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Heeere Comes the. . . Single Wedding Guest? July 9, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, Guest Posts.
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Onely likes guest posts by other writers who think about singles’ issues. The views expressed in our guest posts may or may not reflect Onely’s views, but we are always interested to hear from other singles advocates. Today’s post is by Autonomous, a regular reader and insightful commenter at Onely:

Wedding season is in full swing again, and the invitations are starting to arrive. While fewer in number the older I get, it seems to me that couples marrying for the first time in their 30’s to early 40’s have more grown-up tastes, more money to spend, and thereby the cost of attending their nuptials is more expensive as well.  Unless someone quite close to me is marrying, job and finances necessitate I be selective about which events I can attend. The ones I do say yes to become my  vacation for the season given the commitments of money; travel; time off work.

The most recent invite was not on parchment stationary and addressed to me personally, as in the traditional “Ms. — and Guest.” Rather, it arrived in the form of a bulk e-mail explaining travel tips to Napa wine country, providing a list of accomodations in the area, and offering a wine tour. The lodgings ranged from high-end cheap, to posh and very spendy. Going with the least expensive ($140/night- min. 2 nights) was a no-brainer. I began tallying the other anticipated costs: gas, pre-road-trip auto service just to be safe, and dining/groceries for several days, maybe a new pair of shoes. Of course, the wine tour must be factored in, because why drive 5 hours to wine country and not really enjoy myself?

Then I decided that I didn’t really want to take this great mini-vacation by myself (not this time anyway).  I called my best-girlfriend in Texas to see if she might possibly want to take this road-trip with me. Since we made a promise to see each other at least once a year and I missed my annual trip to see her because of surgery, the timing and details of this proposed trip turned out to be a perfect plan for both of us–her husband happily agreed to take full care of their kids so she could visit me, and plane and lodging reservations were booked.

I sent a quick RSVP to my friend, the groom, to make sure that there were two places reserved for me and M for the wine tour. The reply was yes, but she was not invited to either the wedding or dinner “because of space.”  He hoped I would understand. Yes, I believe I understand perfectly. If I were married my husband or wife would automatically be counted in the guest-list. But since I’m neither married nor seriously dating, it was assumed, nay, expected, that I would be alone?

Ironically, my friend and I have a committed long-term, long-distance relationship that has outlasted several boyfriends–and a few friends’ marriages. I did the calligraphy for her own wedding invitations, and my capital “G”s are beautiful now after writing the words and guest 200 times. Presently, I have never seen an official invitation for the wine country wedding, if such a thing was even created,  so when I made all these plans it never occured to me that guests might not be included. A wedding sans kids I understand, but I’ve never heard of insisting that guests attend stag.

To be sure, there were many snarky responses ready to fire off because I was hurt and not a little indignant. This isn’t some casual acquaintance I’m talking about. His is like a second family.  After a conversation with my mom during which she pointed out that wedding dinners are usually chicken anyway and that we might get stuck with some awful table mates, I decided to just make the best of it. If she wasn’t welcome, I would just forego the wedding and dinner and spend more time with her.

I responded to the groom that since she was traveling from Texas specifically to be my date for the weekend, I’d be an ass to leave my friend in the hotel room ten miles away without transportation during the wedding and dinner.  We would do our own thing and catch up with the party later at the reception. I was thanked for being such a good sport.  Like a pat on the head for being a good girl.  I’m not a sport, it’s his pre-divorce party; I’m being a good friend to M because the tickets are booked. I also have an interest in maintaining peace within this family as I’m so close with several members.

In sum, in twenty+ years of receiving wedding invitations, I’ve never experienced such blatant singlism as I did upon receiving that e-mail, coincidentally, on the same day as the Onely women posted about Heteronormaholes. I’ll be interested to hear from Onely’s readers whether or not they would vote for this friend of mine to be King Hetronormahole for a day.  Would you have been hurt by, angry at, or ambivalent to the situation? Am I a sucker for going anyway?



1. Lauri - July 9, 2009

I have been invited to one wedding (for a very close friend) in the past where I did not receive an “and guest” invitation, and I have a wedding coming (that I’m *in* and for which I have already spent a great deal of money to “celebrate”) for which I did not receive one. For this one coming up, I’ve been informed that I will be sitting at the “singles” table. Luckily, one of my married friends’ husbands can’t make it, so she’ll be sitting with me. Otherwise, it seems, I would be sitting at a table of strangers while my good friends sat together at another table.

