Your Ultimate Guide to Plus Ones

Bring a boy band to a wedding

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.

Wedding +1s Can Be Kinda Awkward!


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?


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.