In the age of social media invites, understanding proper guest etiquette can be tricky.Sure, there are some expectations that are pretty straightforward. Obviously, you should try to show up on time to wherever you’ve been invited. But the answers to other questions aren’t always so cut and dry. For instance, what do you do if you want to bring someone else along?The plus one question may be one of the biggest sources of debate amongst wedding planners, etiquette experts, and party hosts alike. Some people believe you should never under any circumstance ask for a plus one as a guest unless an invitation says you get one.Others feel there is a little bit more of a grey area. Because even though most event hosts have good intentions, their invitations aren’t always super clear. For instance, you may have received a wedding save-the-date that doesn’t specify you as the sole person being invited but doesn’t list your significant other’s name either.
So how do you know if you can bring them along?
According to Marissa Miller and Jamie Lincoln of Vogue, traditional wedding etiquette says you’re only allowed a plus one if you’re married, engaged, or cohabiting with your significant other. But since more people today are in long-term, non-marital relationships, this approach doesn’t always make the most sense. You could also go alone to that wedding, but it can be uncomfortable if you’re one of the only solo people there. Plus you may genuinely want your significant other to be included at such a meaningful event with people who are important to you. Of course, the worst possible thing you can do is assume it’s ok to bring someone without consulting anyone who’s in charge.However, asking a host if you can bring another guest to their event has the potential to turn into a seriously awkward situation if you’re not mindful about your approach. For example, If the host is providing you with something for free, like a meal, it can come off as rude to assume they should cover the cost of you and your guest. This is why It’s important to think carefully about how you should ask to avoid creating any unnecessary tension or drama. You can use the following guidelines next time you need to ask someone if you can RSVP with a plus one to their event.
First, consider the circumstances of the occasion.
Different events have certain expectations regarding the plus one rule. For example, your co-worker will probably feel pretty lax about you bringing your recent boyfriend to their New Year’s Party. But your cousin who’s having an elegant, banquet wedding might not have any leg room for another person on their guest list.Sometimes one individual can change the entire vibe of a room. And while it’s common to assume spouses are fair game, they don’t always fit into certain situations.Lizzie Post, an etiquette expert, addressed the plus one issue on a recent episode of her podcast, Awesome Etiquette.She said, “There are plenty of places where the meetup or the invite is really just meant for co-workers.”Daniel Post Senning, an author, fellow etiquette expert, and co-host of the podcast agreed. He added that determining certain cues can help you figure out if asking would be ok.“I think the situation…where long-term partners aren’t necessarily invited are ‘let’s get together right after work, let’s go have lunch together as a team, ” said Senning. “It’s social, it’s not at the office, but it’s built and constructed as an event right around the work day, and it has more of a business social feel to it.”
Think long and hard about who your plus one would be.
If you’re in a relationship, you probably consider your significant other your automatic plus one. But if you’re single and still don’t want to attend an event solo, you have to think carefully about who you would bring.It might not be a good idea to bring someone you’ve only gone on a few dates with to a wedding. For one, this is uncomfortable for the family because they hardly know the person (as do you). But it’s also awkward for your date to be around such an intimate occasion like a wedding when your relationship is so uncertain.
Be thoughtful and genuine when you ask the host to accommodate you.
Remember, you’re asking the host to do you a favour. Being polite about it is non-negotiable.Now that doesn’t mean you have to be excessively formal. But when you’re asking the question, be sure to acknowledge the possibility of a ‘no’ and mention that you’re grateful for the host’s efforts either way. “Hey, I got your invite for your holiday dinner on Facebook, and I was curious to see if you would be ok if my good friend joined us for the evening? If not, I totally understand. Thank you for putting this whole thing together.”By mentioning that you’re OK with either response, you avoid coming off as demanding. It also prevents the host from feeling any unnecessary pressure, as they may already be stressed with planning the event. One thing you definitely don’t want to do is guilt someone into allowing you to bring a guest. For instance, if you say something like, “I’m always alone at these things” it shows that you’re more concerned with making the focus of the event about you. It’s practically an instant recipe for resentment and other potential drama down the road. Instead be straightforward, honest, and polite. You have a much better chance of things working out in your favour if you’re kind about it.
