How to Handle Plus One Requests

I remember the day when, in response to my future mother-in-law’s (FMIL) request to invite Great Uncle Kelly to the wedding, I wheeled around crazy-eyed, and screamed, “No More Diaper Changers!”

It wasn’t my best moment.

She was suggesting yet another wedding guest and I was coming off the rails emotionally.

I was footing the entire bill for our wedding and I’d had enough of the additional, eleventh-hour guest requests. If I heard “But they changed Dustin’s diapers” one more time, I was going postal.

We were three weeks out from the wedding. I already mailed the invitations, booked the venue, and ordered tables, chairs and dinnerware.

The full implications of inviting additional guests was hitting me in the gut every time I heard my FMIL chime, “You know who else we should invite?”

When One Wedding Guest Equals 10

The tables and chairs posed the biggest problem. I had ordered just enough tables for 100 wedding guests. That’s 8 people per table for a grand total of 13 tables. I had two extra seats. That’s it. Those seat we’re filled quickly and now we were looking at inviting “Dan and Carole,” which would mean renting another table, another 10-pack of plates, an additional 10-pack of napkins, and extra 10-packs of forks, spoons, and knives. I would also have to account for extra centerpieces and extra favors.

I really did want to please my new family. I love them. And I truly wanted to invite everyone. But I refused to go into debt over a wedding.

Another couple, another table, another bundle of place settings was simply not in the budget.

In hindsight, I realize that my mother-in-law just wanted to show off her son. She wanted everyone (especially the ones who knew him as a baby or a little boy) to see what a fine man he turned out to be, to see his beautiful bride, and to celebrate this new and exciting turning point in his life.

But all I saw was an exploding budget.

Understand Your Cost-per-Guest

Look, everyone is on a budget. It doesn’t matter if you have a $25K budget or a $70K budget. Someone is monitoring the bottom line, and that someone very likely wants to avoid blowing their budget. This could be you, it could be your parents, it could be your partner’s grandparents.

Whoever is minding the budget should understand the basic cost-per-guest.

In the end I learned to explain the situation and break down the cost per guest for her. I would say something like:

Each guests costs $75 dollars, and by adding these two guests we would also have to rent additional tables, chairs and place settings. The place settings come in 10 packs. I would have to add a table for these two guests so the total costs for these two additional guests would be: $750. We are at our budgetary limit, but if you would like to contribute $750 I’d be happy to invite them.

Most of the time she wasn’t interested in paying for people she had fallen out of touch with. And most of the time she simply didn’t know how much everything was costing. I learned that freaking out didn’t help. Rather, it was my job to educate and give options.

Lessons Learned:

  • Know your cost per guest. Knowing that 2 extra people will cost an extra $750 is key to understanding what “just two more people” actually means to your bottom line. And maybe you’d like to spend that money elsewhere: an extra hour of dancing, a bigger bouquet, engagement pictures, a couple’s spa treatment. I’m not saying these things are more important than your wedding guests. But if you are in a situation where neither you nor your groom know the people your parents want to invite, and you are paying for your own wedding, you need to understand the trade-off you’re making for strangers.
  • Once your guest list is solidified and your tables, chairs and utensils are ordered, keep careful track of that seating chart. You may find that adding extra guests is more of an expense than a straight cost-per-guest break down. If you find yourself adding a whole new table and 10-packs of place settings for two guests, your costs for those two additional wedding guests may be double or triple the average. Conversely, you may find that two extra guests are really no big deal.

To figure out your cost per guest, check out Valley & Co’s excellent post on calculating your costs per guest.

Christie Osborne
Christie Osborne has lived in or visited every mountain range in the US. Once a mountain bride herself, she's dedicated to helping mountain brides plan their weddings and find the perfect vendors. She's known in the blogging world for her no-nonsense attitude, and she loves to ski. Follow Mountainside Bride on Twitter Facebook and Pinterest.
Christie Osborne
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  1. says

    EXCELLENT post… looking at the cost per guest is a GREAT way to put things into perspective. Often times it’s hard to look at the “big picture” like that. Such great advice! :)

  2. says

    Holy JESUS do I know this is coming. Thank you for giving me such sound advice on how to handle it!

    • says

      @Lauren: Thanks LOVE!
      @Lena: I found it helpful to remind myself to EDUCATE my in-laws rather than freak out. Present them with well researched information calmly and you’ll be fine.

  3. says

    I’m not getting married but I have heard stories where people want to squeeze a few more people on the guest list. I never thought about the additional costs that it would incur and it has been eye opening reading your article.

  4. says

    Oh my goodness – yes! Great advice! I had the “just one more” experience for my parents’ anniversary which was catered and had a limited size to the room; one person RSVPed for 6 more! I feel your “moment” and I wish I had had that paragraph about the per guest calculation on hand then to calmly present to that person! You’ve saved so many brides with this!

  5. says

    Great insight, especially knowing cost per guest!

  6. says

    This is good advice! We splurged on foiled letterpress invitations so we only had five extras. We also nicely advised our parents three times – once in person, once in email and once on the phone – that we needed to know who they wanted to invite by a specific deadline and told them we may not be able to accommodate later requests. I think it’s always hard and always something when it comes to wedding planning, but it also works out in the end.