Dear Dayna—Uninvited plus ones

Dear Dayna,
Due to financial constraints, I’m having a small wedding. My fiancé and I are only
inviting close friends and family with limited plus ones. We invited my cousin—who
we’ll call Chad for the sake of the story—without a plus one, but after RSVP-ing yes,
Chad texted me asking if his girlfriend can attend as well. I understand why Chad
wants to bring his longtime girlfriend, but we’re not very close to Chad and have
never met his girlfriend. I feel awkward saying no, but if all of our distant family
members brought their uninvited significant others, the wedding would be much
larger than we anticipated—or budgeted for. How can I communicate this to Chad
without hurting his feelings?

Plus One Blues

Dear Plus One Blues,

Addressing uninvited plus ones is a tale as old as time—if dinosaurs had wedding
blogs, they’d probably have how-to posts about diplomatically telling your T-Rex
neighbor that no, her new boyfriend cannot attend your wedding. Nevertheless, that
doesn’t make the problem any less challenging.
First, take a deep breath and remember that this is your wedding day. You’ve poured
lots of time and energy into curating your guest list based on the strength of your
relationships, what you want out of your wedding, and, as you importantly
mentioned, your budget. There is no shame in wanting to limit your guests to those
who are closest to you, and you don’t need to feel guilty communicating this.
Nevertheless, keep in mind how wonderful it is to have a cousin like Chad who,
despite not being very close to you, wants to shower you with love and
encouragement on your wedding day.
I recommend scheduling a time to meet with Chad in person (or over the phone, if
meeting in person isn’t possible) to delicately explain that you’d like to limit your
wedding guests to those originally invited. Start by telling him how excited you are
that he’ll be present for such a momentous occasion, and thank him taking part in
your wedding day. Next, tell him that you unfortunately do not have room on your
guest list for his girlfriend. Be direct. It sounds like the reason she’s not invited isn’t
personal, so say that—let Chad know that budget constraints motivated the choice
to have a small wedding and you’re afraid to go down the slippery slope of tacking
on additional plus ones. Lastly, talk to Chad about positive alternatives. If you’ve yet
to finalize your seating chart, find out if there are any guests he’s close with so you
can seat them together. If it’s geographically plausible, ask Chad if he and his
girlfriend would like to spend time with you and your fiancé in a more intimate
setting, like brunch or game night.

Enter the conversation with the goal of answering his question—no, his uninvited
girlfriend cannot come to an invite-only event—and expressing how grateful you
are for your relationship with him. Saying no to a family member will likely feel
uncomfortable no matter what, but if you approach it with a spirit of gratitude for
your guests and respect for your own needs, you may be able to turn it into a growth

The DSE team


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