'and guest' invites

alicia123October 16, 2006

is it neccessary to list "and guest" on every single guest's inviation even if I'm fairly certain they do not have a S.O. to bring? I am ignorant of the etiquette rules. thanks!

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Well, my favorite etiquette expert, Miss Manners, would say that "and guest" is never appropriate - she'd say to find out the names of your guest's guests and invite them by name. She also says you're not required to invite casual dates, but must invite a fiance or other established partner.

Personally, I think "and guest" is really useful and don't mind it at all. If I were going to use it, though, I would use it on the invitation of every guest who is single, whether I thought they would bring a guest or not. I wouldn't want to play favorites with who gets to invite a guest, and I wouldn't want to presume that a guest of mine has no one they wish to invite. Other than the second it takes to write "and guest," what do you have to lose?

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 1:50PM
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It's not neceessary to list it on ANY invite--only list if you want that person to feel free to invite their own guest to your wedding.

If you really only want to include true "significant others," then go the Miss Manners route, and find out the names (you probably know them anyway).

Then, by word of mouth, tell your single friend who don't have boyfriends or girlfriends that they should let you know if they get in a serious relationship. (though you could consider that if, at the 6-weeks-to-go point, they don't have a boyfriend you know about, it can't be that serious yet).

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 2:59PM
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There is perhaps another subset of guests whom you might consider adding an "and guest". A friend of mine got married while my husband was not at home due to a military deployment. The invitation was made out to me, my husband, and guest. My friend knew I would have more fun at the reception if I was there with someone, though she also knew that my husband would not be able to be the someone.

Granted, this is a small subset of guests. But it is difficult to be a happily married single person sometimes.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 3:28PM
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Miss Manners writes:
"Anyone who writes 'and family' or 'and guest' on a wedding invitation deserves whatever she gets."

In other words, while it's not quite an etiquette violation to put "and guest" on an invitation (to a single person), it's a mistake.

So I agree with the other posters that it is at the very least NOT necessary to put "and guest" on every single guest's invitation. I would go farther and say not to do it at all. If you know that people are in a serious enough relationship that you really have to invite the SO, then you need to find out his or her name and use it; just to write "and guest" as if s/he were a generic anybody is insulting. But you absolutely don't have to invite single people to bring dates.

Your wedding is not a prom. It's fun, but it's a significant, serious event in your life and in your families' lives. We all have limitations on how many people we can invite. If you have space for more, why would you want to have a bunch of miscellaneous strangers there instead of a few more of your own friends?

Most of the single people will know someone else at the wedding, so they won't be alone among strangers (which isn't so terrible, and not all that different than for a couple who don't know anyone else, either). Besides, weddings are wonderful occasions upon which to meet new people -- but not if all the single people felt they had to go out and find a date so they wouldn't look like losers if everyone else did.

Here are some of the other things Miss Manners says about "and guest" and "and family":

"Dear Miss Manners:
"I want to issue an invitation ot a man who is living with someone, and to indicate that he may bring her. Should I write 'and guest' with his name?
"Gentle Reader:
"Certainly, presuming that her name is Guest. The way to write it is:
"Ms. Theodosia Guest
"Mr. Alexander Dashing
"If Guest is not her name, find out what is."


"Using 'and Family' on your invitation is its own punishment. You cannot then complain if your sister-in-laws's dog disturbed the ceremony, and you didn't know where to seat your bridegroom's best friend's stepgrandfather's new friend. The word 'family' can be very broadly construed where free champagne is involved, and those who use 'and Guest' on their invitations are courting disaster."


"A wedding should not be treated as if it were a public institution, like a disco, to which one can bring an anonymous date. If the hosts make it that, you may take advantage of it, but please don't institute this practice on your own. Besides, you might decide you like the maid of honor better than anyone you already know."

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 4:28PM
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I usually agree with Gellchom, but I have to disagree with a couple things she said. I don't think it's the same at all for a single person who knows no one as for a couple who know no one else. The couple will at least be able to dance and talk together if they don't meet any nice new people.

