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Who should get a plus one at a wedding? The answer is tricky. Leave a comment


When The Plus One hit streaming services in October, the movie comically demonstrated why many couples are strict about their wedding invites. The on-demand rom-com starring Ashanti and Cedric the Entertainer is about an insufferable surprise plus one who shows up with the bride’s best friend — even though she specified he could bring “anyone” except his ex-girlfriend Marie. Hilarity ensues with Marie breaking nearly every code of conduct for wedding guests from loud outfits to unsolicited speeches.

Plus one invitations are the subject of scores of Reddit posts, viral TikTok videos, and even a short-lived promotional Tinder feature. Everyone who wants a plus one wants to know how to get one like they’re asking for advice on how to score sold out Taylor Swift tickets. As expected, Reddit does not have a clear answer but every commenter has an opinion on who’s the asshole.

It is now engagement season and soon it will be wedding season, which means another round of out-of-contact sorority sisters, soon-to-be former best friends, and disgruntled step-cousins who did not receive a plus one to a wedding. If this sounds like you — and you don’t want to pester the to-be-weds — we’ve spoken to the experts to get to the bottom of this hotly debated topic. Who is supposed to get a plus one to a wedding?

Let’s start with this: Never assume you have a plus one. Just because you gave your bestie a plus one to your wedding does not mean you got one for his. If you were given a plus one, it will say so on the very expensive piece of cotton paper in the mail or in the online RSVP portal. If you both live together and there’s only one name on the invitation, I have some unfortunate news for your fiancé.

Let’s start with this: Never assume you have a plus one.

Technically, if one is going ‘by the book’ — and the book being Emily Post’s Etiquette — mandatory plus one invitations should be extended to guests’ spouses, fiancés, and live-in partners. “Even if you’ve never met or they are not your favorite people, your guest is part of a package deal,” write Anna and Lizzie Post.

But wedding planner Lauren Schaefer Goodner insists there’s not really a “hard and fast rule” anymore. “It comes down to the two people getting married.” Throughout our interview, she stressed many times: “It is not up to the guests.”

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From the countless posts on online forums, we know that there are strong feelings. Plus one policies can be rude; they can hurt feelings; they can be unfair. But as my New York Italian ancestors would say: It is what it is. So it doesn’t matter if me and my youngest sister have been dating our partners for comparable amounts of time. If her boyfriend gets an invite to our sister’s wedding and my girlfriend does not, life’s tough. Get a helmet.

“It is not up to the guests.”

Professional wedding officiant Hope Mirlis points out one caveat. If you’re someone footing the bill or chipping in a significant amount of the budget, you’d be justified in declaring, “I need a table. I want to invite [some] of my friends.” Depending on the size of the venue, it’s not crazy to demand at least some company while the young people jump up and down to Lil Jon.

Why didn’t I get a plus one?

There are plenty of reasons why a person would want to bring a plus one. If you’re partnered, of course you want to experience a wedding with someone you love — even if just to kick their shin to remind them that you’d love to have one of these parties yourself in the next year or two. If you don’t know many people at the wedding — maybe you’re a really close college roommate who isn’t tapped into the present day social circle — it can be nice to have a buffer with you to avoid unwanted conversations about fantasy football draft strategy. Maybe you want to bring a business partner to make some magic happen with your future brother-in-law’s wealthy father.

And let’s be honest: some of us just want to feel like we were important enough to get a plus one.

Podcaster Ashleigh Coffie recommends having some humility before you inconvenience the betrotheds with your hurt feelings. “Realistically, where do you think you’re going to be sitting: closer to the front or closer to the back?” Yes, we were all important enough to be invited to the wedding. But some of us are more important than others. Are you sure it’s you? Immediate family and wedding party members, she says, are close enough to ask about (but not demand) a plus one “without feeling audacious.”

