Wedding Guest Etiquette: Who Needs a Plus-One (and Who Doesn’t)

wedding-guest-etiquette-who-needs-a-plus-one-and-who-doesnt

Creating your wedding guest list is tricky enough, but when you throw in the topic of plus-ones? It can get even more confusing!

So, what exactly are the rules when it comes to plus-one etiquette, and how can you avoid any potential awkwardness along the way? Read on as we explain who actually needs a plus-one, who doesn’t, and how to set the right expectations with your guests.

wedding-guest-etiquette:-who-needs-a-plus-one-(and-who-doesn’t)
Photo via David and Kathrin

Who Absolutely Needs a Plus-One

Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that your wedding guest list is totally your prerogative. Ultimately, this is your special day, and any invitees (including plus-ones) are completely up to your discretion.

With this being said, it’s generally understood that a plus-one should always be offered to the following people on your guest list:

  • Anybody in an established relationship – regardless of whether or not you’ve met the partner in question. We’d say this includes any couples who are married, engaged, living together, or in a committed and long-term relationship. 

Inviting long-term partners is seen as a sign of respect. Think about it like this: how would you feel about attending a wedding without your spouse? Choosing not to invite any long-term partners can be seen as an etiquette faux pas, so keep this in mind as you begin creating your wedding guest list.

  • It’s also considered common courtesy to extend a plus-one to any members of your wedding party. Why? Well, your bridesmaids and groomsmen will be playing a pretty big role in your wedding, not to mention contributing their time, love, money, and energy to help you have the best day ever. Even if they decide not to bring a plus-one, it’s nice to put the offer out there. We think you’ll agree they’re pretty deserving of a date!
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Photo via Vue Photography

Who Else Should Be Considered For a Plus-One

So, with long-term partnerships and bridal party members sorted, is there anyone else that should be considered for a plus-one?

If your budget and venue allow, we also think it’s a good idea to extend a plus-one to any solo guests who won’t know anybody else at the wedding, especially if they’re traveling to join you. While weddings are a great opportunity to mingle and meet new people, let’s be honest  – attending a wedding alone can be seriously daunting (and super awkward!).

Again, there’s no strict obligation, but offering a plus-one in this situation would be a kind and thoughtful gesture to ensure all of your guests are comfortable.

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Photo via Jose Villa

Who Doesn’t Need a Plus-One

Whether you’re working on a tight budget or simply planning a more intimate affair, you may be wondering who doesn’t need a plus-one. 

We’d say any guests who are single or casually dating but are friendly with other guests (and therefore, won’t be isolated), don’t necessarily need a plus-one. Sure, if your budget and venue has some wiggle room, it’s definitely a nice gesture – but it won’t be considered rude or incorrect etiquette if you don’t offer one.

With this in mind, we’d recommend setting a blanket rule for single guests and plus-ones. If you decide to offer plus-ones to some single guests, but not others, this could be seen as an etiquette no-no. 

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Photo via Weddings by Scott and Dana

How to Address Plus-Ones On Your Wedding Invitations

Okay, so once you’ve decided who is (and isn’t) receiving a plus-one, how should you go about communicating this to your guests? 

First, it’s important to consider the wording of your wedding invitations to ensure guests clearly understand whether or not they’ve received a plus-one. You can do this by:

  • Addressing your invitation to the exact invitee/s. For couples in a partnership, address their invitation using both names. For single guests, address it using their name followed by “and guest”. For guests who aren’t receiving a plus-one, simply address it to their name. Read our guide on exactly how to address your wedding invitations here!
  • To avoid confusion for guests who don’t have a plus-one, you could also include the phrase “We have reserved 1 seat in your honour” or “Number of guests attending: 1” on your RSVP card.

If you foresee any potential awkwardness regarding plus-ones, you can also use your wedding website to set some expectations with your guests. Simply include a simple sentence such as “Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate plus-ones due to our venue capacity. We appreciate your understanding, and can’t wait to celebrate with you on the day!”

Pro tip: Wedding websites are also the perfect place to address other topics such as kids, registry details, and dress codes. Read our guide on exactly what to include on your wedding website here!

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Photo via Carla Penoncelli

What To Do if a Wedding Guest Requests a Plus-One

Regardless of your invitation and wedding website wording, you might still find guests asking for a plus-one, or even going right ahead and RSVPing for an additional guest (yes, really!). So what’s the best way to tackle this awkward scenario?

First, you’ll want to decide whether or not it’s an issue. If any other guests have declined their invitations and you have some extra seats available, you might decide to extend a plus-one. But, you certainly don’t have to! 

If a guest has contacted you to request a plus-one, simply use the same sentiment you shared on your wedding website by saying something like:

“Sadly our venue is at full capacity and we’re unable to accommodate any additional guests, apologies! Look forward to seeing you there on the day”.

If a guest has already gone ahead and returned their RSVP with a plus-one, you can respond with a polite but firm statement like:

“Hi (name), thanks so much for sending back your RSVP. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate any plus-ones due to venue restrictions. Thanks for your understanding – we can’t wait to celebrate with you on the day!”

Navigating Wedding Guest Etiquette

Dealing with guest list dilemmas can be tricky business, but try not to feel guilty or pressured about any decisions you have to make for the day! As long as you keep things kind and courteous, your guests will likely be more than understanding of your position. 

Guestlist giving you a serious headache? Check out these 5 common RSVP nightmares to expect while planning a wedding, and our top tips on how to manage them.