Besides the obvious singlism that the blogger points out, the other thing I find heinous about this practice is that the wedding throwers get to decide who’s relationships are “serious” and therefore worthy of an invitation and whose are not. At neither wedding where this occurred did the wedding throwers have any hard and fast rules to draw the line about who gets to bring a guest- it wasn’t just married couples, or engaged couples, or couples who live together, or couples with whom the bride and groom were friends with both parties- it was people whom the bride and groom decided themselves were “couples.” So, while I am prohibited from bringing any sort of guest- even if I somehow fell in love with someone right before the invitations went out- other people are allowed to bring their “boyfriends.”

The other heinous thing about it all is that NO ONE seems to see anything wrong with this practice. It’s a money issue, apparently. So when then do couples waste money on some third husband of their 2nd cousin twice removed, but their best friend can’t bring a friend or a new interest?

onely - July 9, 2009

A bunch of my girlfriends were invited to a wedding, and I lost my RSVP card or something, so I asked one of my girlfriends to RSVP “2” so that I would be counted. And so we were seated at a couples’ table! HA!

2. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles - July 9, 2009

Let me be the first to bow to the newly crowned King Heteronormahole. 😉

Technically, what I’ve read from etiquette authorities indicates that it’s perfectly acceptable not to allow singles to bring guests. However, just because something is traditional doesn’t make it right in my book. We’ve moved away from a lot of traditions to accommodate a changing value system, so I don’t think we have any excuse to hold on to this one in a day and age when so many people are unmarried. The way I see it, if a couple can’t afford to extend a plus-one invitation to all their guests, then they need to either cut the guest list or reduce the overall cost of the wedding. The latter can be done by having the reception at a more affordable venue, cutting some of the over-the-top flower arrangements or ice sculptures, or–gee–not having a destination wedding in the first place.

Luckily, I haven’t yet been faced with this kind of wedding guest discrimination. So far, I’ve always been offered the opportunity to invite a guest, whether or not I chose to bring one, and the brides I’ve known have seated together guests who know each other or have something in common as opposed to dividing tables along marital status lines. However, if I DID receive an invitation like you did–one that would require me to go alone to a wedding in a situation that would be very inconvenient or demanding for me–I’d have no compunctions about refusing it. In general, I think anyone who throws a destination wedding is asking a lot, and I don’t feel obligated to go to any event that basically demands I take someone else’s vacation at my expense. Heck, if I can’t afford the cost of a reception seat (i.e. the wedding “gift”) or find it inconvenient to attend for some other reason, I also have no compunctions about saying that I’ll happily attend the ceremony but won’t be at the reception. That way, I can show the couple that they have my support and affection (the most important thing, which is always free) without engaging in a practice that disadvantages me (which is definitely not free).

It seems like anytime singlism rears its head, there’s a conflict between speaking out and keeping the peace. I guess that’s true of any form of discrimination. And I understand so well how hard it is to be the “troublemaker” in one’s family or circle of friends, the one who is seen as endangering treasured relationships for the sake of an ethical debate. But what those who condemn us don’t seem to realize is that they already endanger our relationships by the very thoughtlessness that causes us to speak out. The longer we stay silent about it, the more opportunities we lose to help them see that their attitudes are hurtful and offensive and shouldn’t be tolerated.

I know you’ve already smoothed things over with your friend, but I would strongly urge you to make your feelings known to him, if not before the wedding, then after. I’m not saying that you should try to get him to change his mind or anything like that (unless you want to, of course); you should do whatever feels best to you. But I think this presents a wonderful chance to explain to someone what it’s like to be a single person who is asked to go far out of her way to celebrate someone else’s relationship and then expected to do it alone. If this were my friend, I would want him to know that although I was going to (or did) attend because his friendship meant a lot to me, his refusal to extend the same courtesy to me that he had to his coupled friends suggested to me that he didn’t value me or my friendship very much.

In any case, I hope you will get the last laugh, enjoying yourself with your friend while everyone else is yawning over lengthy toasts or feeling foolish on the dance floor. 🙂

Lauri - July 9, 2009

Singltude- interesting points about speaking up vs. keeping the peace. Something I’ve been struggling with recently. As I mentioned, NO ONE seems to agree with me on any wedding issues, not even single people! I don’t think people realize that it’s discrimination to invite some guests to bring someone else and not others, much like they don’t understand it’s discrimination to offer one employee two or more health plans and another just one. I find it difficult to speak out on this issue because other people take it as insensitivity to the wedding thrower’s financial concerns. But I am completely sympathetic to that, which is why I think that if you can’t afford for everyone to bring a guest, then no one does, or you cut out something else as you said. Screw etiquette! If you’ve never met your second cousin’s third husband, then don’t invite him! And ESPECIALLY if there is any overnight travel involved- not just pure “destination” weddings. If you invite a guest that is coming from out of town, they should be allowed a traveling buddy (if nothing else to reduce the cost of the hotel room or make the trip cost-effective!), and that buddy shouldn’t have to spend several hours alone on the day of the wedding.

onely - July 9, 2009

Shoot, even etiquette experts? “Shoot even etiquette experts!” “Shoot ESPECIALLY etiquette experts!”
CC (tired and loopy)

3. Singlutionary - July 9, 2009

I would be really offended also. But I am offended by weddings in general anyways. Lately I’ve given up trying to find a date and just started attending weddings alone. Attending weddings alone is actually more fun in a way because I can talk to who I want to, don’t have to ensure that my guest is having a good time, etc. But if I were to want to bring a guest and be told that isn’t OK, that would be the end of that relationship.

