Sex & Relationships

Don’t Make It Weird: Why Bringing a Stranger to a Friend’s Wedding is Not OK

written by SYDNEY COX
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plus one
Source: @cottonbro | Pexels
Source: @cottonbro | Pexels

To plus one, or not to plus one? That really is the age-old question. I’ve seen friendships end, bridesmaids quit bridal parties, and receptions descend into chaos over the open-ended plus-one debate. Let me be clear, I’ve been on both sides. When I got engaged this year, I spent the first two months deflecting questions about the size of the guest list, plus ones, bridal party—really if people were involved, I was uncomfortable giving a hard answer. In fact, the comments I’ve made over the years questioning my friend’s wedding choices still haunt me to this day. It wasn’t until recently, while both planning my own wedding and the wedding of close friends that I realized bringing a stranger to your friend’s wedding is not only inconsiderate to the couple, it will end up being uncomfortable for you. In short: Don’t do it—here’s why: 

Yes, a wedding is a party–but it’s an intimate one

A wedding should be a celebration worth dreaming of, where the couple is happy and glowing in good company for their occasion. But, if these celebrations were only about the couple getting married, the wedding industry wouldn’t exist. Weddings are parties that are catered more to the guests than the couple. This is so common that I’ve heard countless guests take it upon themselves to complain about everything from the decor to the parking as if it is the couple’s fault for inconveniencing them. The wedding industry has perpetuated the sentiment that the guests are just as important on the day as the joining families–this is not true.

I guarantee you the couple wants you to have a good time. My fiancé and I have already had conversations about picking the right vendors and curating the experience for our guests. The key is that the couple is inviting you, not someone they’ve never met. They have no doubt spent many stressful hours cutting down a list that certainly didn’t include your new Hinge date or your roommate. The guests are gathering to watch one of the most important and intimate moments of two people’s lives, and inviting a total stranger will only make for awkward small talk when you finally get a chance to congratulate the happy couple.

The couple is inviting you, not someone they’ve never met.

Of course, it makes sense to want to bring someone. I’ve been in this position many times. I’ve frequently sat in the corner sipping on a watered-down drink or viciously fidgeting with my dress as I try to make small talk with people I barely know. What I try to remind myself, however, is that there is a reason that I am choosing to be there. If the event sounds completely atrocious and I cannot bring myself to attend alone, I don’t.

The guest list is already complicated enough

Let’s break down the dreaded guest list even further. For me, putting together the invite list has already proven to be one of the hardest wedding planning tasks. I hate the idea of categorizing people that I care about, but with ceremony restrictions, venue details, and budget, there has to be a limit.

First, you have to account for family: Moms, dads, siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents, you know the drill. We’re both lucky to have families on the smaller side, but for many of my friends that is not the case. In most duos, the family takes up a majority of the guest list even if you’d rather them not. Next come friends of the family. This usually ends up being a mixed group of people you hear stories about but can’t exactly place. You know you’re friends on Facebook, but that’s about it. Then, it’s time to think about friends. Between your friends, your partner’s friends, and joint friends, that may end up being the rest of your list (and you haven’t begun to think their plus ones). For instance, we’ve decided to invite other halves of couples who are in established relationships. This includes engagements, marriages, living partners, and life partners.

For those who haven’t planned or been part of planning a wedding, it’s easy to feel slighted if you weren’t given a plus one. What you have to remember is that it might not be possible for a variety of reasons. It can be even worse when you’ve been with your significant other for a long-ish time but not long enough to fit in the terms the couple set. I’ve seen this happen a few times, and it’s awkward. What one person deems established may not make the cut for another, and this is where feelings can get messy. Think “So they don’t think my relationship is serious?” messy. Yikes. In this case, it may be worth a conversation with the couple about why they’ve made the decisions they have. This can help clear up any assumptions before they get out of hand or relationships become strained.

They aren’t just photographs, they’re memories

Wedding photography and videography have been huge parts of the industry for decades, but with the rise of social media, this area of planning has absolutely exploded. We all know the couples who look for any excuse to plaster wedding photos all over their social accounts, and those who allocate a hefty chunk of their budget to making sure their aesthetic comes out right. As much as I used to roll my eyes at these occurrences, watching friends and family flip through their albums with tears in their eyes has totally changed my tune.

The truth is that wedding photography and videography are so important because they are memories. These forms of media capture moments that can be replayed and re-lived for generations to come. Now, imagine a stranger lurking around their cute candids or standing next to their parents in the reception footage—how awkward would that be for the couple? I totally understand the desire for sexy dressed-up photo-ops with your new partner, but save that for your next night out on the town… not your friend’s wedding reception.

Weddings are expensive

Everyone knows that weddings are expensive. So expensive in fact, that according to Zola, the average estimated wedding cost in 2024 is a whopping $33,000 (and that doesn’t show the state breakdown). Of course, a wonderful wedding can be accomplished at any price point, but it goes to show how much planning and financial commitment are necessary to host an event of this size.

While you may think adding one more person to your table is as simple as pulling up a chair, it isn’t.

Every person who attends the ceremony and reception is an additional cost, so while you may think adding one more person to your table is as simple as pulling up a chair, it isn’t. Vendors will charge fees for additional and unexpected guests, and venue rules can be strict. If the wedding goes over capacity in the space, the fines can be a hefty burden on the couple or risk the safety of everyone at the event.

It just isn’t kind

As someone in the midst of planning a wedding at this very moment, I want each and every one of our invited guests to feel like they are a special addition to the wedding day because they are. If you’re invited to a wedding and have to attend solo, it is likely that the couple felt you’d know others in attendance. If you were given a plus one and had the dreaded break-up convo weeks before, refrain from inviting your newest match to come in your ex-partner’s place.

There are exceptions to every rule, and if you feel the need to address your feelings with the couple, that is for you to decide. But just remember, these people care about you. They want you to celebrate their special day with them or you wouldn’t be invited. If you feel so up in arms about them not wanting two-date-Brad to witness them at their most vulnerable, maybe it’s time to assess your stance on the subject.