Addressing Wedding Invitations (and staying a feminist)


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Every so often I take reader questions, if I think they are questions everyone has, and someone needs to address. Usually Ariel has already addressed them in a slightly more offbeat way, and I’m taking them on in a ‘reclaiming tradition’ way. So, as always, take your pick. The internet is great for giving us fantastic options. Here goes:

I love your blog – it’s a little haven in the sea of gender stereotype bullsh*t surrounding everything wedding.

I have a question about addressing wedding invitations. “Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow” makes me sort of nauseous but my parents kind of want things a little more formal than “Joe and Jane Blow.” What do you think about “Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Jane Blow” or “Mr. Joe Blow and Mrs. Jane Blow” or should it be “Mr. Joe and Mrs. Jane Blow” … that kind of sounds weird, right? Any thoughts?

Also, while gathering addresses a few of my cousins’ noted that their names are “Jane Smith Blow” (Smith being their maiden names). Any ideas about how to address those invites? “Joe Blow and Jane Smith Blow”, “Jane Smith and Joe Blow”, “Joe and Jane Smith Blow” and then if we use titles would it be “Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Jane Smith Blow” or “Mr. Joe Blow and Mrs. Jane Smith Blow” or should I use Ms.? Sadly the internet has plenty of advice on how to just leave off the lady’s name on a formal invitation or how to include it if she so daringly kept her given name upon marriage, but I can’t find anything about formal invitations including both names. Please help!!

Your fellow practical bride (and groom),
Cara (and Jeff – he’s a fan, too!!)

So, it’s actually pretty simple. The rules are:

  • Woman’s name is always first, when listed separately.
  • Same last name? Same line. Different last name? Different line. Nobody cares, or needs to know if the couple is married or just living together.
  • Always name everyone who’s invited on the envelope, to avoid confusion. You don’t need to say “No Kids!” on your invite, if you don’t invite them, and then kindly but firmly point this out when questioned. (Yes, yes, yes. The technical rules are that children are listed on the inner envelope. But do you have an inner envelope? That’s what I thought.) Normally children are listed by age, but do what you will.
  • And, this rule is half me and half proper, but very important: Always address people as they wish to be addressed. She goes by Dr.? She worked hard for that, please use it. She goes by Ms.? Done. She goes by Mr. Joe Blow in honor of her dead husband? I know you are a feminist, but it’s not your place to judge.
  • And one final technicality, which you can choose to use or ignore. If a woman did not take her partners name, she is not technically a Mrs., she is a Ms., thank-you-very-much.

So, long form, it goes like this:

Mr. and Mrs. Blow (for the love of all things holy, let’s kill the Mrs. John Blow stuff, unless it’s to honor your delightful aged grandmother. I’d punch through a wall if I got something addressed that way)

Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Blow

Ms. Jane Sassy-Blow
Mr. John Blow

Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Blow
and Mr. Gregory Blow, Miss. Emma Blow, Miss Tiny Baby Blow

Jane and John Blow (Note! This is not formal, so name order is reversed! It’s old school maybe, but I’m on board with ladies first here. Men get to go first quite enough, thanks.)

Mr. and Dr. John and Jane Blow

And out of respect to your old fashioned widowed great aunt:

Mrs. John Blow

And the rules hold absolutely the same for LGBT couples:

Ms. and Ms. Jane and Joan Sassy-Blow

Ms. and Dr. Jane and Joan Sassy-Blow

Ms. Jane Sassy
Ms. Joan Blow

Etc.

Questions? I will hold to my dying day that etiquette is not about repression, it’s about treating people with the respect they deserve, and it can (and should!) be absolutely egalitarian.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • http://www.bathtubbrewery.com mel

    Thank you thank you thank you! This will help me out so much a few months down the road.

  • rainbowdarling

    I got my first christmas card this year addressed to "Mr. & Mrs. Johnathan _______". I was a little bit horrified, but moreso after my husband told me that it was probably because his (not at all elderly) aunt probably just did it so she didn't have to find out my name. Ouch.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09719798812778250015 Nicole

    Thank you thank you I love this. Also, I can not stand the “Mrs Man Lastname” either. blaech.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14516020439268552504 Aleda

    I was actually just thinking about this issue the other day. I absolutely agree with how you laid them out, and I also think that etiquette (and the spirit of political correctness) is about respect.

    That being said, I’ve run into an address situation I’m not quite sure how to handle (other than getting a REALLY BIG envelope). If you’ve got a blended family with kids on both sides, would you suggest this format?

