Unless you're in an established, long-term relationship, one of the most stressful things about being invited to a wedding is figuring out the specific wedding etiquette, and how to know if you should bring a plus one guest. There's so much to think about: are you even going to get a plus one? Should you be insulted if you don't? Do you have to give a bigger gift because you have a plus one? Is it OK to bring a friend if you can't find a date date? What if your plus one backs out at the last minute? AH!
Figuring this stuff out may have been easier 50 years ago, when wedding etiquette was pretty black and white, and everyone seemed to know the proper way to act. But now it's 2015, and most of the traditional wedding rules are widely considered "old-fashioned." You would think that this would be nice, but it actually just makes everything more complicated because you never know if the bride and groom are more lax or totally stressed out about manners. The last thing you want to do is go to one of them with your plus one questions, so... how the heck are you supposed to handle this stuff?!
Relax. While every couple is different, there are some pretty general plus one rules that every person invited to a wedding should be following. If the bride or groom doesn't specify what they want you to do, then your best bet is to pay attention to the below etiquette to figure out the right thing to do. These 12 rules for bringing a plus one will (hopefully) keep you from pissing anyone off, and also ensure that you have a great time. Because weddings might be stressful, but admit it — they're also pretty awesome.
1. If Your Invitation Doesn't Say Plus One, That Means You Weren't Invited With A Guest, End Of Story
It sounds obvious, but this extremely important rule (possibly the most important rule) is worth repeating: no "plus one" on your invite means you were invited alone. Being invited to a wedding does not automatically mean you were invited with a guest. Being invited on your own does not mean "bring someone if you want." It's incredibly rude to RSVP with a guest if you weren't invited with one, and it's even worse to just show up with someone. You're essentially telling the bride and groom they'll be paying for one more person without even asking. Not cool, man.
2. Don't Ask For A Plus One If You Weren't Given One
I get it — going to a wedding alone isn't the most fun thing in the world, especially if all of your friends are in relationships. But please avoid asking for a plus one at all costs. It's really rude, and it puts the bride and groom in a very awkward situation. You're basically asking them to spend money on someone just for you. Unless you think they may have made a mistake — like if you're engaged or in a longterm relationship — just suck it up and go on your own. Or don't go at all.
3. Be Understanding If You're Single And Don't Get A Plus One
I know it's upsetting to be invited to a wedding without a guest, especially if you're one of the only single ones in your friend group. I also know how this "slight" can come across as an insult. Please try not to take it as one. Weddings are really expensive, and if you weren't invited with a guest, it's probably just because the bride and groom couldn't afford it. Or, honestly, it might be because they didn't want to spend money on someone they don't know. This isn't your day, it's theirs — so it's really not about you. If you're super offended, don't attend the wedding, but try not to make it a big deal.
4. If You Do Get A Plus One, RSVP Using Your Guest's Name And Not "Plus One"
The happy couple is about to drop a lot more money just so you can bring someone to hang out with at their wedding — do them the courtesy of putting your guest's name on the invite. It makes them feel like they're not just paying for strangers to be at their wedding, and it's also nicer to see on the seating cards.
5. If Your Guest Was Named, Don't Substitute Someone Else
If the couple invited you and a specific guest (example: Jessica Booth and John Doe), but that guest can't make it for whatever reason, don't just assume you can sub in someone else, like a friend. If the couple gave you a name, it's because they want that person to attend. If your date can't make it, then go on your own.
6. Speaking Of Which, Don't Bring Your Best Friend As A Plus One Unless You Have Permission
In general, a plus one means a date. It doesn't mean bring along your BFF for a night of free drinks from an open bar. If you were invited with a plus one but can't find an actual date to bring, don't just assume it's fine to bring along a random friend. If you were invited with a guest and can't find a date, and you feel comfortable enough to ask the bride or groom if you can bring a friend instead, go for it. Some couples don't care and will say it's fine. Others will think it's rude. And if you're not comfortable enough to ask, you probably shouldn't do it.
7. Don't RSVP With A Plus One Unless You Know Your Plus One Is Going To Come
Yes, it's hard to plan super far in advance, and sure, things happen — people get sick, emergencies come up. But if you're unsure of whether or not your date can attend the wedding, don't put their name down. If you haven't asked anyone, don't RSVP with a plus one just assuming you'll find someone. Once you tell the couple you're bringing someone, they pay for that someone. If you say you're bringing someone and then show up alone, you basically just flushed their money down the toilet.
8. Don't Bring Someone Who Is Obviously Going To Cause Drama
Again, this is not your day. This is the couple's day. Don't bring a date who is going to make one or both of them feel extremely uncomfortable, like ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, or someone you know they really dislike. Unless you have their permission, just go with someone safe.
9. Don't Bring Someone You Barely Know Who Will Potentially Embarrass You
The last thing you want is for your guest to do something absurd, piss off the couple, and leave you feeling mortified. Don't bring someone who you think will get ridiculously wasted and do something stupid. Don't bring someone you barely know just to have a date (that's not even fun). Just try to avoid the drama.
10. Introduce Your Guest To The Couple And Your Friends, But Don't Make The Night About You
If the couple doesn't know your plus one, then be polite and introduce them at some point during the night — it's just a nice thing to do since they're paying for this person to be there. At the same time, don't make the wedding all about how you're introducing everyone to your new boyfriend or girlfriend. I knew someone who brought their brand new boyfriend to a wedding once, and that was the night he met all of her friends. She was insulted when her friend (the bride) didn't pay enough attention to her new BF. That's just... no. The bride has a lot of other stuff going on.
11. Make Sure Your Gift Reflects The Fact That You Brought A Guest
If you're bringing a guest, your wedding gift has to be a little bit bigger. Some people say that a good rule of thumb with wedding gifts is to make them equal to the price of your plate. This can obviously be a hard thing to figure out, but when you're writing a check or picking a gift, at least make sure it's thoughtful and respectful.
12. If Your Guest Doesn't Know The Couple At All, Don't Ask Them To Chip In For Said Gift
If you're bringing someone who doesn't know the couple getting married, don't ask them for money for the gift. If you're in a relationship, everyone does things differently, but personally, my boyfriend and I have a rule: if it's a wedding for one of his friends or family members, he pays for the gift. If it's one of mine, I do. But in general, if you're bringing a date who doesn't know anyone, you should take care of the present.
This article was originally published on April 22, 2015 and was updated on September 11, 2019.
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