A couple days ago, my good friend and compatriot (not to mention partner in crime) Fabrisse sent me a link to an article on Slate. In it, the author, one Daniel Engber, complained about couples failing to allow him a ‘+1’ on invitations to their weddings.
He was horrified when a couple he knew sent him a singleton invitation and refused to allow him to RSVP for two because he had a girlfriend. Now I don’t know how serious the relationship might have been. I don’t know what their living arrangements were. These things do matter in the question. I do know, however, that even if an etiquette mistake had been committed in the invitation, Mr. Engber definitely committed an etiquette goof when he attempted to RSVP for more people than were included on the invitation.
Remember: if your name is the only one on the invitation and there is no ‘+1’ added, you are the only one for whom you can reply.
To apparently add insult to injury, when Mr. Engber’s brother was getting married, the happy couple again failed to ask Mr. Engber to invite a guest along to the occasion.
Now this time he does not mention a steady girlfriend, so I can only guess that somewhere along the line they broke up… or else he thought he might want to bring someone else.
He continues to feel put upon that he isn’t invited at other weddings to add a guest of his own and to assume the entire reason is that people don’t want to pay for his guest. He complains that the modern bride is merely a “number-crunching technocrat” hellbent on sucking all the fun out of the experience by inviting mere friends and family members rather than his scintillating random guest.
Even the strictest admissions criteria allow for spouses and fiances, which means your party will be overrun by grumbling tagalongs whether you like it or not. These are the guests who spend the whole reception at the bar, checking sports scores on their BlackBerry.
Right. Because nobody you know would ever actually marry (or become engaged to) a fun person who can dance or have a good time without getting wasted.
Considerations such as limited space, a preference for actually being able to recognize everyone at your own party, or seriously wanting a small, intimate gathering are utterly ignored.
As to the cost, here’s what he has to say:
Sure, these extra guests may set you back a few hundred dollars, or maybe a few thousand. But I submit that +1s are a bargain at twice the cost.
Thanks, Mr. Engber, for reminding me how many extra thousands of dollars it won’t hurt me to spend on a single day.
Okay. So he’s disgruntled because sometimes he can’t bring a date. I get it. And I’m sorry he assumes that just because he can’t bring his own guest that clearly nobody could possibly be interesting or pleasant enough for him to bother talking to at a party.
Annoying, but ignorable.
The really appalling suggestion comes in his follow up article:
Here’s an alternative: Sell tickets to your wedding. Instead of asking guests to show up at your event with a check in an envelope, tell them to reserve spots ahead of time. Make it clear to everyone that your total box-office revenue will equal the cost of the wedding, plus a small honeymoon stipend. Then offer tiered pricing: Close relatives can purchase $250 tickets, with front-row ceremony seating, a spot at the head table at the reception, and a first dance. Established friends and second-order relatives might snap up $150 tickets, good for an unobstructed view and unlimited drinks. And your boho buddies can pick up standing-room twofers for $100.
Is this a joke, Mr. Engber? Because if so, I’m not laughing.
A wedding is not a fund raising event. The guest list is supposed to be composed of people the bride and groom love who love them back. Wedding gifts are an optional thing, not a way of paying for an event you can’t really afford to give. Extra guests, in addition to being a further burden on the budget, cannot be guaranteed to add to the festivities and are not emotionally connected to the event. In general, few people really love going to weddings of people they’ve never met and have no plans to meet again.
Here’s the lowdown. When inviting unmarried guests, you do need to invite any fiance(e)s or live-ins. It’s in good taste to invite longtime/serious romantic partners. These people should get their own invitations. If you wish to give your guests the option to have a dinner partner, you should find out who that might be and issue an invitation to that person directly. If you do decide to ask friends or family members to invite a ‘+1’ that is your decision, but you are not required to do so by any social contract.
And really, if Mr. Engber thinks my party will be boring and painful because he is not allowed to bring a person of his own choosing along, then I’ll do him the favor of not inviting him.
After all, my friends think I’m more than enough reason to come to my party.
But I think the final word has to go to reader V A who wrote:
I read this article and the previous one that kicked off the whole discussion, and the impression I get is that the author doesn’t really care about starting a conversation on the social mores of wedding guest lists. He just has an axe to grind.
Dude, I’m sorry your brother didn’t let you bring a date. But maybe it’s time to move on.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.