People are really opinionated about plus ones (+1s, whatever) at weddings. I’ve heard that it’s mandatory to give every single guest a +1. I’ve heard of friendships torn apart because a guest didn’t get one. I’ve heard of people having an awful time at weddings because the couple told them they had to bring a date and they spent all night babysitting a stranger instead of hanging out with their friends. Like many etiquette issues, it’s a place where people assume there is one rule and that they know what that one rule is.
You do not have to offer +1s to anyone at your wedding–that is a rule. But if you want to, it can get tricky to figure out who should and should not get one. I’ve found that it helps to have a few things in mind when offering +1s to your guests.
- Is your guest dating anyone? If they’re dating someone seriously, they shouldn’t get a +1, but rather an invitation to their actual significant other. Where to draw the line on significant others, though? Only married couples? Engaged? Living together? Dating for over six months? Whatever you decide, be consistent. No one will appreciate if they couldn’t bring their boyfriend of a year and find another guest got to bring someone they met on Tinder the week before.
- Does your guest know other people? One of the biggest arguments for +1s is for guests who may not know anyone else, as it’s no fun to show up to a giant party by yourself. Sometimes you need a buddy, and offering a +1 to that friend you know from work who has never met any of your other friends before is a great way to ensure they’ll have someone to talk to. On the other hand, if you have a group of single friends who’ve all known each other since high school, it may be more of a burden for them to bring a date and make sure that date is having a good time than to just come alone and hang out with their friends. This goes double for a destination wedding. It’s one thing to drive an hour to a party where you don’t know somebody, but quite another to fly to Mexico for it. If you’re friend’s not the solo adventurer type, offer to let them bring a friend and make a vacation out of it.
- How many people are going to be at your wedding? If you’re having a 500 person wedding, you probably won’t a few +1s you’ve never met before. However, if you have a 20 person ceremony and an intimate dinner, cousin Betty’s girlfriend of two weeks might be an awkward addition.
- Are you comfortable with strangers around? Offering +1s means you’re giving your guest sole discretion as to who they bring. You may give one thinking your college friend will be bringing her new boyfriend, but she may bring another friend, or her mom, or her yoga teacher. The nature of the open offer is that it’s up to her, so make sure you are comfortable with that.
Similar consideration should go into choosing whether or not to bring a guest if the invitation is extended. Is your guest the type to mingle and make friends quickly, or are they going to need to have you by their side all evening? If ten of your best friends will also be at this wedding, is a guest necessary? If you know nobody else there and are bringing a guest, are they a person you can have fun with?
Remember, you should not stand for people demanding to bring guests, or demanding to bring more guests than they were allowed, or asking to swap out one guest for another. And if you RSVP for yourself because you don’t have a plus one, you’re not allowed to add one after the fact, even if your original invitation offered you a guest.