Choosing your wedding guestlist is already a minefield. Balancing the people you feel you ought to invite with the people you most want there. Working out who’s a day guest and who’s an evening guest. Broaching the dangerous debate of kid-friendly or kid-free.
But what do you do when you’ve got it all worked out – then your friends break-up?
In this month’s Problem Pal, we’re looking at how you should handle a friend breaking up with their plus one before your wedding.
Are They On A Break? wrote in:
I invited my cousin Ross and his long-term girlfriend Rachel to my wedding, putting both their names on the invitation instead of a plus one. They RSVP’d yes but, since then, they’ve broken up and I’m not sure what it means for my guest list. I don’t know Rachel well so I doubt she’ll show up on her own, but I don’t know what the etiquette is. Can I give her seat to a friend who’d otherwise be on the evening guest list, or will Ross still expect to have a plus one?
There’s not a single right answer to this – as long as you communicate it clearly, directly to your cousin.
If you’re having a ‘no ring, no bring’ wedding
If you’re having a wedding where no guest has a plus one they’re not in a serious, long-term commitment with, you don’t want to annoy your other friends by making an exception for Ross at the eleventh hour. You should take that seat back – but you need to tell Ross that.
Meet in person if you can or phone if you can’t. Tell him you heard he and Rachel broke up and say you’re sorry. (And give him a chance to tell you if this is more of an ‘on-a-break’ situation in case he still expects her to come to your wedding; relationships can be complicated and the family grapevine isn’t a reliable way to convey nuance.)
Tell him you have limited table plan room and you’re going to put him on a table with his close family or friends, so he still knows people at the table. ‘Just so you know, our wedding venue doesn’t have a lot of space so we can’t give out plus ones. Don’t worry though, we’ll sit you with Monica and Chandler, so you won’t be on your own.’
If you’re letting your guests keep an open plus one
If you’re not as tight on the head count or if you’d rather make sure your guest could bring someone they know (which is especially worth considering if there aren’t many people but you they’ll know at the wedding), let your cousin know.
This isn’t as urgent as making sure he knows he doesn’t have the plus one – unless you’re sorting table plans and place cards! – so you can send a text message rather than trying to talk in person.
Say you heard about him and Rachel, you’re sorry, and if there’s anyone else he wants to bring to your wedding, to let you know by the end of the month. (Or whatever date you need the names and numbers sorted by.)
This makes it clear he still has his plus one if he wants it, but he can’t just decide who he’s bringing on the morning.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
The most important thing is chatting to your guest directly – even if it’s someone you don’t often chat to. The worst thing to do in this situation is communicate through an aunt or friend-of-a-friend. The message can only get garbled or forgotten if you don’t do it directly.
I once got an wedding invitation through more than a year and a half in advance, addressed to me and the person I was seeing at the time. By the time the wedding rolled round, I was in a different relationship. Because my engaged friends had met my ex once, for all of five minutes, and hadn’t known his full name to put on the invitation, addressing it as if we shared a surname, I’d assumed I had a generic plus one and they’d just been polite in putting a name down.
I was mortified when I spoke to them about my plus one’s name for the place cards and they told me they’d taken my plus one away. They’d heard through the grapevine I’d been through a break-up and assumed I would want to come on my own. It was awkward and embarrassing for all of us. (Especially for me, shame-facedly uninviting my now husband from the day. I can’t say I bought the most thoughtful wedding present after that…)
If they’d been upfront in a two minute conversation, it would have saved a lot of problems! (And maybe landed them a toaster.)
Over to you! Have you got any wedding etiquette advice on talking to guests about their plus ones?
Or do you have any wedding worries of your own? Leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for actionable, anonymous advice on your wedding planning.
Until next time, pals!
Your Problem Pal,
Photo by Burak Kostak.