Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Can I Ask For a Plus One If I’m in a Wheelchair and Require Assistance?”

It’s Wedding Week on Dear Wendy! This week will be chock-full of wedding columns, gift guides, dollar dances and an open bar. If you love wedding content, this is your lucky week. If you hate wedding content, this is your lucky week because–-open bar! But just kidding about the open bar.

wedding invitation

I have a unique wedding etiquette situation. I have two weddings to attend in October (different weekends) but am concerned about logistics. I use a wheelchair and am not currently able to drive. Normally, I’d just catch a ride with a friend who is also going, but there isn’t anyone appropriate to ask for either event. Besides just a ride, I’d need assistance with things like pushing my chair or fixing a plate at the buffet. If I receive the invite with a “plus one,” then great! I’ll bring a date who is cool with helping. But if there’s no “plus one,” am I allowed to ask if I can bring one? I know, traditionally, that asking to bring someone to a wedding is not okay, but is this an acceptable special circumstance? I’m very good friends with both of these people and am typically very independent, despite my disability, so I’m sure the thought of me getting around isn’t something that’s crossed their minds (especially with a wedding to plan!). I mean, why would it? I’d even be willing to pay for my date’s place. Should I offer that? One of the weddings is very small and on a tight budget. It’s also two hours away and will probably require a hotel stay, so I’ll definitely need someone to go with me.

So what do you think? Can I ask? And if yes, what should I say? — Plus One Required

This is definitely a special circumstance that falls outside “traditional wedding etiquette” and I think it’s perfectly acceptable for you to make mention of your special needs and requirements as a wedding guest in a wheelchair. Hopefully, you will be extended a plus-one and won’t have to worry about anything, but, if you aren’t, I’d send a quick message to the bride/groom (whomever you’re closer to), saying: “Hi! Hope you’re doing well and that wedding planning is going smoothly. I just received your invitation and am so looking forward to celebrating your special day with you and the rest of your friends and family. I do have a special request that I hope won’t be too much of a burden. As you know, I’m in a wheelchair and, while I’m very independent, there are some activities and events in which I require some assistance — a wedding, especially one that I travel to — being among those. Because I would hate to miss this occasion, I would be happy to pay for the cost of an additional guest if you’d consider extending a “plus-one” to me so that I could bring a date who will help me navigate travel and a wedding in a wheelchair. Thank you for understanding, and, again, I hope this request isn’t too much of a burden!”

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22 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite May 6, 2015, 8:24 am

    Go for it LW, hopefully they’ll think of any other potential accessibility issues when you ask so you don’t show up somewhere that really only has stairs entrances, too uneven ground to navigate, etc.

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  • juliecatharine

    juliecatharine May 6, 2015, 8:27 am

    Agreed, I can’t imagine anyone being upset about such a polite request that is clearly reasonable.

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    • avatar

      ktfran May 6, 2015, 8:35 am

      Seriously. And if someone were to freak out over such a request, I’m not sure I would want a relationship with that person.
      .
      LW, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for this accommodation, if needed.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray May 6, 2015, 8:31 am

    Go for it, LW! And let us know how they respond. I hope they’re not dicks!

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  • call-me-hobo

    call-me-hobo May 6, 2015, 8:52 am

    If the venue is outdoors, I would definitely make sure that it is handicap accessible. I have a close family member who is paraplegic, and when I was looking at venues, I was APPALLED at the lack of basic access (stairs alternatives, paved parking, etc) at many of the places I looked, especially any places that advertised as “barn venues” or “rustic” (I’m from the South- those are popular).

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  • avatar

    Jennylou May 6, 2015, 9:37 am

    I’m not inviting any plus-ones for my very small wedding, but if you were my guest and asked this of me, I’d absolutely say yes. It is not unreasonable at all!

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  • avatar

    ktfran May 6, 2015, 10:09 am

    Another thought, I generally know if I’m receiving a plus one before the real invite comes in the mail. You could even be pro-active, LW, and say something beforehand.
    .
    Also, I wholeheartedly agree that you should offer to cover the cost of you plus one, however, knowing me, as a wedding host, I would not ask you to do that unless I was seriously strapped for cash, but then I probably wouldn’t have a typical wedding. Wow, that was a brain dump.
    .
    Poll: If you were a host (or bride and groom) and someone asked to help them out like this, would you take them up on the offer to pay, or would you let it go? I’m really just curious more than anything.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph May 6, 2015, 10:26 am

      I would definitely NOT take them up on the offer to pay. For one, because then they’d know how much I was spending per person, and for another because as the host its my job to accommodate the LW at my event if I wanted her to attend and that means giving her a plus one so she can have the help she needs.

