I always thought it was standard etiquette that if the invite says “Joe & Guest” that means Joe gets a guest, but if it only says “Joe” then Joe does not get a guest. Anyways, in planning, I have learned that many people automatically think they get a plus one/guest. Unfortunately, my fiancée and I don’t have the space or funds to include guests for everyone. How do we make it clear to those people that they do not get a plus one? I know of brides who have received response cards back saying “Joe, plus one” even when Joe did not get a guest. I hope to avoid that awkward situation, but I am not sure how. Finally, is it rude not to include a plus one/guest for everyone? I really don’t want to offend people, nor do I want to come off as rude. Any sage advice?
First of all, lady, it’s not rude to not invite people you’ve never heard of. I mean, what? Is “Guest” going to be mad at you? Right. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. As for Joe, well, time for Joe to shape up and stop inviting people to parties he’s not throwing. So here is the deal: Invitations and plus-ones are pretty cut and dry. The invitation should say the names of each guest (unless you’re inviting someone’s children, in which case “Mr. Ben and Ms. Eileen Dover and Family” does the trick). If an invitation just says, “Ms. Fanny Pack,” then only dear Fanny is invited. Period.
You should only feel obliged to invite a guest’s date if they are married, engaged, living together, or in a very long term relationship. In that case, yes, you have to invite them even if you don’t know them very well or like them very much. Recent boyfriends and girlfriends and random bar hook-ups aren’t required, particularly if you don’t know their names. Basically, pro-tip, if you don’t know their names, you have every right not to invite them. I mean, unless you don’t know the names of your friends partners, in which case, that’s why Facebook was invented. (I think. I’m not actually sure on that point.)
But! Here is where it gets tricky. There are people that will argue that you should let single friends bring dates so they feel included, and if you’re fine with that and can afford it, then “and Guest” away! But at APW, we stand firm (with Miss Manners) in saying that it’s not required. So if you can’t afford it (and you can’t) or aren’t comfortable with it, take care of your single friends by seating them thoughtfully with other singles, or people they’d get along with (or, um, more than get along with, if you want that kind of wedding. Cough). And if your single friends can’t manage to come celebrate your union without dates, then so it goes. Let your whiny friends know that sometimes fabulous meet-ups can happen at a good wedding. (Did I mention my bridesmaid and my husband’s groomsman have been friendly? Yeah. I did that.)
Simple! Cut and dry! Solved! Invitations are easy, right?
Except one thing. Response cards are one of those notoriously painful tasks in wedding planning. I think someone made a horror movie about them once. Not only will you need to chase a few people down when they respond late (and they will), decipher chicken scratch and missing names (psst, number each response card in pencil and keep a personal list of which numbered response is for which guest), but as you’ve inferred, you also may have guests assume they can bring a date, despite your clearly addressed invitation to the contrary. While you may be able to cooly sail through the moment where your single girlfriend inexplicably RSVPs for three people, prepare for your partner to yell things like, “Damn it, this isn’t a house party!” (Or, um, you might also yell that.) Another pro-tip: whoever does the yelling is maybe not the person who should take the next step of making the dreaded phone call.
Before you pick up the phone, realize that weddings don’t happen everyday, so while you and I may know the ins and outs of invitation etiquette, your guests probably don’t. Or, at least, feel free to pretend that they don’t to calm yourself down. Assume that they don’t realize that venues have a maximum capacity and don’t understand just how expensive that extra plate for dinner will cost. So, time to take a gulp of wine, grit your teeth, and pick up that phone. Emphasize the fact that it was clearly a misunderstanding and apologize, but make it clear that you won’t be able to accommodate extra guests, and stand firm. Don’t feel obligated to give a reason (for example, it’s a good idea not to mention you’re just flat broke, even if that’s the truth), but do feel obligated to be as nice as you can. Annoyed grumbles should only happen before and after the dreaded phone call.
Here is wishing you all guests that are seamlessly polite. And a bourbon when that doesn’t happen quite as we’d hoped for you. At the very least, know you’re not alone. Couples all over the world grumble into their bourbon with you.
Photo: Emily Takes Photos
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!