    Ms. Jane Sassy
    Mr. Jon Blow
    and Miss. Girl Sassy, Miss. Girl Blow, and Mr. Boy Blow
    (kids are in age order, oldest to youngest)

    My original idea had been to have the two adults on the first line, but the kids were throwing me off, or Ms. and Miss. Sassy on the first line, and Mr., Miss., and Mr. Blow on the second.

    Thoughts? I’m sure I can’t be the only one having difficulties with this type of situation. Any help you can give would be great, especially because this is a newly-blended family that we love and we don’t want anyone to feel hurt or slighted.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Alenda-
    The way you laid it out is just right. People should be sorted by adults and then children*, not by last name. So, you’re spot on. Adults with different last names have different lines (though they could share a line as Mr. John Blow and Ms. Jane Sassy, if you ran out of space). Kids can all share a line, no matter what the last name. They are all family now, after all.

    *unless you actually have the relationship with the child and are inviting their parent just to be nice. Then you would flip it to read:

    Miss Girl Sassy
    Mr. John Blow

    Which would imply that Mr. John Blow should not show up without Miss Girl Sassy, though she may show up without him (age permitting).

    Meg

  • Laura

    One technical etiquette rule, which intrigues me–when the woman has a higher title than the man, she gets listed first–so it’s Dr. and Mr. Jane and Joe, not Mr. and Dr.
    (That said, we’re ignoring it, since it’s Mr. Brother-of-the-Groom and Dr. Sister-in-Law-of-the-Groom, and my personal rule is that relation trumps title.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15189780903818004615 f.f.

    I think it is presumptuous and dated to use Mrs. or Miss for any grown woman in place of Ms. unless I had actual knowledge that it’s what the woman in question prefers–the marriage-status-specific honorific is not that different from erasing the woman’s first name altogether. In all but the most regressive circles, Ms. has become the default for both social and business correspondence.

    Aleda, I don’t like the different last names on different lines for the exact reason you describe–it implies some sort of division among members of a blended family, or when the parents have different last names from one another and the kid has the last name of only one of them. As someone from a blended family, I was very sensitive to that stuff growing up. I would do adults on one line and kids on another if you don’t have space to put it all on one line. Or if you have the extra papergoods, send separate invites to the kids. Kids love getting mail. (Heck, I still love getting mail!)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    FF-
    You can (of course!) use Ms. for your guests if you think it’s what they’ll prefer. That’s the whole point, in the end. I think in younger circles Ms. is more or less the done thing, in older circles not so much. It’s all part of addressing people the way they want to be addressed. We may think Mrs. is regressive (I’m not using it), but to tell older family members that *do* use it that it’s regressive is unfair to them. I’m not suggesting it be used blindly, presumably we all know everyone on our invite list well enough to not use a default honorific for any of them.

    As for two lines, it’s not really a rule for blended families, its a rule for those of us who are choosing to keep our names. For us, it’s a signal of respect. Again, respect trumps everything else. If you feel it’s disrespectful to your guests to use separate lines, use one line.

    And Miss is only *ever* used for little girls. And again, you can use something else if you would find it more respectful.

    Meg

  • Anonymous

    Just wanted to point out that while widely accepted, it is actually improper to address something as Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Jane Blow. This isn’t etiquette…this is just proper English usage. The above example is redundant with its use of “and”. They’re not both Mr. and Mrs. or both Joe and Jane.

    So the proper way of using the first names of both parties is Mrs. Jane and Mr. Joe Blow.

    As to why the woman goes first, that’s some rule about the man’s first name always being next to the last name…no idea where that rule comes from or if it’s worth following.

    I don’t mean to be nitpicky and I certainly won’t be the etiquette or English language police hunting you down…I’ve just spent too much time reading etiquette books my entire life so I have a plethora of random etiquette knowledge. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15189780903818004615 f.f.

    We may think Mrs. is regressive (I’m not using it), but to tell older family members that *do* use it that it’s regressive is unfair to them.

    Absolutely–to tell anyone what they should call themselves is unfair, and is definitely not what I was suggesting. The issue I was talking about is the assumption that one would be Mrs. or Miss rather than Ms.– that assumption is regressive. I haven’t found it to be the case that Ms./Mrs. preferences break down by age as you suggest, that’s going to differ from social circle to social circle. You and I are mostly saying the same thing but in my circle I am more hesitant about generalizing based on age, and I need some evidence that someone actually wanted to be called Mrs. before I’ll do it–in my world that’s the path least likely to cause offense, so I wanted to throw it out there for consideration.

