When you begin to plan a wedding, the first two things you have to decide are your budget and your guest list because everything will come from there. The budget is up to you (but just let me say that you can have a beautifully polite wedding on $500 just as easily as you can have a $1 million wedding that is full of faux pas) but when it comes to your guest list there are a few things to remember.
Miss Manners’ advice about guest lists is to decide who you want to invite before you start looking at venues and getting limitations on the number of people you can include. Her opinion is that the day should be more about sharing a special time with the people you love rather than having the perfect venue that can’t hold all the people you love. This is pretty subjective of course. [Ed Note: We decided that we couldn’t handle being at the center of more than 150 people without a lot of social anxiety triggering, so we looked at venues with that limit, which gave us room to invite everyone we really cared about without there being a guest list of 300 4th cousins and “family friends” we’d never met. -Jaya]
Sometimes though, the people you love have people they love and those partners also need to be included. People who are married, engaged, or living together (in a romantic sense) are considered social units and must be invited together. Sorry if you’ve never met your kindergarten best friend’s husband, you must still invite him. Many people also extend this to long term romantic partners who don’t live together.
Luckily, there is no obligation to invite single people with an “and guest” or “plus one.” If you do know that a friend might want to bring some “special” that you don’t really know, you should ask them for the name and address the invitation to your friend and that person by name rather than just as a plus one. This way you also prevent a rude situation where a guest brings a plus one who you didn’t want at the wedding.
Invitations for people you know won’t be able to attend are a kind gesture for people whom you are very close to. However, be cautious about sending them to people who aren’t very close friends or family as wedding invitations often make people feel obligated to send a gift and sending them out willy nilly to far away people can seem greedy.
I used to be very against A lists and B lists, because duh, no one wants to be on the B list and it can be very hurtful if they find out they are. But I encountered a situation where a couple was having a wedding and in their long planning process had made some new friends that they weren’t able to invite as everything had already been set. However, a couple days before the wedding, they heard that a few guests weren’t able to make it, so they called up some of their new friends and explained the situation and said that they would love it if they would be able to come on such short notice. The friends were thrilled and came and had a great time. The moral of the story being that it can work, but it deserves a very personal phone call.