Miss Conduct

Advice: When a relative brings an uninvited plus one to the wedding

A relative bought his girlfriend a plane ticket for our daughter’s wedding but she’s not on the guest list. What are our options?

Our daughter is getting married, and her cousin “Bob” (whose invitation did not include a plus-one) thought it would be fine to invite his recent girlfriend. He bought her a plane ticket, which came to light when his mother told us and asked if she could pay for her extra seat at the event. My husband said no, but then he had a change of heart. He now believes it would be fine if they came just to the ceremony, leaving immediately afterward. Bob would, of course, be welcome at the reception if he came alone, my husband says. I believe it’s inappropriate to attend the ceremony with a recent girlfriend who was not expected. What do you think?

M.P. / Boston

I think Ms. Recent Girlfriend is one of the most sympathetic unnamed characters in all of literature and I hope she remembers to pack a flask, is what I think. (Are you out there, R.G.? Are you reading this? Are you feeling a horrible flush of recognition? Get out, R.G. Save yourself while you still can!)

You are, of course, correct that it’s terribly rude to bring an uninvited guest anywhere, but especially to a wedding. Bob messed up in a big way, and there are ways his misstep could have been handled. He could have been told to go ahead and bring his date, but for heaven’s sake, don’t ever do anything like that again. Or he could have been told that it was simply not possible for any additional people to be accommodated — this might even be true if, say, the wedding is on a boat — and that he would need to handle things himself.


You seem to be leaning toward the latter option, and it does have a certain bracing clarity to it. Bob overstepped the clearly communicated bounds of the invitation, spent money unwisely, made promises he couldn’t keep, and darn well ought to suffer the humiliation and cost involved in cleaning up his own mess, right? Brisk attitudes of zero tolerance aren’t the tradition in my extended family, but perhaps that’s why we’ve never achieved great things as a clan. Your folkways may differ.

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What you don’t do is allow Bob to bring R.G. — who is, I will point out, an entirely innocent party — and then take out your irritation on her. No second-class status and, for the love of all that’s holy, no “Bob is allowed to attend the reception if he ditches you.” Show R.G. nothing but friendliness and respect, because she is a person, not some offensive thing being foisted on you.

If Bob’s mother feels bad about not having taught her son how to read an invitation properly and wants to pay for whatever R.G.’s plate would cost, let her. It’s no faux pas and might make her feel better.

Finally — oh, this mad, out-of-the-blue question: What does your daughter think? You don’t mention a word about what the actual wedding couple want. I’m sure your daughter has some sort of opinion about how an unexpected plus-one should be handled. Your job as parent of the bride is to support her decisions and handle the occasional awkward moment on her behalf. So stop arguing with your husband and go talk to your daughter, already!

(P.S. Seriously, though, R.G. No amount of shrimp cocktail and Electric Slide is going to redeem this. Run, girl, run.)

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology. Send your questions to Miss Conduct at