Your Wedding Guest List: Should You Give Everyone a Plus One?

wedding guest list

When you’re on the guest list for someone else’s wedding, it might seem like no big deal to request a plus one. After all, the couple is already inviting dozens (or hundreds) of wedding guests, so what’s one more? 

However, when you’re the one planning your very own wedding, it gets a little tricky. Allowing someone to bring a plus one, whether it’s their boyfriend, their friend or even their child, is often a complicated matter because there are a lot of factors at play. The biggest one? Budget. After all, the more guests you invite, the higher the cost. Sometimes adding just one additional guest can run you upwards of $300. 

In addition to the price factor, there are also venue size restrictions that couples have to keep in mind. “Every venue has a limit on how many guests you can have. And remember that the more plus ones you allow, the bigger the wedding you’ll have,” says Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California. “But then there are guest considerations. You want them to have fun, and may worry that they won’t without their plus one.”

Family matters when it comes to your wedding guest list

It’s also important to make sure that both sides of the family feel that they are being treated equally when it comes to the wedding guest list. “If one of you is a lot closer to your family, you may want to invite significant others and/or plus ones, while the other may not want to. If one of your families is a lot bigger than the other’s, allowing plus ones on one side because they’re smaller, but not on the other can be sticky,” says Chang.

“This can become a point of argument between the couple or between the couple and parents. [It can] be a source of fighting or resentment no matter what decision is made. And that’s just between the decision makers!” 

To help uncomplicate the process of deciding who, when and how to let guests bring a plus one, we reached out to the experts to shed some light on proper wedding guest list etiquette. 

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Should you allow guests to bring children?

According to Maryanne Parker, etiquette expert and founder of Manor of Manners, this strictly depends on several factors: Your relationships with the guests, the entire wedding style, as well as personal preferences.

“Due to budget, space, and not always a kid-friendly environment, some weddings prefer to be adults-only,” she says. In that instance, some couples may want to organize babysitting services at the venue or in their own house to help accommodate guests who may otherwise opt out of the wedding celebration.

Before you make any decisions about your wedding guest list, you should first decide whether or not you want kids at your wedding. If the answer is no, it’s important to recognize that this might mean certain guests will have to decline. Here are some tips for how to decide whether or not to allow a certain guest’s child(ren) to attend your wedding:

1. Have you ever met the child/children? 

“If you’ve never met them, you have no idea how they usually behave and whether you would want them at your wedding,” says Amanda Hudes, event planner, life coach, and author of Smiling Through the Chaos of Wedding Planning. “Parents may not tell you in advance that their child is likely to scream during your ceremony—and I’d say that’s something you would probably like to know in advance!”

2. Are the children mature?

“Pre-teen and above can oftentimes handle themselves as adults during the ceremony, being able to sit nicely and watch, as well as partake in the traditional dances, dinner, and listening to toasts during the reception,” says Hudes. 

3. Is the venue child friendly?

If the venue is dangerous for young children, it might be a good idea to advise guests to not bring their children. “The responsible host wouldn’t enjoy the moment and the grand event by focusing on the dangers that might occur during the celebration,” adds Parker. 

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that allowing one person to bring their child really means you should allow every guest to bring their child should they need or want to. No matter what you decide, just make sure you’re consistent. “Maybe only kids in the immediate family are invited or only kids in the wedding party are invited—and then anyone who falls outside your rule is not invited,” suggests Chang.

Should you allow guests to bring a plus one? 

A good rule of thumb for plus ones is to invite the partner of any guest who is in a long term relationship whether or not they’re married, suggests Chang. “This is common courtesy and will be expected by most guests. It also shows that you recognize the importance of their relationship,” she says.

Another rule of thumb for plus ones that she recommends is to invite any significant others that you have met. “Meeting a significant other means they’re serious enough to have introduced them to family or friends,” she says. “It also feels better for the couple because they actually know who they are and they won’t be just a random person at the wedding.”

If one of the guests you are inviting doesn’t know anyone else who is attending the wedding, you might also want to offer them the chance to bring a plus one—whether that’s a romantic partner or a friend for support. “They’ll be more comfortable attending your wedding and they’ll have more fun. And this rule especially applies if you’re having a destination wedding,” says Chang. “While they may not bring a plus one, giving them the option so that they don’t feel like the only single person in the room..”

How to tell a guest they can’t bring a plus one

The best way to indicate whether or not a plus one is invited is to indicate it on the invitation. “Who your invitation is addressed to will clearly spell out who is invited (them) and who is not (a plus one),” says Chang. “To drive the point home, on the RSVP card or online RSVP you can also indicate how many people are RSVPing.”

However, if an explanation is needed, the best way to go about it is to have a conversation on the phone or in person that is simple, straightforward and non-confrontational. “Explain your reasoning in a respectful way. You don’t have to tell them the whole story or even all the reasons, but do explain the reason that will make the most sense to them,” says Chang. “Your honesty will mean a lot to them especially if you explain that it’s not just them who is not getting a plus one.”

If your guest is hurt by your decision, an apology can go a long way. “Showing that you are sorry that they are upset or hurt and recognizing their feelings can mean a lot because, in the end, you care about your guests,” says Chang. “These are your people and you don’t want them to feel bad, so showing them that you understand, that you care and that you love them can make a huge impact.”

Your Wedding Guest List: The Bottom line

“Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows the heartache of paring down a wedding guest list—it’s not easy and may often involve some Solomon-like choices,” notes Thomas P. Farley, etiquette expert and founder of Mister Manners. “The more gracious you can be when explaining why you don’t have the space for a plus one from a guest who is pushing bringing one, the better for everyone.” 

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  1. says: Jodi

    My daughter’s wedding is coming up. Our issue is budget so we made a rule no ring on your finger (engagement ring) no plus one. We have had no issues with this explanation.