We all know wedding guest lists are hard, and deciding who gets a plus-one is even harder. If anyone can commiserate, it’s bride-to-be Pippa Middleton, whose planning (and guest list woes!) have been big news as of late. There’s been a wave of discussion around her brother-in-law (you know, Prince Harry) and his not-quite-fiancée Meghan Markle, and rumor has it Pippa will be inviting Harry to her ceremony solo, then asking Meghan to join for the reception. Seems unfair, no? We asked our experts to weigh in on whether the reception-only invite is above board, or if Pippa’s committing a major faux pas.
Pippa is famously enacting the “no ring, no bring” rule—meaning you only get a plus-one to the royal in-law’s wedding if you’re engaged or married. No boyfriends, girlfriends, or royal hangers-on allowed! This is a totally acceptable (and very common) way to keep your guest list down, and it can save you all sorts of explaining that you’d run into if your pal got a plus-one but your cousin didn’t.
The issue arose, however, when it came out that Markle wouldn’t be invited to the ceremony (as she and Prince Harry are not engaged), but would be included in the reception after the fact. Yup, you read that right! The good news for Pippa is that, while it’s not the most popular choice, keeping the ceremony smaller and then inviting more people to the reception (especially in the case of a very small ceremony venue) is in fact OK by traditional etiquette standards. Unlike a guest choosing to only go to the reception when they’re also invited to the ceremony (long story short, if you’re invited to both and RSVP yes, go to both!), the host or hostess can in fact make a distinction.
It does get sticky because Markle isn’t just another guest: She is one half of a couple, and her date has been invited to the entire event. If she was going to be invited solo, a reception-only invitation would be totally kosher, but there’s no right way to send a wedding invitation to a couple with a caveat that only one of them is invited to the ceremony. So Pippa, we hope you and Meghan have it figured out between the two of you, but to all you other brides-to-be, both halves of a couple should receive the same invitation for your wedding day, so either make room or make other plans!