I am the maid of honor in a wedding in August. As you know, wedding costs can really add up for the wedding party. Between travel arrangements, gifts, attire, showers, and bachelorette parties, even a relatively modest event can get expensive.Unsplash CC/Sweet Ice Cream Photography
My friend is having what many would consider a “normal” wedding — it’s not an over-the-top blow-out. But it’s still costing me a lot. When all is said and done I will have spent $2900 on this affair. I don’t resent it. This is a very close friend and I’m honored she asked me to be in the wedding. But there’s one thing that’s bothering me.
Yesterday, I got the official invitation in the mail, and to my surprise it was just for me. In other words, I didn’t get a guest or a plus-one. My good friend said this is poor etiquette on the bride’s part and I should ask her to let me bring a guest. I would definitely prefer to have someone else to travel and attend the wedding with me. Should I call the bride and ask for a plus one?
–Not Maid of Money
Dear Not Maid,
You’ve probably noticed that scientists are always doing studies to determine extremely obvious things — like the fact that beer goggles are a real thing or that people hate meetings. What I want is for someone to stick a bride-to-be in an MRI and figure out what happens to her brain during the wedding planning process.
Because it must be some kind of quantifiable medical phenomenon. Some kind of chemical that promotes the idea that centerpieces and color themes are life-and-death matters. That the existence of similar weddings in the universe poses some kind of existential threat to your nuptials. Not to mention the delusion that one can make unlimited demands on family and friends and they won’t mind at all.
Bridesmaids, groomsmen, and maids of honor get the worst of it. The happy couple latches on to the idea that it’s an honor to be asked to be in a wedding. But they forget that it’s not an honor to shell out two months rent to make it happen.
People who are perfectly nice, considerate, well-mannered, and humble experience some kind of strange psychic disturbance when their own wedding comes up. And boy, does that make things awkward for the rest of us.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it another thousand times in my lifetime: brides and grooms vastly overestimate how much people love weddings. We don’t. We love you, the people getting married. That’s why we put up with vegan caterers, demands that we dress like aspiring aristocracy or wannabe cowboys, and let ourselves be photographed doing the Electric Slide.
That’s what love is — putting up with inconvenience, expense, and uncomfortable shoes so we can be there for a life-changing moment. With that said, a little consideration from the couple would be nice.
Because if you have to wear heels, get a hotel room — probably at a “quaint and historic” (marketing speak for, “expensive, but with tiny bathrooms”) local inn, get plane tickets, and squeeze into a pricey dress you will never wear again, it would be nice to have someone along for moral support.
Let me guess. She promised you’d be able to wear the dress again, didn’t she?
Brides always say that. But their vision of an unwearable dress is based on visions of taffeta butt-bows. They don’t seem to remember that most people don’t have a regular need for a mint green, tea-length, chiffon goddess gown, no matter how tasteful. All things being equal, we prefer to wear things we bought because we liked them, not because they matched someone else’s flowers.
And that’s before we even get to the headache of attending a wedding alone, but as part of the bridal party.
It means that once your official duties are past, and you’re no longer required to hold bouquets, straighten trains, or stand slightly to the right of the bride for a photo, you’re extremely solo at an event that is all about love and pairing up. There’s no “alone” quite like the “alone” of being stag at the wedding of a close friend.
So you have my sympathy. In your situation, I would want a plus-one too.
When it comes to wedding invitations, etiquette requires that anyone in a committed relationship be treated as a social unit. That is, if you’re married, engaged, or have a significant other, you both get an invitation. Emily Post adds that it’s a kindness to give single members of the wedding party a plus-one.
Miss Manners goes further. She doesn’t like plus-ones, but only because she thinks formal events require people to call their guests and ask who they want to invite, then invite that “plus-one” by name.
You don’t mention a spouse, fiancé, long-term significant other, or any sister wives, so I’m going to assume you’re riding solo at the moment. That leaves you in an etiquette grey area. You’re still entitled to special consideration as the maid of honor, but not on the “must include a date” list.
If you’re not in a committed relationship, etiquette mavens don’t technically require the bride to send a plus-one, but we’re out of the realm of etiquette at this point. Etiquette is supposed to prevent these kinds of issues. Once the invitation is issued, etiquette doesn’t leave you with much to do except grin and bear it.
Unless you plan to literally hit people over the head with an etiquette book, it’s not much of a weapon in what has become a relationship issue. (And if you do plan to hit someone, I understand Amy Vanderbilt’s “Complete Book of Etiquette” is 800 pages and comes in a hard cover edition.)
If your bride graciously changes her mind after being told she violated etiquette by not giving you a plus-one, she’s a unicorn. As a rule, people don’t respond well to being told they were rude.
What’s more, she’s likely to tell you that they had to limit guests and plus-ones because of expenses. That puts you in the awkward position of suggesting you should be the exception because you’re shelling out almost $3K for her big day.
You could go the passive aggressive route and send her the Emily Post website or book with a conveniently bookmarked section on plus-ones for members of the wedding party. That will give her the chance to complain to everyone else about your passive-aggressive gift, and you’d be even (in etiquette faux pas terms).
Obviously, you could just let it go and try to make the best of your solo invitation. But if you’re hoping to gently lead her towards a plus-one, try calling her — not to demand an extra place, but to talk about her plans and the guest list.
Ask who’s coming and whether anyone in the wedding party is bringing a boyfriend/girlfriend/roommate-that-everyone-knows-she’s-been-in-love-with-for-years. Unless the bride is being intentionally dense, she’ll see what you’re driving at and either explain why no one received a plus-one or try to remedy the situation.
If she’s determined not to let you bring someone, you’re stuck. You can’t bring an uninvited guest to the wedding and there’s no way to Thunderdome a bride into coughing up a plus-one. Even if there were, you’d still be facing bad odds. She’s probably on one of those crazy bridal fitness and diet regimens.
But hopefully, she’ll remember that you’re a good friend who should be treated with special consideration at her wedding. Be sensitive to her worries about budgets, in-laws, and the uncle who’s insisting on a Keto meal choice. Wistfully sigh and mention that you’ve been telling [your chosen plus-one] about how awesome and fun the wedding will be.
And take heart. Wedding craziness is a temporary condition. It won’t be long until she’ll be out of this phase and back to normal. Until first-time mom craziness hits, that is.
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