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Conditional RSVPS to your do you handle them? (Wedding)

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This was a long time ago, but this popped back into my mind recently and I was wondering what eHell would think about it (as I don't think eHell was really in existence back then.

DH and I had a normal big wedding where we invited pretty much all of the family, cousins and everything.  DH's parents were the youngest in pretty large families and married rather late in life, so all of DH's cousins are quite a bit older than he is.  Some second cousins are closer to his age than most of the cousins.  They all were invited to the wedding/dinner/dance, with their kids, even though I honestly had no idea who some of these people were when we addressed the invitations (hadn't met them all yet).  Yes, we knew that this would be quite the expense with the head count for the dinner, but hey, that was just how it was done.  We mentally prepared ourselves for it.

We had to have the final number to the caterer something like two weeks before the wedding.  RSVPs were 'due' weeks before that, so we thought we'd be fine with that deadline.

Now, one of DH's many cousins was a farmer, and he and his wife had six children. They were all invited.  We received their RSVP card, and they indicated that all eight of them would be attending. Wow(!!), but that was fine; we invited them, after all.
But then, they wrote on the card that they wouldn't really know if they could come or not until the week before the wedding.  See, like I said, they were farmers and this was May, and if the weather was good, they'd have to get the crops in that weekend instead of coming to the wedding.  In my pre-wedding days of stress and worry, I read this note and my jaw dropped.  Yeah, I got that they were dependent on the weather, but we were talking about EIGHT dinners!  That was one entire table worth of meals that we'd have to pay for, but would be wasted if they didn't show up!  (I was OK with expense, yes, but I certainly didn't want to incur the expense if they were going to be wasted!)
Now, I totally get that this is their livelihood, and it did and should take precedence over attending our wedding.  However, what is their responsibility for ensuring that they didn't cause the hosts undue expense if they don't show up?   (Even at the time, I thought, seriously, how do you NOT know that eight dinners are kind of a big thing when RSVPing?)  After all, we had to have the numbers to the caterer at least a week before they promised to get back to us.

Was that an OK thing to RSVP positively for eight people but know that there's a very real chance that you won't show up? 

And for those of you who are wondering....we ended up having a beautiful day for our wedding, but the farmers never did show up, obviously, given the good weather.  And no, we also never received any sort of an updated RSVP from them to say that they wouldn't be able to make it.  (Nor did we receive so much as a card to congratulate us on our wedding afterward.)

I don't think what they did was OK in any way. They should have RSVP'd with regrets and and best wishes for your big day.

Just out of curiosity, have you had much interaction with them since?

For that many people - I agree, they should have simply declined due to the uncertainty.

However, for a single person who has a very good reason for not knowing (such as, even a few weeks ahead of time she might not know whether she'll have exams that day, or she has an employer  who won't give more than one week-notice of the schedule no matter what) I think it would be okay to put an honest note on the RSVP, indicating that she'll understand if they put her down as a No.  IME most caterers are prepared to serve about 5% more people than contracted - so if she can attend after all, it really won't be an issue as long as there aren't another 10 people in the same position.

Interesting! Was the family such that it had to be eight or zero? If possible, I think the family could've tried to send a partial group--like Mom and the youngest three kids, while Dad and the oldest three are farming. I come from farming country and I understand how important it is to make hay while the sun shines (literally) but eight people is way too big a chunk to leave ambiguous.

Hindsight being 20/20... you or your DF could've followed up with them, perhaps through a closer relative if not directly. As the caterer deadline approached you could've decided (and told them) to put them down as not attending, we'll take this stress off your mind, see you at the family Fourth of July gathering, no hard feelings. Although it's rude to uninvite someone, I think it some cases when a person waffles like this, they're really wanting the host to say something definitive, like, "We will gladly save a place for you if you can come" or "We will just not expect you to be there, and see you later." Either of which I think is a polite response.

It's true that a host shouldn't have to follow up RSVPs, but (in general, not directed at the OP, who can't go back in time after all) I don't understand why some hosts simply won't, not even one casual message on Facebook or something, when it could answer a lot of their questions and eliminate a lot of their angst. In a normal group of people I would assume that most who didn't RSVP simply forgot/thought the host "would know"/thought they did RSVP, which one quick communication would clear up; and that only a very small percentage would be maliciously/deliberately ignoring the invitation.

The farm families I know, everybody does work. Mom, the younger kids, everyone. Not saying that 8 maybes is reasonable, just that everybody working sounds about right.


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