wednesday wisdom- the plus one dilemma

The “plus one” dilemma. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the idea of whether or not you should always receive a +1 with a wedding invitation so I thought I’d weigh in. Of course, since this is my blog I will be giving my personal option on the matter, but I am also going to try and explain the dilemma from the soon to be married couple’s side. Hopefully, this will give a little more perspective to those who haven’t had to deal with the wonderful world of guest lists. (Anyone pick up on that sarcasm? Good.)

Also, please remember that while I am focusing on weddings, this goes for any social celebration in which you received an invitation.

First, let’s go back about 5-8 months before you received the invitation. Imagine your friends- the newly engaged couple- sitting at a table with pen and paper ready. They’ve discussed what they hope their reception celebration will be and after working out the numbers they have decided on inviting 100 people. Max. (I picked 100 because that’s what we attempted to stick around.) Sounds like a lot right? I mean, think of your last birthday party. Most likely, 30ish people tops (well unless it was a milestone in which think of your last non-milestone birthday.)

So picture your happy friends jotting down the 100 nearest and dearest who will be in attendance. Enthusiastically, they start with family. Moms, Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and cousins- your friends are probably nearing 30-35 people.


And it’s not that the happy couple doesn’t love their family, but they are just now realizing that 100 people aren’t as many people as they thought.

Now the slightly less enthusiastic couple starts listing out the “should be considered family” people. You know, the ones who helped raise them, the ones their families went on vacations with, the ones who they actually see when they visit their parents. Between the two of them, that’s probably another 30 people. Then they add the pastor/rabbi/person marrying them and their spouse/date. I mean, they are the ones who are making this whole shindig legal and common courtesy says they should be there to celebrate as well. We loved our pastors (yep. 2 of them.) and couldn’t imagine them not being there. (They were are our rehearsal dinner too!)

Anyhow, back to the head count. The now slightly tired couple has 67 people on their 100 person max guest list. No problem. That’s still 33 friend spaces.

Then the phone rings. It’s the bride’s grandmother. She heard that they were working on the guest list and was hoping that they could invite her sister (the bride’s great aunt) because it would mean so much to both of them. This is her grandmother asking. The woman who means so much to the bride, has never asked for anything besides for the couple to visit more, and here she is asking (politely) if her sister can come. “She probably won’t make it, but her and her husband might be able to, and the invitation would mean so much to them.” Did I mention the bride actually really loves her great aunt and uncle? How sweet and thoughtful they have always been to her? No? Well. They’re great people.

And did I mention the bride just received a surprise package the day before from her grandmother containing the handkerchiefs hand embroidered by the bride’s great grandmother for the bride’s “something borrowed?” Yep. That’s right. Her grandmother is an angel. A thoughtful angel who is only asking for 2 additional people.

They say of course (and thank you for the something borrowed, we promise we will visit soon!)

Total space left for friends: 31.

They add their wedding party to the list. Total friend places left- 23. Then they remember 2 are married, (21 spots left) and three of the girls are in serious relationships (18 spots left.)

They now have to discuss the +1 dilemma. They have 18 spots left for friends. That’s either 18 friends individually, or 9 friends and dates. The couple weighs the options and decides to write down everyone they’d “like” to invite and go from there.

50 friends are written down. Damn. That didn’t work.

Bride gets phone call from best friend. Her serious boyfriend can’t make it because his sister is getting married on the exact same day. Couple bummed. They love best friend’s beau. On the plus side though, 19 spots.

Hmm. Couple decides that since it’s an intimate wedding and that people will have friends there, unless they are in a serious relationship, they don’t get a “+1.”

Couple begins to feel horrible as they group their friends. (By grouping I mean, you can’t invite 4 sorority sisters from a group of 6 who are all still really close. Much like you can’t invite 2 of your 3 best friends from high school. Hence, grouping.) Then couple has to rank the groups. It’s a horrible feeling because couple loves all 50 friends and doesn’t want anyone to feel like the kid who didn’t get a friendship bracelet.

Groom-to-be brings a Kit Kat bar and a Coke to the bride when he sees her tearing up over having to “cut friends.” Couple looks at budget again and decides again, that yes, only 100 people are going to be invited.

Couple decides each of them gets 1 person that the other maybe hasn’t met (best friend moved away, etc) but the rest has to know BOTH of them well. In seconds, the 19 spots are gone, and there are still 10 people left off of the list that fit “in a group” of people who are invited.

Bride rationalizes that there is some statistic that says something like 10% of people won’t be able to make the wedding. Guest list is pushed up to 110 to include the 10 other friends. Even with the additions, 30ish friends still won’t get an invitation.

Couple is exhausted, emails guest list to parents, and goes to Dairy Queen to split a blizzard. Happily stuffed, but still a little sad and worn out, they decide to call it a night.

The next morning, calls start coming in from the families. Couple didn’t invite so and so’s best friend. What about parent’s work associates? Why do they get more people than we do? Can so and so also bring their high school aged children?  And so on.

Bride starts crying from frustration. Groom begins screening calls.

And this was all BEFORE you even received your beautiful invitation.

I cannot tell you how many friends and brides I work with that specifically address envelopes to certain family members and then have the guests RSVP with an additional +3. Or when it’s addressed to John Smith, and John writes, “we can’t wait to be there!” Everyone, please hear me when I say this: Your invitation was addressed to YOU. That means YOU are invited. Not you and friend, not you and boyfriend. YOU.

Do not call the bride or groom and ask if you can bring someone else unless you are a) married and not sure why your partner wasn’t invited or b) you’ve been dating the same person ever since you and engaged couple met and you aren’t sure why they weren’t invited.

Otherwise, you put the couple in a very awkward/emotional situation. They know whom they invited and whom they did not invite, trust me.

Now I understand how not getting a +1 can be REALLY annoying. No one wants to eat alone, travel alone, or stand by the wall because you don’t have a dance partner, but hopefully your friends wouldn’t put you in that situation and invited a lot of your friends as well (who also didn’t get a +1.) And while it used to be that if the wedding was a destination wedding, that everyone got a +1, now that’s not always the case because almost every wedding is a destination wedding for someone since most of us don’t still live in our hometowns with the same friends since birth.

So here is the take away message.

For the couples- Make a decision on “+1’s” and stick with it. Only married folks and really serious couples who have been together at least a year? Fine, but stick to that. No picking and choosing. And try to put yourself into your friend’s shoes. You will never make everyone happy, but try to be as fair as possible. Make sure those who do not get a plus one, have friends there too. Don’t purposely make people uncomfortable.

For the guests- whoever the envelope is addressed to, is who is invited. Kids/ the word family not on there? Then they aren’t invited. No “and guest?” Then you didn’t get one. I know it can suck, but remember that the guest list is their guest list and it probably took a LOT of time to make, brought about a lot of fights, and led to a lot of compromises. Do not put your friends in an awkward situation/add stress by saying you just have to bring someone. (If you are the MOH or something or are really close to the couple and feel it’s okay to ask, then take your chances; just don’t get upset if you don’t get your way.)

And remember that the couple wants you there- hence they invited you- but if the lack of a “+1” is a deal breaker to you, then you can always RSVP “no.”