The Ins and Outs of Plus-Ones

Creating your wedding guest list isn’t the most exciting task on the way to the aisle, but it’s one that will define the energy and atmosphere of your big day. After all, weddings are meant to celebrate with friends and family — a few strangers (or worse, drama-causers) can spoil the experience for you and your loved ones.

You’ll likely find it easy to compile your “A list” of must-have guests. These are people like your parents, grandparents, siblings, close friends, and others within your inner circle.

But what about plus-ones?

Determining who gets a plus-one tends to be one of the most challenging situations for couples while planning their guest list. Where do you draw the line? How do you tell someone “no” when they ask for an extra invite? While there is plenty of gray area surrounding plus-ones, accept that it’s your wedding and, thus, your decision.

We asked wedding experts about best practices for inviting (and not inviting) plus-ones, and here’s what they had to say.

Photography by Jessica K Feiden

Know the standard etiquette.

While there may be some uncertainty surrounding plus-ones, there are some hard and fast rules to follow for your guest list. As Monika Kreinberg of Furever Us explains, “Plus-ones are usually reserved for spouses or someone the guest has been with long term. This role may or may not be someone they are married or engaged to.” 

Beyond that, the rules can get murky as it’s flexible to a couple’s preferences. “In general, it does not refer to someone the person has seen casually,” Kreinberg continues. “Who can fill in as a plus-one also depends on each bride and groom. For some couples, the more people, the better, as they feel that it will be a more significant celebration.”

Define the rules in your invitations.

Once you set boundaries on who gets to bring a plus-one, you need to be extra clear in your communication with guests. “Etiquette says if the invitation does not include wording specifically stating ‘plus one’ or ‘and guest,’ then it’s safe to assume you are not allowed to bring someone with you,” says Jen Avey of Destination Weddings Travel Group. “The wedding website is also a great place to elaborate on this information, whether in an FAQ or on the RSVP page.”

Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events adds that: “The response card will be the best way to indicate whether or not someone has a plus one. If the response card has their name as the only person, it should be assumed that it is just for the recipient. Couples can go a step further and list the person’s name below with 1 (one) person coming to the wedding.”

Photography by Kelly Hornberger

Don’t feel pressured to give in.

Sometimes, invited guests may reach out to request a plus-one. While it may seem uncomfortable to say no, don’t forget that you have already decided not to extend an extra invitation. “Stand firm in your convictions- try to remember that this is your wedding, not theirs, and you get to choose the guest list,” reminds Megan Estrada of NSWE Events

“Proper etiquette dictates that one should always be gracious about being included in the celebration, not complain about whether or not they have a plus one,” Estrada states. “Feel free to share with your adamant guest that your wedding is an intimate, private event, and thus you are keeping the guest list to only those you know well.”

Prepare for possible “crashers.”

Unfortunately, you can’t control the actions your guests take on the day of your wedding. In some cases, they may disrespect your wishes and bring a plus-one anyway. “While this isn’t common, it does happen,” assures Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events

While the unexpected guest may not have been on the guest list, Chang says there’s no choice but to include them in the wedding. “Work with your planner (or vendor team) to adjust for that change and just roll with it,” she says. “While it’s rude and irritating, don’t let it consume you. Be irritated and then move on and focus on what’s important, getting married to the person you love.”

Photography by Julia Wade Photography

Your wedding is a chance to celebrate your love with the people you care about most, so remember to protect your guest list at all costs. Only you and your partner get a say on who is present on your big day! 

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

We’ve partnered with OFD Consulting to bring you this great advice from their collective of wedding professionals.