Plus-One Etiquette: Is It Ever Acceptable To Bring A Stranger To A Wedding?

Although there's nothing wrong with being single, showing up at a wedding all by yourself can be an awkward and lonely experience. A wedding is a celebration of love and togetherness. When other guests arrive at a wedding with their significant others, being the only single attendee can make you feel alone and out of place. 

For this reason, many wedding couples offer their guests a plus-one — a person who accompanies them to the event. While a plus-one is usually a spouse or a long-term love interest, it can also be the invited guest's family member or a close friend. This makes things so much easier, doesn't it?

However, there's etiquette to everything, including plus-one invitations. Although you have permission to bring a date of your choice to the wedding, you'll need to ensure you're not overstepping the bounds and displeasing the couple. For instance, if you get permission to bring a plus-one, can you bring just anyone — even a complete stranger to the hosts — to their wedding? The textbook answer is no. Even when you're invited to bring a plus-one, you shouldn't assume that you can bring a random friend to take advantage of all the free food and fun. Here's why. 

Bringing a stranger may be viewed as inconsiderate

It takes a lot of dotting the i's and crossing the t's to create a guest list and make all the arrangements so that everyone can have a memorable time celebrating the ceremony. Some may find it a bit inconsiderate to turn up with someone the couple has never met or heard of. It helps to put yourself in their shoes. Would you like to see a bunch of strangers who know nothing about you or your love story shedding tears as you exchange vows?

It's also not the best idea to bring someone you barely know just to avoid looking alone. Perhaps this person tends to act up when they drink a few glasses of champagne, causing a scene at the wedding and upsetting everyone. A wedding might be a festive occasion, but it's not a public occasion. Keep in mind that the extension of a plus one is not a given — it's a privilege. Not all guests are allowed a plus one because it usually costs the couple more to extend their guest lists.

If you get a plus-one invitation, that's the couple's way of saying they appreciate you and they're willing to pay more so you can have a good time. If you bring someone you've just had one date with or someone from work, the couple will think you're taking their generosity for granted. So how should you respond to a plus-one invitation if you're single? 

How to respond to plus-one invitations

If you can't find a proper date, notify the couple in advance and go to the wedding on your own. At least you can give the opportunity of bringing a plus-one to another guest who has a date that the couple knows. If you'd like to bring a friend or a family member, it would be thoughtful to ask for permission from the couple and briefly introduce them to the person you'll be bringing. Not all couples will be agreeable to that, but they will at least appreciate you for factoring in their feelings.  

If you'd like to bring someone with whom you're casually dating, RSVP to the wedding invite, including the name of the person you will be going with. It shows respect to the hosts and saves them the stress of not knowing what to write on the seating cards. In the event that your date is suddenly unable to attend or you are unsure of their ability to do so by the time the RSVP date rolls around, let the hosts know you're going alone. Weddings are hectic, so be dear and avoid making last-minute adjustments that can interfere with the couples' plans. 

While you should enjoy yourself as much as you can at a wedding, keep in mind that it is the couple's big day (not yours) and that it is the right thing to prioritize their needs above yours.