And about weddings being great places to meet new people, which Miss Manners claims - maybe she and I go to different sorts of weddings, but I have to say that in many years of going to weddings, I have rarely spoken to anyone new beyond the "hello, I'm John's cousin" stage. Well, except for people who sit at my table for dinner, but even then, everyone seems to go their own way as soon as dinner is over. And I'm an outgoing, friendly person who bathes regularly. I think that mostly family members visit with other family members and friends hang out together. Very natural.

If you're going to have dancing and not allow your single friends to bring dates, they're cut out of most or all of the slow dancing and, if your circle doesn't dance in groups, out of most or all of the dancing in general. Certainly, there is some mingling, but most people dance with the person they came with most of the time.

Personally, I would much rather invite fewer friends but let the ones I do invite bring guests than invite more friends. But I would rather have a simple, at-home wedding with everyone I loved than a fancy wedding where I had to cut out people I would have liked to invite, so inviting guest probably wouldn't mean I had to cut anyone I cared about.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 8:18PM
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When I first began dating my (now)fiance, our co-worker invited my mom and I (we worked at the same company) to her wedding on the same invite. I had my own home; it went to her house. I was insulted that I was not viewed as my own person who had a guest to bring. we had been dating for about two months, which she was well aware of. I told her that I couldn't go with no explanation (and I told her in person, because I, personally, didn't actually get an invite to respond to!!)

I really don't want anyone to feel like that, but I think I will not use 'and guest' because the people I was primarily concerned about are co-workers, most of whom don't have partners, BUT if they are coming together, they'll have plenty of people they know to talk to.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 9:51PM
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I don't blame you for not liking not getting your own invitation. The hosts should have gone to the trouble to find out your address.

I'm not sure whether you were also offended that they hadn't invited your (then) boyfriend of 2 months. But I don't think that they were obligated to do that, especially if they didn't know him, too; the rule only applies to permanent couples (expanded from married and engaged couples to include unmarried but living together or otherwise a longstanding social unit who always socialize as a couple, like many older couples do), not everyone who is in a relationship. Planning a wedding yourself, you know that the time arc from deciding on size, planning a list, and ordering and sending invitations through telling the caterer the count is a lot longer than 2 months! You couldn't possible keep adjusting the list everytime people formed or ended relationships. If someone gets engaged or married, you have to invite the other person, but that's it.

joann, I see your point, so maybe in the case of a single person who absolutely doesn't know anyone else at all, I would be inclined to ask them if they wanted to bring someone, and if so, who -- I still wouldn't just write "and guest." There aren't likely to be too many people like that on anyone's guest list. But I would not be offended if to be invited alone if I were single (and I wasn't, when I was single). A wedding is a chance to participate in the celebration of a very important event; it's an honor to be included. If it isn't as much fun for me as it would be if I had a date, too bad for me; this isn't about me, after all! If people don't think that they can enjoy the experience on their own, then they can simply decline.

But I hope singles won't be afraid to go on their own. When I have attended weddings on my own, both before I was married and at the occasional wedding my husband couldn't attend, I have had a perfectly nice time, even when I didn't know other people.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 11:54AM
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I think we've lost the art of seating people at tables, and mingling w/ new poeple.

The Miss Manners approach to seating arrangements is that you do NOT seat people next to their spouses. And you don't seat parents and their adult children at the same table, either.

This way, they don't keep having the same stupid converstaions over and over (cal you tell what bothers me?), and they get opportunities to speak w/ cousins they don't see as often.

And, guests screw it up, too, bcs they "only want to sit with their friends," as if they were jr. high kids or something. Each guest has an OBLIGATION to the host or hostess to bestir themselves to make a conversation with the peole they're seated with, but I can see that people just don't.

And, at all the bigger weddings I've been to, once you're at a table, there's not that much opportunity to go perch at another one--there's no room, people don't move around, etc. They sit in their assigned seats like lumps.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 10:25AM
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my reception will be very informal and I won't be assigning seats, but I just wanted to react to Miss Manners' approach of separating couples. I wouldn't care for that at all! I can see separating big groups or families, but I think confident/outgoing people really don't understand the intense anxiety some shy/less confident people experience. Forcing them into social situations they are not comfortable in can be a horrific experience! I've been there!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 10:50AM
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Forcing them into social situations they are not comfortable in can be a horrific experience! I've been there!

