Must-Know Wedding Etiquette Rules for Plus-One Guests

Whether you're looking to send invitations or you've just received one, here is what you need to know.

Find out what you need to know as a bride or groom regarding plus-ones for your wedding guests, and discover what to expect as a wedding guest yourself.

wedding reception outdoor courtyard la quinta resort and club guests watching first dance
Photo: Alexandria Monette Photography

As a single person, bringing guests to a wedding can be a tricky process. As the couple, the decision to offer a “plus one” to your unattached attendees can be a difficult one, and as a friend or relative, how do you know if you can bring a date? Since every wedding and every couple is different, we’ve broken down the common wedding etiquette rules regarding this popular plus-one conundrum to ease your mind and help you stay organized while planning your wedding or preparing to attend one.

Plus-One Rules If You’re a Bride/Groom:

It is not required that you give the option to truly single guests.

No matter what your third cousin might say, it is not uncouth to limit your guest list. If you feel disinclined to allow your unattached friends or relatives to bring a date, per financial or personal reasoning, simply address the invitation to the invited person only: friends and family should be aware that this means they cannot bring someone along.

People in relationships aren't getting "plus ones," they're bringing an invited guest.

If you extend an invitation to a friend or family member that is involved with someone, it is etiquette that you address both parties by name and make room on your guest list for their significant other. Your cousin's boyfriend is not her "plus one," he is an invited attendee of your big day. This rule stands for everyone that considers themselves to be romantically attached: you as the bride or groom does not get to define how serious each person's relationship might be.

But be prepared for a few adjustments.

Presuming your wedding invitations are sent out well before the wedding date, you’re likely to encounter a few shake-ups in the list of attendees, and you should anticipate the need to make changes. Couples can break up, people may fall ill, someone might be called away for work – you can never know for sure. Be open to switching things around with guests, including any “plus ones,” within reason.

White and gold wedding invitations on top of ruffle dress

Photo by Thisbe Grace Photography; From Real Wedding: Gorgeous Tented Wedding in Texas with Neutral & Gold Color Palette

Plus-One Rules If You’re a Wedding Guest:

Take the wording of the invitation as law.

If it's not stated in plain calligraphy anywhere on the cardstock – oftentimes the couple will note that they have "2 seats reserved in your honor" – do not assume you can bring a date. If the wording is somehow confusing, it’s okay to ask the couple for clarification.

If you're single, don’t automatically expect to be given a “plus one.”

Though it is a nice gesture from the engaged pair, it isn't always feasible to give a "plus one" option to all single friends and family members. Delay inquiring about the schedules of the people in your life until you're sure you are free to bring a companion.

Do not request to bring a guest.

If it comes out that you were not given a "plus one," do not ask the bride or groom to change their minds. This is their decision, and it should be observed and respected. Instead, reach out to others invited – chances are, they'll be additional singles or close friends that you can spend quality time with during the celebration.

Take care of the gift.

Assuming that the couple will not know your guest well, do not ask them to chip in for a wedding present. Whether or not you should add their name to the gift is entirely up to you and your guests’ familiarity with the pair.

Introduce them.

If time permits for the newlywed couple, be sure to introduce your date to the couple during their reception. They deserve to shake the hand of a witness to their nuptials!

For more wedding etiquette tips, browse our site for expert advice like if it's okay to wear black to a wedding. Also, be sure to read up on some of our favorite proposal stories and discover what 10 grooms remember about their first meeting with their future wives.