    As for Miss being used only for little girls–that is not accurate. It may be more in line with current usage, but it is not in line with formal address. It is either Mrs./Miss dependent on marital status (it has nothing to do with age), or it is Ms. for everyone. Again, individuals may make whatever choices they like for themselves, but there is this misunderstanding floating around out there that Ms. has replaced Miss as the term used for unmarried women rather than being the marriage-inspecific term that it is, and I hate to see that misunderstanding reinforced here because it ain’t so.

    I am confused about the reason for separate lines. In your reply to me, you say it is a question of respect for partners who have not chosen to share a name (fair enough, though I was speaking specifically to Aleda’s situation of blended families). In your response to Aleda, you say the separate lines means the person listed on the lower line should not attend unless accompanying the guest on the first line. If that’s the case, then it seems to me less respectful to list members of a couple on separate lines, rather than more. It sounds like it would imply that whoever is listed first is more welcome than whoever is listed second, yes? Or is there a difference when children are involved? This is a rule I’m not at all familiar with and is really interesting to me. I am genuinely not trying to be a pain.

    I ought to bow out after this since Quakers generally eschew honorifics, so our invitations were addressed to everyone by first and last names only. It was fabulously easy and no one refused to come from lack of title ;) I can highly recommend this route for anyone experiencing angst about this.

  • Anna

    What about ‘and family’? Such as Mr, and Mrs. Mekler and family?
    My envelopes are small, and listing all multiple kids (some of who have different last names) would be difficult, crowded, and messy looking.
    any thoughts?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07250170549808615178 PDX Bride

    I have a similar question as Anna . . . I was just going to use "and Family" I was also planning on leaving out Mr and Mrs . . . is it really necessary? I have a "fancy" font, but I want everything to be pretty casual. So why non just "Joe & Jane Blow & family"?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11371172824707301749 Cate Subrosa

    We addressed ours:

    Jane and John Blow
    or
    Jane Sassy and John Blow (shock horror, same line!)

    or – and here’s where we threw the rules out the window – if the man was the main guest (e.g. one of my brothers) and the woman was more his guest (i.e. a girlfriend):

    John Blow and Jane Sassy

    …because that felt most appropriate to us. Hmmm, I wonder whether anyone thought anything of it…?

    I think our avoiding titles was a very good thing because I might have insisted on using Ms for every female against their personal preference. I know it would have been wrong of me but I seriously think it’s way past time for the Miss/Mrs crap to be ditched. But of course you’re right it’s not my place to tell anyone what they should call themselves… so lucky we went modern/informal!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11371172824707301749 Cate Subrosa

    P.S. The first envelope we received addressed to Mr and Mrs N Subrosa is proudly displayed on our fridge… yeah, I’m a walking contradiction ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15452082852708707013 Peacock Feathers and Diamond Rings

    In England at least a woman may use Mrs with her maiden name if she wishes to indicate she is married even if she doesn’t take his name.

    If she does take his name then becomes Mrs His-firstname His-Surname. i.e. Rachel Smith marries Thomas Wallace she becomes either Rachel Wallace or Mrs. Thomas Wallace. Collectively you would be formally known as Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wallace. If she is referred to as Mrs Rachel Wallace that is incorrect.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08297072128505501687 Hayley Niuserre

    I’m sitting here watching my postbox waiting for my envelopes to arrive. This post is both timely and awesome, thank you for that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15452082852708707013 Peacock Feathers and Diamond Rings

    P.S When you say “And Miss is only *ever* used for little girls. And again, you can use something else if you would find it more respectful” I think perhaps that is an American thing as people in England are referred to as Miss Surname until they are married. I certainly abhor the word ‘Ms’ as for me it has connotations only of being divorced.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    FF-
    the first/second line attendance thing is only if your say, inviting a 10 year old girl, and her father as a chaperon… not for partners. But I agree, no real problem with putting people on the same line if that seems better.

    Anon-
    We disagree on that. I too have a depth of etiquette knowledge, and that is not the way I do it or would tell people to do it. But if that works for you, go for it.

    And on the Miss front, that’s more my new-school egalitarian rule. I would find it very disrespectful to use Miss for a grown woman. That is one of the *many* reasons Ms. has been developed. However, using Ms. for a four year old girl seems… odd.

