rsvp whodunnit, or rather, who gets to do it
Dear Mr. Postmanners,
We sent invitations to several people who live in other areas & different states. Do we assume that they not attending our wedding if they do not send back the RSVP? Or should we call them & if so, who should do the calling, Bride, Bride's Mother, Maid-of-Honor...?
As One has noted before, an unfortunate decline in modern manners means that people frequently spend a great deal of time tracking down responses to invitations, just to make certain that people are or aren't arriving. It is sad, but it is one of those duties that must be done. Normally, you would be able to assume that people living a long distance away would not be coming, but One would hate to tell you just how many times One's friends have been surprised by relatives and accquaintances appearing at a wedding (and more aggravatingly, the reception dinner), even when they live a great distance away, because it would make a lovely little weekend trip or they decide at the last possible minute that it would be nice to have a little visit with old friends or relatives. Thus, it is best not to make assumptions. (Except to assume that you'll have a few unexpected attendees and a few people who confirm but then unexpectedly don't appear. This will happen no matter what you do. Alas.)
In general, it's best to set your personal deadline for the return of the cards to be at least one or two weeks before the caterer's deadline, if it happens to be relevant to your situation. Later than that, and the caterer may be unable to make changes to their arrangements.
As for who should call ... very technically speaking, it should be the people who are hosting the wedding. That is, if your invitations and announcements are of the form, "The parents of Baffled Bride hereby announce/invite you to the wedding of Our Dear Daughter and Her Befuddled Groom", then the parents technically should do the calling, as they're the ones who are making the arrangements. Similarly, if the bride and groom are hosting themselves -- that is, if the announcements are of the form, "Baffled Bride and Befuddled Groom are pleased to announce their wedding on Wednesday, March 17...", then the bride and groom are technically the ones who would make the calls. More practically, it might be better to divide up the calls based on who knows the recipient best. If it's one of the bride's friends who failed to return the card, the bride should call; if it's one of the groom's friends, he should call. If it's one of those relatives that You/He Absolutely Did Not Want to Invite But My/His Parents Insisted, then the appropriate set of parents should call. Divide up the work and spend a day or two having a calling party. It's a nice way to divide up the stress. Especially since some of the respondents are certain to be aggravatingly uncertain about their future plans.