These RSVP cards are start of the Wisteria invite suite from Minted.
These RSVP cards are start of the Wisteria invite suite from Minted.

Hi, Offbeat Bride!We're trying to keep our wedding guest list below 150 people — which turns out is really difficult.

Do you think not giving my single friends a plus one is tacky?

-Jessica

Ok, so first thing's first: yes, it's tacky. IT'S ALL TACKY! Whatever you do for your wedding, someone will judge it, someone will think it's tacky, and someone will be upset. You can't avoid it, so just be accountable for your choices, and accept that you're doing the best you can.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get to your issue: how can you tell your beloved friends that you really want THEM there, but don't have the space to accommodate them bringing a guest? How can you politely tell guests they don't get a +1 — this isn't just about single guests! For some couples, this can even mean that their married guests can't bring a spouse. This issue could get a lot of push-back — again, you need to hold yourself accountable for push-back if you choose not to let married guests bring a spouse.

I want to first touch on the fact that, depending on the specific guest and your community of friends, single friends not being able to bring a guest may not be a big deal. If you've got an “urban tribe” of local single folks who all know each other, it's all good. If you're inviting friends to come across the country, not bring a guest, and they won't know anyone at the wedding except you? That's gonna be more of a big deal. If you can, allow guests for those traveling from afar.

But if you've factored in all these issues, here are a few angles to try:

Word & address your invitations and RSVPs clearly

You can try your best to make your point on your invitations. Here are a couple example invitation wordings for when you are inviting someone who cannt bring a guest:

  • On your RSVP cards: “__ of [insert number here] guests will attend.”
    Invitations to guests who could not bring a +1 read “__ of 1 guests will attend.
  • On your invitation: “We have reserved ____ seat(s) for you at our celebratory dinner.”
    Invitations for only one guest would then read: We have reserved one seat(s) for you at our celebratory dinner.

Use a wedsite to help you make your point

Even clearly written Invitations can be misunderstood, and while you can make a point to have the invitations addressed only to your friends (with no “…and guest” included on the envelope) many people assume they can bring a guest unless told otherwise.

That's why having a wedding website can be so incredibly useful — it gives you the room to explain what's going on, including that there are firm limitations on how many people you can have at the wedding.

Offbeat Bride reader Amanda Soto used this language:

Can I bring a date? We have worked really hard to create an intimate celebration that includes all of our closest family members and friends so we ask that you come solo unless we know your other half well. We will specify all guests on your invitation and of course will seat our attractive single friends together so perhaps you'll go home with a date. We also ask that you make other arrangements for your children, as this is an adult affair. Thanks for understanding, and if you have any concerns about this please contact us directly.

Offbeat Bride Reader STL-Keri suggested this language:

“With all the craziness that comes with a wedding, we would love to spend as much time as possible with our closest and dearest — thank you for not bringing a guest.”

Focus on venue size

In your conversations with your friends, emphasize the limitations of the venue. That way, it's not about you being a meany, it's about very clear limitations on how many people your venue space can accommodate. Make it clear, “We just don't have room for extras — if we allow +1s, we have family members who won't be able to come.”

Emphasize the community

In your conversations before the wedding, make it clear that you want the day to be about your community celebrating together. Emphasize that you want your nearest and dearest around you, and that by not having +1 guests, it allows you invite more members of your community to share the day together.

Split your wedding

This was my solution: the wedding ceremony and dinner had a pretty tight guestlist, right around 100 people. But afterwards the reception was essentially an open invitation. This meant that we had only our closest friends and family with us during the sacred/expensive part of the day, but then could have our whole extended community of beloved folks with us for the FUN part of the day. This option won't work for everyone, of course. But it worked great for us.

I'd also love to hear from Offbeat Brides — what are YOU doing to deal with this pesky situation?

