- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2006

I receive a good number of invitations to personal and business-related events in Washington. Often I am not sure whether it is OK to bring a friend or date with me. I have noticed that married people almost always are invited to bring their spouses. Is it logical to assume I can do the same as a single person?

A: In a word: No.

First of all, look carefully at the invitation, as it should tell you whether your hosts wish or expect you to bring a guest. If your name is written on the face of the invitation (or sometimes the envelope) without the appended “and guest,” you can be reasonably sure a “plus one,” a term used in the public relations and party planning trades, would not be welcome at your side. (Note that couples joined in marriage generally are not separated insofar as invitations to most nonprofessional events are concerned.)

In the case of large receptions hosted by corporations, museums, etc., it pays to scrutinize the fine print at the bottom of the invitation to see if information about attendance is provided. In most instances, the card will read, “Invitation admits two persons” or “Invitation is for the recipient and one guest” or the like.

If you are still in doubt, all you have to do is call the R.S.V.P. number (or these days respond to the e-mail address) to inquire about bringing an additional guest.

In the case of unattached men being invited to seated dinners or other small, intimate gatherings, you can be safe in assuming that the invitation is meant for the gentleman alone inasmuch as the male/female ratio of guests is apt to be skewed toward the latter.

Generally speaking, it is permissible to ask indulgence to bring another person in certain exceptional circumstances: for example, if the invited person is elderly or disabled and needs assistance or, in the case of single women, there are valid safety concerns.

Party-givers often are confronted with a situation whereby guests call to see if they can bring visiting relatives, houseguests, etc., whom they are unable to abandon to their own devices at party time. I do not recommend this, although it certainly is acceptable to mention their presence as a reason for not attending.

Fact of life: Your visiting Aunt Agatha from Duluth may not produce an immediate “please do bring her along,” although mentioning the conflicting stay of your dear schoolmate, the very handsome and charming Marquis de Puligny-Montrachet, just might have the opposite effect.

Address your questions on etiquette and protocol to Kevin Chaffee, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or send e-mail to [email protected] times.com.

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