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Plus One: Inviting Dates to a Wedding

By May 8, 2008

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A reader recently wrote to me, asking if she had to invite her nephew's girlfriend of two years to her wedding.

The issue of guest's dates is a tricky one. Many single people look forward to bringing a date to a wedding, but for the bride and groom that means having a stranger at a very personal event. With limited budgets, that stranger is quite literally taking the place of someone they do know. My advice is to create a blanket rule, and do your best to stick to it. Such a rule might be "only couples that live together." So, you might never have met your coworker's husband, but under that rule, he would be invited. Or, "only couples that have dated two years or more." You could even go so far as to say, "couples that are in relationships are okay, but we certainly don't want any first dates, or friend dates."

Do try to be generous if you can, particularly if the majority of your guests are older. Older guests often feel less comfortable dancing by themselves, or mingling. You want your friends and loved ones to be able to relax and enjoy themselves. This article from the New York Times does a good job of explaining the stick.

In the case of my reader above, I do think you need to invite the nephew's girlfriend. Two years is a serious relationship.

What do you think, readers?


May 9, 2008 at 9:05 am
(1) SM says:

Coming from an Indian family, our wedding are big enough without even taking guests into consideration! I’m following these guidelines to be respectful, and ensure guests have fun.

1) For the most part, never write “and guest.” Only write and “name.” Therefore, you are not inviting a random guest, you are inviting a spouse, fiancee, or someone they are seriously dating.

2) If you friend doesn’t acknowledge their “other” as a boyfriend or girlfriend, neither do you. If necessary, or if things get more serious, you can add them later. But, have your friend ask — that’s sometimes the only way to know how serious they are.

3) guests w/o other friends at the wedding, and guests traveling very far should be invited with a “guest” — they are putting out a lot of effort for you, you should do the same to help them be comfortable. :)

May 12, 2008 at 4:16 pm
(2) Kristin says:

About a year before my husband and I got married his cousin got married. My husband (boyfriend at the time) and I had been dating about two and a half years and I wasn’t invited to the wedding. I was incredibly offended, my husband even called his aunt to ask why I wasn’t allowed there and she told him that I could come to the wedding, but not the reception. I felt like I was being singled out for some reason. My husband was so angry that he decided not to attend the wedding.

My whole thought is that after two people have been together for a substantial amount of time you need to invite them both… they are a couple!!

May 18, 2008 at 9:50 am
(3) Erica says:

This has been an ongoing debate! My future husbands relative recently got married and they did not invite people who were not engaged or married with dates. My future sister in law, in her late 20′s and dating a man seriously, was invited solo and was offended. For our wedding we are inviting all adults with dates, there will be no children at our wedding but I would feel bad not letting an adult bring a date. I try to imagine myself being invited to a wedding now without a date and I do not think I would attend the wedding. I think even when trying to work around budget issues, brides and grooms alike need to think about the guests they are inviting, why would you want someone to feel uncomfortable at your special day?

June 12, 2008 at 1:48 pm
(4) Kristina says:

In the past year, I have been invited to three weddings without a guest. I have also been in a monogamous relationship for two years–a fact that all three married couples were well aware of. One of these weddings took place in Kansas (I live in NJ), so the married couple expected me to travel to Kansas by myself with no date and only knowing 3 or 4 other people at the event. It is beyond insulting to invite someone to a wedding without a guest if that someone has been in a serious, long-term, and committed relationship. The logic of “Oh, I can’t afford it” doesn’t hold up, either. If you can afford a $1,500 wedding dress, two bands, and a lavish reception AND if you would like people to furnish you with engagement gifts, bridal shower gifts, and wedding gifts AND then expect them to pay out extra to attend your wedding hundreds of miles away, then have the common decency to invite them with a guest. Too often, single people are ostracized in society even though half of all married couples today divorce, and I am sure many more “married” couples are unhappy and uncommitted. If you can’t invite your friends with guests, do some more careful budgeting!

January 27, 2009 at 1:53 am
(5) Perky says:

I have to wonder at all these people being “offended”. Whose wedding is it after all?

My theory is that those who are “offended” by the perceived lack of consideration towards them are in fact merely demonstrating their own inconsiderate nature.

Personally I’m thinking:

-Invites for long term partners.
-Additional consideration for those outside major friend groups (ie singles who won’t know anybody else well).

