Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Q & A: Turning Away +1 Guests

Reader Question: My soon-to-be husband and I made the decision that if a guest is not already married or in a long term relationship, we are not including a "plus one" on their invite. We also have chosen not to have children at the wedding either. We had to draw the line somewhere so the guest list wouldn't get completely out of control.

We'd rather have a full guest list of people we love and know well than to have to cut our list to accommodate those who want to bring people we're not familiar with. We'd love to have children there but, you know, we don't have very much money so sacrifices needed to be made. It was difficult but we both felt like we made the right decision for ourselves and our wallets.

We haven't sent out our invites yet, just our Save the Dates, but I recently had to have a very difficult and uncomfortable conversation with a single relative who expected to bring a guest. I could tell my relative was upset and I felt bad so I said your guest is more than welcome to come to the ceremony and/or the reception after dinner. I explained that our budget limits who we can invite, particularly with catering. My relative has since informed me that they will then both not attend dinner and just find a restaurant in the vicinity.

Although that makes me feel uncomfortable I think I need to respect my relative's decision. I do, however, wonder how I can ensure that our other guests will respect our decision to not include plus ones. Is there any way we can politely address the issue when the invitations go out? We plan to specify "adult only reception" but how do you handle plus ones? I thought of including a "FAQ" page on our website for issues such as this, but then what if some people never visit the site?

Sorry such a long e-mail, and thank you in advance for your help!

Yes, the dreaded plus-one situation. I have been in your shoes. It is quite the dilemma.

Matt and I felt the same way you do. We wanted only our nearest and dearest at our wedding, but denying people the opportunity to bring a date can be awkward and rude.

First, we tried to proactively address the situation by inviting people in clusters. For example, we intentionally tried to make sure that everyone who was invited had friends that they could hang out with. I sent out an e-mail to each group of friends saying something like, "Hey all, I just wanted to let you know that you are the folks we invited from Stetson University, in case you want to room together, carpool, etc." That way, everyone knew right away that they would know other people at the wedding (without having to ask all of their old college friends if they were invited, too).

But even then we had to respond reactively. People would ask us directly if they could bring a date. We responded as honestly and tactfully as possible by saying, "We're really sorry, but we're intentionally having a small wedding and limiting it to the people who are close to us. We invited you because we consider you a really good friend, and we hope that this doesn't discourage you from coming."

In the end, we made a couple exceptions. One of Matt's friends invited someone without asking us. The friend bought her plane ticket before we even found out. Also, Matt invited only one of his colleagues. We let him bring along his girlfriend, so he would know someone. She ended up being completely awesome, and I loved meeting her.

Definitely don't stress about it if a few people slip through the cracks. On the other hand, don't be afraid to stick to your policy! There is something really powerful about populating your guest list with people who are truly connected to you.

2000dollarwedding kindred spirits, what are your thoughts on this situation? What have you done the same or differently?

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Sarah said...

This might be cowardly, but we're begging out on cost reasons. Our wedding list is topping out at 80 guests, and we're paying for the wedding ourselves, so our "reason" is "OMG we are so broke but wanted to have a small celebration. hopefully you understand."

It means Grace said...

Where do most people draw the line about allowing a plus one? If you know that someone is in a long term relationship, but you have never met them, are they both invited or do you not give them a + 1?

I have heard it both ways, but it still seems restrictive to not allow someone to invite their significant other.

Etiquette books say you are required to invite spouses, and fiances, but not boyfriend/girlfriend types. What actually qualifies as a long term relationship?

Kristen said...

We're having a smallish wedding (less than 100), but aren't too restrictive in this area. If someone is in an established relationship - even if they're not engaged - then they get a +1. But we're not just letting singles randomly bring a guest. It's caused some tension, but not a lot.

miss fancy pants (the bride) said...

If you want to proactively deal with this, there's a couple options:
1) for the kids thing: on your invites, you could include something like "Regrets, no children under the age of __ please".
2) on our RSVP's, we didn't just leave room for people to fill in their names (because I've heard of horror stories where guests have squeezed in 1 or 2 extra names)... we included "__ seat(s) have been reserved for you". (see this photo if you want a better idea http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_tPl-5VM2Lj8/S14qPL0mrOI/AAAAAAAAATo/m-jJ_u9mTDY/s400/IMG_6579.JPG)

That way, if you're inviting 1 person, they know there's no wiggle room. It's forward, but hopefully it will avoid some awkward conversations.

I think the best way to deal with the +1 situation is to do as Sara said, invite people in clusters because that way, you know everyone will have someone to hang out with. For us, even if one of our cousins or friends is in a long term relationship, we're not inviting their significant others if we don't have a close relationship with them. Because although that person is important to our guest, if we don't have a personal relationship with them we don't really need them at our wedding. It's sucky, but +1's will add up so quickly. We only have 2 guests with +1 and that's only because they won't know any other guests. Good luck!