Comments on How to tell your guests they don’t get a +1

  1. We have very few single guests (like, 5?) and the venue is small.. At this point, I’m going on a case-by-case basis. My best guy friend has been single for ages and now has a g/f. I’m happy for him about this and I want to meet her.. so, she’s been invited. Another friend is local, his family and friends will be there… so unless he wants to bring a guest we know (at least in passing), it’ll probably just be explained that the venue is small and we can’t accommodate +1’s.

    • That’s kind of where we are. I’m kind of looking at it as, if you are in a relationship when I send out invites, you’ll get the plus one WITH THE PARTNER’S NAME ON IT. If not, and you call me and ask nicely? I may still consider it. The non-family singles are few and far between, but our guest list is already a lot higher than I wanted it to be, so I’m not just going to give out free plus ones.

      • I like this policy. I’ve heard the “no ring no bring” policy, which I’m not as big a fan of as it excludes long-time partners.

  2. We just flat out told people who assumed they could bring their new girlfriend or a date that we don’t have room because our venue is small and that I have a big family. End of story. We also put it on our site and our RSVPs had every invitee’s name on it where they could check “yes” or “no”.

  3. We have been thinking about this a little bit, but I feel in the next few months, this will become an issue.
    Our concern is that our location is kind of a destination.. its our old college town where we met which is no where close to family (family is from oposite locations and this was kind of in the middle). All of our friends are with in a relatively close distence. Our venue is plenty big, but our budget is tiny! We want to include everyone and I think if we invited everyone, they would come the distence.. And I have never been strict about who comes to my parties before. I am just having a hard time trying to understand how I feel about keeping the list small.. but we have to… And how do I say no to a close friend or family member who wants to bring someone who Im sure is an amazing person?! I will deffinently keep my eyes open for more advice on this subject! Thanks for what has been said thus far!!

    • Hi kt. You may not like this idea but my original plan due to a much smaller budget was to invite everyone who wanted to come, find a big location and instead of having a wedding list of items I didn’t want, I would ask everyone to bring along different items that were needed e.g. the people who can’t cook provide drinks, and the people who can cook bring along the food and add it to a big buffet. We live in Italy so most people can cook really well and enjoy showing off their grandma’s recipes. If people are expecting something more formal it may not go down well but I think that folk would go out of their way to bring fancy food so show they care if it was an alternative to a present. Or you could just set a price limit on presents and have both e.g. $20 present + 2 bottles of good wine.

      • Thanks! we will keep this idea in mind. Originally we were thinking something similar, but the travel distence is the big issue. Everyone will be driving between 4 and 10 hours to come to the wedding. I’m sure it will all work out somehow! lol

  4. We did the split wedding invite like you did, Ariel, and it worked GREAT! My mom could invite all her co-workers to the bash, but we could still have a more intimate ceremony and dinner with our nearest and dearest.

    • We’re thinking about doing this with an afterparty type deal. It’s CRAZY how all of the traditional wedding sites make this a HUGE NO-NO. Up there with a cash bar (which all of us offbeat brides know is a matter of personal opinion, thank you very much). Again, brides get accused of being gift-grubbers, which is so cliche and mean.
      I’m glad to hear that it worked great for a couple of weddings at least, because we have a huge number of acquaintances we’d love to celebrate with.

      • I stopped talking on many of those sites for just this reason. I kept getting into arguments with married women on how if a bride had a reception after a JOP wedding (because her husband shipped off to Iraq) or how if they DARED suggest someone not have a plus 1 or their children how the bride was just being greedy and selfish and made all the other brides look bad.
        Well I’m sorry other brides, but two points:
        1. Your marriage does not hinge on the weddings of others
        2. NO ONE needs the big party and the fun, or deserves it any more than another.

      • Im from australia but my good friends are irish and they have it sorted over there! they have their close friends and family to the church and dinner then the have “the afters” where about 200-300 people are invited! basically anyone in their village!! but the afters is just dancing and everyone buys their own drinks- the couple might pay for some cheap finger food for later on when everyones had too many drinks and this party often ends at 4 or 5am!!! great plan I say!