    Look at all this fuss this kicks up! As I said way back in the beginning of the post, for goodness sake, only use this if it is helpful. People were asking the rules, and I supplied the egalitarian ones. We haven’t followed these rigidly either! We use what works in each situation. But sometimes knowing rules that can be feminist help… especially in dealing with mothers, no?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04454278674225963467 AnnC

    I didn’t think a lot about adressing my invites… went for Mr and Mrs John Blow for “old” couples (grand parents and so on) but I must say I just put X and Y Blow for younger ones (including most of my parents’ friends). And not always the lady’s name first, oops (just put what we usually call them because, I don’t know, it rings better, or the one first is the one we know better…), but I don’t think they’ll mind ;-).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11371172824707301749 Cate Subrosa

    And on the Miss front, that’s more my new-school egalitarian rule. I would find it very disrespectful to use Miss for a grown woman.

    I can’t tell you how much I hope your “new-school egalitarian rules take on, Meg. Like you say, it’s all about respect.

    I must disagree with Rachel’s assertion that British married women who keep their maiden names use ‘Mrs.’ I have never seen/heard that and would think it very strange if I did… like she married her father/brother/cousin!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00882142088145706596 Lee

    This is a tough one. When I addressed our wedding invitations I wrote them in calligraphy (I learned calligraphy in 7th grade English class, no idea why, but I was determined to use it!) so I was worried enough just about the actual writing.

    I found that allowing myself to be flexible with how I addressed the guests really took the pressure off–just because I addressed one couple or family one way didn’t mean I had to use the exact same rule for other guests if it didn’t seem right for them. Spending time worrying about how to address my invitations and fiddling around with calligraphy seemed silly at times, but in the end it allowed me to spend time thinking about each guest as I addressed their invitation. It ended up being one of my favorite parts of preparing for our wedding!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15452082852708707013 Peacock Feathers and Diamond Rings

    “I must disagree with Rachel’s assertion that British married women who keep their maiden names use ‘Mrs.’ I have never seen/heard that and would think it very strange if I did… like she married her father/brother/cousin!”

    Sorry to be pedantic but what I actually said was “a woman may use Mrs with her maiden name if she wishes”. In my experience I have never known anyone do that as everyone I know has chosen to take her husband’s name or created a double-barrelled surname. I was just pointing out that it was legally acceptable to use Mrs with a maiden name if you so choose.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12477666037374075147 Ms. Grrrl

    I hadn’t even thought about addressing my invites yet… now I’m a little terrified.

    I teach at a school for girls situated right on top of the Mason Dixon line. I was SHOCKED when I arrived here to find that the schools directory (that lists all students’ parents) is FULL of “Mr. and Mrs. John Blow (Jane).” The scariest part to me is that the parents have a choice in how they would like to be addressed and I would say about 90% of them choose this insanely regressive title.

    I think it’s more widespread than you think. Until I moved out of NYC and San Francisco (where I had lived up until this point), I had only ever seen this type of title on letters addressed to my grandparents. Out here in the rest of America, we’re a lot farther back than I ever would have guessed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    For the record, we didn’t use honorifics on our Save The Dates. We haven’t made a decision on our invites. That said, I did make sure it was: Jane and John Sassy-Blow, not the other way around. But that’s me.

    Another thing to think about: social titles have always been different than professional titles, which is something we can *own* in an egalitarian way. For example: My mother-in-law goes by Ms. Jane Sassy professionally, but as Mrs. Jane Blow socially. Her credit cards are under both names, since her legal name is Jane Sassy Blow (no hyphen).

    The fact that social titles are different is why the technical rule has always read that Mrs. is the default social honorific for a woman that changed her name, but Ms. is the default business honorific. That said, use what seems right, that’s just the root of the rule.

  • Julie

    A point of clarification: Do you think that it’s better to write:

    Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Blow

    rather than:

    Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Blow?

    They both seem cumbersome!

    I would leave off the titles altogether but like the original questioner, my parents want more formality….

    Thanks!

  • Jim Foster

    I so very much appreciate this post! I plan to send most of my invitations out via the Internet since I’m planning a ‘Social Media Wedding’ — all planned via email/facebook/blogs/IM/twitter, etc. I feel like I’m grasping at straws figuring out how to write the actual copy, and addressing them? Ugh.