Amanda said...

We're following a general rule: if there's a ring, they're automatically invited. If we know the gf/bf, they're invited. But if it's someone that they've been on again/off again with for 3 months, or if it is a situation where we'd have to put "and guest" on the invite, not invited (unless they don't know anyone else at the reception).

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I LOVE miss fancy pants' RSVP card.. thats just the thing I was looking for, because youre so write, people will just right extra names on and then what do you do, call them back and say hey buy the way you cant bring that person.
Great Idea!!

Elizabeth said...

We only invited 50 people to our wedding, and only those to whom we were the closest (husband's grandparents didn't even make the cut!). So clearly, we weren't inviting everyone's bf/gf who we'd never met.

We had online RSVPs and added a note that due to the style of the wedding and cost, we were only inviting the people whose names were on the invitation. Everyone respected our wishes, and the only "+1s" we had to worry about were telling all our relatives they couldn't bring their dogs!

Anonymous said...

I think it's fair to not invite plus ones that aren't close to you. The problem is when people throw their single friends or relatives at one ostracized singles table and assume everyone there will get alone because hey! they're single! Going as a single to a wedding is hard enough without having to feel like you're being treated like one of the "freaks at table 9" from the Wedding Singer. Make your single friends feel welcome and just as much a part of the celebration as your guests in couples, and there's nothing to worry about.

Katie said...

I just dealt w/ this. SO, so hard. Our rule was if it was a long-term relationship, yes, they got a guest. If it was a new relationship (or, if they weren't dating at the time of the guest list making), no. We only wanted people who were important to us and were limited w/ money too. We had a cut-off # and that was it.

My sister (who is in and out of relationships) asked to bring her new bf, offered to pay, but we said no. Another friend - new gf (if even that) asked, we said sorry, he got mad...he felt like everyone else was invited w/ dates and not him. Wasn't the case, I explained it...too much drama to write about.

My frustration is that the day is about the couple. Can't people survive 4-5 hours w/o getting their way? Of course, if they didn't know anyone, of course, they can bring a guest, but no one fell in that category. And every wedding I've gone to I went as a single - some more fun than others- but you just deal. You do it b/c you are friends w/ the person and care about their day. Ugh. drama.

Newbie and the Murr said...

We have both budget and space contraints with our wedding - our space won't hold more than a certain number and with my fiance's massive family it's going to be bursting at the seams.

My fiance's mom wanted us to invite "plus 1s" for her relatives because Emily Post said so. But we told her that we're making an "across the board" decision not to do so. A lot of our close friends are single, so it would be unfair to tell them not to bring a date when his massive family (much of whom we don't have a strong relationship with) could all bring +1s. My thought is that all of those single cousins (or ones with boyfriends/girlfriends) know all of their siblings/other cousins. I'd be more likely to cave for a friend who didn't know anyone else, but all of those friends don't want to fly a "date" cross-country and have not raised issue.

To deal with the "penciling in a +1", we're going to do our RSVPs online. Each invitee gets a response # and when they put it into the website, it will have just the names of people invited hard-coded and they can choose their meal that way too. It will take someone thick-headed not to get the gist that you can't "add" someone. And we'll give them all our e-mail so if they have a problem, they can talk to us and we'll explain our constraints.

Question though - what if someone who's spouse is invited chooses to attend with another date. I.e., the spouse is unavailable so they choose to bring a buddy to "fill her seat." Is there any way to tactfully tell them not to do so?

brittney said...

We haven't sent out our invites yet, but we've intentionally kept our list as small as possible (85) to have our wedding day be celebrated by people who are near and dear to our hearts.

I'm planning on addressing the invites to only the person who is invited. If someone tries to invite a date we haven't met or who we aren't close with, I'm planning on saying something like, I'd love to meet that person at another time, but for our wedding we've chosen to invite only people we are close to. You are one of those people and we hope you understand.

Ms Loaf said...

Oh man, this is such a tricky issue. We basically did the same thing--making sure we invited clusters of people, and often we did invite people's partners when we were friends with them, too. But I ended up losing my best friend over this issue. Not only was she upset about the no +1 issue, she wanted to bring her boyfriend who happened to be someone I really didn't get along with and had a long messy history with, and I focused just on the +1 issue, but she obviously knew the underlying issue, so she said I had to pick: either let him come to the wedding or stop being friends with her. It meant more to me not to have this asshole at my wedding, and I'm really sad I lost her, but if she was that unreasonable, maybe I didn't need her in my life.