      • Splitting the wedding is really common in the UK. It’s a great idea but if you invite people just to the evening who have to travel I think they would be less likely to come.

        • I wish we could do the small ceremony+huge cheap party after, but in Brooklyn (anywhere in NYC, really), the issue is space — any space that could hold 150 or more people is massively exhaustedly expensive. Even hosting the after party in raw space lofts can be anywhere from $3,000 to $11,000, before you pay for lighting, wifi, tables, dishware, silverware, linens, decor, usually a several hundred dollars insurance policy for the space, and all the extras associated with making a huge empty very plain space into a party room — and that doesn’t even account for the cost of booze. It can mean that you are spending $20K or more before you even buy food or beverages.

          So, if you want a big party in NYC, you are always spending a lot — here, the ceremony itself is the cheap part. You can find many places to have an outdoor ceremony for a couple/few hundred bucks, but everything after that is just a budgetary nightmare.

          And so many of our large-capacity venues don’t allow you to bring ANY food, ANY drinks, of your own — sometimes they don’t even let you bring your own cake to save money. Yet inclusive packages end up not being all that much more expensive than when you price out every single item you will have to rent, plus staffing.

          I am at the very beginning of planning (we want to get married in summer 2020, although we aren’t officially engaged yet, but we have to start venue searching now because the “cheaper” (still astronomical) venues book up 18months to two years ahead here.

          Ugh.

    • How did you word the split wedding?? We aren’t doing RSVP cards, so I just wanted to mention it on a ‘details’ insert, but I don’t know how to word it!

  5. Miss Manners says it’s rude to put “and guest” on an invitation. So. Unless I know my friend’s significant other personally and can put their name on the invite, they don’t get a plus one. Most of my friends know that I have a gigantic family and there’s just no room. This is also the reason no kids can come to the wedding because there just isn’t room.

    I was worried about some of my out of town friends, but since they’ll be around the whole crew from college I don’t think the lack of date is going to be an issue. They’ll have plenty of people they haven’t seen in a while to hang out with.

    When I was single, that “and guest” always made me feel pressured to come up with some random person to take with me. I felt like it was required of me to find someone, anyone with a pulse, even if I didn’t want to bring anything but myself and a gift.

    • I just wanted to add that during my work at a university library in the shelving department, I found out we have several manners guides. They all have pretty much the same view of the +1 as Miss Manners: a wedding is not just some house party, but rather a gathering of people who support the bride and groom. Not only can this be uncomfortable for the couple, but for the guest who only knows one person and doesn’t know the couple.

    • incidentally, how did you word it so that people were discouraged from bringing their kids? I know that’s going to be an issue for us…

      • You might not see this because, well, it’s August, but I am not having kids at ours. At all.

        Similar to the lack of “and guest” the invitations will clearly state the name of adults only and I’ll have it mentioned on the wedding website. Parents who I think may not grock it I will try to talk to about it directly.

      • We added an insert with a map in our invitation envelopes, where we added a couple of notes, including ‘children and partners by invitation only’.

        My first cousins who are kids and we’re close to are coming to our wedding, but I don’t want random people’s kids coming along, or screaming babies. Sorry, but no.

      • Oh, and incidentally, we STILL had people saying ‘I know you said no, but can I bring my kid?’ Which I think is pretty damn rude. You shouldn’t have to explain yourself…

        • Please clarify? How can anyone be expected to leave their kids behind, especially when they’re ‘screaming babies’ or really young kids who are sure to get underfoot. Some of the parents may be traveling 100s of miles to get to your wedding & have no other back up for Kiddie care. So the next option would be not to come- so why invite them at all and waste the cost of an invitation card (if you’re doing it the old-fashioned way)?

