Ah the delight that is the guest list - the gift that keeps on giving... headache, after headache. From those who casually 'forgot' to RSVP to the dreaded issue of who gets a plus one and who well, doesn't. The opportunities to cause upset are endless, but if done correctly, there are ways to quash any potential drama.
As an attendee of a number of weddings myself, I have seen my fair share of 'plus-one' debacles plague the bride and groom. Here are some general rules I've learnt on how to approach the allocation process and, fingers crossed, keep everyone happy whilst staying true to yourselves.
Remember whose wedding it actually is
Funnily enough, this big old shindig you're organising to celebrate your love as a couple is actually YOUR special day. But this can be easily forgotten when you have people sticking their oar in trying to convince you of who to invite. So my rule numero uno is to remember who and what this rather momentous day is about, and most importantly stick to your gut. The more people you ask for advice, the more confusing and frustrating it can become. Compile and edit the guest list as a couple and potentially ask someone like your maid of honour or your mum for a touch of insight. That's it. No other views needed.
Finally, if you really don't want to invite someone then - within reason - you shouldn't have to. I'm all for wedding etiquette as a general guideline but at the end of the day, nothing is gospel and if it's going to upset you having that individual there, then don't invite them.
I can't emphasise how important this is, as inconsistency is when people can start to get annoyed. For example, if you've told one friend you're not allowing plus-ones and then your mutual pal turns up with their other half, this will start irritating folk. So decide the rules for various friendship groups and stick to them. Don't forget people talk and friends and their uninvited other halves will likely start to take things personal, especially if it's one rule for one and one rule for another.
Consider the overall size of your wedding
This is a quick determiner of whether you'll be able to offer plus ones or not. If you're going for a small and intimate wedding, you'll probably be wanting to limit it to purely people you know well. In this case treat each guest individually and if they happen to be great friends of yours and coupled too, then so be it. Similarly if you're limited on budget, this may be another reason to restrict plus-ones - most people should be able to understand this, although you may be surprised.
Go all or nothing
It's often a suggestion that if you can't invite plus ones to the ceremony and wedding breakfast then invite them to the party, but I actually disagree with this approach. I think it should be all or nothing, as it can make other halves actually feel quite uncomfortable having to turn up separately after the main event. Plus it can have a tendency to scream "I'm a reluctant invite" a little bit, so think wisely before creating an evening-only list. It can also change the dynamic of the party.
Look at each case individually
There is no hard and fast rule for who should be allocated a plus-one, so treat each case individually. Obviously there will be groups such as work colleagues where you can decide one rule for all, but it's likely you'll have different situations that will crop up with their own minutiae. As individuals, we are lucky enough to collect various friends throughout the different stages of our lives, from primary school to work, so it's highly possible you'll have guests who will be attending alone and not as part of a group. In this case, you may consider giving them a plus one so you know they'll feel at ease attending.
Consider the length of time they've been together
Although some guests don't like to hear this, the couples who have been together for a long time, be that married, engaged or cohabiting should definitely be considered for a plus-one. The risk you run when allowing anyone and everyone to bring someone - especially if they've only been dating a few months - is that you end up with a bunch of people you don't know at your wedding, and likely in your wedding photographs too. If you're a more the merrier sort of person, then by all means go to town. But if you're into the more intimate and carefully considered vibe, then treat your plus one allocation as a well considered process too.
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