July 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm
(6) Guy Incognito says:

My relationship just ended because I did not want to bring my girlfriend to my best friend’s wedding. She has severe bipolar disorder, and although she has been good lately, it is generally a dice roll whether she is going to go into a manic episode over the smallest thing, especially when drinking is involved. I am convinced that I made the right decision but feel terrible, like I betrayed her. My invite also did not specify plus one and it is not a large wedding (75 people).

August 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm
(7) Lily says:

My boyfriend of three and a half years is going to be the best man in his best friend’s wedding this Saturday and I was not invited even though we have all hung out together on various occassions and have gone even on double dates! I am terribly offended!

January 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm
(8) Betsy says:

My fiance and I are have a really small wedding 50 ppl and we are only inviting friends and family. And the friends know each other so they don’t need a date. So we are not inviting any or our uncle’s girlfriends. All of our aunts are married. My bro isn’t dating and his siblings are married. All of them live in town and they all know each other so I don’t see a problem with my situation. I really think it depends on the situation.

March 20, 2010 at 2:49 am
(9) Aym73 says:

I was recently invited to a wedding. The bride asked if my daughter could be the flower girl and I was to be a bridesmaid in the wedding party. I was told that I could not bring my fiancee of 8 years, because the groom didn’t like my fiancee. I will be respectfully declining. We are a couple. I understand that it’s her day, however, I do expect some common courtesy and manners.
Not to mention, how can someone deny a girls father the honor of seeing his little one walk down the aisle as flower girl? It’s beyond me.

June 29, 2010 at 11:32 am
(10) M says:

@9 – you’ve been engaged for eight years to your daughter’s father? Really? What’s the holdup? Could the reason the groom doesn’t like your finance be that he won’t actually marry you?

August 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm
(11) Rosco says:

Luckily there were only a few cases where we excluded a borderline significant other. In both cases it was a relationship of less than a year where the two weren’t living together. And there are a few guests who may wish they had a plus one, but if people can’t try to have a good time when they’re surrounded by interesting, nice people then then deserve suffer in boredom!!! Weddings are weddings. Proms are proms

August 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm
(12) anonymous says:

I have been with my fiance for 9 years, and the bride and her family have known my fiance for even longer then that. My fiance has actually done work for the family for FREE!!! I was astonished and hurt that he was not invited to the wedding! Guess I will have to change my guest list now!

October 8, 2010 at 1:33 pm
(13) Michael says:

What people are forgetting is whose day it is. I have some single ppl who I’m inviting but they all know each other. My fiance doesn’t know a lot of ppl and I have no intentions of increasing that amount. We both wanted an intimate affair. And to the person who said that “if you can afford a lavish dress, reception…. then you can afford to invite yada yada yada.” If you are offended don’t go plain and simple

October 28, 2010 at 4:37 am
(14) Elizabeth says:

I recently got married last month. One of the bridesmaids was livid (to the point where she was screaming at me) about the fact that she couldn’t bring a guest. Keep in mind, this person knew both my husband and I extremely well (we met through her), and she knew both sides of family and friends. She also is not dating anyone. She felt it was her right to be able to bring a friend with her, despite knowing that we were on a tight budget. I tried to explain to her that we were only permitting friends and family to bring a “plus one” if there were living together/married or serious relationships. I told her that even close cousins weren’t allowed to bring dates despite dating their girlfriends for a long time. She still didn’t get it.

When I was tired of her arguing with me, I finally gave in and said “ok, tell me who you want to bring, and I’ll try to squeeze him/her in”, she responded that she had no intention of bringing anyone and it was simply the principle of the matter. sigh.

My husband kept things very simple with his explanation- “Why on earth am I going to invite a complete stranger to the wedding to eat my food and drink my wine?” LOL. Perhaps I was too nice to my friend?

May 26, 2011 at 1:07 am
(15) Jen says:

My mother’s cousin is getting married this summer and I was told that I could not invite my boyfriend of 2 years whom I live with. The wedding is HUGE (400 people) and both she and her fiance are millionaires. The wedding is in Vermont and I live in New York, so that entails driving and staying overnight. On one hand, I understand because it is family so therefore I will know a lot of people there, but on the other, this is a rare opportunity to introduce someone very significant and long-term to family members I never see. I know the day is not about me, but it would be nice to have my man by my side a such a special occasion. I think all adults should be offered a +1 so long as it is not a random friend. Am I out of line to feel this way?

