My Partner Can't Make It to a Wedding. Can I Bring a Friend Instead?

The invitation holds the answers

Updated 08/21/17

Photo by Meg Smith Photography

As the “no ring, no bring” rule continues to fade, brides and grooms are finding new ways to define which couples will get invitations to their wedding as a pair. Were you and your partner lucky enough to make the cut? Congrats! Of course, now it’s time to look at both of your calendars, which could very well mean your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t going to be able to make it. So can you swap him or her out for another friend when you send in your RSVP? Well, it’s not that simple...

When you’re invited to a wedding, don’t throw away the envelope before you fill out your RSVP card! The way the envelope is addressed does a lot more than make sure it gets to your house.

First, it tells you whether you were invited solo or with a plus one. An invitation that is addressed to you, and only you, means you’re the only one invited. So, if it says “Miss Amelia Walters”—and nothing else—your RSVP should be for just one person. If the envelope says either “Miss Amelia Walters and Guest” or “Miss Amelia Walters and Mr. Jason Scott,” your RSVP should include your response for two people.

Next, the envelope will tell you who you are invited with. “Miss Amelia Walters and Guest” means you have your choice of guest, whether it’s your long-term boyfriend, your twin sister, or a close friend. An envelope that reads “Miss Amelia Walters and Mr. Jason Scott” means that Amelia and Jason are invited together, with no exceptions. So, if Amelia is free but Jason will be out of town on business, that means she’s going solo—and can’t swap in her BFF to take Jason’s place.

Yup, wedding invitations are non-transferrable. You might think that, because the couple has allotted two seats for you and your partner, you can fill that seat with someone else, but that isn’t the case. Guest lists are full of politics and negotiations, and couples like to know who will be attending, so swapping your boyfriend or girlfriend with a friend the couple may not know will throw a monkey wrench in their plans.

Are you convinced the bride or groom won’t mind? Give them a call before you mail in that RSVP. Acknowledge the traditional etiquette before you ask if you can bring someone else with you, which will give them an easy out if they’d prefer that you not attend with a total stranger. It’s better to have the conversation with them before you and your friend have booked your flights, instead of finding out that they really would prefer that you come alone once your hotel room is paid for.

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