Wedding +1s Can Be Kinda Awkward!

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All the plus ones

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I have a two part question about plus one’s at a wedding. 1) Can you bring a platonic +1 to a wedding? 2) Can you bring someone as your +1 who the bride and groom are friends with but didn’t invite to the wedding?

Sincerely,

Lonely Wedding Guest

Official Etiquette:

Couples should never issue a plus one as “Your Name +1”. It leads to exactly these type of situations. Instead, the couple should call up their single guest and inquire if there is anyone in particular they would like to bring to the wedding. Then they should issue the invitation as “Your Name and Your Guest’s Name.”

Our Take:

Victoria: Ooooh that’s a tricky one. I think a platonic +1 is fine. Although it does seem like a lot of people think you should only bring a “date” and like, bringing your mom would be weird.

Jaya: Yeah, the whole point is it’s up to the guest to decide. People should get over the “date” thing. Unless there’s a name on the invite, if it just says +1 you’re leaving it up to them to decide.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean that’s why you shouldn’t give a generic +1, you should ask if there is anyone they would like to bring to the wedding and then send an invitation with their name.

Jaya: Yeah, you can’t just assume they’ll bring their boyfriend or something. Maybe they want to bring their plumber.

Victoria: Although, I suppose then you put yourself in an awkward situation if they say, yes, I want to bring my mom and you’re like errr. And to the second part, I think it way trickier, because it can kind of feel like, okay, the bride and groom made a decision not to invite this person, and now I’m going to sneak them in with my +1. It’s way weird.

Jaya: Absolutely, and you never really know what the thing is. Like maybe they just ran out of room and are really upset they couldn’t invite this person, and are going to be super excited that they can do it. Or maybe it was for a reason and they wanted to send a clear message and now that’s messed up.

Victoria: Yeah, I do think if you are going to do something like that, you should run it by the bride and groom first. Be like, “I know you didn’t invite [NAME[ but I’d like to bring him as my plus one, but of course I understand if you would rather I pick someone else.” Although, you are still putting the couple on the spot. And if they don’t want to explain why they didn’t invite the person, then they are going to be really uncomfortable.

Jaya: Yeah, but like, as the couple you’re gonna have to deal with that. That’s what you get for +1s.

Victoria: Haha yeah, +1s are a weird thing anyway. Like it assumes that grown adults can’t be in public without a romantic “date.” Like it kind of reminds me of when my parents were young and like, you HAD to take a date to everything so you would scrounge up whoever was available. For me, people should only really do +1s for guests who are not going to know anyone at the wedding but the one or both members of the couple. (Definitely check to find out if anyone is in a relationship you didn’t know about though!)

Jaya: Yeah! It really is a relic. And I think people think they’re being nice by including a +1 but so often it can just be a source of stress. Either you feel like now you have to find a date or it’s like, the person you are dating isn’t considered seriously enough to get invited on their own.

Victoria: Yeah! The pressure to find a date is crazy. Like, why would I want to hang out with someone I’m going to have to entertain rather than just hang out with all the friends I have who are already at the wedding? And there’s nothing more annoying than that friend who you never get to see who brings a date to the wedding and spends the whole time with the date instead of catching up with everyone. I mean, choose your choices, but still.

Jaya: Yesssss, like, now you gotta make sure this person is having a good time, and you feel like a babysitter.

Victoria: Yep, just go and be freeeee. not to mention what if your date gets drunk and obnoxious?!?!

Jaya: Omgggggg, and you’re that person who brought that asshole.

Victoria: I brought a relative stranger to a sorority formal once and he got drunk and obnoxious and I almost DIED of embarrassment. That was freshman year and I never brought a date-date again. You were my date one year and you were a lovely date!

Jaya: I feel like I’m a pretty chill date.

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Thank Goodness We…Oh Wait We Still Sort Of Have Chaperones

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But where is the supervision!? [Via]

We’ve already spoken about how no girl of good breeding would be caught dead at a bachelor’s apartment past 10 pm, or ever at dinner alone. But let’s say you’re a man. You’ve been introduced to a lady of good breeding from your own class and she has “meaning intentions” and you want to get to know her better, outside of her home. For that, you’d probably need a chaperone.

Often times, a mother would be the chaperone for her own daughters. But if that wasn’t possible, an outside chaperone could be enlisted. These were typically older, widowed or unmarried women who ensured that a young woman’s virtue remained intact throughout an evening of interaction with men. In Europe in the late 1800s, it was the chaperone’s job to introduce her “protege” to the hostess and other important people at any social gathering. And if a man wanted to call upon the protege, he had to ask her chaperone’s permission first. Chaperone’s had permission to accept or decline invitations from young men on behalf of their proteges, especially if they could not be present, and would often leave their own calling cards along with those of their proteges.

As we hit the 20th century, chaperones were not nearly as omnipresent in America as they apparently were in Europe. Putnam’s Handbook of Etiquette (1913) mentions the “Spanish law which says no unmarried woman may go out unaccompanied whatever her age and mission.” This largely has to do with European rules of class and society. “ In Europe, where social lines are distinctly drawn, a young woman either belongs in ‘society’ or else she does not,” writes Agnes H. Morton in 1909’s Etiquette: Good manners for all people, especially for those who dwell within the broad zone of the average (what a title). “In the former case she is constantly attended by a chaperone. In the latter case she is merely a young person, a working girl for whom ‘society’ makes no laws.” This was the case in America at the turn of the century, where many young, single women held jobs.

Morton agrees that, for these working American girls, enlisting chaperones to take them to and from work every day would be “burlesque in the extreme.” However, just because you work doesn’t mean you’re still not a delicate flower that needs constant watch around men.  “The girl who is thus allowed to go alone to an office in business hours sometimes thinks it absurd for any one to say that she must not go alone to a drawing room and she does go alone. Right here this independent girl makes a mistake.”

Morton suggests the solution is “intermittent chaperonage,” because while at work, a young woman is “shielded from misinterpretation.” This idea of misinterpretation is basically what chaperonage is about–the idea that young people, especially women, needed a social translator, lest they say something risque and their reputation ruined.

As time went on the rules relaxed a bit, and chaperones became more like teenage watchdogs instead of personal attendants. In 1948, Vogue’s book of etiquette mentions teenage dates where young women couldn’t go out without a chaperone if they were going to be out past 7. It also mentions college dances, where male guests must first greet the chaperone or the house mother before entering the party, or cut in to introduce themselves if the chaperone is dancing.

Today, chaperones are mainly relegated to school dances and other organized, nighttime gatherings of teens, though there definitely are still regions where supervision on dates is required (*cough* Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding *cough*). And honestly, how different is the assumption that a boy must ask permission of the father to take a girl on a date than asking permission of a chaperone?