Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickie: “Can I Ask If I Get a Plus One?”

wedding invitation

I recently received a wedding invitation from a friend who lives in Florida, where her wedding will be. The invite is addressed to me only. I have lived with my boyfriend of five years for three years now. They have met a couple times. Should I assume that she did not mean to invite him and, if so, how do I decline without being rude when I have already told her I would be coming while thinking my boyfriend would be invited as well? I don’t want to travel that far without him with me as it would be like a mini vacation for us. — Plus One

When Drew and I got married seven years ago, we had a small wedding with limited space, so we didn’t extend plus-ones to anyone who wasn’t currently in a serious relationship, including my long-distance pals (all the long-distance guests were friends with each other, so I knew no one would feel as if they were traveling alone). Two of my long-distance friends reached out to me to inquire about the plus-one situation, whether they could bring a date or what. I was not offended at all, as it allowed me to better explain some details and make some suggestions. In the end, every invited guest came, I think everyone had a fantastic time, and no feelings were hurt (that I’m aware of). I’d suggest you, too, reach out to your friend and say something like: “I got your wedding invitation and I’m so excited for you! I was hoping you could clarify whether John was invited, too. If so, we’re looking forward to planning a mini-vacation around your big day.”

Your friend may tell you that of course John is invited and she thought that was understood since you’re a couple of five years who has lived together for three (!). Or, she may tell you that, no, John isn’t invited, in which case you’ll have a chance to explain to her that you aren’t sure you’ll be able to attend the wedding without him. There’s no guarantee she won’t think you’re rude for skipping her wedding…but you’ll think she’s rude for excluding your longtime, serious boyfriend from her wedding, so you’ll be on equal footing when you decide whether and how to continue investing in this friendship.

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38 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Brise September 2, 2016, 7:52 am

    I understand Wendy’s advice which is perfectly reasonable. My own opinion on weddings is that the happy couple are free to invite who they want, and multiple factors play a role in this, including finances. Personally, I think if your friend intended to invite your boyfriend, she would have invited him as well. So he is not invited. I would take it without hard feelings: it is probably not about you or him, more probably about the difficult choices they had to make. Then, I would go by myself. If it is a mini-vacation for you, you can embark the boyfriend, and he will survive not being part of the ceremony for a few hours, he will have a cocktail at the pool’s bar. Take the positive and don’t break a friendship over an invite, please.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 2, 2016, 9:01 am

      I was thinking the same thing. No reason they can’t still have a mini-vacation even if the boyfriend doesn’t attend the wedding.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover September 2, 2016, 9:15 am

      Exactly. He can come on the trip and skip the wedding. Although depending on the wedding it could take basically thw whole day. Like say the service is at 1:30 and cocktails start at 5. You could have breakfast together and that’s it. So I guess if they flew in Friday night, she was at the wedding almost all of Saturday, and then they flew home Sunday afternoon, it wouldn’t be worth it for him to come.

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  • avatar

    Callifax September 2, 2016, 8:32 am

    I once got sent a wedding invitation for a work friend with just my name on it – so I assumed my now-husband wasn’t invited. Which was fine, as they’d only met once or twice. It was also a very casual, backyard BBQ affair, so I sent an RSVP for myself but didn’t need to specify entree orders or anything. The day of, when I arrived by myself, the bride was like, “Oh, where’s your boyfriend??” I felt so confused and just stammered something awkward about how he couldn’t make it. Moral of the story is, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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    • avatar

      Loo September 2, 2016, 9:55 am

      I had a similar experience recently. I traveled out of state for a college friend’s wedding. The invitation only had my name so I assumed I didn’t get a plus one. I agree – it doesn’t hurt to ask!