Weddings require travel. I think this is a big point. If I lived in the same town I might not be offended that I couldn’t bring a guest because I wouldn’t be putting much time/money into attending. But when you start using up your vacation time and your money just to get there, its not a bad idea to make a mini vacation of it. And that is when you invite a friend.

I’d like to see a wedding where spouses are not automatially invited. Lets see how THAT goes down.

But really. Weddings are about expanding the family and including new people into your life. So excluding your friend seems blatantly offensive to me no matter the cost.

Lauri - July 10, 2009

“I’d like to see a wedding where spouses are not automatially invited. Lets see how THAT goes down.”

I’ve been pulling for this for years, but I don’t think it’s ever going to pass muster.

4. onely - July 10, 2009

This so interesting to me, because I am openly and obviously single, but the last two weddings I’ve been in (key word: BEEN a bridesmaid), I have been allowed to bring a guest, no questions asked.

But then again, it might be because I was IN the wedding party that I was “allowed” to bring a guest.



Lauri - July 10, 2009

Well, this is the way it is “supposed” to be. As far as I know, hard and fast etiquette rules say people over 18 or something are supposed to get “and guest” invitations. And this is what’s so crazy about it- the same people who refuse to deviate from any wedding “etiquette” will gladly budge from this one to save a few bucks.

But it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re in the wedding party either…

5. Deborah Hymes - July 10, 2009

I have never, ever heard of any social convention that endorses inviting a guest and not offering to include their date, as well. In fact, quite the opposite.

It’s such a social faux-pas that NOT extending an additional invitation is considered a way of making a pointed comment on the host’s opinion of the date — for example, your ex-roommate receives only one invitation because her boyfriend is the guy who always gets drunk and makes an ass of himself. AND she knows everyone wishes she’d just dump him already.

Like that. 😉

6. Nicole - July 10, 2009

Wow, all this makes me realize I don’t even REMEMBER what we did for single vs. coupled guests..and hoping we did the “right” thing. NOT TO DEFEND THE PRACTICE, but as someone who has gone through a wedding, I found it surprising to uncover how socialized you are about what a wedding “should be” and you realize just how strong the pull of society to couple.

I found the same thing having a baby, folks came out of the woodwork saying how happy they were and I was almost taken aback. I mean, getting married and having a family worked for me, but why was it such a big deal to others? It’s similar to buying a home, just this bizarre creation of society that many view as a rite of passage.

Hope the tide turns and folks gain a little sensitivity around this issue.

onely - July 10, 2009

Hey NIcole, do you remember how we were a “couple” for W’s wedding? Because you RSVP’ed for me? HAHA. I have to say you were one of the best dates I’ve had!
= ) CC

7. Deborah Hymes - July 10, 2009

Nicole, if you don’t remember how you handled things, it’s probably because you instinctively did whatever made sense for each person’s situation. 😉

Interesting that you also bring up having your baby — marriage and parenting ARE similar social rites of passage, in a way. In more “clearly defined” times (i.e., less flexible & choice-filled!) people did these things at predictable times in their lives. These life-changing events meant certain things about where people stood in society, and also lent social support.

I think the underlying issue on this (excellent) post is that although social norms are changing dramatically, they haven’t yet caught up with the realities of how committed singletons or serial monogamists live their lives. As a result, it often seems that there’s no place for us at the table.

I often think that gay couples probably deal with all of these things PLUS the other predictable issues as well.

8. Barbara Payne - July 12, 2009

Hi, Onely. Don’t we know it! Just such a situation is where the idea for SWWAN was born. A young SWWAN had just participated in 3 friends’ weddings and spent a blue fortune!

Thanks for the down and dirty on this reality.

And hey, we’ve got you listed you in our Singles Resources list.

onely - July 12, 2009

Thanks for adding us, Barbara! Crazy how these weddings can make us, well… crazy!

— L

9. trauma queen - July 13, 2009

oh dear that is so so rude…gosh! well in india that could never happen..cos it is big blow to ur status if you cannot feed the entire nation on ur big day 😉

10. Therese - July 14, 2009

Yeah, that’s a little screwed up. But others always think they have the right to tell YOU how significant YOUR relationship is or is not.

