Things to Know: Plus-one Wedding Etiquette

We’ve all been there. That awkward moment when you get a plus-one invite to a wedding, and your best friend doesn’t. Or worse: neither of you do! If we think being a guest is difficult when discussing the plus-one issue, imagine being the bride and groom. As if they don’t already have too much to worry about with the actual wedding planning, one of the trickiest elements of a wedding is the plus-one etiquette: who gets to bring a partner and who doesn’t.

You’d think making up the guest list would be one of the easier parts to the planning, but think again. For all those guests who are unmarried, the couple is going to have to decide if it is acceptable to bring dates to the wedding. This can be extremely awkward, for two reasons: no one really likes going to weddings alone, and if you have a lot of single friends, inviting them all to bring partners will mean that your wedding day is going to be full of (potential) strangers and your costs are going to be much higher. Remember that for weddings you pay for food per head, so each extra at the table will literally double the costs. At the same time, you don’t want to offend your guests friends by excluding special people. It’s a catch-22, and we’re sweating at just the thought of these decisions – and we’re not even the ones getting married! 


So because us Ruby girls aren’t actually in this tricky predicament ourselves, being unmarried/unengaged and all, we asked some of our very best (married) friends and Ruby readers for their do’s and don’ts on plus-one wedding invites. And here’s what they had to say. 

Remember that it is not just your birthday or a dinner party – its your WEDDING. It is the biggest day of your life, so the guest list is never an easy one to make and the decision is totally personal from bride to bride. It can be a very emotional decision, because you may offend many of your friends, or you may offend the person paying for your wedding! Your budget and venue have huge roles to play. All the brides we asked were in agreement: it is YOUR day and your wedding, so make sure that whatever decision you make is one you and your groom feel absolutely comfortable with. 

Do’s:

1. Decide on the ‘vibe’ of your wedding. Do you want it to be a small and intimate day with close friends, or do you want it to be a party with the more the merrier?

2. Decide on your budget. This will pretty much be the deciding factor in most of the guest list choices. You may literally not have space for plus-ones that you may or may not know

3. Find out the size of your venue.

4. Make your invitation wording crystal clear; if you are inviting only them with a plus one, make sure it is very obvious and leaves no room for confusion. (How to do this? Write “and partner” or just guest’s name).

5. The same goes for children. Be sure to communicate clearly if children are welcome at the wedding.

6. A good rule of thumb is to invite all spouses, fiancés, and live-in partners. As for long-term or casual girlfriends and boyfriends, that’s up to you.

7. The trick is to come up with a hard and fast rule – and stick to it! That will help keep things fair across the board. Here are some examples below:
- If you haven’t met the partner, they won’t be invited.
- If only the bride or the groom is friends with the partner, they shouldn’t be invited.
- Couples are only invited if you are friends with both of them individually. Are the plus-ones friends, or are they genuinely plus-ones?
- Invite all couples. If guests are single, don’t allow them to invite partners.

8. One exception could be made: it is appropriate to invite all partners of the Wedding Party. They will do a lot for you in the months leading up to the wedding, so it is only fair that you invite their plus-ones.

9. Do what is best for you, and what is comfortable for your budget.

10. Do understand that it is not great attending a wedding alone. So if you are inviting a guest who won’t know anyone else at the event, think about inviting their partner.

11. Remember what it was like when you had to attend a wedding alone and how you felt. On the other hand, also remember what it was like attending a wedding as a plus-one where you didn’t know the bride and groom – knowing that your name was probably debated over is not a comfortable feeling for anyone!

12. Invite people who you know will be a part of your future. One of the greatest tips we learnt is that it is important to invite guests to your wedding who will share the rest of your life with you, as these are the important people. 

 Don’ts: 

1. Don’t make exceptions to your rule. If you’ve decided not to invite all partners, don’t make an exception because one of your guests replied for an uninvited plus-one or phones to ask if their partner can attend. It’s not okay for your guests to ask you to make exceptions – and it won’t be rude of you to stand by your guest list.

2. Invite plus-ones because you feel bad, and really your budget can’t allow it. We all have friends who go through boyfriends and girlfriends faster than we can remember their names, so chances are that they won’t need to bring a partner because they’ll find someone at the wedding!

3. Let your invited guests make you feel awful for not inviting their partners. If they are real friends, they will understand. If they have a sudden new flavour of the month, it is not fair for them to ask you to include their plus-one at the amount you’re paying per head.

4. On the other hand, don’t offend a really good friend over this.

5. Choose a venue that is not small/big enough for the amount of people on your guest list. Think this through before choosing a venue!

6. Don’t be dishonest with your friends about who you have invited to your wedding. Rather be upfront from the beginning about if you are inviting partners or not. Usually people are very understanding, and if you explain your situation, they will generally be okay with it.

7. Don’t be offensive when explaining to guest’s that they can’t bring a plus-one. People can be very touchy in those situations. No one wants to feel like their partner wasn’t worth inviting, so be gentle in your explanation.

8. Try to avoid plus-ones sneaking in to your wedding at the reception when they weren’t invited. It might not ruin your day, but it will annoy you (especially if they don’t bother to greet you!). 

Everyone has their own ideas on this topic, but we hope that these do’s and don’ts prompted some thought for you if you are writing your own wedding guest list at the moment. You and your groom have to be 100% happy on your special day. Stick to your guns, because once you have made a rule, you can only hope that your friends won’t be upset by it. Generally, most brides we spoke to felt very strongly that if a friend’s boyfriend or girlfriend has been around for a long time, then you should invite them to the wedding. Even if you don’t know them well, it is better not to offend a good friend over this. It is possible that the extra cost will be worth the happiness of your friends and family who get to have their significant other with them when they share in your happy and memorable occasion. Many people find this a sensitive topic and don’t attend a wedding unless their partner is invited. At the end of the day, do what your heart (and your budget) allows for!

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