To Give or Not to Give – The “Plus One”

We are trying to keep our guest list on the small side, but it’s getting tricky! Do we have to give our single friends a “plus one”? What is the proper etiquette for inviting significant others? What if a guest RSVP’s with a date anyway?      -Addie from MD

Whittling down your guest list to the ideal number can be one of the most stressful elements of planning a wedding. Tensions rise, feelings get hurt and the happy couple begins to daydream about eloping. Whew!

Depending on who you ask or where you look, there are fairly rigid rules about including significant others. Here’s a list of rules and my advice on each…

Rule #1: Always, always include the second half of a couple who is married, engaged or living together. I completely 100% agree with this rule! Do your research and find out the name of your guest’s spouse, fiancé or live-in boyfriend/girlfriend. You don’t want to refer to your friend Sally’s fiancé of over a year as “and guest” on her invitation.

Rule #2: Allowing single guests who aren’t attached to significant others to bring dates is a thoughtful gesture, but one that is certainly not required. This is a good rule to keep in mind. However, it’s a little vague and not all that helpful. There are some additional items that you should consider when deciding to give a “plus one” or not. For example, as random as it may seem, take your own age into account. Are you a young bride? Do you have a lot of single friends that might prefer to attend your wedding as a group? If so, including “and guest” on every invitation is probably unnecessary. However, if you aren’t in your early to mid twenties and the majority of your friends are attached, allowing your single friends to bring a guest to your wedding may make them feel a lot more comfortable in a room full of couples. Whatever you decide, be consistent. Determine a general “rule of thumb” (i.e. only couples who have been together 1-2 years or longer be included, etc.) and stick to it.

Rule #3: Never actually list “and guest” on the invitation. I don’t entirely agree with this one. Miss Manners actually recommends listing each guest’s date by name on their own invitation. Yes, you heard me correctly. Traditional etiquette dictates that if a couple doesn’t live together, a second invitation should be sent directly to the date at his/her home address. Now, I don’t know about you, but this seems a bit unrealistic to me. While I agree that you should at least attempt to find out the name of your guest’s date and list them by name whenever possible, I don’t think they need to receive a separate invitation. Including them on the invitation that is sent directly to your guest is okay in my book! In the event that you are allowing your guests to bring a date that isn’t their committed partner, you can certainly list “and guest” on the invitation (preferably on the inner envelope, but that’s another topic for another time). Listing “and guest” implies that they can bring a date…any date of their choosing.

No matter what you do, follow your instinct! You may not be able to please everyone and that is okay. Sometimes, that is just the way it goes. If a guest happens to RSVP back with the name of an un-invited date, a phone call may be necessary. You have every right to let them know that you aren’t able to accommodate additional guests and you shouldn’t feel rude doing so. After all, this is your wedding and only you can truly understand the limitations of your budget or venue space. Hopefully, your friends and family will understand!

Additional articles and sources to reference: Ask Jocelyn, The New York Times and Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette 5th Edition.


The opinions expressed in Ask a Roo posts are my own and may or may not necessarily represent or imply the views or policies of The Green Kangaroo, Inc.

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