November 4, 2011 at 7:53 pm
(16) a769922 says:

I’ve said that least 769922 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

January 24, 2012 at 1:14 am
(17) ST says:

Weddings can be so “stuffy” where couples hang-out together and reminisce about their own relationship that singles feel excluded.

It should be a common courtesy to any organised event that a plus one is invited regardless.

March 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm
(18) cm says:

I have been to a few weddings alone and having to go solo to a wedding is awful. I want my guest to be happy at my wedding and not give them any reason to feel bad about themselves. So with that I have created my own rule. If I was invited to your wedding with a guest then I will invite you with your husband/wife. If I was not then I will not invite you with a guest. All single guests will get to invite a guest. It is as simple as that.

May 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm
(19) Kay says:

Should I be offended that my friend did not invite my fiance to her wedding? We have been enaged longer than she, but are not getting married until next year.

June 21, 2012 at 11:50 pm
(20) Bride to be says:

Kristina you’re clearly single. Once you get married you will understand. Until then please don’t comment on these types of blogs, you just sound uneducated and stuck up. I bet the bride and groom didn’t even want to invite you, they ‘had’ to.

July 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm
(21) Kerry says:

I totally agree with Kristina ” Bride To Be”!

August 4, 2012 at 6:58 pm
(22) karen says:

I agree with Kristina also….this no guest rule is another example of a bridezilla ..my wedding my rules. Haha. Get some manners or wait for more money to plan your wedding

August 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm
(23) Shocked@54 says:

By this ripe age you’d think I’d seen it all. By boyfriend of 2.5 years was excluded from a wedding invite of the daughter of my closest & longest term friend. I’ve known the bride since birth and feel with100% certainty the exclusion came on the direction of mother-of-the-bride, my BFF. BFF/MOB does not like my boyfriend, or any other man as she is quite fresh from her recent divorce. This is an out-of-town affair with estimated travel cost of $1,000 not counting taking days off work. I have heard the “the couple has to watch the cost” platitude before the invite was received. The bride is lovely and gracious and would never make this exclusion ~ I would like to attend with my boyfriend, we would add a few days and take those travel dollars into an opportunity to see the area. Do I go to the source and question the ~oversight~ and seriously test the “best” in Best Friend or just decline to go? Input from all of you younger marrieds, invitees is appreciated.

August 19, 2012 at 3:43 am
(24) Tracy says:

I am engaged, and looking at the “big picture” for planning my wedding on a very tight budget. For those saying “find the money for my guest”… Please be aware the the average cost per guest is almost $200, according to this 2010 infographic. How selfish can you be, to demand that your needs be met for someone else’s wedding, especially if it is a small event? Not only is planning a guest list a huge work, but you are asking someone to pay $200 for you to bring a friend or partner.

I am planning on simply stating on the invitation, “Please request to bring a guest”. They can call me and we can talk about it if they have a committed relationship that we don’t know about, and we will consider our options. I would hate for my fiance to be left out of something as well… but I’d rather decline the invitation than insist someone shed another $200 for us. “Offering a +1″ to every guest is more work than anyone who has not planned a wedding knows — especially on a budget.

August 24, 2012 at 6:10 am
(25) Gen says:

Not allowing your guest to bring a partner is rude. It’s that simple. This kind of “it’s my day to hell with you all” thing is being taken too far. Sure, don’t invite your guests to bring their partners, but be prepared for everyone to find out that you are cheap, déclassé, rude and boorish.

August 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm
(26) Sam says:

“Not allowing your guest to bring a partner is rude.”

Indeed. Spouses, fiances and cohabitees should always be invited to social events together. If you’re not dating, or you’re dating someone but haven’t made a commitment, you are single.

So if you’re invited to a wedding by yourself, it is entirely in order to write to the host and mention that you have recently become engaged to Mr. John Smith, or have moved in with your long-term girlfriend Miss Katie Jones, and ask that they be invited to accompany you to the wedding, and the host should reply in the affirmative. You may inquire about a “serious” long-term relationship that has not yet become an engagement or cohabitation, but shouldn’t even ask if you can bring a random date.