  • http://www.snaptacularphotos.com/blog/ Jessica, Snaptacular Photos

    We went reeeaallly simple for ours:

    For married couples: The Blows
    For families: The Blow Family
    For unmarried couples: Joe Blow and Jane Schmo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16787392184686950891 Autumn

    I have had more conversations about this than practically anything else wedding related. I think it’s regressive to use “Mr. and Mrs. John Blow” but that’s how my future mother in law sent her WHOLE list to me– I had to ask for the ladies’ names because I just refuse to send out invites like that. I don’t think it’s only a generational thing, both of my sisters (who are only 10 years older than me) think I’m crazy for not just using “Mr. and Mrs. John Blow” and can’t imagine anyone being offended by it.

    That said, I will be using it on one invite, for future mother in law and father in law, since I know she prefers being addressed that way. But for her widowed friend who I don’t know very well? Um, no.

    By the way, I decided to throw etiquette a little out the window and do “Mrs. Jane and Mr. John Blow”. I just liked it, even if it’s not 100% correct, it’s less cumbersome than “Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Blow” and I figured no one would be offended.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11793117653561745718 amyc

    Thank you Meg, for posting this. As with Ms. Grrrl, I am a little terrified, but appreciate the info. :) It is bookmarked and will be quite useful in April and May.

    http://ameliacarolyn.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    *cheers!* I love sensible etiquette.

    For my invitations (which were sent four days ago and no one’s RSVPed yet aaaaa!!!) I chose to not use honorifics, because of the idea that the invitations set the tone of the event. I used full names and a fancy font, though, because what I wanted to get across was that this is a special occasion, but not a formal one. I do not want people showing up to my park wedding in tuxedos, you know? So I think it’s possible that for quite a few practical weddings, leaving off the honorific or at least not going with the MOST formal option might be the right choice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Marina-
    Agreed!

    Everyone else:
    I would use Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Blow. I actually don’t find it cumbersome at all, my parents have used it my whole life. My mother is a first wave feminist, so she was *NEVER* fine with Mr. and Mrs. John Blow. I find it far less cumbersome then Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Blow, and think it is more correct. BUT, if you have a strong preference, for goodness sakes, go with your gut, not mine.

    And all, no need to be terrified. Unless you write something rude on your invitation (say: “Bring us a present or don’t bother to come” for example), no one is going to be offended. Etiquette is only there to provide some uniform rules, and make it *easier* for you, not harder.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    And an aside: in principal, I don’t like “and Family” because I think everyone that is invited should be listed on the invite. It’s respectful (especially to kids, who don’t tend to get a ton of respect). Plus, precision with save you headaches later on “No, no, ‘and Family’ didn’t mean that you could bring 10 people who are all ‘like family’ to you.” Plus, it gives you a clear way to invite kids or not invite kids, without saying “No kids!”

    That said, we’ve used it. We used it in cases where, for example, there was a divorce going on, and we were unclear who exactly should/should not be invited. In that case, it seemed more sensible and less fraught.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09731426268019406064 Ten Thousand Only

    “Men get to go first quite enough, thanks.”

    i die.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10211797571405802312 Rachel

    I love this. I could have used it when addressing my sis's invitations. We just ended up doing the Mr. & Mrs. thing for older guests that get offended when referred to by their own names and we used much less formal addresses for people we knew wouldn't care.

    Um, I got an invitation in the mail the other day where my SO and I were referred to as Mr. and Mrs. So and so. And I'm not married. And the invitation is from his family (maybe they are hinting at something?).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12997875522614810785 Mouse

    I totally agree with you about etiquette.

    Out of curiosity, how do you word a wedding invitation when you have two people with divorced parents? There are a total of eight people who are parents who probably are supposed to go on the invitation, when there is an invitation. Effing hell! Mr. and Mrs. Blow and Mr. and Mrs. Sassy request the honor blah blah for their daughter Jane to Jonathan, son of blah blah blah blah…

    Sooner or later it sounds too biblical for me.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know…I love being addressed Mrs. Jonathan “insert last name here.”

    There’s something so old-fashioned and southern about it.

    My point being — I think it’s nice to ask around and see how people prefer to be addressed. It’s a tedious task, but often family members know, or you can easily ask as you double check addresses.

