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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.

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Put your best face forward

Go to an expert like Lenora if you’re unsure

Wedding-day beauty isn’t as complicated as its made out to be, and yet I’ve found lists of tips and tricks that are hundreds of items long! I had it easy — a family friend just happens to be an award-winning stylist. He attended my wedding and was there with a lip gloss wand every time I turned around. Not everyone has it so good, but that doesn’t mean bridal makeup has to be complicated and overwhelming.

Start with a clean canvas
You’ll see a lot of bridal checklists that advise setting up a regular months-long regimen of facials and detox sessions, but there’s no reason to go absolutely nucking futz if you have pretty good skin. If you’re skin ain’t all that, I’d suggest going to a proper dermatologist rather than your local aesthetician. Don’t have anything radical done in the month and a half before your nuptials, as skin needs time to heal after harsh treatments like chemical peels. Drink lots and lots of water, exfoliate gently, moisturize, and wear sunscreen…before and after your wedding. In fact, never stop!

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To Hire or Not To Hire: Do You Need a Wedding Planner

I was in my twenties when I first heard of wedding planners. My first thought was ‘what a ridiculous idea!’ because it never occurred to me that anyone would need someone to tell them how to get married. In my thirties, I actually briefly flirted with the idea of becoming one because I love weddings, and I’d had such a good time not only planning my own, but two other weddings that had gone off very successfully, as well. In the end, I decided not to take that particular plunge. While I love writing advice for brides, I still think that most people are more than capable of planning a perfectly nice wedding so long as they have a little advice from friends, family, and resources…well…like this one and NtB’s soon-to-be-published book.

But over the years, it’s become clear to me that some brides do seriously benefit from hiring a wedding planner. Others (and this was me all over) would only cause ulcers for all parties involved by trying to use one. How to know which bride you are? Well, here are a few questions that should help you figure out whether or not to hire a professional to help you make your dreams come true.

How much time do I have for wedding planning? This is a biggie. If you’ve decided to get married on a very short schedule while working full time, a wedding planner could be very helpful in saving you valuable time on legwork and research. After all, there are a lot of reception locations and florists and photographers in the phone book and chances are you don’t already know which ones are just not worth the trouble of talking to whether because of budget, comptetance, or conflict with the style you’re looking for. A good wedding planner will know local resources and be able to steer you toward the ones that will fit your budget and style. If you’ve got the time and inclination to do the homework youself, though, a planner might not be terribly helpful.

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Fun With Flowers

One piece of advice brides hear over and over again is that choosing flowers that are local and in season is a great way to save money on your florist’s bill. That’s very true. Having orchids flown in from halfway across the globe or insisting on the most delicate of summer blooms in the middle of a stormy winter is going to cost you extra.

But what to do if you don’t know what’s in season in your area? Well, a good place to start is right here. This interactive tool allows you to give a very general idea of time of year, region of the US (sorry, non-USian readers, but I’ll be on the lookout for something that covers other parts of the world, too, because it’s fun) where your wedding will be held, or even what color the bridesmaid’s dresses are. It then spits out a list of flowers that match your criteria, with links to pictures of said flowers. As I said, it’s not the be-all and end-all, but it’s a good place to start if you can’t tell a hyacinth from a hydrangea or aren’t certain if iris grows in your area near your wedding date.

Another fabulous way of saving cash on flowers is to do very simple arrangements yourself with a bit of help from handy friends and family members. Real Simple has a great feature showing you how to make beautiful bouquets from grocery store flowers. The one piece of advice I would add to their ideas is that if there’s an open-to-the-public florist’s supply within a reasonable distance, you can get a greater variety of higher-quality flowers without having to pay the middle men. If you need a lot of a particular flower, it also means you’re far more likely to be able to get precisely what you want in the amounts you need.

Still, the tying instructions are clear and simple to follow. Besides, who would ever have thought baby’s breath could look this spectacular?

Baby’s Breath Bouquet

In which we tackle invitation etiquette, from social units to ‘and guest’ing

Loyal reader Melissa B. writes:

I’ve recently come across a wedding etiquette issue that I didn’t even know was an issue, and I’d be curious to know your opinion(s) if you have an empty column slot.

Do you think it’s OK to extend a wedding invitation to someone and not invite their SO? Some call this the “no ring, no bring” policy — engaged and married couples (and committed same-sex couples) are automatically invited together, but everyone else is invited solo.

On a bridal message board I’ve been frequenting recently, I’ve read several posts from people who insist that inviting a friend without also inviting his/her significant other –- even if the bride and groom have never met the SO –- is incredibly rude. Others say you should allow all singles to bring a guest of their choice, be it a serious boyfriend, a new girlfriend, a platonic roommate, or someone they met at the hotel bar last night. One poster said she’d rather not be invited at all than be invited solo since that was clearly a “second-class” invitation. But other brides say that they’ve used “no ring, no bring” to shorten their guest list and think it’s a perfectly acceptable policy.

I had no idea this was so controversial! Although my boyfriend and I have been together two years and have lived together for the past six months, I’ve been invited to two weddings in the past year where the invitation was addressed just to “Melissa B.,” not to “Melissa B. & Boyfriend” or “Melissa B. & Guest.” I went to both weddings, shared a hotel room with my college girlfriends, and had a great time.

It honestly never occurred to me to be mad that my boyfriend hadn’t been invited too — he’d never met either couple, and he probably wouldn’t have gone if he had been invited (airfare is expensive and we’re both on pretty tight budgets). But now I’m realizing that there are a lot of folks who think that inviting someone alone, especially if they have a known SO, is incredibly offensive.

What’s your take? Should the boyfriends/girlfriends of guests automatically be invited, whether or not the bridal couple knows them? Should all single guests be allowed to bring a date of their choice? Or is “no ring, no bring” an OK rule of thumb if you need to keep your guest list in line?

Twistie: What we have here is a failure across several different groups to understand the concept of the Social Unit. Basically, any couple that is married, engaged, or cohabiting (gay or not) is a Social Unit. That means that, yes, your live-in boyfriend should have been invited to the weddings. How long you have lived together and whether or not the happy couple had met him make no difference.

Never teh Bride: Hell, I have friends who’ve been with their SOs forever and are staunchly opposed to the notion of cohabitation (not the mention matrimony, oddly) and I still sent all parties involved invitations. It just seemed like the nice thing to do…besides, I don’t know anyone who likes to sit alone at a wedding! But I’m also lucky in that I happen to know my friends’ SOs and their names.

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