A Wedding Guest’s Guide to Plus-One Etiquette

Wedding guests holding cocktails.

It’s always very exciting to be offered a “plus-one” when you’re invited to a wedding, especially when you don’t know most of the other guests or any at all. While it’s pretty much assumed you’ll receive a plus-one when you’re in a married, common-law, or any other type of long-term relationship, it’s a bit of a free-for-all if you’re single and/or newly dating someone. Should you still bring a date? Do you need to request the permission from the bride and groom as to who can show up on your arm? To help you navigate these tricky waters, here are some general rules to follow.

If You Aren’t Offered a Plus-One, Don’t Bring One

A wedding reception seating chart.

It’s pretty self-explanatory, but just in case you were considering take a date anyway if you weren’t offered one—don’t. Weddings are expensive, and while you might feel a little miffed that you were not offered the option of bringing someone, there’s probably a very good (financial and/or logistical) reason for it. Swallow your pride, and take one for the team.

Don’t Ask for a Plus One

Even if you’re close with the bride and/or groom, refrain from asking them for a plus-one because you’re concerned you won’t have anyone to talk to. Again, the bride and groom most likely had to vet their guest list over and over again, so there’s a good reason why you weren’t invited with one. Don’t make things awkward or uncomfortable for the future married couple. Your best bet is to show up solo with your chin held high.

Be Clear About Who You Are Bringing

If you do get a plus-one, make sure the bride and groom know who you are bringing. A wedding is an intimate occasion, and it’s important for them to know who will be part of their special day. While it might be tempting to write “+1” and on the RSVP card and figure out who you will bring later, a wedding deserves more attention and respect than that. After all, the couple is paying for your plus one’s meal and possibly drinks. Therefore, your guest shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Don’t Sub Out Your Plus One (If You Can Help It)

In other words, don’t use a guest as a placeholder until you get a better option. This isn’t a typical Friday night date. This is someone’s special day. Stick to the guest that you mentioned on your RSVP card. If for some reason your guest can’t make it due to illness or emergency (or even a break-up), you should check first with the bride and groom if you can bring someone else.

Don’t Bring Your Best Friend

If you’re single and are invited with a plus-one, that’s not an excuse to bring your best friend as your wingwoman/man. Some people are more traditional and expect your plus-one to be an actual date. If you’re not certain, clarify with the bride and/or groom. They might be fine with you bringing a friend, but it’s always a good idea to check first.

Bring a Gift Together

A wedding guest holding a gift.

While your plus-one might not know the bride and groom, it’s still good etiquette for them to provide a small token or gift; after all, they are being treated to a nice evening of food, drinks, and dancing. If your guest doesn’t feel comfortable with contributing to a wedding gift with you, then suggest to them that they make a donation to the couple’s favorite charity or surprise them with a “best wishes” greeting card and/or gift card to their favorite store.

Wear Respectful Attire

The wedding isn’t about you or your plus one, which is why it’s crucial that you are wearing appropriate attire that’s tasteful and doesn’t draw attention to either of you. Attending a summer wedding might mean shorter hemlines and going sleeveless, but remind your date not to wear anything too revealing. And definitely don’t wear ivory or white.

Be on Your Best Behavior

Ensure you’re inviting a guest who isn’t going to cause any drama or make a scene. While it’s important that you and your plus one have fun at the wedding (why else go?!) you want to ensure that you’re conscientious of your behavior. Make sure that you greet the bride and groom, and engage in some meaningful chitchat at some point during the event. Most especially, don’t do anything you will regret in the morning. Remember, it’s a wedding: not a rager.

While every couple is different, by following the above tips you’ll be sure to maintain the respect of the bride and groom while also ensuring that you (and your plus-one) will have an amazing time.

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