    But, then, I’m old-fashioned, like a great aunt, so you can just ignore me. On to my knitting! :)

  • Anonymous

    If, by chance, you are lucky enough to invite any married female couples who share a last name, the honorific is “Mmes.”- the pluralized version of Mrs. :)

    • Lacey

      “Mmes.” sounds lovely! When we asked the one married female couple that we are inviting how they wanted to be addressed (actually, what they were doing about their last names), they told us “according to Martha” they should be addressed as “The Misses Jane and June Sassy-Blow”. I think Mmes. sounds much nicer, but we of course went with what they requested :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05750659066802561501 Erika

    I would like to add to Marina’s comment that choosing to forgo honorifics not only sets the tone for an informal/relaxed wedding, but in my opinion also appropriate for a small wedding at which all invitees are very close friends and immediate family. We decided to use no honorifics on the invites (our wedding was both small-ish and on the informal side), and that made sense for our guest list, which did not include old aunties or parents’ friends.

  • MsLaurie

    Not sure if this helps, but I was told (here in Australia) when getting my passport that “Miss is for girls under the age of twelve. After that you’re Ms or Mrs!”

    Might assist when figuring out how to address the teenagers :)

    For families, we addressed the envelope to “The Blow Family”, and then on the inside we had “Dear John, Jane, Sarah and Michael, you are invited blah blah”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10010855220044881380 Krista

    My mom asked not to be Mrs. Joe Blow. She likes being Mrs. Jane Blow, but she is quite offended by being relegated to being the nameless wife of my father. And that is the attitude I was raised with – so you can guess how quick I was to address invitations, Christmas, cards, etc, so that people are named properly.

    But some women (like Great Aunt Betty and Mrs Jonathon Anonymous) like being known as their husband’s wife. And Mrs Jonathon Anonymous (a couple posts above) is right – if someone prefers to be known by her husband, then I would honour her wishes.

    Meg – I think you did a good thing in this post. You did say this was advice – that we can take it or leave it. There are a couple things I do differently (I put a married couple with different last names on the same line if it fits).

    But really, in the grand scheme of things – I don’t think anyone would refuse to come to my wedding if they were on the same or different lines!

    This is a great post as a starting point to get people thinking.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13620797927505404645 Kayla Hewitt

    Great post! I struggled with this issue so much when I was sending out my invitations. I absolutely detest being known as Mrs. Joe Blow. In fact, I don’t like the title Mrs. at all and go by Ms. (although I did take his last name). However, I know that many (not all) older women like the more formal title, so for friends of my parents and my in-laws, I used the “proper” address, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow. For my friends, I said Jane and John Blow or Jane Sassy and John Blow (separate lines). I didn’t know that it was proper to list the woman’s name first if honorifics are not used. I just listed her name first because I was really inviting her, and her husband could tag along if he wanted. :) For my husband’s friends, we did the opposite.
    Just an interesting tidbit, my mother-in-law is a Ph.D. and her husband is not, but she would rather die than go by Mr. and Dr. or Dr. and Mr. or whatever. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10194335699809459148 Katie

    In an effort to avoid all of this, I went totally casual and addressed our invites to first names only (women first). No titles, no last names. Just first names.

    I seriously doubt anyone was offended. And if they were, I honestly don’t care much.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14899887382820013452 Sunshine Cook

    I grew up in the South and once had a job addressing envelopes for the group who threw the most hoity toity of the hoity toity debutante balls in Dallas. We had a GIANT dusty binder in which you could look up the proper form endless, endless scenarios.

    We dodged it all through the saving grace of two envelopes (we had really cheap paper from someplace, can’t remember the deets as it was 10 years ago. That makes it much easier since you can say “The Lastname Family” on the outer envelope and “Kiesha, Clarence, Jared, and Emily” or whatever on the inside.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06799500006968809109 Robin

    yikes! so many opinions, too much stress! just do what feels right. you know these people well enough to want them present at your wedding, call them what they like and be done with it :O)

  • Anonymous

    Well, I just received my umpteenth wedding invitation addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow” when my name is “Dr. Jane Sassy-Blow”. Geesh! I’ve been married to this guy for almost 24 years now and no one in his family has still bothered to learn my name! Whoever said the woman with the Dr. title should get to use it was right on! Or at the very least, let me use my legal – hyphenated – last name! Thanks for letting me vent!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00650933140736435170 Giggles

    Just another comment on the “Miss” thing-

    I’m over 30 with a Masters degree and I love being called Miss Sassy. Ms. Sassy just sounds too much like Miz to me, I don’t like it. So I have people call me Miss.

    I tried to get them to call me Master Sassy because of my degree, but nobody’s going for it.

