How to tell your guests they don't get a +1

Updated Nov 6 2019
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?


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?

  1. Thank you for posting this, we've been struggling as well. Our wedding is going to be in our back yard, and we are only inviting 40-45, but at 8pm are opening it up and turning it into a house party. At that point, it's pretty open invite, but we finally decided not to allow non-significant-others to the wedding or dinner part. Luckily most invitees are couples, but we do have a few single friends. I plan on talking to them individually and just telling them that to us getting married is a super personal and private thing, and we're not comfortable with people we don't know being there for it. (This is true. I know not everyone feels that way, but we totally do.) I am hoping that framing it this way will be a subtle reminder that the day should be as meaningful as possible for us. I also think that if someone gets upset they can't bring a random +1 even after us letting them know it would make us uncomfortable on our wedding day, they're sort of jerks.

  2. I know this question is YEARS late, but we are in a bit of a tricky situation about +1s that I haven't seen discussed much on the thread:

    We are beginnimg to plan a wedding in Brooklyn, NY in the summer of 2020. Because we are an older couple (mid40s/me and mid 30s/him), we have a lot of friends from various parts of our lives. More than half our guest list will have to fly here (draft: 134 initial list, down from 166 — actually down from 177 before we decided on kid-free) from various parts of the country and a few from Canada and London.

    Because we have so many out of town guests, we do not know SO MANY of their spouses and significant others. It's not just singles whose dates we wouldn't know — we have many friends whose husbands and wives we have never met even once, and many guests we haven't seen in years. Not because we don't want to see them, not because we don't want to meet their loves, but because of physical distance.

    We want to give +1s to anyone who has to travel, but it is SO expensive, and that means nearly half the people at the wedding would be people we do not know.

    Before you tell me that I should make the guest list smaller, I have an abusive family (my parents will not be invited, nor will most of my relatives because I can't trust them not to help my parents crash the wedding). My friends are my chosen family and my lifeline. It is important to me to have as many of my friends as I can possibly afford to invite. If I invite spouses we don't know as a blanket rule, that means we can't invite people we really like, enjoy, and miss.

    Many of our friends will know at least one or two other people at the wedding;, some will know a bunch of people. But some of our friends have social anxiety, some won't travel without their partners or dates, and some have already gotten snippy and even angry and throwing words like "selfish" and "angry" and "insulted" around on a Facebook thread when I posted some article I read by a woman who argued that we should do away with all +1s, and I said "Hey, we're not engaged yet, but this is an interesting article." (Folks were getting so riled up even though they were not even thinking it was about OUR future wedding… the FB post was not even about what WE would do, it was presented as "What an interesting article." We are not telling anyone we are planning a wedding yet because we aren't officially engaged yet, but we know we want to have the wedding in 2020 and we have to plan way ahead because venues here that can hold 125+ people book up 18mo to 2years ahead.)

    We would love to offer travelers but+1s and some of our perennially single friends +1s so we don't expect them to be lonely. BUT:

    New York City (I was born in and still live in Brooklyn) has been reported as the single most expensive place in America to get married. No one has a back yard or house we could use. Even if I do TON of frugal DIY for decor, cake, hair, jewelry, bridal party gifts, not having any flowers at all, no favors — just finding a space that fits 130+ people (that isn't a picnic in the park, which we don't want *and* which is out because my maid of honor has bad pollen allergies), just a big enough space for a meal and a dance floor can run around $30,000+ (!!!) for the venue and your own DIY food/booze/decor/etc – and that is considered *"cheap"*for a 2020 Brooklyn wedding! In fact, I've been researching and apparently the average here is around $65,000! It's astounding.

    My partner's parents may want to help pay for the wedding, but they don't live here and they do not believe that anything costs anything. I'm a super thrifty and frugal person because I have been low-income most of my life due to a creative and activist-focused career, but they are frugal even though they do not have to be, they are very financially secure, they just do not think anything costs anything; they also have only a tiny handful of friends so they can't relate to any crowd over 15.

    This is the dilemna with +1s (whether spouses or single dates). If we give everyone +1s that can end up adding $15K to $25K! But ai also don't want to have a wedding where people would feel angry or miserable.

    How do I word invitations (or phone calls) in order to *discourage* bringing a partner/friend, but *allowing* guests to do so if they have social anxiety and/or would not come for whatever reason unless they can bring someone?

    Whew. That was a LOT! Can you tell I'm spiraling about this?

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