          Or better still send them an announcement of your wedding

          • If you cannot find childcare for an event, then it’s is totally 100% okay to graciously decline the invitation. Most of the people I grew up with have 2-4 children. If I invite 5 of my girlfriends (with an average of 3 kids to each) plus their significant others, that is 25 people. (we only have room and money for 130) Now imagine if I did that with every single guest–everyone from work invites their 2-3 kids, and so on. There would be no way we could financially or physically (due to venue size) accommodate them. Not to mention, there is an open pool in the back of my venue, and I feel it’s risky to have a bunch of kids running around. I would never forgive myself if someone’s kid drowned in the pool. This is why weddings end up being 20, 40, 50k celebrations because if you are on a certain budget, at some point you have to say NO. Yes, it’s hard to say no, but in the end, you have to be realistic. And PARENTS have to be realistic that part of being a parent is having to say no to going to things because you don’t have childcare. The couple wants you to share the day with them. The might have invited those people because they felt that those people were close to them and they wanted to invite them, but cannot accommodate their family of 5 or 6. There’s nothing wrong with declining and saying, “I’m sorry I can’t make it! Childcare for the night will be difficult. I wish you all the best.” and send a thank you card for being invited or a gift if you feel that bad. People cannot be everyone to everybody.

        • My friends all came to my wedding one year ago. They made the trip two hours away to be there now I am having my 50th birthday party and feel uncomfortable asking them all to make the two hour trip. I dont have the funds to cater or rent a space so I have decided on a restuaratn closer to my friends, that serve Meals at reasonable prices, but somehow I feel like I am settling for less on my big day. Any suggestions?

          • You fell uncomfortable asking them to travel 2 hours?!??! If I get engaged, I will give my friends a year to sort their stuff to travel the 7,400km…. If someone doesn’t think I’m worth traveling 2 hours – I’m sorry, they are not a friend. (Keeping in mind all my friends are in their late twenties, early thirties and have parents who are healthy (in their 60s) and have no kids).

        • Yup. I have close friends and one of them is really close so invited her, her hubby and a 6 year old daughter. another one is a fair weather friend and she goes out clubbing leaving the 6 year old with her eldest son at home and sometimes at her daughter’s house who lives close to her. So I did not intend to include her children. Today she called to ask what about her 6 year old? can she bring him? I told her I thought she is going to leave him with her eldest so I did not include him in the guest list. I have limited guest number so not possible. But I did feel awful afterwards for being rude. Although I believe she is the one being rude to ask obvious question to put me through the dilemma. But the whole evening after the conversation with her I felt really bad.

  6. I’m just saying “No”. It sounds mean, and maybe I’m a bridezilla (and John a Groomzilla?), but I have 12 Aunts & Uncles on my dad’s side and a ridiculous number of first cousins (who are mostly my parents age) and second cousins (whom I actually grew up with).

    It’s more important to John and myself that the community we’ve actively invested our lives in (for us, this is our Church community, Numinous) to be a part of the day. My family? I haven’t seen most of them in 6+ years, they all live over 1,000 miles away. Sure, I’d love to come up north for a second reception to see everyone, that’d be great. That’s the option they have.

    My mom and I had the conversation – she started it with “So dad said just invite all his brothers and sisters, and most of the first cousins.” and I said “No.” She said “Excuse me? It’s your family” and I said “I know mom, but we’re really limited, and I’m not cutting out friends for family”. It was harsh, she was ticked, but it leaves no gray area or wiggle room. Family will budge in where they can!

    With friends, I’m stating very clearly – 100 people. Small venue. 1/3 of that is going to be the Church community we’re very close with. My future mother in law, God bless her, is being great about this, and clarifying with people on John’s side who may not make the guest list. Take support where you can get it!

    • I’ve been in the same boat with a large extended family. I originally put my foot down and said “no” to my dad’s family (13 aunts and uncles on his side) but I came around thinking it would be fun to see all of my aunts and uncles. We recently moved so we don’t have many friends in the area anyways. We don’t have any friends who are being left out because of the large family. I refuse to invite all of my cousins though (tons!). I invited 3 of the cousins I’m closest to. If any of the other cousins have a problem with it…. well… screw em.