    I’m working on the Ph.D. right now, and I’ll probably switch from Miss to Dr. when that is finished, but only for official things. Otherwise, as long as I’m unmarried, I’ll be Miss and love it.

    As to kids and whatnot, that’s what the inner envelope is for isn’t it? On the outer envelope you put the honorific names, on the inner envelope you put the social names and kids’ names.

    I’m actually expecting a wedding invite from a family member that will have my name on the outer envelope, but on the inner one it will have my name and my SO’s name.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Well yes. But 99% of us won’t have inner envelopes.

  • Anonymous

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your site – Ok here are my questions. I have 2Dr.'s I am inviting, Husband and wife but she did not take his last name. how should I word that? AND when you spell out the year is it – two thousand AND ten or just two thousand ten? help!

    • Fred P.

      It’s very simple to address an invitation or other formal correspondence to two medical doctors who are married and who share the same surname:
      “The Doctors Johnson”

      If two medical doctors are married and use different surnames, or if they are not married:
      “Dr. Jane Jones and Dr. James Johnson”

      The situation is a bit less clear for persons who have earned a Ph.D. or other doctoral-level degree. It’s probably best to ask them how they prefer to be addressed.

  • Fiona

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this!

    I have been traipsing around the internet for a couple days now trying to find an opinion on addressing invitations that was neither entirely formal, nor rigidly traditional. What a relief to find such a thoughtful post.

    For me, it was all about “do unto others”. The problem with this situation is that the true “do unto others” is actually to treat them the way *they* want to be treated. Sometimes that can be massively confusing.

    Thank you so much for your helpful and thoughtful post.

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  • thembisue

    Thank you for this article right on time for me as we are addressing our save-the-dates

  • Kirsty

    I know this post is really old, and I have already sent out my invites, but is anyone else reading this and wishing their actual surname was Sassy?? It is way cooler than my (or my boyfriend’s) actual name…

    • Dawn Sheggeby

      I actually have a neighbor whose last name is Sasse…but he’s not that cool…

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  • Katie

    I have decided to use your suggested Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Jane Blow. What do I do with Jr. or III? Mr. and Mrs. Joe and Jane Blow, Jr.? Does this difference necessitate they be listed separetely? Mr. Joe Blow, Jr. and Mrs. Jane Blow? Thanks!

  • Cynthia

    This is so helpful, thank you. I have been struggling with all the same issues!

    My one remaining question — with no inner envelope, how do you indicate that a single friend can bring a guest? Can you really not put “and guest” on the outer envelope?

  • Emily

    I’ve got an issue with addressing invitations to my fiance’s friends and their wives. Since I don’t know them well, I don’t know if they’ve hyphenated or just slid their old last name over to the middle name field. I’m relying on facebook to help me figure out if there is in fact a hyphen, or just two separate names. I am assuming that if they are without hyphen that means that have done the middle name change thing, and I am leaving their new middle name off the invitation, because I’m not putting other people’s middle names on invitations. But I feel conflicted about this, because, as someone who will not be changing my name, I know I will be angry when I receive my first piece of married mail to Mrs. _____. Any advice? Can I rely on facebook to be accurate on people’s name preference?

  • Fred P.

    Here’s a tidbit that will undoubtedly annoy many of you: it is absolutely INCORRECT to address a married woman as Mrs. followed by her given (first) name, regardless of whether she follows it with her maiden name or her husband’s surname. “Mrs. Ellen Parker” implies that Ellen was previously married and is now divorced!

    For the past thousand years or so, married women in almost every country (at least predominatly Christian countries) have been referred to as “Mrs. John Joe”. Feminists and liberals get hot and bothered about this, but the reason for the tradition is really very simple. In just about every Christan marriage, the woman vows to leave her parents and join the man to form a new family (“Do you take this man…”). This is signified when the bride’s father “gives away” the bride; her father is giving her to the husband, and she leaves her family to form a new one with her husband.

    Taking her husband’s surname does NOT mean that she becomes his property, like a goat or a car! She is simply making a choice: to leave her parents and form a new family with hubby, thereby forging a new life together. If you want to call that choice “regressive” then I guess you have the right to call it that — but I don’t think that most brides make this choice because someone is holding a gun to their head.

    The situation is, of course, different for those practicing the Jewish faith, as their concept of marriage involves a contractual “merger” of the two families — rather than the bride leaving her family to join the husband’s.