This is because the OTHER people are boors! If everyone took seriously their obligation to be gracious dinner companions, it would be much easier for everyone.

and, hostesses have an obligation as well, to seat each guest near someone they'd find interesting to talk to, and to introduce them to each other so they've got some frame of reference to use in talking to one another. The burden of starting the conversation is actually on the HOST or HOSTESS--but nobody realizes that anymore.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 10:53AM
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Tally Sue, I've got to agree with you. It happens at parties, too. I always try to make an effort to circulate and talk to people I don't know and/or people who are standing alone, but rarely get much interest in return. People seem to just go on talking to the group of people they already know, and don't seem open to meeting new people.

Even at our own parties, I try to introduce friends to one another and get the conversation going, but everyone ends up in the same groups - work group, church group, etc. Very little mingling between groups.

I also think people often don't understand that they can have a conversation that doesn't revolve around family or work. When all the friends from work are standing around talking about their boss, for example, it excludes potential conversation about more general topics.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 2:33PM
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I agree with Talley Sue, too. That's one MORE reason to take the trouble to assign tables, not just have "open seating." I think by "informal" alicia means not a full meal (judging from what she wrote on another string, although of course you can have a very formal cocktail reception and conversely a very informal full meal, so, alicia, don't count on the word "informal" telling anyone what to expect about food). But where there is a meal, buffet or served, I don't think the overall informality or formality changes anything about the problems of open seating.

I try hard to help the hosts by introducing myself to people and talking with them. The easiest trick is to ask them questions. (I read somewhere that that's what the royal family of England do when they walk past throngs at barricades: "Have you been waiting a long time?" "Did you have to take off work today?") I ask people where they live (safe phrasing in case they live in town, and I'm supposed to know that!), or whether that color that looks so gorgeous on them is their favorite, did they notice such-and-such pretty detail in the flowers/bridal gown/whatever, have they tried this yummy appetizer -- like that. My mom long ago taught me that the way to feel at ease is to find someone else who looks lost and help THAT person feel at ease. It really works, and it gets easier every time. And you are doing the hosts a favor, too, by helping their party succeed. They can't be everywhere at once.

Regarding seating couples separately: I think that very, very formal events sometimes do that, but it seems to me more business-y things like state dinners (not that I've ever been to one!) than strictly social events like weddings. I've always seated couples together at the same table. At our home, though, where we are at the same table (except for big crowds at holidays, and then it's whole families anyway, not couples), I don't seat couples side by side -- I mix everyone up. It makes the conversation work better; try it, you'll see. I also think it's nicer to the single guests, so they don't feel either like odd person out or, if there are two, like they are being paired up with each other.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 5:21PM
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I sought the help of the parents of the groom for a good seating chart, and then included the bride and groom, who were appalled at his parents' seating suggestions. I sat cousins together, graduate school alums together, relatives together, townies together, elementary chums' parents together, etc. It was a very successful reception, and partly because the seating took everyone's comfort level and personalities into consideration.

I also went with what they are calling a Royal Table for the entire wedding party and dates/spouses, including the bride and groom at the center of the rather long table. Such seating was common in my hometown when I was a girl, but now it is considered the newest alternative to the Sweetheart Table. They had so much more fun at the reception at their Royal Table.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 3:02AM
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We went to a terrific reception Saturday night, and I thought of this thread (or, rather, what it turned into) because of the seating arrangements.

Not only were we assigned to tables, but there were individual place cards at the tables, and although spouses were seated at the same table, we were seated across from each other (at a round table for 10). The hosts had taken great care to make congenial tables, and it worked well. Rather than seat obvious groups together, as sheilajoyce did (and as we usually do), they mixed people up. There was only one other local couple, whom we like but don't know very well, at our table, and the rest were some of the host's relatives who were about our age. I was honored to be seated with the host's sister! I really enjoyed meeting the new people, whom I did like, and we all had fun trying to guess what the common denominator for our table was. Some tables were even mixed way up by age. Our 17-year-old daughter was clear across the room seated next to a 70-ish business mogul! (There was also a boy her age that she knows well, along with his parents, at that table.) Fortunately, she knew not to discuss politics!

I don't remember ever being seated across the table from my husband at a big reception like this (as opposed to, say, dinner party or holiday dinner at someone's home), but I thought it was just fine. We still felt "together," and we both got to know one new person and got to know one member of the local couple a bit better.