      I think you’re right that if the LW is close to these people, she should do some probing in advance about having a plus one.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh May 6, 2015, 10:27 am

      Unless I was really strapped for cash I would not accept money. I can’t actually imagine being so strapped for cash that one person sent me over the edge. Especially in a case like this.

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    • Pamplemousse Rose

      Pamplemousse Rose May 6, 2015, 10:27 am

      I would thank them for their generous offer to cover their plus one, but refuse. Even on a tight budget, adding one more guest due to special circumstances shouldn’t break the bank.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph May 6, 2015, 10:58 am

        Think of it this way… you should send invitations with the understanding that every single person could say yes and so you could have to pay for that number of people to attend your wedding. At the same time, you know that (unless your guest list is REALLY small) not everyone is going to say yes. I figure that a no or two along the line would more than offset the cost of a plus one for this one person who really wants to attend but requires assistance.

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    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite May 6, 2015, 10:30 am

      Let it go. we invited a group home that Mr. Ginger has worked at for years to ours which automatically meant 2 spots for program counselors to provide the needed supervision and help them dance, get food, etc.

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    • Lady_Red

      Red_Lady May 6, 2015, 10:55 am

      No, I would thank the guest for offering to pay, but let them know that it’s not necessary. One extra person isn’t really a big deal. A few people usually don’t show up that Rsvp’d anyways.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray May 6, 2015, 10:56 am

      I think you can offer to pay but you should know it’s kind of a fake offer, because no one in their right mind would say “yes, please pay.” But then what I’d do is give extra as my wedding gift. I usually double my cash gift (or value of the present I give) if I bring a plus one. I’d do that, even if the bride said “of course not” to my offer to pay.

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      • avatar

        K May 6, 2015, 11:13 am

        Side note question – I had never gone with a plus one to a wedding until last year when I attended 2 with my boyfriend. I doubled my monetary gift at both weddings because it seemed to make sense. Is that standard/customary/expected?

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray May 6, 2015, 11:19 am

        That’s what I do! But I don’t know what’s standard.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover May 6, 2015, 11:44 am

        Different people do different things. “Paying for your plate” is just a guideline, and not everyone can afford to even do that, let alone double it. I got a couple of really small gifts, and I didn’t consider it rude, because I don’t know their financial situation. If anything, the people who expect each guest to cover their cost with a gift are being rude (in my opinion). You give the wedding you can afford, fully expecting to pay for it all. If your gifts offset it (or even cover it completely) then that’s nice and you’ve been pretty lucky.

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      • avatar

        ktfran May 6, 2015, 11:59 am

        Agreed. I take everything into account. Travel. Wedding showers. Hotel costs. Rental Car. Bachelorette parties. It all adds up. Now, if everything was in the same City that I lived, I would probably give a more generous gift. Otherwise, it would be a little more modest.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph May 6, 2015, 1:50 pm

        It’s an ok guideline, but the truth is you never know how much your plate actually cost. Especially if you’ve never planned a wedding, or if you planned it in a very different locale (for example, if I gifted about what a plate at my wedding cost to a person getting married in Manhattan, I would not come close).

        I tend to vary my gift based on both how close I am with the person and also how much else it cost me to go (flight, hotel, car rental, etc). And I don’t think I’ve been very consistent.. it probably has a lot to do with how much money I’m spending otherwise around the same time. Like last year I went to a close friend’s wedding but it was also in the middle of several other weddings and vacations we had planned, so I just felt uncomfortable about the cash flow; but a few years ago I went to a similarly close friend’s wedding but it was like the only thing I’d done in months so I think she got a bigger check.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover May 6, 2015, 11:40 am

        This is exactly what I was thinking. I would give a really nice gift to offset the cost.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray May 6, 2015, 1:46 pm

    I know it’s the “polite” thing to do, but at the same time I think offering to pay for the plus-one when it’s for your assistance is kind of unnecessary. I can’t think of the right word for it. I would just ask, I can’t imagine them saying no, and maybe they are already aware of you needing someone to bring along.

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    • avatar

      rieux May 6, 2015, 6:09 pm

      I totes agree with this. I’m famously (or infamously) cheap, but I still hope my friends would not think of me as a person who would begrudge paying double for a disabled guest to be able to attend my own wedding. :-/ Not like I’d have been actively offended if someone had offered this, but I would have done a lot of soul-searching, I guess.

      And I’m actually NOT sure it’s the “polite” thing to do to offer to pay for your plate. I am pretty sure any Edith Wharton character would have frowned on it! Maybe the trick is to try to guess whether your friend would be more likely to be insulted by your asking her to spend extra money without offering to compensate her, or by your implying that she would actually want you to compensate her. But how you would guess that, I don’t know!

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