Needless to say, you should never reply to an invitation to you alone baldly asserting that you’ll be bringing a guest.

September 9, 2012 at 1:30 am
(27) karen says:

Tracy, do you actually think the avg cost for reception per person is $200? What could be served for that $$$. I think the average in the midwest is $50-$80 per person. You don’t include any other cost other than the plate cost. It isn’t selfish to want to attend with a guest. It is selfish to invite without. That’s like saying “I want you to come and bring money to help pay for my wedding” but by yourself because you may not cover the plate…Also why invite people by themselves so that they can sit there and just watch the bride and groom as if they are so privileged to be there? That is so self serving. I don’t think you would want to attend an event that you may not know anyone by yourself. Expecting people to sit by themselves and “honor” the married couple is selfish. Just my opinion. If you can’t afford to invite +1 then don’t invite that person at all!

September 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm
(28) weddings says:

Karen – I can definitely see your side of this argument – it’s one where both sides have very valid points, and it’s not an easy decision for a bride and groom to make.

I did want to speak to your cost estimates, however. Don’t forget that adding an additional person doesn’t just mean adding the cost of their food. It also means renting additional plates, glasses, silverware, chairs. It adds to the bar bill, and can add to the cost of favors, nametags, programs, decorations etc. Adding plus ones for all guests means several additional tables of seating, which often means needing a bigger reception site. All of this adds up.

In NYC, it’s difficult to find catering for under $125 per person. Spending $200 per person on food is not uncommon – and that’s before the rental fees, tips, service fees, etc. In other parts of the country costs vary. But even if it were “only” $50 a person, allowing 30 single friends to bring a plus one means another $1500. That’s no small potatoes – it’s rent or the mortgage payment.

I hear what you’re saying about how hard it is to attend a wedding alone, and that it feels disrespectful. I wish there were an easy and affordable way for couples to solve this. Unfortunately it’s a hard decision that brides and grooms face.

October 16, 2012 at 3:44 pm
(29) Rachel says:

Hi there, I have a sticky situation question about inviting plus ones to our wedding! I understand there are certain rules or etiquette such as if you are married/engaged/living together and out of town (wont no anyone else) then you obviously (in my opinion) get a plus one. But what about those newly dating, not dating at all even for family members?

For example: My brother, mother in law, brother in law, father in law, uncle, step sister (her other two sisters are married) — all not dating — anyone! because they are close family i feel its etiquette to give them invites … but its riding up our guest list and budget! — should i just send them one and hope they dont rsvp with a date!

also, my mothers live in partner has five! other kids from previous marriage, two of which are in highschool and not dating, and will be babysitting my two year old –thus no plus one — but his eldest three (who i never see but at christmas time) one has been dating for a while (met significant other once – dont even know his name), the other two dating on and off

and lastly, my ex MOH (who i am still close with – known since highschool – backed out as it was bad timing -kind of a big deal to me, but dont want to let her backing out ruin our relationship) and her two sisters (who i am semi close with – came to my baby shower, and one came to my daughters first birthday) are all not dating anyone, but might be simply because i dont know – they are in university) and her mother who ive known since highschool and was in fact a teacher at my highschool is dating someone for a while but never met — should these four people be given plus ones?

what do i do?!? sorry for the longggg message! but please help!

Thank you!

February 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm
(30) Nurse_nikki says:

My boyfriend whom I lived with was invited to a friends wedding. The invitation only indicates his name, not mine. We live together & have since before this couple was engaged. I know not all people know wedding etiquette & he may or may not understand that not adding my name means I am not invited. This is not a friend of his that I know in person. We are in a serious commited relationship. We have discussed marriage & intend to be engaged soon. Not all engagements are surprises however and I know of his intentions. As the talks of our getting engaged were progressing, we have looked at rings, etc. and then my boyfriend was laid off. Can’t afford a ring right now, so technically not engaged. Yet still this is a long term relationship & we live together. I’m slightly offended, but also understand wedding etiquette. I told my bf he needs to clarify if I am invited otherwise I will not go just because he wants to bring me. Plus, the wedding is out of town & will require overnight stay. However, if I am not invited, I certainly hope that his friend will understand that I will return the courtesy & won’t be inviting him & his wife to my wedding. Regardless if he is my fiancés friend. It’s just rude.
I have also been invited to weddings or in weddings when I was dating but not living with someone. Neither I or my boyfriend at time were offended by the lack of “+ guest.” It’s all dependent on the relationship. I think it would be awkward to attend someone’s wedding with a date you were not in a serious relationship with anyway.

