There are two types of wedding guest: the guest who knows the couple; and the guest who knows the guest who knows the couple. This second kind of guest is known as the “plus one” (+1, for you texting types). Being a plus one can be everything from awkward to exhilarating, but there are some things you need to keep mind.
Let’s start with a reality check: being a wedding plus one isn’t a free ride. You have a responsibility to whoever invited you to be perfectly charming. But not too charming: This isn’t the time to go rogue and celebrate your uncompromising individualistic streak. It’s not really the place to be provocative, either. But it doesn’t have to be a total slog — just a semi-slog. With a few tips under your belt, you can have a perfectly good time and maybe even make a few friends. (That Aunt Cacky!) Here’s how to be the perfect wedding plus one (minus the awkwardness).
Don’t assume you’re off the hook for gift
An empty-handed plus-one isn’t the hottest look at a wedding. While you’re probably not expected to lavish this couple with Alfa Romeos and assorted shiny things, it’s important to communicate with whoever invited you to find out the score. Maybe you’ll need to go halfsies on a joint gift or pick up a handsome little bauble of some sort … or maybe you won’t have to deal with the hassle at all. Assume nothing, communicate everything, and all will be well.
Don’t shun research. Collect salient information
Don’t be that guy who nervously asks the bride what her name is and what brings her here. Again, grille the guest for all the basics: The names of the bride and groom, how long they’ve been dating, how they met, how they know your friend, and perhaps even ask any potential no-nos or taboos so the small talk stays small and you don’t put your foot in it.
Don’t just “wing it” when it comes to your clothes
Ask the guest that invited you to break down the dress code. Is it a “Black Tie Required” affair? Is everyone cavorting around in kitschy Hawaiian shirts? Again, don’t assume anything, and make sure to prod the guest — particularly if they happen to be of the male persuasion, because men are frankly boneheaded when it comes to dress codes.
Don’t be standoffish. Small talk is a skill
The good thing about being a plus-one (aside from a free dinner and drinks) is that the stakes are relatively low. No one expects too much of you. Still, you don’t want to stand in the corner with your hands in your pockets, or nervously drink yourself stupid because you have nothing better to do. Mixing and mingling is a skill, and if you’re out of practice, remember that this event is basically a party. Keep an eye out for other plus-ones to break the ice. After all, you already have something in common. Two plus-ones is better than one, and three is even better. Got that?
But don’t get TOO chummy with strangers
Keep in mind your behavior will reflect on your date, and you’re something of a hired hand on this occasion. Don’t get too comfortable and start wailing on Uncle Russy’s political beliefs or talkin’ a bunch of smack about that flower girl Vanessa, who Tiffany thinks is really stuck-up. Instead, amp up the charm and charisma, and go out of your way to make the experience a pleasant one for everybody, yourself included. After the ceremony, you’ll have plenty of time to get on your soapbox, bitch, and gossip about people. You’ll probably have a bunch of new material to try out.
Be Dignified on the Dance Floor
Sounds obvious, but it’ll sound less obvious after that third vodka cranberry. Don’t use the floor as an opportunity to work out your latest interpretative dance, and don’t rip your shirt off when Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” kicks into high gear. Aunt Cacky doesn’t need to know how good you are at the Electric Slide and Uncle Brick doesn’t want to hold a green glow-stick in his mouth, but thanks. Keep it chummy and good-spirited, keep on moving, and keep your rave-god fantasies to yourself.
Don’t steal the show
Along the same lines, leave the razzle dazzle at home. You want to leave a good impression, not act like you’re auditioning for own Bravo reality show. Remain cool, calm, collected – even if everyone else around you is falling to pieces. The photo booth is not your home, so use it sparingly. You really don’t need that wedding bouquet, do you? And an open microphone is not an open invitation to weep and wildly gesticulate about the majesty of love. Need we remind you that you barely know these people?
—Derek Josef de Koff