I got invited to a wedding that I thought I was going to attend, but I am not because I cannot afford to travel there, pay fr a hotel, etc… The most frustrating part of this is that when I have scraped together the money to travel to a wedding, you get there are they seat you at the table with all the other singles in order to fix you up, and you are further shamed by being forced to line up to catch some flowers in the hopes that you will be the next to marry.

Weddings are a prime opportunity for single shaming, which is why I rarely attend them.

Lauri - July 14, 2009

Luckily I haven’t been to a wedding in years where they tossed the bouquet. The last one I went to that did, the DJ called everyone up for the bouquet toss and no one stood up. The DJ is like, “um, by single I mean not married, ladies, come on…” Still no one got up. I forget how it ended, but it was really awkward and awesome at the same time.

Lauri - July 14, 2009

Luckily I haven’t been to a wedding in years where they tossed the bouquet. The last one I went to that did, the DJ called everyone up for the bouquet toss and no one stood up. The DJ is like, “um, by single I mean not married, ladies, come on…” Still no one got up. I forget how it ended, but it was really awkward and awesome at the same time.

As for traveling…I have this issue that I can’t afford to go on vacation because I’ve got weddings up the wazoo.Yet, my friends want me to donate to their honeymoons as wedding gifts…um no…I’m never going to go to Hawaii myself if I keep having to shell out my savings just to *attend* these things…

onely - July 14, 2009

GAWD, what I would give for my friends and family to donate to a vacation of my own!!!!! Can you imagine the response to the new charity: “Let’s send Lisa to Hawaii!”

Maybe faithful Onely readers will support the cause 😉

— L

11. autonomous - July 14, 2009

Sorry for the late check in- was helping to prepare for trial and swamped. I’ve so enjoyed reading the comments by everyone- and found that the opportunity to vent and read feedback has taken the sting out of the initial bite. While still no invitations, I’ve since learned that children are not included and that there are others they’ve had to ask to limit attendance. It’s a small facility and one side of the family is very extended (along the lines of Trauma Queen’s comment- they’re Persian)

So, here’s what I’ve determined- it’s going to be a fabulous vacation with my best friend in wine country, wherein we’ll attend a number of wedding festivities, and will be spending time with a lot of great people besides. I don’t want to bother anymore about whether I felt snubbed or not- it was singlism to be sure, but I’ve considered whether or not it was such an offense that I would sabotage a friendship just to be correct on principal. What it says to me ultimately is what we already know- people are really generally only concerned with immediates and don’t or can’t consider the larger picture as includes everyone. Thinking little differently here- perhaps because of a 13-year friendship, my friend hoped he could count on my understanding that his wedding was getting out of control- at 40, it’s no longer the parents of the bride who are solely paying- It’s the couple themselves. oi.

12. Wedding Planning Books and Info - February 2, 2010

Wedding Planning Books and Info…

Everyone thought our reception tables were so beautiful with all the beach themed wedding accessories I had found for them. The place I shopped not only had the beach wedding album I wanted, but so many more accessories to go with it. The place card ho…

Onely - February 2, 2010

WTF, yet another company linked to our blog without bothering to READ Onely first, so they would realize we hate them.
= )

13. You Don’t Know Onely « Onely: Single and Happy - August 2, 2010

[…] REALITY: Actually we just hate that marriage is overprivileged in our laws and culture. […]

14. Ryan - December 19, 2010

thanks for information wedding.I like your blog

15. me - October 18, 2012

I fully disagree with some responses to this. I’m a bride-to-be, planning a budget friendly wedding for 120 guests under $10k. Any guests that are not married, living together or engaged are invited without a guest. Heck I’m not even giving married friends an ‘and guest’ I’m simply inviting their spouses as well. it’s that simple.

If you are really so insecure about your self that you cannot attend a wedding where you know 20 other guests, on your own, then you have issues!

I don’t want ANYONE i don’t know at my wedding. Any friends that made the guest list to begin with are either married and I know and am friends with their spouses, or their single. I don’t want to fork out hundreds of dollars to provide some random friend or one night stand of a friend with free booze and food all evening.

A wedding is family affair, NOT a public club.

Lucy - January 24, 2018

Reply to “me” – Why on earth would you give a married couple an ‘and guest’ invitation? ‘And guest’ invitations are for single people.

You are not considering the destination wedding. You have to fly/drive there alone, make your way to a hotel alone, eat in the hotel alone until the time of the wedding, and travel home alone. Unless you want to be pitiful and call people you know who are attending and say “Can I please eat/travel with you? I’m all alone.” How humiliating is that?

Wow, you are seriously lacking in empathy.

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