup of all the money-saving strategies that worked for us.

Carrie Rollwagen married Russell Marbut in September of 2018. She’s the author of The Localist, a book about buying independent, and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she’s Communications Director at Infomedia, a Birmingham-based web development company. Find her on social media as @crollwagen: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Russell is a web developer and jiu jitsu instructor who isn’t much into wedding blogs or website bios. He’s on Instagram as @russellg9.

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