I’ll admit, when I got married at 21, I was adamant that I wanted to personally know everyone that was going to be at my wedding. Because I got married so young, very few friends were in long-term relationships. I had sort of a mixed policy on guests. People who I knew had significant others were invited to bring that person (and I invited them by name, not “and guest”). All of our wedding party members were invited to bring a guest regardless of relationship status, and half of them took us up on it. We invited the rest of our “single” guests alone. Two of our cousins called specifically to say that they had significant others and could they bring them? I said yes immediately. Enough people had RSVP’d that they couldn’t come so it wasn’t a financial issue, and by then I had loosened up a little. One single friend RSVP’d that he was bringing a date without asking. I was a little annoyed by the assumption, but I knew his date well and he was a very close friend of mine – I wanted him there so I let it go.
Weddings are a couple-centric event by definition. Engaged and married friends obviously are invited with their partners, but what about friends in shorter or newer relationships? Often those friends feel slighted or as though you think their relationship is not as valid just because it’s newer or they haven’t been together over a year. If someone is in a relationship, they’re technically not single, so their significant other isn’t quite the same as a +1.
Single people often like to bring a date so they have someone to talk and dance with, especially if they aren’t going to know other people at your wedding. Some friends are extroverts and can make new friends with anyone, but some aren’t. For a destination wedding or for someone who is traveling a great distance to attend your wedding, it’s a nice gesture to invite them to bring a guest so they can be sure they will know someone there.
I once went as my best friend’s date to his coworker’s wedding. His girlfriend couldn’t get off work and he’d been invited with a date, so he asked me to go instead. He wanted to go to the wedding to support his coworker but really didn’t want to attend alone. It was a little awkward for me because the bride and groom didn’t know me at all, and I knew absolutely no one but my friend. But, we had a good time: the bride and groom were very gracious to me, my friend had someone to talk and dance with, and even though I didn’t know them, I still cried at the videos of the bride and groom growing up.
Ultimately you have to think about your guests’ comfort level: as the newlyweds, you will be splitting your time between photo ops and mingling with everyone. Your guests won’t really be spending that much time with you specifically, so who are they going to sit with, talk with, and dance with?
Sometimes there are space and financial restrictions, which of course you have to consider. If you have a clearly outlined policy, and politely enforce it, your friends will either understand or send their regrets. And guests: being invited alone isn’t necessarily purposeful snub. You can politely and tactfully ask whether you may bring a guest if you’re uncomfortable attending alone, but know that for various reasons, the answer may still be no.
Our overall recommendation is a the-more-the-merrier policy: if you can afford to, it’s a wonderful and inclusive gesture to invite friends in relationships with their significant others and your single guests with a +1.