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Addressing Wedding Invitations, Part II


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

In case you were on the fence about how to address your wedding invitations, and wondering if it would be more tasteful to address them all as Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow, because it’s faaaannnncccccyyyy, I give you this comment:

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!

Right. Address people as they wish to be addressed, or failing that, by their names. Glad that’s cleared up.

*That was me. I said that.

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. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12435697594154408096 jessica lynn

    amen.

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

    lol “whoever said…”

  • midwestelle

    Amen indeed. But it’ll be interesting when we get to invite time…making sure we get everyone correctly addressed!

    Best Wishes!

    MidwestElle @ http://www.iowabride.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12633056996927758780 Amanda

    I addressed our invitations in my own grade-school child’s chicken scratch handwriting. And most of them were just “John and Dee” or “Joe and Barb”.

    No last names. No cursive. Slightly off-kilter. Perfectly us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01662015478802451184 Becky

    We have been having this discussion. I absolutely refuse to address invitations as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, even if that is how the couple might prefer. Not gonna happen. As my partner says: “anyone who would be offended by not being addressed this way we wouldn’t want to come to our wedding anyway.” It’s actually much easier for us because we are just addressing with first names, like John Smith and Carol Adams. The real question for us is how to include kids names.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14021725591075968558 KatieF

    Meg actually has a great post on this – or maybe it was Emily Post, hmmm.

    Kids should be listed by their first names, proceeded by the parents’ names. This follows even if the kids are from previous relationships. They make up one family now. Thus Ms. Kendra Smith and Mr. Ken Black, Kyle, Kylie and Chris. Growing up in a big family, we’d often get: Mr and Ms. F and Family. We understood that meant us, and that was exciting.

    It’s all about respecting your loved ones and recognizing the family they’ve created, just as you hope to be recognized and respected for yours.

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

    Well said KatieF.

    I also still hold that if you have a special child in your life and you really are inviting *them* with the parent as the chaperone, it’s nice to put their name first:

    Hermonie Granger and Mrs. Granger (on one line or two, with or without Miss as you see fit). Kids are over the moon excited when they get mail that is *for them.*

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05098729708314853961 MWK

    Oh, yay for this reminder – we just printed our envelopes (that’s right, printed right on the dern envelope in some fancy free font), and most of them are to Joe Smith and Jane Doe (or whoever). I had a momentary fit about my older conservative relatives being annoyed at being addressed this way, but then the future hubby said approximately the same thing that Becky’s partner did – and they were both totally right. Whew.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15146969435974379636 Courtney

    I was recently addressed as Miss on a wedding invite, from friends who know me well enough to know I’ve only used Ms. since I was 16. I’m still surprised how much it annoyed me. Two days later I had to address my save the dates and the only people who got “Mrs.” is the grammas. Everyone else got the name they prefer,w/o courtesy titles.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve got to say that while it’s good to address people the way they wish to be addressed, I think invitation recipients need to chill a bit.

    Honorifics are used so little these days, that it’s impractical to assume that even your close friends know your preference (though they may…and if they do they should respect that). I personally hate the title Ms. Even at 29, I would much prefer to be called Miss. I’m sure none of my friends know this and I’m certainly not going to take issue with them calling me Ms.

    Unless it’s going to become routine for people to call up each and every guest to ask their naming preference, chances are there will be at least some people who don’t get called what they want. Even if the couple may know your preferred name already, there’s no guarantee they’ll remember it with everything else they’re doing when they go to address invites. I agree with Becky, that if guests are going to be offended with their invitation addressing, then you don’t really want them around anyhow…but I would extend that to ANY way you address your invitations (as long as it’s proper…no name calling or anything obviously).

    Honorifics are used to show honor and respect. These days, too many people twist the honorific someone gave them to be some horrible, purposeful offence. I highly doubt many people send out formal invitations with the goal of offending their friends and family. They try their best to figure out what is proper…Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow IS proper, even if your legal name is Dr. Jane Sassy-Blow. I understand why you don’t like it…I’m not big on the Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow thing myself…BUT you’ve got to realize that (most) people who send you an invite like this, aren’t doing it with the intention to offend. They’re sending the invite because you’re special to them and they want to share their wedding with you.

