Do I Have to Give Our Wedding Guests a Plus One?

Photo by Maine Tinker Photography

Q: My fiance and I have booked a wedding venue that is on the top end of our budget, and it’s starting to stress us out, especially when we look at our guest list. How should we decide who gets a plus one without seeming rude?- Samantha

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A: Great question! And it’s actually one that I feel like most people can relate to…on both sides!

So I completely hear you when you say you have to keep an eye on the guest list. And kudos to you for keeping your guest list to a reasonable size. I hate when I see couples facing budget issues with a GIANT guest list, because it’s something that they have the power to control in most cases. We’ll talk more about the guest list size in a minute, but in the meantime let’s get to the WHO part of your question.

Traditionally, only single people in serious relationships (living together or not) are invited with a plus one. Obviously married couples are invited as a couple, and if they have children they would potentially be invited, too (even though you definitely do not have to invite kids to your wedding. More on having a childless wedding here.). Given those general rules, in my opinion it would be rude to NOT invite a friend’s serious boyfriend or girlfriend. But it’s up for debate if they should be invited with a plus one if they are in the beginning stages of what could be a serious relationship.

For instance, take what happened to me in this situation: My brother was getting married, and the previously “always single” me was invited without a plus one. However, I was actually was dating somebody (who happened to be my now husband), but he had never been home to meet my family. I’m not even sure my brother or his now wife knew of him. BUT the fact is that we were dating each other exclusively (even if we were the only ones who knew it) and I really wanted him to travel home with me to the wedding. So, I ended up calling my future sister-in-law and letting her know, and she graciously let me bring him. That doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to just magically guess who’s in a serious relationship and who’s not, but I do think you have a couple options if a) you have a lot of friends or family that are dating but you don’t know the status and b) if you have a lot of friends that want a plus one but you can’t afford it. Here’s what you should consider:

Create a plus one rule…and stick to it.

If you have a lot of friends and family that are single but want to bring a non-serious date or other friend to your wedding, consider creating a blanket rule, such as “only immediate or close family can bring a date” or “only the wedding party can bring a date.” It’s the same for weddings without kids. You shouldn’t pick and choose who can bring a date or kids…instead, stick to a rule you set and if somebody asks you about a plus one, politely say that you are so sorry but only the wedding party or immediate family can bring a plus one. Of course, you can also make exceptions to the rule if you find out, like my brother did, that your guest is in a serious relationship that you might not have been aware of.

How many single friends will be at your wedding?

If you have 20 single friends who all know each other, not being able to bring a date (a serious one) won’t be that bad. After all, these single guests will have a built-in network of friends who they can dance the night away with. However, 5 single people who don’t know each other at all and barely know anybody else at the wedding might not have a great time without a date. So, if you have a handful of friends who are single but won’t really know anybody else at the wedding besides you and your spouse, consider splurging and letting them invite someone (if they want). Chances are they might not bring a date, but at least this way they can choose the option that makes them the most comfortable. Also? Giving 5 single people vs. 20 a plus one is a big cost difference, and one that won’t cost you as much in the end.

Prioritize your wedding guests

If you are going to invite somebody to your wedding, you should make sure that you are doing what’s in your power to make them happy and comfortable. Or at least that’s my motto. It’s your wedding, yes, but it’s also a party you are hosting, and these guests have most likely spent a bit of money either traveling to your wedding or giving you a wedding gift. If you’ve discovered you’re going to have to make a lot of friends or family members potentially unhappy with a “no plus one” rule, see if you can trim your guest list 5 or 10 people to allow your “must-invite” guests the ability to spend the evening as blissful and giddy as you are…with their dates!

Want to know how to convey to your guests whether they have a plus one or not, or if their kids are invited? This guide to addressing your wedding invitations will help!

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