What if there’s no unrelated individual of the opposite sex handy?

Few and far between are the lucky individuals who haven’t found themselves simultaneously single and invited to a wedding. If you’re invited as a onesome, the pressure’s off, and you can start worrying about what to wear and how you won’t know anyone at the reception and whether the buffet will include anything you, a vegan with a gluten allergy, can safely eat. It’s when your invitation comes addressed to “you plus one” that the fun begins.

Anon wrote in to ask about this very topic.

I (a straight female) received an invitation this week from a college friend, inviting me-plus-guest to her wedding. My immediate reaction, since I’m not dating anyone and don’t really want to scrape someone up to go to a wedding in another state, was to RSVP for myself alone. Then I remembered that my sister also knew the bride in college, as well as a lot of the other guests I’d assume are being invited. Would it be a no-no to bring my sister as my guest? Will it throw off the girl-boy ratio and ruin the wedding if I bring an extra female, rather than the expected extra male or coming alone? Is it weird to invite someone that the bride was friends with, but who she didn’t invite to the wedding herself? If I don’t have a date-date, should I just save the bride and groom the cost of another plate and go by myself? Am I just overthinking this and making a bigger deal of it than I should?

In the realm of traditional etiquette, it’s a well-established fact that one should never address an invitation to “and guest” or “plus one.” The bride and groom should invite those people they are close to, paying attention to social units and finding out the names of everyone’s significant others. It’s not gauche to invite solo guests — far from it, in fact! A friendly, outgoing single can have a marvelous time at a wedding.


However, as is the case in chemistry, relationships, and home repair, the theory and the facts of the matter do not always overlap precisely. Anon’s friend has the budget to invite “plus ones” and has given Anon permission to bring a companion to the ceremony and reception. Seeing as that “and guests” are so often dates, I think we can safely assume that Anon’s friend is envisioning Anon dancing with a nice young man after dinner has been served and consumed.

This is where things get sticky because “you plus one” can mean so many things. I myself have attended the wedding of a friend as the “and guest” of a mutual friend because I wasn’t invited directly. The potential for weirdness was there — I wasn’t, after all, invited — but my enfiancéed friend was an easygoing guy and was happy to have me there. At my own wedding, a select few were given the opportunity to bring an “and guest.” Most came stag, but one lovely lady brought her daughter-in-law along, and the two of them had a grand old time.

Anon shouldn’t worry about the boy/girl ration — it’s no longer entirely de rigeur to seat people by chromosome, and a few gay and single friends tend throw off the numbers anyway. But I would advise Anon to do pretty much exactly what I tell everyone else to do when they’re unclear about some facet of an invitation or event, namely ring up the bride-to-be and ask her what her expectations are with regard to guests of guests, then respect her wishes.

Personally, I had no problem with people’s “plus ones” being moms, siblings, or friends, but Anon’s friend may feel differently. If she didn’t invite Anon’s sister for a reason, the aforementioned phone call provides her with an opportunity to say, “We had a falling out and that would make me uncomfortable.” One shouldn’t defer to the bride in all things, considering that some brides have absolutely appalling ideas about what constitutes good etiquette, but this is one area in which it’s easy to ensure that everyone is comfortable and happy, from Anon to the bride to the companion she eventually chooses (or not).

In the end the question really is whether “and guests” need to be some unrelated individual of the opposite sex…one can bring a platonic friend of the opposite sex without feeling odd about it, so why not an unrelated individual of the same sex? I’m sure you can see where this is going. I’m not suggesting that Anon invite her manicurist or the guy she met at the bus station last week, but I don’t see that it’s unreasonable of her to choose her sister as her “plus one” considering that it’s someone with whom the bride is familiar…provided, of course, that the bride is all right with the idea.

Then again, Anon could just stop stressing and go as a solo…getting down and getting funky with old college comrades is a rare treat indeed.

3 Responses to “What if there’s no unrelated individual of the opposite sex handy?”

  1. Dianasaur April 12, 2008 at 9:47 am #

    That’s really good advice. My husband and I each had one or two people that we didn’t want at our wedding for various reasons, we didn’t want to risk any uncomfortable situations arising that day. If someone had brought one of them as a guest it would have been very awkward for us. We really appreciated when their family member who was invited asked if not inviting them was a mistake, rather than just assuming and bringing them along.

  2. Never teh Bride April 13, 2008 at 4:37 pm #

    Indeed, Dianasaur. In my experience, brides don’t want to be contacted about every little thing — I got rather annoyed when oodles of people were asking me what they ought to wear and whether such and such an outfit would be all right — but when it comes to secondary invites, better safe than sorry!

  3. Sarah in Israel April 16, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    I agree this was good advice, since the intended “and guest” knows the bride, and perhaps indeed there is a reason she wasn’t invited.

    But if the invitation says “and guest” and you want to bring someone the bride and groom don’t know, then I’d interpret “and guest” to mean “we know that you may not know so many people at the wedding, so go ahead and bring a friend so it won’t be awkward for you.” In which case the point is to bring anyone YOU want to spend the time with.

    If the bride/groom insists that that person must be a date . . . then they aren’t doing the single guest any favors. The pressure to find a date when you aren’t seeing anyone can be embarrassing, and it would be more gracious to simply seat the single guest at a table with others he/she might enjoy getting to know. Frankly, if a bride went to the trouble of letting me bring a guest, but then told me that person must be a date, I’d probably cancel my plans to attend the wedding, because what the hell?