– Ask A Real Bride – What Should I Do If a Guest Asks for a Plus One?

If you’ve started working on your guest list, you know that the name of the game is usually shrinking the list to fit your budget and venue–not adding to it. So how should you respond if someone asks if they can add a guest?

Far and away, this is the most popular question in my DM’s over at @askarealbride, where I share wedding etiquette tips and advice. So let’s dive into a few different scenarios from real brides facing this plus one etiquette dilemma, and I’ll share how to communicate your plus one policy clearly and graciously–and when your policy needs to be changed for the person asking!

Scenario 1: Cue, “Getting to Know You”

We are getting married this summer and only having around 40 guests–all close family and friends. A guest (who is pretty close to my fiance) asked if his girlfriend could come. They’ve only been dating for a few months and neither of us has met her. My fiance replied along the lines of, ‘Sorry, but we are only having a small ceremony with our nearest and dearest, and we’re excited to have you there.’ The guest then replied, ‘Does that mean that X, Y, and Z aren’t bringing their partners either?’ to which my fiance replied, “X is bringing his partner as we both know her well.

Said guest has now invited us both on a double date, which is lovely but I can’t help thinking they’re trying to ‘get to know us’ to try to get an invite. Am I worrying too much? We of course want to stick to our guns with the small and close guest list rule, but it feels a little awkward!

Your fiance’s response was perfectly appropriate and gracious. This friend’s continued line of questioning was NOT. Yet it still leaves you in an awkward position! Of course, the double date invite is an attempt to secure the invite: he wants you to “get to know” his girlfriend so she falls within the plus one parameters.

So what should you do? You don’t have to make that decision until the day you address his envelope, about 6-8 weeks before the wedding. See what transpires between now and then, and avoid any more guest list conversations with this particular friend. His girlfriend might be lovely and someone you grow to enjoy! If you don’t end up inviting her, keep your explanation very short and sweet, “We wish we could, but we have capped the guest list. I hope you understand.” If he’s hurt, so be it. As long as you and your fiance agree, accept his reaction, and move on.

Scenario 2: When In-Laws Assume

Help! My future mother-in-law assumed her daughter would get a plus one without asking us! How do I handle this?

Even if your plus-one policy is only for those in established relationships, some couples make exceptions to the rule. For example, they may offer plus ones to all members of the bridal party, even if other guests aren’t getting them. I think your future sister-in-law is one of these special cases. I would give her a plus one, especially since your mother-in-law is involved and clearly wants her to have one. Her guest doesn’t have to be part of the processional, family photos, or be announced at the reception.

Another note: in some social circles, every single adult guest is given a plus one. Your mother-in-law may be operating out of these principles.

No matter what, should she have assumed her daughter was getting a plus one? No. But would I fight this battle with my future in-laws? Also no. I’d extend a plus-one to her as a courtesy and start the relationship off on the right foot!

Scenario 3: Not a Fan of the Girlfriend

My fiance and I have a close friend who will probably be the best man in our wedding. He has a girlfriend that we don’t like, and we don’t want her at our wedding. He has a habit of staying with a girl for a year or two and then finding a new one, so we know she’s not the one for him. But we also know he will be upset if we don’t invite her. We know she doesn’t particularly like us either. She never congratulated us on the engagement or anything. What should we do in this situation?

This may not be the answer you want to hear, but I think you need to invite his girlfriend. We are talking about your fiance’s best man. Even if he doesn’t have a great track record with relationships, if he’s in one at the time of the wedding, he should be allowed to bring her. She’s not a member of the bridal party, so it’s not as if she’ll be in many photos if the relationship doesn’t last.

And yes, this will mean an added expense of an extra guest. But consider the investment the best man is making by serving as best man: the suit, the bachelor party, etc. Including his girlfriend isn’t about her; it’s about showing your love and support for him. Inviting her will cost you a plate, but not inviting her might cost more in the long run!

boca raton wedding invitation
Image Source: Shea Christine

Scenario 4: A stranger at the head table?

I have a real dilemma. One of my fiance’s groomsmen texted to ask if he could bring his girlfriend to our wedding. Background: they’ve been friends for 10 years, he’s been dating his girlfriend for 6 months, and neither of us have met her.

Here’s the logistical problem: We are maxed out on our rehearsal dinner capacity, so if she can come to the wedding weekend, I don’t think we can fit her in. And, our bridal party and their significant others will be sitting at our head table. It bothers me that a stranger would be sitting with us!

My fiance only wants to invite the girlfriend out of obligation and to make his friend happy. I don’t think she should be invited. However, he does have to travel for the wedding. What’s the right answer?

I’m inclined to invite the girlfriend. Here’s why: the guest asking is a longtime friend, a member of the bridal party, and is traveling to the wedding.

But, I’m not seeing how you could exclude her from the rehearsal dinner if she’s making the trip, or leave her off of the head table if she doesn’t know anyone else at the wedding.

Here’s what it boils down to:

  1. You explain the logistical dilemma to your fiance’s friend (leave out the head table part–just say that you are at full capacity for the wedding). Express your regret that you can’t make it work, and plan a double date for after the wedding to show you’d like to get to know his girlfriend.


  1. You make room for her at the rehearsal dinner somehow. Chances are someone you invite won’t be able to make it, or you beg the venue to add a chair! I’m confident it can be done. When it comes to the head table situation, there’s a solution: plan a double date in the next few weeks so she’s no longer a stranger. It would make sense to me that your fiance would want to meet his close friend’s girlfriend of six months anyway!

This option requires time, money, and planning, but it’s also the most gracious one. I’m hopeful your friend would be appreciative.

lay flat image of invite
Image source: Chelsea Nicole

Scenario 5: When the plus one is a child

What do I do if someone asks to bring their children to the wedding?

Address the envelope to the adults of the household. If you have a feeling particular guests might ask to bring children, you can preemptively spread the word by having a mutual friend or family member drop a hint, like, “Have you found a sitter yet for Kelly’s wedding?”

If people do ask you if they can bring their children, say: “We’ve decided to make the wedding a fun night out for adults. Can I help you find a sitter?”

Most parents are happy about a fun night out! Others might be upset. But don’t compromise your budget or vision for a child-free wedding. The ones who matter most will be understanding.

The Bottom Line When it Comes to Plus One Requests:

Responding to guests’ requests to bring an uninvited guest, whether it’s an adult or a child, can be difficult. Every situation is unique, but these guidelines will help:

  1. If people are asking about specific plans about who is allowed to bring who, and invitations have not been mailed, you can truthfully reply: “We are still working out the details!”
  2. If invitations have been sent and someone asks about a plus one, have a gracious one-liner ready that is as succinct and impersonal as possible: “I wish our venue had the capacity to include more guests. We are currently capped right now!”
  3. If you don’t end up giving someone who asks a plus one, accept the fact that there may be hurt feelings. But as long as you and your fiance are on the same page, proceed confidently with your decision and accept whatever comes next!
  4. You can always extend a plus one verbally in the days and weeks leading up to the wedding. Many couples use plus ones as a B-list!

Remember: even when others aren’t behaving graciously, you always have an opportunity to respond graciously.

Sometimes the answer will be yes, and other times it will be no. But either way, answer with clarity and kindness.

Have a Question for our Real Brides?

Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift-giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! Questions in this post are received from followers of @askarealbride. Questions may be edited for spelling, length, and grammar or to remove sensitive information. However, we are careful not to alter the intent or content of the question.

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