Explain to the host why having your plus one attend would make the make the experience better for you and them.
Be sure to mention why you want a plus one in the first place. Perhaps the event is a networking cocktail hour where most of the attendees are going to be people you don’t know.You could say that having another person who already knows you somewhat helps you to break out of your shell in these situations.Or maybe you’ve been dating someone for a while and it’s getting serious enough to where you want them to be present for big life events happening in your family. The point is you should never bring a plus one ‘just because.’Always have a reason.Consider the context. Your teenage sibling does not belong at your office party because he doesn’t bring a lot to the table. However, your friend from college who is also a professional like yourself could potentially network and contribute to the event in a productive way. The more specific you are about why this person should be there, the more likely you are to get your plus one on that guest list.
A sample script you could use for a more formal wedding might look like this: I want you to know I have a special someone in my life who I would love for you both to meet. We’ve been together for more than a year, and I truly see them as someone who will be around for a long time. I would be ecstatic if there’s any way they could join us in celebrating your big day.This person means a lot to me and I know they would easily fit in with our family/friends. Of course, I understand if adding another guest is not possible at this time. You two are very important to me and I feel so grateful that I get to celebrate this huge milestone with you.In this example, the guest provides specific details about why they want their plus one to be at the wedding. They see them as a potential future member of their family and someone who should be present for important life events.
Be prepared to get “no” for an answer.
If you are considerate when you ask the plus one question, the absolute worst that can happen is you get ‘no’ for an answer. On the Awesome Etiquette podcast, Senning supported a similar view of asking. “Keep your ask casual,” he said. “Keep it structured as an inquiry an be ready for any answer that you get. And if you enter with that willingness to accept any answer, you’re going to be in good shape.”
It’s definitely possible that the host will be able to accommodate your desire to bring another person. Sometimes weddings have cancellations that open up space for the guest list have a little more wiggle room. But most of the time this isn’t the case.
There are a variety of reasons why a host would want to say no to their guest asking for a plus one, even if that guest is their lifelong best friend. Most of the time this purely comes down to planning issues or budget restrictions. But another reason the host may not want to make a special exception for you is because that would mean they’d have to make that accommodation for everyone.
Jen Glantz, “professional bridesmaid,” wrote in Women’s Health Magazine that she agrees with this view of a no response for a wedding.
She said, “[The couple] may end up saying no because if they say yes to you, their other single friends may want to bring someone, too.”That could potentially cause their event budget to skyrocket, which, in turn, may cause them serious stress. For this reason, it’s always better to be prepared for a ‘no’ than a yes. Plus if they do unexpectedly allow you to bring a plus one, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
If you get a ‘no’, don’t take it personally.
When it comes to events like weddings, it’s key to remember that most couples aren’t limiting their guest list to purposefully make you miserable. Most of the time have a strict headcount because they’re on a tight budget.Regardless it’s important to remember it’s not all about you. If it’s a wedding, it’s about the couple. If it’s a business lunch, it’s about the company. If it’s a baby shower, it’s about the baby.In other words, don’t feel offended if your friend says you can’t bring your 4 week-boyfriend to her engagement brunch. It probably has nothing to do with you or your boo, they just can’t You should treat the host with the same amount of respect and decency as you would if you received a “yes” answer.Don’t start demanding to know why they didn’t let you bring another person. It’s not your place to know the details of their budget or other personal reservations they have.
And most of all, never, ever make changes or swap the plus one last minute.
If a host decides to make special arrangements to accommodate you and your guest, it is extremely inconsiderate to change who that guest is last minute. This is why you have to be extra careful with the previous steps to make sure you really know why you want this person at this particular event in the first place. The last thing you want to do is surprise a stressed bride and groom with a person they didn’t expect to see at their wedding. In the case of weddings, you have to remember the couple may have had expensive name cards printed for the dinner table that cannot be changed. Likewise, you don’t want to show up to your friend’s bridal shower with your 21- year-old brother who loves to party instead of your cousin who promised to bring homemade cookies. Unless he can win over the entire group in short period of time, it’s unlikely his surprise appearance will be welcomed with open arms.The bottom line is if you’re gonna go to the trouble to ask for a plus one, make sure you commit to it.
And if all fails, there’s nothing wrong with flying solo.
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