When my fiancé and I were putting together our guest list for our wedding, we were selective when it came to plus-ones. We didn't want a friend to bring someone we hadn't both met, or someone that we at least knew they were pretty serious about. But if your guest is someone who doesn't know anyone else attending the wedding, extending a plus-one is a way to make that guest feel more comfortable. I'm still not convinced that it's a good idea to bring someone you're casually dating to a wedding, but it all depends on the circumstances — and, of course, your relationship with the date.
My parents got married soon after college, and then ended up extended more plus-ones than they probably should have. Several of those couples didn't last. One couple even broke up at the wedding (and the date ended up crashing all of my mom's family photos). I spoke to wedding planner Apryl D. Roberts, owner of Memorable Events, as well as Stef Safran, matchmaking and dating expert, and asked whether or not they thought bringing a casual date to a wedding was a good idea. According to them, casual plus-ones are totally fine.
TBH, going to a wedding and feeling like the sole person there without a date can really be a bummer. Even if you and the person you're thinking about bringing as your date haven't DTR'd, you might appreciate having them there, even if it's just for appearances. "With friends pairing up at different times in their lives and not just after high school or college, [a wedding guest] could find themselves the only single at a wedding," Safran points out. "People should be able to enjoy going to a wedding without the pressure of expectations that someone who is their date needs to be a serious relationship."
A person doesn't necessary need to have a label to make for a good wedding date. If you're extended a plus-one, that means the couple has given you permission to take whomever you choose (as long as they're not someone who's going to, you know, photobomb their family pictures). As Safran says, "These days, dating is much more casual than it used to be. People date people and may even live together but never get married."
Of course, you'll want to have a conversation with that plus-one before the wedding to make sure you're on the same page about what being a date entails. You don't want a date to go around introducing themselves as your partner or, worse, making out with another wedding guest if that's not exactly what you had in mind when you asked them. "I have seen a casual date go really well," says Roberts, "and that is because both parties had already spoke about the intentions of the date beforehand and set expectations for each other as to how to respond in certain situations."
You also want to make sure that this person is someone you can ask to a wedding without freaking them out or catching them off guard. "If someone tells you that they are always up for going to a wedding, well, you know that they are game," Safran says. "If they let you know that weddings aren't their thing, you have information as well."
Safran also points out that taking a casual date to a smaller wedding or to a wedding where you don't necessarily have to stay the night will take off some of the pressure. "A local wedding may be a great opportunity to bring a casual wedding date," she explains. "A destination wedding, however, or a big family wedding is probably not the place to take a person whom you don't know very well."
Be warned though: Bringing a casual date to a wedding can definitely go amiss. As Roberts explains, "It can sometimes unintentionally place pressure on the date [by suggesting] that you’re expecting a more serious relationship. Even if you’re not the one setting that intention, other guests can sometimes make that assumption, which can make it uncomfortable for [your plus-one]."
If you don't want anything more than a casual relationship with this person, taking them to a wedding might be sending the wrong message. However, if you think that there may be some potential for this relationship to become not-so-casual, inviting them to be your wedding date might be the opportunity you've been looking for to make your intentions clear. "The best way to address the situation is by asking if they are OK coming," Safran says. "You can't go wrong with having a real conversation early on so you can see if this casual connection can turn into something more."
Bottom line: If you're given a plus-one, then take advantage of it, but maybe only if you have someone in mind with whom you can actually see yourself getting serious. Of course, make sure you pay (or at least offer to pay) for any wedding-related expenses that might crop up, too. After all, being a plus-one can be just as stressful as inviting someone to be your plus-one, and they shouldn't have to spend tons of money on top of that.