Also, keep in mind what goes into a wedding — and how expensive they can be — should you choose to push the issue. One of my married sisters told me, “We didn’t invite anyone we wouldn’t buy a $200 meal for” — because that’s what it can cost. Most online estimates price catered weddings at $70 to $200 per person. Venue size is another reason. There are only so many seats! Maybe the couple got the date they wanted at a smaller venue and were forced to make difficult decisions. If they’ve never met your special someone, those can be some of the first cuts made.

“We didn’t invite anyone we wouldn’t buy a $200 meal for.”

Coffie, who co-hosts the Hue I Do wedding podcast, suggests that there was “more than likely a reason” that you were invited but could not bring someone else. Just assume it was because of the budget or venue size and your on-again-off-again girlfriend was a downsizing casualty. If the reason is more personal than that, trust me, you don’t want to know. There is no good that is going to come from pressing the question. Either you find out that your boyfriend was a creep to the bride in her DMs or you find out that the groom considers you a close friend but not that close of a friend. Instead of being upset that you can’t bring a loved one or a human security blanket, feel grateful that you were among the few dozen people invited to celebrate the couple’s love slash tax break.

Can I ask for a plus one if I’m a family member?

However, you might really, really want to bring somebody. “If you think you deserve a plus one, you should ask,” assures Mirlis. But, approach with caution. Mirlis, whose services include premarital counseling and day-of wedding yoga, suggests language like, “‘I’m interested in bringing someone. Is there room?'” You want to ask for this big favor without making it an equally big deal. “It’s certainly okay to ask knowing that the answer may be no.” And hey, maybe someone else RSVPed no in protest and there’s now a plate available for you and your wife’s long-time polyamorous third.

“You have more power if you’re a close family member,” says Mirlis. And by the way, that means siblings, parents, and adult children. Reddit is filled with cousins complaining because they can’t bring an unknown boyfriend from her Instagram stories to the wedding. Recognize your role.

Schaefer Goodner is less forgiving about plus one grievances. When asked what any guest should do if they think they were supposed to get a plus one, her response was: “Keep it to themselves.”

Thoughtful wedding planners like Schaefer Goodner, who has overseen guest list clashes for eight years, prefer to keep her couples as calm as possible since planning a wedding is stressful enough. If you’re an immediate family member, talk to a parent or sibling or someone involved in the planning process first. They might be able to gauge if the couple can handle another adjustment to The Grand Plan. You might even find out a specific reason for the snub. Funnel your frustration through literally anyone other than the brides and grooms — without making it gossip.

She adds, “They probably already feel like shit for not giving you a plus one.”

“They probably already feel like shit for not giving you a plus one.”

Do members of the bridal party get an automatic plus one?

As for bridal party entitlement, your instinct may be that you ‘deserve’ to bring your significant other even if they’ve never shared a time zone with the couple. But remember what goes into being a bridesmaid or a groomsman. “You’re so crazy busy and preoccupied throughout the day that you’d see your plus one less than anyone else.” And that’s not fun for your person either who might not even be at the same table as you during dinner.

Ultimately, it’s up to the couple with whom they want to celebrate that special day. That’s what everyone I spoke with said. Attending a wedding is not supposed to be about status and ego. It’s about celebration. So, celebrate!

Neither of my sisters extended me plus ones to their weddings (one because she hadn’t yet met my girlfriend at the time and the other because I was single at the time). So, as brother of the brides, I can plead my case with them — possibly after running it by Mom or the wedding planner. But the decision is theirs to make. That’s as the brother. If my cousin Parker doesn’t give me a plus one for her wedding next year, I should just have a Coke and a smile.

“Hopefully you can find a way to have a good time — if you choose to come,” says Coffie.

Which brings up a great point if you are still centering yourself after reading all this. “On the other hand, it’s up to the guest to decide if they want to come [to the wedding solo],” reminds Schaefer Goodner. “If it’s really so upsetting for someone that they can’t bring a plus one, they don’t need to attend either. That’s all I’ll say there.”


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