When exactly did it become acceptable to invite a grown woman - or man, for that matter - to a formal event without an escort? I’m gobsmacked that so-called etiquette experts encourage brides to invite their single friends without a plus one. If I’m not offered the option to bring a date to a wedding, I RSVP with regrets. Period.
In conversation, most people agree with my choice. In practice… it doesn't go over so well. Recently, in fact, one of my closest friends broke up with me when I declined a solo invite to her wedding. It was devastating.
But more on that later.
I can already feel the marrieds and soon-to-be marrieds out there sending me death glares through their computer screens. She doesn't understand what it's like to plan a wedding, they're thinking. Actually, I do. Planning a costly party is stressful as hell. There are family politics to consider, compromises, expectations... I know, because I've planned similar events myself.
But I've never asked someone to come stag simply because he or she hasn't found a life partner. Why? Because we're grownups. A wedding is not a Sweet Sixteen. Decreeing that a guest has to travel alone, or make new friends, or not dance during slow songs, or whatever – simply because match.com hasn't worked out as promised yet – sucks.
I've heard all the arguments, and they don't sway me. Here are some examples:
1) If you go alone, you might meet someone! Maybe. But I can meet that someone just as easily if I'm there with a plus one.
2) You know lots of people who will be there! Sure. And just because I'm invited with a date doesn't mean I'll bring one. But I should have the option.
3) It's too expensive. Actually, this is bullshit. The cost of inviting plus ones for single guests is negligible compared to most other wedding expenses - it’s just easier to nix them than to source less-expensive-but-still-awesome options for venue, decor, and etc. The harsh truth is that no one is going to remember the flower arrangements or DJ five minutes after the wedding is over. They will, however, remember whether or not they had to put on a brave face in order to walk into a cocktail hour alone, or make small talk with a random cousin over dinner because everyone else was coupled off.
4) We don't want strangers at our wedding. Newsflash: the bride and groom are not going to spend any quality time with their guests at the reception. That's what hosting is like – a whirlwind of circulating. So why should they care who I bring as long as s/he's respectful and appropriately dressed? Because of the photos? In ten years, they won't know half the people in those pictures.
Plus, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say things like: Well, we have to invite Lindsay and her Horrible Boyfriend. So, you're inviting someone you think is horrible, but I can't bring a fantastic friend with me solely because we aren't sleeping together? (For the record, I've brought my wonderful, life-of-the-party best male friend to weddings as my plus one for the last five years, regardless of who I was dating. He is universally adored.)
We live in a society obsessed with couples, exacerbated by a wedding culture that has gotten completely out of hand. It's no surprise that singles are treated like second-class citizens, intentionally or not. But why should relationship status determine a person's worth? I mean, that's literally what's happening when a bride cuts my date to save money. She's determining how much she wants to spend for me to attend her wedding.
Who gets to decide what a “serious relationship” is, anyway? It's completely arbitrary. Married? Engaged? Dating for six months or a year? I knew a couple who decided guests only got plus ones if they shared a home, which would have actually excluded the bride and groom from being invited together to their own wedding.
These rules are absurd - I could pick a random guy off the street, go to Town Hall, marry him that day, and POOF! I'd be in a serious relationship, with a piece of paper to prove it. Now I get a guest? I actually suggested this to the aforementioned bride, and she said that Yes, that would be a loophole and if I actually went out and married my best friend, she'd let me bring him to her wedding.
THAT. IS. INSANE.
What about people who are single by choice or tragic circumstance, by the way? Do they have to sit at the kids' table forever?
This isn't about being bitter because I'm single, or jealous of the happy couple. This isn't about being unable to attend a function by myself. This is about treating some guests differently than others based on their love lives. It's insulting. It’s degrading. I’ve said repeatedly that I'd rather not be invited at all than be invited alone, and I mean it. I'm delighted that you want me there, but don't send me half an invitation. Because when you do that, it puts the onus on me to either disappoint you or disappoint myself by caving, and that's not fair.
I am a person, not just a name on a place card. I have feelings, and one of those feelings is that if you want me to spend money and time and mascara to come to your wedding, you should want me to be comfortable at it. You don't have to invite me, but please - don't budget around me.
So, back to my former friend. I was stunned and crushed that the issue of my bringing a date to her wedding even arose. My feelings on this subject weren't new to her; I've been vocal about it forever and we'd had many animated conversations in which she had always, without exception, agreed with me completely, backed me up, and made it crystal clear that when she got married, I would of course be invited with a guest no matter what.
Cut to my total incredulity when I was invited solo. She didn't even have the guts to tell me beforehand – I found out when I got the invitation in my mailbox, addressed only to me. When I asked her about it, she told me we'd just have to “agree to disagree.” And she hasn't spoken to me since, which absolutely breaks my heart.
I didn't make my decision lightly, by the way, despite my hard and fast rule on the subject – of course I wanted to be there on her special day. Ours was a relationship I cherished. In fact, I’d been brainstorming ways to make her wedding day extra-special since the moment she got engaged. But I felt backed into a corner by someone who knew me extremely well and still banked on me setting aside my convictions for her party. And when I didn't, she bailed. In the end, I was the bad guy – who else could I be, when she was The Bride?
Look, I'm well aware that I'm not owed anything, and it's not for me to tell anyone how to plan her wedding. But it IS up to me whether or not to attend, and I don't understand why that's not acceptable. People skip weddings for all kinds of reasons.
Yet every bride whose invitation I've politely declined has ended our friendship because of it. That's right; this has happened before. This recent instance - maybe because I was so shocked, or because we were so close – is the last straw. It’s time to stand up publicly and say that this isn’t okay, even knowing there’s likely to be backlash.
Bottom line: When you invite me alone, you're asking me to choose between You, The Bride (or Groom) and Me, The Person. As thrilled as I am for you, and as much as I want to celebrate your love, I am simply not going to choose you. Just suck it up and go, people advise. Why should anyone have to do that!?
More importantly, if you like me enough to want me at your wedding, you should care enough about my principles that you'll respect them. If you can't do that by inviting me with a plus one, do it by accepting my heartfelt regrets and then let it go. If I can let it go, you can, too.