Who Gets a Plus One and Who Doesn't?
You may have anticipated some tricky trade-offs when creating your guest list, but have you thought about plus-ones yet?
A wedding is about a lot of things from tax benefits to eyelash extensions, but it’s mostly about the two people who love each other enough to say yes to forever together. Everything else from the flower arrangements, wedding hashtags, the dress is all secondary. Also secondary? Your guests...well, not all guests but certainly the secondary ones. The convention that guests without married or romantic partners should need to bring said partners—even when neither the bride nor groom knows them well or at all—is as wacky as it is costly.
No one understands better than we do the stress and nuances of planning a beautiful, personal wedding within your budget. One of the first big steps in creating that budget is putting together a guest list that works for your venue with plus-ones included. So, how do you tackle this issue? Start by going back to the basics: Each and every guest costs money, and venues hold only a certain number of people. You’ll need to count carefully to ensure everyone will have a wonderful time at your wedding. Keeping in mind, granting plus ones is not a first amendment wedding right. Many couples lose sleep over who to invite and who to cut from the list. Ultimately, the couple should not feel pressure to invite people they potentially don't know over people that they do. Plus-ones should simply be invited on a case by case basis as determined by the couple, however, we are happy to help break down the basic guidelines for you.
So, who should get a plus one?
Although we'd love to break from the rules that tradition dictates, it’s always best to invite both parties in a married couple, even if you’re closer with one person than the other, or if you’ve never even met someone’s spouse. It makes sense if you think about it. Would you want to attend a wedding without your spouse? It’s polite to acknowledge that even though you’ve never met your aunt’s new husband, you respect their union. Just remember, in this day and age, old school wedding “rules” don’t always apply.
The “no ring, no bring” mandate was once the hard and fast way of vetting out attendees with partners who were not yet wed themselves. However, it's not really fair given that we live in a world where people are getting married later, living together before a ring, and having children together without feeling the need to get married. A blanket one-size-fits-all rule doesn't really fit anyone anymore, so we advise that you do what is right for you and your wedding. Now, to answer the question, "So, who should get a plus one?"...
Who DOES get a plus one?
Your Wedding Party
Extending a plus-one to everyone in your wedding party is a courteous move they are sure to appreciate. This doesn’t mean each bridesmaid & groomsman have to or even will bring a date to your wedding, but it’s important to make the offer because they’ve been there for you from the start. From shopping, planning your bachelorette party, fastening the 150 buttons down your wedding dress, ushering your grandparents down the aisle...the list is endless, which proves just how much these friends have mattered throughout your wedding prep process. It’s important to remember they’ve not only given you their time, love and energy, but they’ve also spent a lot of money on attire, lodging and transportation for multiple events. Trust us on this one...they deserve a plus-one more than anyone.
Anyone Who’s Engaged, Lives Together or is in a Long-Term, Serious Relationship
Any couples who are engaged, live together or who have been dating for over a year should get a plus-one. In this day and age, many couples choose to live together before they get married, or in some cases, never get married at all, so acknowledging their commitment is simply the right thing to do. While you can use your discretion with couples who’ve been dating over a year, for example your sixteen year old cousin and her boyfriend don't merit a plus one. Its your wedding, so it is up to you and your partner to determine if it’s a serious relationship or not. If you are truly unsure, err on the side of caution and give them the option of a plus-one.
A VIP Guest Who Won’t Know Anyone
Say one of your very best friends from childhood who lives across the country, who absolutely counts as VIP guest, will be attending, but they also happen to be single. While she knows you, your parents and your partner, none of you are likely to have much time to spend with her. Give important guests who fit this description a plus-one so they can feel comfortable and have fun too. Which brings us to the issue of the singles table. Another issue that might arise is what exactly to do with your single guests that you do invite? Single friends should be seated the same way you seat your other guests, with their friends or your friends/people who you think they would have the best time with. And so things don't get sticky...skip the singles only table.
Who DOESN'T get a plus one?
Guests Who Are Casually Dating
If the guest in question seems to have a new significant other every few months or hasn’t been dating the same person for more than a year, giving them a plus-one isn’t a priority, although it is thoughtful if you have the budget to do so.