Anyway, yes. Tough, tough issue.

megan said...

i wish i could upload a pic of our RSVP card!

we filled in the invitee's name, and said "___ seats have been reserved for you"

i had to review the guest list a little less "black and white" than a lot of people do. if i knew some would feel more comfortable with a date, i left room for one. i didn't allow a plus one if i didn't know the random person someone was dating, especially if there was other people there that they would know. i also left off people who assumed they'd be invited as part of a "cluster" because they are troublemakers.

also, no kiddies except the ones in the wedding are invited. it sounds mean, but space and patience do take presedence.

Unknown said...

This is an issue I've been wrestling with as well. I agree that the "__ seats have been reserved in your name" approach works well, especially when you address the envelope to all the people you're actually inviting.

As far as seating goes, I decided not to have assigned seating so that I wasn't cramming all the single people together or worrying about who would get along with whom. It's one less thing to worry about, and it worked beautifully at my best friend's recent wedding.

liz said...

rather than feel awkward when people asked if they could bring someone (after receiving the invitation with JUST their name on it), i was relieved that people didn't feel it was taboo to ask. the fact that they felt comfortable being open enough to ask for permission, made me feel comfortable to explain honestly why we'd rather stick to the no-plus-one rule. try to see it that way, and respond positively: "i'm so glad you asked! we want everyone to know that we're limiting our list to just those who are most important to us, have been there for us in the past and will be there to help us through our marriage in the future." hopefully they take that as the compliment it is. if you act like the question is uncomfortable and awkward, they'll feel uncomfortable and awkward.

Anonymous said...

Now that I am a bride I understand that penny pinching is inevitable...and when it comes down to it you only want to invite WHO you really want to be there. We started out much the same way.

Except...I've been on the other side of that coin too. Once, I was asked not to bring a date and once my fiance was asked not to bring a date. I was offended...I'm not going to lie. I felt like my friend really didnt care if I was at her wedding or not - especially as I probably wouldn't go just by myself. I honestly felt like she wanted people to feel just awkward enough to not want to attend. My fiance didn't really care...he didn't want to go without me (he only knew a couple of people anyway)...but I felt lame and rejected. OVerly sensitive. Obvs.

So in planning our wedding, we wanted to be more inclusive than exclusive. These +1's did bring our total up 15 or so people - but in the end we want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable.

Kids...yea...I don't know about that.

Sarah said...

Yeah-- it depends on the relationship. Anything close to a long-term relationship-- fine, especially because we're at a stage in life when many of our friends are in LTRs and not necessarily married. Each case is different.

That being said, don't invite a couple and sit them at the singles table because they're not married! :) That's happened to me before.

Rori Raye said...

Oh - wow - I read the post with tension in my stomach - wanting to dispute - thinking this was wrong, and then remembered my own wedding, where I had to hold it to 42 people. I don't remember having to tell anyone not to bring someone, but perhaps I blocked out the memory. To this day, though, if I had it to do over, I wouldn't have done it in the beautiful restaurant by the creek where I had to watch costs and count people - I would have thrown it open, grateful that anyone would take a day to come celebrate with us - and done it in a park or on the beach with grilled chicken and hot dogs and games for the kids. OR - I think I would've. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. Rori Raye

Anonymous said...

I know some people recently have been putting "__ of __ will be attending" on the response card, the second blank filled in by the couple (for example, if you wanted to invite 1 person you would put "__ of 1 will be attending"). This way they know. I'm stressing about this too!

Anonymous said...

Just a thought... If you're designing and printing the invitations and RSVP's yourself, how's about personalizing it by putting the names on each invitation and RSVP?
Kindly RSVP before...
Richard ___will /___will not attend
Anuschka ___will /___will not attend

The Websters said...

We just did a dessert reception so that we didn't have to worry as much about cost. Space was an issue that we were concerned about, but it is quite surprising (and I've heard this from other brides) the number of people who don't come.

I was told once when i was dating my husband that i couldn't bring a guest to the wedding and the only people who i knew were going to be there were in the wedding. I decided not to go to that one =)

In the end, it's up to the couple, but there may be 'singles' out there who decide not to come if a date is not an option.

Either way, you're married at the end of the day and that's the point, right?

Marina said...

We didn't allow plus ones--but not because we didn't want to feed them dinner. We didn't want them at the CEREMONY. It felt so weird to me, the idea of having people we didn't know and would probably never know at our freaking wedding ceremony.

Also, if a friend would choose to spend time with someone else over being at the wedding, I would rather they go ahead and do that and not make the pretense of wanting to be at the wedding. You know?

That said, we did end up having a few, either because a friend begged, or brought them along without asking. And it was totally fine.

Anonymous said...

We're having two guest lists

list a) closet friends and family who are invited to dinner at 4, ceremony at 7 and reception after ceremony

list b) everyone we want to invite and whomever they choose to bring are invited to the ceremony at 7 and the reception to follow

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