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    • avatar

      BB22 September 2, 2016, 11:09 am

      I disagree here. If they had been together a year or less, I would understand not asking and just accepting. But presumably they are either going to get married or have at least proven that they plan to be together as partners for some time. Let’s say next year they decide to get engaged and get married. People would be up in arms if the “husband” of the bride/friend isn’t invited in return. As a community that is clearly progressive and does not believe anyone needs “marriage” to prove a solid partnership – why doesn’t this translate into wedding plus ones? Apparently only the title of marriage is enough to solidify a plus one. 5 years is a longer more substantial partnership than many of the “marriages” I know.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph September 2, 2016, 11:19 am

        I’m not saying it’s right or wrong to go this way but marriage is a definitive line. When faced with a list of 100 people, marriage can be seen as an easy way to say “married people come with spouses, not married people do not.” It saves a couple from having to decide what is the exact line at which a relationship goes from “dating” to “legitimate partners.” Is it one year? Is it two? Is it cohabitation? What about people who have been together for 10 years but don’t live together due to some other circumstance?

        Like it or not, marriage is a definitive and fairly universal way to say “we are a unit” and one of the many benefits of marriage is being recognized as such. If the LW gets married next year and invites the bride without her husband, that’s a definitive difference from inviting half of an unmarried couple.

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      • avatar

        ktfran September 2, 2016, 12:21 pm

        Totally agree with this. Sometimes, a line on who to invite and who receives a plus one has to be drawn. Married vs. non married is the easiest way to do this. Who’s to say that the people together one year and not married are any less committed than the people together several years and not married? Does it suck? Yes. But again, it’s the easiest line to draw if you have limited funds.

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      • avatar

        freckles September 2, 2016, 2:30 pm

        We had this problem. We didn’t want a huge wedding, so we had to draw the line at plus 1s. We included anyone who was married or living together, as that was a clear line. We made two exceptions – 1 for my cousin who had been with her boyfriend for like, 7 years or something (and were just a tad too young to be living together), and another friend who didn’t really know anyone else at the wedding.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph September 2, 2016, 11:20 am

        That said, I’d still say ask. As long as you couch it as a question vs. a demand for a plus one, it’s fine to ask.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros September 2, 2016, 8:58 am

    I think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask. Unless he is not invited maliciously, I think it’s a little extreme to decline a wedding you’d otherwise go to because he can’t come. I’m a little confused how wanting a mini vacation translates into not being able to go to an out-of-state wedding without him at all. I mean, sure, a vacation would be nice, but you are really THAT averse to going on your own? Or do you just mean that you’d be offended and want to make a point?

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    • avatar

      hobbesnblue September 2, 2016, 12:07 pm

      Keep in mind that she may not have a lot of vacation days available to her, and perhaps she’d prefer to spend what she does have with her boyfriend, one way or another.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros September 2, 2016, 3:26 pm

        True. He could still come with her, though. It would only be a few hours away from him. I guess I just assumed it was a friend who was good enough that she’d want to attend.

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  • avatar

    SLS September 2, 2016, 9:16 am

    I agree that it never hurts to ask, and Wendy’s example message would be perfect. I feel like if the invitation was only addressed to you, it was meant to be a single invite. That being said, typically not everyone can attend a wedding, so maybe they would be fine with your boyfriend joining if that is the case (in which case you have to just ask).

    I received and invitation for a friend’s wedding and it was addressed only to me. ( I think I had JUST gotten engaged, but we had been dating for 3 years). I would have gone without my now husband if only I were invited, BUT she did follow up with me almost immediately to say “oh wait, I know the invitation was only addressed to you, but obviously X is also invited!”.

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    • avatar

      SLS September 2, 2016, 9:21 am

      In final thought – I really don’t understand why you can’t attend on your own?? I can understand if you ONLY know the bride that could be awkward, but if you have other friends attending does your BF really need to be there? Just Go! Have fun with your friends and enjoy the wedding.

      I say this because my husband is going alone to a wedding a couple of weeks (we were both invited) because we both know it will be more fun him to spend time with all his buddies. It’s in a beautiful location, and we could have made a vacation out of it, but with wedding festivities I find that never really happens. He will have a blast with his buddies at the wedding, and I will enjoy being home with our dog and my girlfriends.

