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Eliminate Guest List Stress with Plus-One Etiquette Rules

The details that go into a wedding are endless, and some newly engaged people could be a little overwhelmed. One big stressor that I’ve received complaints about is planning a guest list. Some couples have huge families who all expect to be invited, others have tight budgets and need to be cautious about how many guests they have in attendance. The best way to manipulate your guest list by following plus-one etiquette. 

Plus-One Etiquette Rules for Weddings | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog

photo by Secret Garden

Eliminate Guest List Stress with Plus-One Etiquette Rules

To Plus-One or to Not Plus-One? That Is the Question

While it is ultimately a personal decision when creating a rule, you can use the traditional guest etiquette to create your plus-one rule. Here are the guests who should, according to plus-one etiquette, receive an invitation for an additional guest.

Someone Who Is Married

It is polite to invite the spouse even if you don’t have a close relationship with them, or even if you’ve never met them. Just think ahead to after your wedding. Wouldn’t you wish to dance the night away with your spouse? Including a plus-one is respectful of their relationship.

Those Who Are Engaged or Living with Their Partner

Again, it is a thoughtful gesture to include a plus-one when someone is in a serious relationship. Everyone’s relationship is a little different, so they could be just as committed as a married couple minus a ring.

The Wedding Party

If you choose to have a wedding party, it is important to give them the opportunity to bring a guest. Wedding parties often put forward a lot of time and money to be included in your wedding. Pay a part of that forward by giving them the choice to bring a guest.

Someone Who Doesn’t Know Other Guests

Have someone who isn’t familiar with your other guests? Provide them with a plus-one. This will keep them from feeling awkward or leaving earlier than the rest of your guests.

Plus-One Etiquette Rules for Weddings | Hill City Bride Virginia Wedding Blog

photo by Emma Bauso

Plus-One Etiquette for Responding to Those Who Don’t Get an Extra Invite

The Plus-One Rule

It is inevitable that someone will reach out to you if they did not get the opportunity to bring a guest and wish to have one. By making a clear plus-one rule, you can respond politely with a reason why you did not allow an additional guest. “Only family and the wedding party is receiving a plus-one,” or “I’m sorry, we only gave a plus-one to people who are married or in a serious relationship.”

Don’t Go Overboard

Be realistic about your guest list when deciding who gets a plus-one. Remember, each plate has a price tag, so your budget needs to accommodate for everyone that attends. Trimming the fat from the guests of invitees will be the easiest way to get your guest list down if you’ve gone over. Change your rule and remove whomever you can if you have gone too far over your intended number of people to invite.

Be Very Clear on Invitations

Make sure you include either the name of a plus-one on the invitation or write “Guest” with the person you are inviting. Including the name of a plus-one will help reduce the amount of invitation-swapping and reduce the cost of your wedding if that specific guest cannot attend. If names are printed on response cards, it will serve as a helpful reminder that only those people are invited. Many wedding guests are not aware of the etiquette they need to follow when receiving an invitation or attending a wedding, so the more clear you can be, the better.

Don’t Include a Problem

This may be a big forward, but avoid drama when choosing who gets a plus-one. If you have a friend who has a rowdy boyfriend, only give your friend the invitation. You may need to have a slightly delicate conversation with why they did not get a plus-one, but it will save you a big headache by being prudent.

Alli Dillenbeck is a wedding coordinator and marketing manager in Upstate NY. When she is not planning events, she is often tending to her large collection of plants.


  • Megan Elliott - These are great tips! I can only imagine how difficult it would be to try and configure a guest list that would please everyone. Super tough!

  • Nataly - I didn’t know some of these rules! Thanks for sharing!

  • Carolyn - I remember the guest list being really hard to figure out when I got married! You want to make people happy, but at the same time, you have to pay for whoever is there!

  • Keilara - These are good tips, I wish I had this information for when I got married lol. Thanks for the post girl!


  • Stephanie - This is exactly how we did it for our wedding, and it was a pretty great success. Of course, there are always a couple of people who are bummed they can’t bring someone with them, but for the most part, it’s a very small amount of complaints.

  • Kileen - This is such an awesome post and great tips to have a seamless and less stressful wedding!

    cute & little

  • Ashley Rollins - As someone who has a wedding coming up, this is SO helpful! Thank you so much for this ! I didn’t know who should bring who!

  • Deborah - These are great things to have in mind, not just as a person who’s extending the invite but also as a person who gets wedding invites. It’s good to know when I could feel like I should ask for a plus one or not.

  • Whitney - These are great etiquette tips to know! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Taylor Mobley - This is so interesting. We gave everyone the option of bringing a plus-one to our wedding but these all make total sense.

  • Yukti Agrawal - Great tips on wedding invite and especially to those who wants to bring their partners but not married ones. As in India wedding is a grand affair and sometimes we overlook these small things which creates a long confusion and chaos afterwards. But you put some great points and advice in your post.

  • alexis - This was a great read! We definitely went overboard with plus-ones and it’s the one thing I wish we could take back. I wish we would’ve had this post back in the day.

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