The Emily Post set would have you believe that it is never, under any circumstance, appropriate to ask for a +1 to a wedding. In this school, the names on the invitation that arrives at your door are final, and any omissions or oversights are intentional, if regrettable.
But in real life, shit happens. Mistakes are made, circumstances change, and sometimes, it might make sense to double-check as to if you’re able to bring a +1, particularly if it’s a significant other. That said, the ask can definitely be a tight-rope walk.
Missteps here are dangerous, as they may make your dynamic with the marrying couple awkward, or put them in a tight spot, particularly because more heads mean a higher budget. It may even mean excluding someone else. So think carefully before embarking on this path.
Should I ask for a +1?
There are a few common situations in which it may be appropriate to ask or clarify regarding a plus one.
Is there lack of clarity in the invitation?
Here’s one of the most common situations in which clarification may be prudent, and not impolite. If a save the date or invitation arrives at your door (or in your email box) without specific reference to the names of the people invited AND you have a significant other, child, etc. whom you’d hope to bring along, it’s worth clarifying. This may be an easily resolved case of an accidental oversight.
If the couples themselves are manning the RSVP’s, you can follow up with them directly, but ideally this could be a quick email to a wedding planner or whichever friend or family member is helping them with this step.
Did your relationship get more serious?
Often, couples will make decisions on who gets a +1 based on guests whom they know to be in “serious” relationships, though the term — of course — is subjective. While it’s not appropriate to write them a sternly worded email insisting upon the seriousness of your relationship, it may be appropriate to ask about bringing your partner if the circumstances have substantially changed since the couple was deciding on their guest list: for instance if you recently got engaged or entered a civil partnership.
How close are you to the couple?
If you’re very close to the couple (family or one of their closest friends) or in the wedding party, the etiquette differs. For instance, it may be appropriate to ask for a plus one even if you don’t have a partner — just to have someone to keep you company. It may seem awkward to ask if they didn’t offer, but keep in mind that weddings are an amalgamation of truly thousands of small decisions, so there’s a non-zero chance that the possibility didn’t even occur to them.
How to ask for a +1
Get the couple on the phone
We’ve all received a text or two that, without tone or context, feels aggressive. Given this particular request is both asking for a favor and... kind of calling them for a perceived oversight, we’d recommend you stick to a phone call or in person.
Try to communicate clearly, directly, but with a casual tone -- making clear that the decision is entirely theirs and you’ll understand either way.
What NOT to do…
There are few absolute no-no’s, once you’ve stepped onto the perilous ice that is requesting a plus-one.
The first is no guilting. Even simple phrases like, “but Marianne got a plus one” can feel like a guilt-trip and are likely to leave a bad taste in the couple’s mouth at the end of the call.
The second is no sulking. Go out of your way to be cool about whatever decision they make, as they’ve undoubtedly got enough on their plate without attending to your emotional state.
Lastly, do not under any circumstances bring a +1 without asking. I really shouldn’t have to say this, but that move is -- and I don’t use this word often or lightly -- incredibly tacky.