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny September 2, 2016, 9:19 am

    Definitely ask! I had my invitations done by a 3rd party (we gave all guests without spouses a plus one), and there were a few mix-ups. At one point, one of the cousins (FAMILY! Ah!) was left off in the invitation address. When they called to make sure she could come, I was humiliated! I can’t believe I didn’t catch that!

    Sometimes things get messed up in the planning process – I think it’s definitely worth checking on. If the couple says no, well, you weren’t planning on going anyway!

    Also, Wendy, your response says you “did extend plus-ones” but the rest of the response sounds like you didn’t. Nothing major, but I had to read it several times! 🙂

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  • findingtheearth

    Findingtheearth September 2, 2016, 9:43 am

    Ask. I was just invited to a wedding where it was addressed to me only, but the return offered the plus one option.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray September 2, 2016, 10:08 am

    Ask! I don’t see the harm in asking. Isn’t it funny how nervous everyone gets about wedding etiquette? I’m sure if it were any other party, you wouldn’t hesitate to call your friend to clarify.
    *
    Also, I think a lot of people address wedding invitations to just the person they know, versus “and guest” because they don’t want to encourage everyone to bring someone, you know? Some people see a “plus one” and bring a random friend just to bring someone. So maybe to avoid that situation, they don’t add a “plus guest,” but if that person calls and asks they say “of course, no problem bring your boyfriend!” Maybe? Or they say “actually, no guests. . . ” and they explain as Wendy noted. In any event, I can’t imagine anyone getting their panties in a wad over you asking. Well, maybe some crazy irrational bridezillas would.

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    • avatar

      snoopy128 September 2, 2016, 10:17 am

      After spending some time perusing wedding forums…there are piles of people who have their panties wayyyy up there about etiquette and properly addressing invites and asking about bringing someone.
      These people exist. I have a hard time distinguishing whether they are a good chunk of the population or just the few that are super anal about “wedding etiquette” and forcing their beliefs on everyone.

      But I also feel like if you are a rational person and ask in a respectful and rational manner (like suggested here), there should be no problems. Hopefully if you are close enough to be invited to someone’s wedding, you are close enough to call and ask them if your bf is included in the invite or whether it’s just you.

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      • avatar

        va-in-ny September 2, 2016, 10:31 am

        Agreed. There are no issues with politely asking the bride or groom if you need clarification about something. We had a couple people that went through third parties asking if they would be invited to our wedding. If you’re not comfortable enough speaking to me about it and you haven’t heard a single thing about it from us, I think you know the answer!

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      • avatar

        va-in-ny September 2, 2016, 10:45 am

        Add:

        I was one of those people that got all twisted about etiquette, but I’ve always been that way. I took extra precautions to make sure that everything was done “properly”, but it was because that’s how I wanted to do it. There are people out there that don’t care about that stuff. That’s fine too.

        I do, however, believe that small etiquette rules should be followed and respected if someone has taken the time and effort to go “by the rules”. For example, if your invitation includes a response card, send it back, filled out. Simple things, you know? 😉

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray September 2, 2016, 10:54 am

        Oh, I agree. I’m not advocating that she just bring her boyfriend anyway. But if “asking for clarification if your boyfriend can come as your ‘plus one’ when an invitation doesn’t expressly say “[name] plus one'” is a violation of the rules, then meh, that’s a STUPID rule. Getting your panties in a wad should be reserved for NON STUPID RULES. And “stupid v. non-stupid” designation should be based on logic. (I’m kind of in the mood for a wedding etiquette debate. Who wants to fight? Haha.)

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    • avatar

      Stillrunning September 2, 2016, 11:03 am

      Good point about thinking you have to bring someone if the plus guest option is offered.