I have seen mixing of groups at weddings -- including my own -- and it does work very well. The hosts have to think carefully, but it's worth it. At our wedding, my mom kind of kept generations together, but mixed relatives from the different families, family with friends, and locals with out of towners. No one was at a table where they didn't know anyone; usually at least 2 "units" (single or couple) from the same group (e.g., 2 of my paternal cousins & spouses; 2 of my husband's cousins; 2 of our friends, all of similar age and interests). The tables for their generation had 2 local couples as "anchors" and then 3 out-of-town couples they would enjoy meeting. It does take a lot of planning, but it's fun planning, and I think the guests enjoy it.

At our daughter's bat mitzvah party, we sat cousins together because now that we are grown and spread across the globe, events like this are like reunions for us, but for our friends we sort of split up usual "groups," if you know what I mean, so everyone wasn't seated with the same people they always are (and who they see all the time anyway). I always really appreciate that, as I did Saturday night -- some of our good friends were there, but not at our table. It's nice to sit with someone other than "the usual suspects" once in a while. (There were some years when we and 3 other couples felt like we were going steady -- we were at the same table every Saturday night. Of course that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 5:58PM
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This is what happened to me. For my first wedding (long time ago) I put "and guest" for one female friend. She and her boyfriend broke up before the wedding so she brought a female friend. Let's just say that everyone thought she has "switched teams" and it caused a bit of a "thing" at the wedding.

Second wedding I used a European invitation, which do not have an inner envelope, so "and guest" is not even an option. I made a point of getting the name of the SOs for everyone. DH has a cousin who is gay, and I didn't know if he had a boyfriend or not (there were other gay people bringing partners, but I had names for them). I don't know DH's cousin well, and DH was squeemish about calling him and asking him this, so I asked DH's aunt who is close to this cousin (the cousin's parents are dead). DH's mother, who is a conservative Catholic refused to make the call as well. The aunt said he wasn't seeing anyone. So I sent the invitation to him, not listing a guest. He didn't reply, so I called. Several times. I finally got him and he said he wasn't comfortable coming without out his boyfriend. I said I didn't know he was seeing someone, and of course we would love him to bring him. He said he would "get back to me". He didn't. So I called him. He said he would "try to make it" but not to count on him. Huh? Weddings are not open houses, you need to know! Don't know if he is rude, or if he felt snubbed. I don't think we've seen him since.

Re: seating, assigned tables are a must, even if there are just two tables. People expect to me told where to sit and feel uncomfortable and confused otherwise.

We did assigned seating, but kept couples together. Being separated from their spouse just freaks some people out. Wouldn't bother me, I can talk to anyone. But DH would not like it. I am in business and can do small talk. He can't and doesn't really want to.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 2:33AM
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bride_angie, of course it's easier not to bother to find out the person's name, but it's not polite. If you care enough about someone to invite him/her to your wedding, take the time to find out what the correct name is. If you know your guests are in serious relationships and you mean for them to bring their partners, then "and guest" is very insulting, both because it shows you couldn't be bothered to find out their names and also because it suggests you don't care if the invitee brings someone else instead -- any old "guest" will do.

If you really are telling your single guests that if they don't want to come alone that they should go out and find some random date to share your wedding day, go ahead, put "and guest" on, but I sure wouldn't. Not only would I not want my wedding treated like a public dance, I wouldn't want my single guests to feel pressure to come up with a date.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 2:50PM
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Listen to Gellchom! She always has good advice.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 10:34PM
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I don't know who this Miss Manners is, but she sounds really stuffy.

I'm using and guest.

His younger brothers have so many different gfs, that even if I asked for a name, that might not be 'the one' by the day of the wedding. As long as they enjoy themselves, I don't care who they bring.

And I'm sure they aren't stupid enough to bring a dog, at least not the four legged variety. LOL

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 11:59AM
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I love Miss Manners. She's a hoot and gives good guidance as well. She is syndicated in some newspapers, which is where I first ran into her. She has also authored book(s) on etiquette.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 11:50PM
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We (three couples) are giving a party for a young engaged couple. When the bride-to-be gave me the guest list, I thought of this string: for four of the single women, she'd written, "and guest." As there were several other singles on the list, I figured out that these four had significant others. I managed to get their names without insulting her manners!