    • i’m having this dilemma myself…. invite family (who i literally haven’t seen or spoke to in 5 years) or invite friends (who i am very close to and speak to almost daily) i’m pretty sure i will get the “but its family guilt trip” from my mum, especially as we will prob invite some family but not all….. but our budget is tight…..

  7. We were trying to be nice and all-inclusive and thought we’d appease all our single friends by giving them an “and guest.” But, when it came down to it, almost none of them brought a date, and we had pretty much wasted about 50 spots that could’ve been used for friends we actually KNEW. I wish we had thought of Ariel’s point above, that our group is tightknit and most people wouldn’t come without knowing anyone else. Also, I had never thought about Jaime’s point that sometimes the “and guest” can actually be a slap in the face to singles… Oh well, live and learn. Learn from me!

  8. I disagree that it’s a given unless otherwise stated; I’ve always thought that the people listed on the invitation are the ONLY people invited. My default in dealing with anything people don’t like is to say it’s because it’s a French thing & my fiance is telling any of his family/friends who don’t like anything that it’s an American thing. Luckily, not having +1 really is!

    • That’s cool, I’m French too and although I lived in the US for a couple years, I’m not really familiar with the wedding protocol. Here in France, traditionally you would get married in a a townhouse or church(outdoor weddings are uncommon because not “legal”) and have an “aperitif” or simple cocktail to sociailze right after. Afterwards, selected guests are invited to the dinner and party.

      Here’s the invitation trick: everyone gets an invite stating “please join us or pray for us during the ceremony”, which only allows you to come to the townhouse or church and acts more as an annoucement of your wedding than an invite. The French name for it is “faire-part”, or annoucement, the same kind you would send for a baby’s birth.

      Then closer guests get an extra card inviting them to the cocktail after the ceremony, and an even smaller group gets another card for dinner.

      Here’s the thing though, to announce my wedding to old friends in the States, my parents sent them the first type of invite and we were all surprised when a couple of them flew in for the wedding! Obviously we adapted our plans and invited them to the whole event, dinner and party.

  9. We have had to be ruthless. No plus ones.
    It is frustrating because my dad keeps harping about it being a time for the parents to show me off and it is not my day! (I know right)I have over 40 cousins! I wanted no more then 50 perple and that is at 80 with no cousins.
    I put it is simplet terms for everyone
    a/ Did they congratulate us on the engagement?
    b/ have we seen them in the last 3 years?
    c/ would I want to pay $50+ to eat dinner with them.
    We had a huge engagement party and if they could not be bothered to come or make contact after the invite to let us know they were not coming, well why would we invite them to the wedding.
    I have had to cull some of my workmate which have assisted me more then anyone else because I don’t have space.

    • That’s a great checklist! Definitely going to have to file that away for future use.

    • We created a checklist too. And generally it worked. My now husband and I got engaged quickly (at the 6 month mark) and had a short engagement (only a few months). We decided that only people that knew us as a couple were invited to the wedding. We wanted to limit the wedding to the people who contributed to our relationship.
      a. did you attend (or call during) our surprise engagement party?
      b. Did you get to know us as a couple (dinners, trips, phone calls, etc)?

    • That is clever. If I went by every person I haven’t seen in that time and every person who didn’t congratulate us, I sure would have a smaller guest list!
      Of course, my dad wouldn’t be on that list, so maybe that’s a no.

  10. We both have huge families–the list of family members we are both close to and really want to be there is literally pushing 100–and that is after cutting lots of family off the list! We also have a large group of very wonderful friends who have been in our lives for years and years. We simply couldn’t afford +1s, and that is what we have said.

    • That’s exactly the position we are in. And I don’t feel particularly bad about it. I think it’s fair. We also split our day into 3 portions, and are inviting everyone to the party afterward. But the dinner is small and intimate, and we invited exactly who we wanted to be there.

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