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A Guide to Navigating the Plus-One Dilemma

Even if the guest list already seems too long.

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Photography by: Kate Holstein Photographs

Putting together your guest list is undoubtedly one of the more stressful pre-wedding tasks. Once you've received lists from both sets of parents and added those names to your own guest list, the numbers often come in surprisingly higher than you'd hoped for. Add in a few plus-ones and it's easy to see how quickly a couple can end up with a final list that's well over their goal guest count. Going over capacity is a valid concern, but cutting plus-ones isn't the answer. You'll need to think of everyone on your list as an individual with their own needs. That means you have to make sure you invite long-term partners and trust your guests' discretion when it comes to taking you up on the plus-one offer.

 

Still, not everyone on your list needs to be invited with a guest. But how do you decide which wedding guests will enjoy your day without a date, and who absolutely needs to be invited with a plus-one? Here, our top tips to help you thoughtfully navigate the common dilemma.

 

YOUR WEDDING GUEST LIST ETIQUETTE QUESTIONS ANSWERED

 

Avoid going over capacity, but don't be obsessed with the numbers.

Rather than fretting over total numbers, it's helpful to approach each invitation individually to decide whether to include a guest. Of course you want to take venue capacity and your budget into consideration, but you also want to be sure that everyone who's invited to your wedding is comfortable and able to enjoy their evening. Many couples prioritize their invitation list into A-list, B-list, and C-list, which can be helpful when you're trying to decide who gets a plus-one at an already tight venue.

 

Good etiquette suggests including long-term partners.

It can be difficult to decode "long-term" when it comes to deciding which guests should be allotted a plus-one. A good rule of thumb is that if your guest is in a relationship that's been going well for at least several months and that they see as being marriage material, their partner's name should be included on the invitation. Of course, engaged couples and couples who cohabitate should be invited together as well.

 

Take the overall guest list into consideration.

As for single friends and family members, or those in very new relationships, ask yourself if this guest will know others at the wedding. If your instinct is that they know enough people to enjoy dinner conversation and dancing without a date, then there's no need to include a plus-one. If they don't know more than a handful of other guests, a plus-one would likely ensure their enjoyment of your wedding.

 

6 THINGS EVERY PLUS-ONE NEEDS TO KNOW

 

Trust your guest's discretion when choosing a plus-one.

The risk of offering a plus-one to any guest is that they'll bring along someone you've never met, someone you aren't great friends with, or someone you don't particularly want at your wedding. Most wedding guests understand this risk and will be sensitive to your opinions when choosing a date. It's usually best to trust that your friends will use their best judgment, but if you're concerned, you can always ask who they intend to bring along. You'll need their names for the escort cards anyway, and this opens up the opportunity for conversation if their guest is someone you'd prefer didn't attend your wedding.

 

The same process should apply to bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Just as you'll approach each invitation individually, you can use this process to help determine which bridesmaids and groomsmen should get a plus-one. Most likely, these close friends won't want to bring along anyone they're dating casually, as they'll be busy catching up with all your mutual friends and family. However, there's a chance you may have one or two people in your wedding party who are painfully shy and would be more comfortable with a plus-one to hang with.

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