Credit: Beautiful Day Photography
There are two words that can strike fear, anger, frustration, and annoyance into the heart of a bride quicker than any other: Plus One. Just the other day I found myself caught up in a frenzy on a bridal Facebook page that started out as another bride requesting wording to let people know that plus-ones weren’t allowed that quickly devolved into several brides ranting about the audacity of SOME people.
My experiences with plus-ones in the wild thus far have been very limited: a couple of nieces asked if they could bring friends from school to the wedding, and on another occasion a friend expressed surprise that I wouldn’t include a plus-one on someone’s invite because “They’re old enough that they should be allowed a guest.” I expect that once our save the dates and invites go out, we’ll be inundated with requests for plus-ones. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading it. Our guest list is extremely tight because we have a lot of people we love that we want to spend the first day of the rest of our lives with and not a lot of money to make that happen. I definitely don’t want to upset anybody we love BECAUSE of our special day.
Plus-ones aren’t quite the same as allowing your friends and family to bring someone. A plus-one is carte blanche to bring ANYONE they want. This means that someone you might have explicitly left off the guest list purposely (such as an old flame, arch-nemesis, political rival or your 10th grade history teacher) might suddenly show up in the receiving line. Some people might even feel pressured to find someone to bring with them when given the option. I can just imagine some of my friends swinging by a bus stop on the way to the wedding “Hey, want a hot dinner? I’ve got a seat to fill!” Plus ones are like the “People you May Know” of the wedding world. You may indeed know some of them and you might even like some of them … but they still don’t have space in your friends/guest list. So … no. We’re not offering plus-ones to our guests. If you don’t have an ampersand beside your name on the outside of your envelope, you have been reserved one seat at our wedding. We’ve done our very best with our guest list to anticipate anyone that would likely bring a guest (including some friends that have significant others we don’t know so well) and included that guest’s name on the invite itself to try to avoid confusion. We’ll reiterate it further on the RSVP card and our wedding website.
Now what if a friend approaches us and says “Hi Matt and/or Julie, would it be okay if I bring my new girlfriend/friend from school/cousin Vinny to the wedding with me? We don’t go to events without each other/they love weddings/he just got me out of going to prison for a crime I didn’t commit and I owe him a nice dinner.”
It’s a little bit different. They’re telling us a specific person they’d like to bring with them and giving a reason they think that person should be added to the list above and beyond simply wanting to have someone on their arm when they show up. Should a guest would make a request like this, chances are we will have been told others will regretfully be unable to attend our wedding. We may have some wiggle room to say yes or no as a result. There are a couple ways this could go, but it has to start with a conversation between the two of us. Matt and I have built our relationship on the cornerstone that while we might fight and disagree, we are always on the same team. Part of that means we can’t make a decision like this without coming to an agreement with one another. This is especially important in this situation because we’ve both made concessions on the guest list as it is. We’ve had to take people we love and care about off the list due to monetary concerns, and we have back-up lists of guests if people decline.. It’d be kind of a slap in the face if one of us made a decision without the other.
I’ll admit, I’m somewhat inclined to say no to most requests of this nature. Chances are if I left your significant other off the list, is because I don’t know them or you haven’t been with them long enough for me to feel comfortable with their cameos in my wedding photos. The last thing I want is for a friend to look back on our celebration with pain because of who their plus-one was (it happens). When it comes to people bringing friends, I think I’d remind them of the people that will already be there that they’re friends with. There might be a few people that only know Matt or I, but we will reach out to them ahead of time to make sure they feel comfortable, and maybe even introduce them to a few of our other friends. (And if you owe someone a meal because of free legal help … there’s a very nice McDonald’s right down the street.) All that said, it is a case-by-case issue and is very much dependent upon how much flexibility we find ourselves with once the responses are all tallied up. It could be moot if we find ourselves with a packed house. So there’s that.
One thing I think is important is that we have to try and not be too upset by friends approaching us. It’s easy to get frustrated with people when planning a wedding. You’ve got a lot on your plate and sometimes a simple question can feel like somebody is putting more pressure on you at the worst possible time. They’re also asking you to alter something you’ve likely deliberated over very seriously. It sounds weird to say it like this, but our guest list is meticulously curated for a reason.
Regardless, they aren’t inside your head. You’re the one who knows about your wedding and its intricacies, and they likely don’t know that you’ll respond in whatever way you respond. Many don’t know the extra burden just one additional guest can create. They may have never planned a wedding themselves, or had the good fortune of not having too many constraints on their guest list that allowed them to hand out plus-ones like Oprah gives away new cars. It might have taken a lot for them to approach you.
Be respectful and courteous in return. Be honest and don’t leave them hanging. They may be upset, but hopefully if you approach them with kindness and understanding it will soften the blow a bit. Be firm about your decision once it’s made. It might not be easy. Respect your decision, and theirs if they decide not to participate in your celebration.