Wedding Ideas

Wedding Etiquette Minefield: What’s Your +1 Rule?

Posted on November 30, 2012 by New Jersey Bride

Wedding Date movie

I’m anxious just writing this. That’s how powerful the +1 Question is when it comes to wedding guest lists and etiquette. (If you’re not familiar, +1 is the courtesy some brides extend to their guests who are not married, allowing them to bring a date to the event.)

When you’re on a budget – and who isn’t? – the guest list is a big deal.

That several hundred dollars could pay for your invitations. Or your bouquet.

But if you don’t give single guests a +1, won’t they be offended?

Old-world etiquette rules stated that every guest above the age of 18 gets an ‘And Guest’ on their invitation. In more recent years, the age was 16, believe it or not. Because you know how many 16 year olds are in serious relationships.

But those were the days when weddings were super small-scale and much less expensive than they are now. The per-person price may have been $25 for a formal wedding. Not $250 like you see at some places near us.

So that left brides and grooms with a big dilemma. Do we give +1s to everyone, or just to people in serious relationships?

That’s the kicker. What’s a serious relationship, after all? Dating for a year? Engaged? What about the cousin who got engaged to the guy she met online three months ago vs. the cousin who’s been dating her significant other for a year? Doesn’t that kill the ‘only engaged couples’ rule?

Parents will be quick to tell you which cousins have to get a +1, and you know which friends would become total drama queens if you don’t give them a +1. You can’t divide your circle of friends into ‘taken’ and ‘dateless,’ right?

Here’s my Aisle Files tip: Wedding guests are more understanding than ever when you can’t give everyone a +1. Some singles actually prefer it, because that means they can ‘shop’ the single guys at the wedding who don’t have dates by their sides, who may or may not be rent-a-dates. Not that you’re turning your wedding into a speed-dating event. But it does thin the herd.

Singles also say it saves them money when they don’t have to bring a date to a wedding, since they can now share a hotel room with a circle of other friends, and they only have to give a cash gift that’s suitable for coming from one person, not two. They also don’t want to have to look after a date who doesn’t know anyone else at the wedding. They’re free to roam, free to dance, free to get group photos without that temporary guy in them.

So with that understood, here’s your challenge: You have to come up with your own +1 Rule, and here’s what often works well: just give +1s to couples with whom you’ve socialized, and couples who you consider in serious relationships. If you only have three or four singles, just give them the +1s and call it a day.

If anyone complains about not getting a +1, tell them you have space issues to contend with, and while you wish you could give everyone a +1, you’ve had to make some difficult cuts to your guest list. It hasn’t been easy. People will understand, and they may say, “If you get any cancellations, just let me know if I can ask the new guy I’m dating.” Which sounds perfectly fine. Wedding couples get last-minute ‘can’t make it’ phone calls all the time. Just don’t you be the one to say, “If we get any cancellations, we’ll let you know.” That can really sound rude.

Oh, and here’s an important +1 tip: give them to single senior citizens, so they can bring a friend or a medical aide (who will really enjoy the treat of being invited to a wedding.)

What’s your +1 rule? And how do you plan to handle it if someone asks to bring a rent-a-date?