Modern Invitation Etiquette: The Dreaded “And Guest” or “+1”

October 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

So, let it be known – I am not a stickler for old-school etiquette. I think many of the articles out there on etiquette stressing people out how to address their outer envelope versus inner envelope are just a lot of unnecessary hot air. Have you ever received a beautiful invitation only to open it and be horrified at the lack of inner envelope…thought not. For the record, 95% of Hip Ink brides choose *not* to have an inner envelope, even for the most formal of weddings, and those that do often choose the additional envelope to protect the invite and make sure it arrives in good condition, and do not even bother to address it!

My personal view is that etiquette is really dictated by the formality of your event. A formal wedding probably calls for invitations that arrived addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Elvis Presley” (er, or not – see below). Conversely, if you are having a casual, informal wedding, you may want to address your invites to “Uncle Elvis and Aunt Priscilla” and I think that’s just fine.

Aside: I have a personal disdain for being addressed as “Mrs. William Spano”, since personally I’m Sarah Quadrini Spano, thank you very much. For my own wedding I chose to address the older couples we were sending invitations to in the above traditional manner, but most of the younger couples as simply “Priscilla and Elvis Presley” (and yes, this is the correct order – a man’s first and last name should never be separated apparently). And of course we had a few “Mr. Elvis Presley and Mrs. Priscilla Beaulieu Presley”s as well. If you are aware that a woman does not use her husband’s name personally or uses both (hyphenated or otherwise), then please address the invitation in that manner. If you want to try and please everyone, you can always just include both names as “Mr. Elvis Presley and Mrs. Priscilla Presley”…or…do what makes you comfortable, but it is always appropriate to take into account the person you are inviting and what their preference may be. Rant over. Back to our regularly scheduled blog!

But…I must admit that there are a few things that do bother me a bit when I see them on clients’ guest lists, and generally it involves the use of “and guest”.

I will leave the discussion of whether you should or shouldn’t invite single people with guests to someone else. That is a personal decision that only you can make, and it can be a touchy subject. There are probably 1.35 gazillion articles online about that very topic, so if you feel the need for guidance, check out the interwebs. Forums on popular wedding planning sites are a good way to find out what other brides are doing these days and how they are handling this sticky situation.

Notice I said “single” – married, engaged and cohabiting (that’s a fancy word for living together) couples should *always* be invited together! Priscilla would probably be persnickety if the invite was addressed to “The King” only😉

Miss Manners and Emily Post and lots of other people who know something about proper etiquette will tell you that it is never acceptable to use the term “and guest”; every person who is invited should be named specifically on the invitation. If you care enough to invite someone to your wedding, you should care enough to find out who they would like to bring with them. In this particular circumstance, I agree. Yes, if you are having an absolutely huge wedding with 800 guests of whom 100 are single and you can’t be bothered to call them all and find out, I guess you’re forgiven. But, for the average bride these days, there really are few people who would be invited with an “unknown” guest anyway, so its always appropriate to at least *try* to find out who they might be bringing.

If finding out in advance isn’t an option, you could always include a handwritten note with the invitation along the lines of “Dear Alistair, you are certainly welcome to bring a guest to the wedding if you’d like. Please let me know who you’ll be escorting to our soiree, and we’ll have a glass of champagne waiting. All the best, Petunia”. Well okay, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea.

For me the worst faux pas has to be using “and guest” on day-of wedding stationery, such as placecards, escort cards, seating charts etc. Alarm bells go off in my head when I see this on a client’s guest list. Newsflash ladies and gents: it is not cute to show up at a wedding and grab an escort card that says “Frannie Bigglesworth and Guest” (and by the way, double-wrong – for single ladies use “and Escort” not “and Guest”). How do you think Mr. And Guest is going to feel about that. Probably pretty lousy to be honest, unless Frannie just grabbed him off the street so she wouldn’t have to go to the wedding alone.

If you must address your invitations with “and Guest” or “and Escort”, I guess I can let it slide, but *please* try to find out who your guest is bringing to *your* wedding (don’t you want to know anyway so you can Google or facebook stalk them to make sure there are no photos of them dancing with the punchbowl on their head at someone else’s wedding!?!). Its a small thing, you can probably send a quick email or text message rather than call, but it does make a big difference to how you are perceived: and, it’s just plain-old nice.

What do you think? Is it totally fine to refer to someone’s guest generically, even the day of the wedding, or an extreme breach of etiquette that will reserve you a place in the naughty bride corner? I’d love to hear *your* thoughts!

§ 2 Responses to Modern Invitation Etiquette: The Dreaded “And Guest” or “+1”

  • Ginette says:

    I totally agree with your post! If someone is important enough to be invited to your wedding, in most cases you or someone close to you ( and them) should be able to confirm who their escort or guest will be. After all, this is a private function, a family and close friends gathering, so knowing who YOUR guests are going to be is your right.
    Certainly it is more tasteful to identify cousin Priscilla’s guest as Elvis on the place card than it is to put “guest” thereby implying she may not find someone until the last moment, so can not let you know who it is!
    Perhaps a small card could be printed and placed in all “single” invitations, indicating, as you stated above, that the invitee is very welcome to bring a guest, and asking the identified guest to advise on his/her reply who the intended guest will be.

  • Beth says:

    Good post Sarah! I’m usually not a stickler for etiquette, but I do agree that there should not be “and guest” written on the day of stationery. Nobody wants to be left nameless, including the new boyfriend/girlfriend of your third cousin. :-)

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