Weddings might be steeped in tradition, but increasingly there’s room to do your own thing. From dress code to decorum and every detail in between, Vogue’s Wedding Editor, Alex Macon, is here to consult the experts on your most pressing matrimonial worries and wonderings. DM us your questions on the Vogue Weddings Instagram.
My cousin is getting married in France this summer, and I didn’t get a plus one on the Save the Date. The wedding is small, but the majority of my family members are paired off, and I really don’t want to go it alone. My worst nightmare is being relegated to the kids’ table and forced to dance to “All the Single Ladies.” I recently started dating a guy I met on Hinge, and it’s going well. All signs point to our being pretty serious come spring. Is it okay to ask my cousin if I can bring my significant other?
Sincerely, Newly Dating in New York
“Can I ask for a plus one?” is probably the most frequently asked etiquette question when it comes to weddings—and the most hotly debated. “It comes up often!” celebrity wedding planner Marcy Blum admits. The answer to this used to be “no ring no bring,” but with the average age of first marriages for women in the United States clocking in at 27 and men at 29 and co-habitation on the rise, things can get confusing when couples are formulating the guest list and addressing envelopes. More minimalistic, modern looking invites and digital Save The Dates add a whole new level of complexity.
Some steadfastly believe you should never, under any circumstances, ask for a plus one as a guest unless the invitation offers you one. “I completely understand from a couple’s perspective that they may not want someone they don’t know at their small, intimate event,” says Gabrielle Jaworskyj, an event planner at Blum Associates. “I think that’s really obnoxious for someone to expect that they can bring a date. On the flip side, in a traveling scenario or in a situation when everyone else is in a couple, and I don’t know many people, I would fully expect to be able to bring one. But, I would never ask. Never ask anything of the bride and groom. Ever.”
Others feel like there’s more wiggle room because even though most hosts mean well, sometimes the invites aren’t as clear as the Baccarat. For context, typically wedding invitations have an outer and inner envelope—and the latter is meant to communicate a lot. The outer layer addresses the recipient (the guest or the couple who the soon-to-be-married know personally) and the inner paper lists all of the names of those who are invited, like children and/or plus-ones. If your name is on the inner envelope by itself, then the writing is on the paper suite, and you have not been given a plus-one. If an invitation is being extended to you and a guest, this envelope will say so.
Blum explains that whether or not you can ask for a date really depends on two things: “One, how close the guest is with the couple, and two, how significant their relationship is with the plus one they want to bring. If for example, the bride and groom had no idea the guest is now living with or engaged to someone, in my opinion, it’s perfectly appropriate to ask for them to be added. If it’s someone you are newly dating and/or the couple are not your nearest and dearest, it’s not ok to ask.”
This seems like a good litmus test for whether or not a plus one is in the cards—and according to this, Newly Dating in New York, you will be flying solo to France. But I sense a follow-up question: Say you’re living with your boyfriend come February, and perhaps your parents are willing to ask the bride and groom for plus-one permission on your behalf? If everyone else is going to have a date, you’ll truly be uncomfortable without a companion, and you’re close to the couple, then asking in an understanding, unimposing way—and also giving the engaged couple an out if they need it—shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Just remember to graciously accept and honor whatever answer the hosts come back with.
For engaged couples facing this question, Blum has a bit of advice. “If you really cannot add anyone,” Blum says. “And this should only be because of space or budget issues—the best approach is honesty. Something like: ‘Sorry, we just can’t add a soul more, we are so tight as it is and kept our list to the absolute minimum of those important to us—my mom, brother, first cousin, whatever couldn’t have someone they wanted. Please don’t be upset with us, we are so looking forward to having you there.” Despite how much you might dread the indignity of being corralled onto the dance floor by the DJ for the bouquet toss, you can’t fault that sweet sentiment.
Originally Appeared on Vogue