A few weeks ago, now that I think of it, I had the same problem with some invitations I was doing for my friend's birthday party. Her husband had put "and guest" with two of the names on the list he gave me. Good thing I asked if this was for specific people, not just bring-a-dates -- one was a new husband and one was a fiance! I think they would have been very insulted to be called "and guest."

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 7:42PM
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"I don't know who this Miss Manners is, but she sounds really stuffy.
I'm using and guest.
His younger brothers have so many different gfs, that even if I asked for a name, that might not be 'the one' by the day of the wedding. As long as they enjoy themselves, I don't care who they bring."

But why would you want a random girl showing up in your wedding pics who probably won't be 'the girl' by the time the pics come out? When you get your wedding album, those younger brothers will have NEW gfs.

MissManners may sound stuffy to you, but at least she's sensible. I'd cringe at seeing random people in my wedding photos.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 12:15AM
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I dated my husband for six years before we got married. I must say I hated being the "guest" tacked on to invitations. It made me feel as if the person doing the invitations thought I was not important and didn't care if I came or not (some of these were people who knew my first and last name and knew that we were in a serious relationship). I strongly feel that if someone has a significant other you should find out both the first and last name and put that on the invitation. If you don't know it, it only takes a simple phone call to find out if you don't know. If you don't want the SO there then don't invite him or her! When I did my wedding invitations, for the guests who have serious relationships even if they weren't living together I addressed the invitation to both people: John Smith & Jane Doe

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 10:25AM
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You don't necessarily put someone in the family wedding portrait just because she's your brother's date. Or even if she's your brother's' girlfriend of 1 year. Presence in the family portrait is granted only to fianc and wives. And sometimes not even fiancés, though I think they should be included. the date gets to stand by the photographer and tease the people in the picture, and help the little kids in the front row stay focused.

Miss Manners isn't against "and guest"; she just sees its vulnerabilities.

Emily Post says that you may write "John Smith and Jane Johnson" on an invite that is being mailed to John alone; you don't necessarily have to send Jane her own separate invite, especially useful if the only reason you'd invite Jane is that she's still dating John, and if they break up, you wouldn't invite her.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 5:13PM
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Talley Sue, thank you (and Emily) for that last paragraph. I just sent out an invitation like that -- i.e., to a friend and her permanent SO, at her address (they don't live together). I felt a little funny not sending him his own invitation, as I do know him, but as you said, the only reason I'm inviting him is because he is her SO. Thanks for making me feel "correct"! It felt right, not because I wanted them to know he wouldn't be welcome otherwise, but because I thought it sort of respected their "couple" status more to send them a single invitation.

I don't think Miss Manners likes "and guest." She doesn't think it's "incorrect" -- just unwise -- where you really are just asking the invitee to bring a date. But where you know there is a SO, she says you have to find out and using the person's name, not just write "and guest."

You know, judging from my recent experiences described above, I think that people seem to think that "and guest" is what you are SUPPOSED to write for a SO who is not a fiance or spouse even if you DO know the person's name. Isn't that scary? I think that would be so rude -- if I were the SO of someone who got such an invitation, I'd think it looked like the hosts didn't care whether he brought someone else instead of me, and maybe even that they were hinting that he should!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 10:02PM
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Yep, that is apparently what the young bride thought. I had written to her (you can tell I was thinking of this string!):

'For [5 names] I see you wrote 'and guest.' You didn't put that for all the other singles, so I am guessing that these four have significant others. Is that right? If so, please find out their names for me. If you think I should send the SOs separate invitations, that's fine, too, but then please get their addresses. If you are just inviting these four to bring dates, that's 100% fine with us, too, as long as you feel that they will welcome the opportunity to bring an escort more than they will feel pressured to come up with a date."

Here is her reply:

"The reason that they have 'and guest' is because none of them are married but have significant others. The people on the list that have other names with them are married and i do have some single friends that are not dating anyone did not get invited with a guest i will check with the 5 girls to get the correct spelling of the boyfriends names and send them to you. i think we can just send one invitation."

So she evidently thought the correct way to invite the specific boyfriends was to write "and guest" on their girlfriends' invitations. Yikes!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 5:35PM
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