The Etiquette for ‘Plus One’ at your wedding

the Letter, Mary Cassatt


The ‘and guest’ question can cause etiquette anguish.  There are two schools of thought about adding ‘and guest’ on a wedding invitation envelope.  On the one side, there’s a feeling that if you don’t know the person’s name to put on the invitation, should they really be at something intimate as your  wedding? On the other side, it’s kind to  let people have at least one person they know at the wedding.

I admit I mostly to belonging to the first group and generally feel It’s reasonable to expect people to be able to attend an event stag.  It sounds a bit like a nanny state – assuming someone needs the crutch of a partner to sally forth and meet new people.

Where this can fall down is with the table plan. It’s important to mix in the single people and couples onto the same tables, which is what I did at my own wedding.  Making a singles table is extremely peculiar – and rather stigmatizing.

Indeed, the mix is a more general etiquette point.  The popular ‘Social Q‘ column in The New York Times recently had a question about a ‘plus one’ and I had a delightful exchange with Philip Galanes, who writes the column.  He mentioned that ‘The common denominator in the MANY emails I’m getting seems to be that in a world of overblown, 12-hour affairs (not including travel), that not enough thought has been given to the mix, as you put it — or the comfort of guests on the bride and groom’s Big Day.’

What a good point – if you’re going to have a multi-day wedding extravaganza then it’s a kindness as well as good etiquette to allow people to bring along a guest so they’re not alone for lots of downtime.  If your wedding is a shorter, more intimate affair then you can invite only people with whose names you are familiar.

One last point – guests, if you receive a wedding invitation addressed only to you, it is not appropriate to call and ask if you can bring a guest.

Philip Galanes who writes the column has a new  ‘Social Q’s’ paperback — which deals with hundreds of questions like these.  Find it here.