My friends and I were debating if it’s OK when people invite their partners to join them for everything and if it’s implied that someone’s significant other is invited if you invite them to hang out. It made me nervous because I’m sometimes guilty of bringing my partner to things they weren’t explicitly invited to. What do you think? Is it a faux pas?
— Plus One in Portage Park
Dear Plus One,
I’ve asked single and coupled friends, coworkers and even strangers where they stand on a plus one coming to a dinner or a party with no notice, and what most of them said is: It depends.
Personally, when invited, I always ask.
However, when I am the one hosting and see a friend walk in with a partner or any type of plus one — yes, I am surprised, but I just shrug and kindly invite them in.
I’ve met many great friends that way. And maybe I like to overanalyze people, but I think getting to know who your friends decide to spend their time with allows you to learn more about who they are as a person. You might love them more or question why they are hanging out with jerks and what that says about them. That’s a variable that could ruin the chemistry of a friendship or party atmosphere.
But, yes, how acceptable it is for a partner to tag along uninvited always depends on the situation. It’s important to read the room.
Here are three scenarios that came up on my informal social research. They range from “It’s OK” to “You might want to reconsider.”
The casual party
If it’s an informal gathering, a host should understandably prepare for and welcome more people. Bonus points if the guest brings along a generous amount of beer or munchies.
In college, I hosted a “Coming Out Party,” part of my sarcastic humor since my friends had known I’m gay since they met me. But I thought it’d be a nice conversation starter for new people. Anyway, my party had poor attendance at first and was at risk of being classified as a flop until I noticed my neighbor and music school classmate also had a party going on.
Word got out about the extra space to mingle, people brought an extra friend, and the unexpected boom in attendance contributed to a great and inviting vibe. It was one of the best parties I’ve hosted. I remember there was a sleeping baby in one room. She was definitely not invited.
The curated dinner party
In this case, you’d better ask or risk being considered rude and inconsiderate and lose the possibility of a future invitation.
The host’s day and duties don’t start at 6 p.m. when you show up. They would have spent days curating the invite list based on available space and food budget. One extra person could ruin their vision of a perfect evening they worked hard on putting together.
The case of the unliked partner
Are they sweet in the sheets but toxic in the streets? Whether there’s room for one more or not, leave that partner at home.
Your friends shouldn’t be subjected to negative energy just because you are trying to make it work with someone they don’t like. If you’re married to them, I’m sorry.