    For those poor souls who have no faith or aren’t sure, then I suppose anything goes. And this probably explains the vast confusion regarding how to address married women in today’s modern world.

    • Dawn Sheggeby

      Fred- get with the 20th century program, at least, if not the 21st – just because I MIGHT agree to take my new spouse’s surname doesn’t mean I’m giving up my whole identity, including my first name! This is a tradition that maybe makes sense for ladies over 60 who still feel follow this tradition, but for any modern woman – it does not!

      I have this argument with my boss (a very proper gentleman) all the time: I think you’ll find any woman under 50 would be offended by this title, rather than feeling like she was branded a widow!
      –DS

  • Dawn Sheggeby

    Thank you thank you. I am 46 years old and I am getting married for the first time. I have proudly called myself a feminist since I was 10 (thanks mom!). I want my invites to be formal, fancy, and FAIR. Thanks for being the first site (after perusing dozens) to tell me how to do that!

    PS My mom had a little needlepoint shop in the 80s. Women would sign up on her mailing list – “Mrs. Joe Blow.” She’d look at that and say “Do YOU have a name?” and they would say, sometimes shyly, “well, yes.” And she’d say – “Can I USE it?”

    your fan,
    Dawn

  • Dawn Sheggeby

    BUT REALLY – AN IMPORTANT QUESTION:
    Do you all think I have to say “Mr. and Mrs. Chuck and Sue Sassy”?

    Or can I say “Mrs. and Mr. Sue and Chuck Sassy?”

    why does the Mr always get to be first? just because it sounds “right”?

  • Sarah

    Oof! I just went through and asked each person how they liked to be addressed. Only 100 people being invited, but it still took forever.

    Even the older people seem to be coming over to the “Jean and Bob McPerson” or “Mr. and Mrs. Bob and Jean McPerson” rather than the older style stuff. It made me happy!

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  • Katie

    I’ve just bookmarked this page, as this is one of the best etiquette guides I have found so far!

    I must disagree, though, with the majority of you here regarding being addressed as Mrs. Husband Lastname. As a history lover and a reader of very old books, I find it romantic.

    When I was young my grandparents’ mailbox said “Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Bales” and even after my grandpa passed away, my grandma’s checks said “Mrs. William Bales”.

    I don’t I love it and I cannot wait to be addressed that way. It’s honoring traditions and people who are long gone. Marriage is a romantic and time-honored tradition, after all. :)

  • Katie

    I’ve just bookmarked this page, as this is one of the best etiquette guides I have found so far!

    I must disagree, though, with the majority of you here regarding being addressed as Mrs. Husband Lastname. As a history lover and a reader of very old books, I find it romantic.

    When I was young my grandparents’ mailbox said “Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Bales” and even after my grandpa passed away, my grandma’s checks said “Mrs. William Bales”.

    I love it and I cannot wait to be addressed that way. It’s honoring traditions and people who are long gone. Marriage is a romantic and time-honored tradition, after all. :)

  • CinColorado

    I love this older page, and hope to hear an answer to the question of guests for my two single friends I’m inviting. With no inner envelopes in sight, how do I address the issue on the actual (one and only) envelope? Ms. Jane Sassy and Guest? Mr. Joe Blow and Guest? Seems odd… Perhaps just their name on the envelope, with a call them after the invitation goes out to say “please bring a guest, and let me know on the RSVP card”? Any ideas?

    • Kristen

      I guess I’m not the only one who’s tuning in late! For our wedding invitations that had lots of invites in one family, we put “The Smith Family” on the outer envelope, then each individual on the RSVP.


      Please let us know if:

      Sue and Joe
      Jamie and Lauren
      Kit and Bob

      will be able to join, or will be celebrating from afar.

      In this case, Sue and Joe are the parents, Jamie and Kit are the children (Jamie is older), and each can bring their serious significant other (Lauren and Bob).

      For the record, I addressed mine “Mrs. Jane and Mr. Joe Blow”, always putting the person who has the closer relationship to the couple first. I absolutely got the first name for every female.

      For the “and guest” question, we honestly are not inviting a lot of plus 1s because we don’t want strangers at our wedding, unless we know they’re in long-term relationships, in which case through the magic of Facebook we could find out their name. In very few cases, we did put “Miss Jane Blow and Guest” right on the front envelope.

      I’m very happy with how they turned out because they reflect our values! As long as you’re happy with it, you can’t go wrong.

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  • Tea

    …shouldn’t it be “Dr. and Mr.” with the Dr. first?