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      • avatar

        Stillrunning September 2, 2016, 11:05 am

        My favorite was a guest crossing out the plus one and writing, “and family!” on my wedding invites.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph September 2, 2016, 11:26 am

        We invited a bunch of “and family” for our relatives with kids at home so our reply card had a line for number of guests attending. (some families chose to come only mom and kids or parents without kids so it was a helpful line overall)
        But I will never forget one groomsman (single dude friend of my husband) sent back with a “yes will attend” but a 0 for “number of guests” because he was invited with “and guest” and didn’t have a date to bring. He had already bought the suit so I was sure he meant yes not 0, but I thought it was funny how he got confused by the “guest” line. Goes to show that no matter what you do, someone will be confused by it.
        The people getting married need to try to be understanding, and people who are confused its ok to ask but not ok to demand or pitch a fit if the answer isn’t what you like. If we all stick to that, things will go ok.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover September 2, 2016, 12:03 pm

        I customized my response cards for just this purpose. “And family” got multiple name lines, “and guest” got two. And I had a box for “total number of adults attending”, and then for ones with kids the boxes were “total number of guests over 12” and “under 12”, since they got different meals. I tried to make it as custom and clear as possible. It actually worked!

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      • avatar

        freckles September 2, 2016, 2:34 pm

        What if they were exactly 12? 😉

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover September 2, 2016, 2:48 pm

        Hahaha I think my exact wording was ’12 and under”, so I was covered! 🙂

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  • avatar

    snoopy128 September 2, 2016, 10:11 am

    As someone planning a wedding and trying to muddle through sorting out whether to invite significant others of friends (I was rebuffed on a wedding forum because “plus ones” are for single people…eyeroll)….this is hard and I would want a friend to reach out and clarify just in case a)there was a mistake on the invite and b)there wasn’t a mistake but I could clarify why their partner was not invited.

    I also don’t see why you can’t plan your mini vacation with your bf and have him do something alone on the day you go to the wedding? Or why you can’t go alone, especially if you know others going? But I also get it’s a lot of money to travel and if you and your partner only get limited vacation time, I can see why you would want to travel with him.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse September 2, 2016, 10:31 am

    Okay, unless there is a mistake with the invitation…wouldn’t or shouldn’t we all assume he’s not invited, and she’s not been given a plus one?

    NBD, you can still go on a mini vacation.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover September 2, 2016, 10:51 am

      That would be my assumption, but a couple of people upthread made that assumption at weddings they attended and were wrong.

      I think it’s fine to ask for clarity. What’s not fine is to ask to bring someone who wasn’t invited. Maybe a subtle difference, but one is double-checking who was invited, and the other is trying to add someone who wasn’t invited.

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      • avatar

        ktfran September 2, 2016, 11:07 am

        Totally agree. Framing it as a clarification is ok IMO. Asking to add someone is not.

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      • avatar

        girltuesday September 2, 2016, 11:30 am

        Totally totally agree – I think it his pearl-clutchingly rude when someone brings an uninvited guest to a wedding (not saying OP would do this, but I’ve seen it happen).

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      • avatar

        snoopy128 September 2, 2016, 11:39 am

        Exactly. Asking for clarity is good. Asking for an invite is not good.

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  • avatar

    saneinca September 2, 2016, 10:46 am

    WEES. Ask your friend if the invitation was intended only for you. If confirmed (can happen for any reason, mostly to cut down costs), go and enjoy with your friends. If your BF gets a bachelors party invite, he will not take you along either.
    No need to be joined at hip with your partner all the time.

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  • avatar

    girltuesday September 2, 2016, 11:29 am

    I had a similar experience. My friend from college sent me an invitation (she’s never met my boyfriend, but knows he exists). Their RSVP was online and it asked who we were bringing – which was an implied plus one, but the paper invitation did not indicate a plus one.

    Anyway, it was confusing so I just asked her. And, yep, everyone got a plus one! I would ask, but don’t make a BFD if she says no. My guess is that she meant to invite him, but I wouldn’t just show up without double checking. 🙂

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  • Lady_Red

    Lady_Red September 2, 2016, 5:44 pm

    Definitely doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as you’re nice about it. I’m going to a wedding in a couple weeks, and the envelope was addressed to just my husband and I, didn’t mention our son. But there wasn’t an inner envelope, so we asked about it, and they said yes, the whole family was invited. I feel like if there is an outer and inner envelope with names spelled out, then it’s pretty clear, but otherwise, there shouldn’t be anything to lose by asking.

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