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How to Survive Being a Plus One at Someone Else's Wedding

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Last year, we spoke to etiquette expert Peggy Post from the Emily Post Institute on how to graciously excuse yourself from a wedding. This time around, we asked Peggy how to handle that occasion when you often can't decline: Being invited as someone's plus one. While this is usually a pretty painless experience (for women), the whole thing can be a little daunting if you don't really know the bride or the groom. Read on for tips on what type of gift to give, how much you're expected to spend, and how to figure out what to wear if your boyfriend misplaced the invitation.

First things first: Let's tackle gifts. The good news is that, in many cases, you might not even have to worry about it yourself. Peggy says, "I suggest you discuss it with the person who's the main guest, and see what he or she is doing. They may very well say, 'I've already gotten a really nice gift and I'm putting your name on here too.' That's generally what most people do."

If that doesn't seem like something your date will do, you have other two options: buy a joint gift, or get a little something-something for them yourself. "If you know the couple that's getting married even just a little bit, you might want to get your own gift." But that doesn't mean you have to go crazy. "Whatever you do, it doesn't have to be anything that breaks the bank. You just want to make it something nice—more than a measuring cup off of the registry."

Speaking of registries, Peggy offers her take on when it's appropriate to deviate from it. "There's no rule whatsoever that someone must use the gift registry to select a wedding gift. So many people don't know that," she says. "Registries are great and they give good clues and you really can feel confident that it's something that the couple would like if you select a gift of the registry. But having said that, so many gifts are really great when they're a surprise and you can select something not on the registry, as long as you think the person will like it."

If you're planning on just giving money, leave behind past memories of all Big, Fat Italian Weddings: You're not obligated to cover the cost of your plate. "That's an urban myth, which I think evolved out of the custom in New York City at a lot of Italian weddings where the bride would carry a white satin purse and people would put money in the bag as a gift. Then, the couple would look at it and see, 'Oh do we have enough money to pay for our honeymoon? Or enough money to cover our expenses?'" The point: Feel free to shamelessly dig into that plate of chicken or veal without guilt.

Finally, there's what to wear. Most likely, you're date will be able to either physically hand you the invitation or recall if it said "Black Tie Required." But sometimes dates, male dates, forget these things, so your best option in this scenario is to do the recon yourself. Peggy suggests trying to meet the bride and groom before the wedding "if you possibly can." If not, "Whoever is inviting you should be able to call the groom or the bride or whoever they know to find out a little bit more so you're not totally clueless."

Lastly, a tip for navigating a room where you only know about three people: "Ratchet up your small talk arsenal and chalk it up as a learning experience." And remember that the least-stressed people at weddings tend to be the plus-ones, who really don't have to do much other than show up. "Weddings are a lot of fun! Don't put added pressure on yourself. They can be a stressful time for the people getting married and their families and their friends, so just look at it as a fun party, try to meet people, and have a good time."
· How to Graciously Excuse Yourself from Going to a Wedding [Racked NY]
· All Weddings Week Posts [Racked NY]