March 4, 2013 at 8:27 pm
(31) NewlyEngaged says:

I totally disagree that it’s selfish of the bride to limit her guest list to people that she knows and loves. A wedding is an intimate event–and the guests should be there to celebrate the couple who are getting married. Obviously, I want my guests to have a great time, and if I could invite everyone’s date, I would! However, singles need to keep in mind that it may not be simply a budget issue. It may be a venue capacity issue! That’s certainly the issue for us. My fiance and I are hoping to get married at a venue that is very special and meaningful to us. However, our venue can only hold 100-150 guests max (and 150 would be really tight). Between my boyfriend and I, the list of our “must invite” loved ones (and spouses who are co-habitating, engaged or married) is already at 138! If you took our “b” and “c” lists, we’d be at 201, without single guests! If you add in guests of singles, we end up closer to 250-275, WAY too many for our venue. Plus, the cost of the venue is $150-170/per person to begin with! Each stranger that gets invited is going to cost us $150-170! I’m HAPPY to spend that on my friends’ husbands, wives, and fiances. However, in my opinion, that seems like a totally unreasonable request for a friend to bring someone they either just met or aren’t seriously dating if it takes a seat away from one of my close friends.

Frankly, when I was single–I never brought dates to weddings UNLESS I was in a serious, committed relationship at the time. I would’ve been uncomfortable bringing a date to a wedding if I had just met him, or if we were not in a serious, committed relationship. That’s too awkward.

BTW–yes, weddings in the Midwest may be under $100, but that’s not the case everywhere. In Los Angeles, $200/person for food, beverage, cake, etc. is a VERY easy number to hit. Most wedding venues start at $100/person without cake or drinks, here!

March 8, 2013 at 7:20 pm
(32) Morg says:

My boyfriend’s best friend who is in the army is getting married in August. Since he is away, his fiancé and maid of honor are doing all of the planning. I have been with my boyfriend for two year but they said that I am not invited, even though I hang out with both ladies socially at least once a month. To make matters worse my boyfriend is in the wedding party! I am very offended and it has been very awkward seeing them knowing that I cannot to attend. My boyfriend is angry as well. It is an overnight wedding since it is to far to drive in one day. We talk of getting married and it would seem unfair to invite both of them when they only invited one of us. I am extremely offended and upset.

March 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm
(33) Susie says:

my colleague invited me to her wedding and not my husband. Out of a group of 7 she said 3 can bring their husbands as they are her friends, the rest of us can’t. Is the
is the norm or should I be offended?

April 16, 2013 at 11:46 am
(34) Rapunzel says:

Regarding the 2010 infographic, the math doesn’t work. The stated cost of $194 per guest simply can’t be reached by adding up the average amounts spent on an individual guest and dividing them by the number of guests in the very same infographic.

For $8601 on catering (helpfully broken down to $61 per head, and that generally covers food and service), $540 on the cake, $351 on invitations, and $222 on favors, that’s $9714. Not exactly chump change! But divided by the 141 wedding guests in the exact same infographic, it works out to $68.89 per guest. Not $194.

Two guests at $68.89 apiece is about $138, which is still $56 short. I suppose drinks for a couple might work out to $56 or so.

The only way I can get even close to the $194 figure is by adding in the venue rental for both the reception and the wedding, the ceremony music, the reception band AND the reception DJ (very few weddings have both), and dividing everything by the average number of guests. That gets me pretty close to $194 per head. But it’s disingenuous at best, to call that number the “cost per guest” and whine that an extra guest will cost this couple $194. It’s simply not true. The band or the venue rental cost the same whether there are 20 guests or 500, and adding one more guest, or even fifty more guests, makes no difference at all unless there are so many extra guests they have to rent a bigger venue. Which is very possible to do.

The cost breakdown on 2010 infographic simply doesn’t support the conclusion it draws in its own per-guest expense number.

April 28, 2013 at 1:43 pm
(35) jl1234567 says:

for those of you that were offended about not being invited…..
It’s not about you! Some of us have a budget to keep in mind

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