Single Guests You’re Not Close To & Who Know Other Guests
If your mother-in-law insists that cousin Jennifer needs an invitation even though your future spouse hasn’t seen her in at least ten years, it’s appropriate to not provide her with a plus-one if she’s not married or in a serious relationship. While you may not be able to afford extra guests for everyone, it may start a fight if you want to cut people from your guest list just because you can't let them bring a date. We suggest taking these on a case-by-case basis. However, if your budget simply will not allow certain guests to have plus-ones and you want them to be able to bring someone, this is where having an A-list and a B-list comes in quite handy, but more on that in a moment.
Coworkers are a tricky guest list category altogether. Even without the issue of plus-ones, the easiest way to avoid any drama is to not invite any coworkers. This way nobody feels left out. However, if you're actually close enough to some of your coworkers to socialize outside the office, even text or call them, and everyone knows it, then it’s fine to invite them. Please just don't give them their invites at work or make a big deal out of it. We advise keeping your wedding talk to a minimum at the office regardless. However, if you work with smaller team and are considering inviting a handful of coworkers that you aren't friends with outside of work, invite the entire team or skip them altogether. This goes for plus-ones too. Whether you invite your work besties or your team, if one person gets a plus-one, then everyone else does too. As for your boss, invite them if you have a friendly relationship, along with a plus-one. If you don’t, you're certainly not required to ask them to attend.
It’s no surprise that certain guests might feel miffed they’re asked to attend solo. Be direct if drama arises. It’s best to be honest during difficult conversations but try not to budge. If you do, this will open a can of worms with other dateless guests who might feel scorned as well. Whether it’s a budget or venue restriction or simply a preference, calmly explain your reasoning and that, while you’d be honored by their presence at your wedding, a plus-one simply won’t be possible.
A-Lists and B-Lists
Having two lists is how you'll be able to invite the most people without increasing your budget or having to find a larger venue. Here's how it works: Your A-list consists of the must-have invites you couldn't imagine not having at your wedding, like your family members and close friends, and their plus-ones. They'll receive your first round of invitations. Anyone who is not essential, and don't mean people you don't like, but rather acquaintances you might be able to skip, should be added to the B list along with their plus-ones. These are people you would enjoy having at your wedding but who cannot be extended an invite in the first round. It’s completely fine to add plus-ones to your B-list too. If it turns out that you do have the budget for your niece’s new boyfriend to come, you can always invite him at a later date.
If you start getting RSVPs and it turns out you have enough "regrets," between 10 and 20 percent of those invited will decline, then you can start sending invites to your B-list in order of importance. That said, one of the dangers of a B-list is sending invitations out with a too-tight RSVP date for your new additions. To avoid this, consider sending out your first set of invitations a little earlier. Rather than the traditional six to eight weeks before the date, send them out at 10 weeks instead. If this is impossible, consider ordering some invitations with a later response date.
If you think you might be sending a second set of invitations for a B-list, plan ahead by ordering additional invitations. Not only will it make the process easier, it will save you some serious cash since buying invitations in small batches is much more expensive than ordering them in a single shipment.
Be realistic about your number of guests and plus-ones to avoid stress later on.
Crunching the numbers isn't the most glamorous part of wedding planning, but there is a figure you really can't avoid: your guest list count. Your budget and the venue size are the main factors that should play into this decision. Each guest adds to the number of plates your caterer will prepare, favors, chair rentals, tables, linens, centerpieces and how much cake you'll need. Choose a number that's larger than your venue's capacity and you'll be holding your breath every time you open an RSVP. It's much better to keep your number on the conservative side.
Always include the guests names on the response cards. Yours wouldn't be the first wedding where a guest crams two, three or four plus-ones onto one line, even though the invitation was specifically made out to one person. The way to avoid this problem is to print the guests' names onto the RSVP card. Do this and there's almost no way anyone can force an invite on you. If for some reason you still get an extra write-in, don't take their faux pas personally. Instead, politely call and explain that you'd love to have everyone, but budget and space mean it's just not possible. Then take the conversation in a totally different direction.
Don't forget to play detective and know the name of every plus one so you can have it written and spelled correctly on the save-the-date, invitation and escort card. Even if you have to fall down a Facebook rabbit hole or make a call, it’s 100% worth the effort, not to mention, it's the polite thing to do and it looks so much better than “and Guest” on all stationery.