    Keeping that in mind, just get to the contents of the envelope rather than dwelling on what’s on the outside.

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

    Anon,
    While I agree with you in spirit that no one means to offend, I REALLY disagree with you on technicalities. Let me be PERFECTLY CLEAR: Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow is no longer proper, unless you know the recipient likes to be addressed that way. PERIOD. It is very offensive to much of the world now, and we do not need to chill. I’m not sure I can express how deeply offensive I find it. When I marry I do not take on my husband’s name, I retain my own. Full stop. I agree that no one has the intention to offend wedding guests (a Miss/Ms mix-up is absolutely normal), as such, Mr. And Mrs. Joe Blow needs to be dropped, end of story. While it is always intention that matters, our actions matter too, and we are responsable for them.

    Finally, it is *never* ok or proper to address someone as Mr. And Mrs. Joe Blow if their name is Jane Sassy Blow. It’s incorrect and it’s disrespectful. Its disrespectful in exactly the same way that addressing a woman by her husband’s name if she did not change her name is disrespectful.

    Meg

    Meg

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

    Amen. I have no idea why but I have received numerous invitations addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. So and So” from my boyfriend’s family. The weird part is that while we happily co-habitate, we are most definitely not married. And these invitations are from people who know that perfectly well. It doesn’t make me angry, but I think it is really, really strange.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07710924855829600306 LisaAnne_quilts

    I’m going to disagree with you Meg. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow is PERFECTLY PROPER. The only time it is not proper is if the couple is not married, the wife did not take her husband’s name, or the wife has an honorific of her own.

    I’ll go one step further and state that NOT addressing a wife with her honorific of Mrs. because as an individual you are not taking your husband’s name is dismissive of HER choice.

    As for Ms. or Miss, well, I was around for the original discussions of Ms. The thought ran that if the honorific for a MAN did not indicate marital status, why should the honorific for a woman? IMO it’s a fallback for when you don’t know if a woman has a different honorific.

    The best advice is as Katie said “It’s all about respecting your loved ones and recognizing the family they’ve created, just as you hope to be recognized and respected for yours.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13077342485544422525 Becky

    When things are addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” you are sending the message that the woman has no identity beyond that of her husband. It is out-dated, patriarchal, and rude, not faaaaaaancy.

    On a lighter note, I just realized that (duh) we ordered invites for each guest instead on for each family. So we have way too many. Ooops. So I guess we’ll send the kids their own invites, which I’m sure they’ll think is cool.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03584431220332308431 Lisa

    I would never address anything to Mr. & Mrs. John Smith. So insulting. Like you're inviting John Smith and his woman or his property. We're addressing our invites by John & Jane Smith or John Smith & Jane Doe, or John Smith & Jane Doe-Smith, based on each couple and whether they have changed their name or not. We're also writing "& family" for anyone who has children. Oh and we're not doing calligraphy, we're printing labels in the same font as our invites, which were designed by a good friend. :)

  • Anonymous

    Hi Meg,

    My point is less about who’s right and who’s wrong…but that the person writing the invites is very unlikely to be right for everyone unless he/she contacts every single person and asks…so the recipients should really cut the host(ess) some slack.

    You say that Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow is never proper and is very offensive, but there’s a whole slew of people who would disagree and find NOT being referred to in this way offensive…believe me…I heard from many of them when I didn’t use this method. And that group isn’t limited to a past generation, so it’s not nearly as easy to guess as you might think.

    I understand the offence, anger, and indignation that people feel when they feel overlooked or slighted. However, directing this at the brides/grooms who are just trying to invite their closest friends and family to celebrate with them and are most likely trying to do their best to be proper and not offend, isn’t going to do any good. Chances are they’re going to be improper and offensive to some of their guests no matter what they choose to use.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03584431220332308431 Lisa

    @Rachel — We got a Christmas card from my fiance’s brother’s girlfriend addressed to “The Fiance’sLastName Family”. I thought that was odd. We’re not married yet. Maybe she didn’t know my last name? I wasn’t offended but I, like you, did find it odd!

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

    Anon & Lisa,
    If you'll go back to my original post you'll see that I already covered addressing people as they wish to be addressed – and that includes Mrs. John Blow. I merely do not think that Mrs. John Blow retains its past history as the default standard, as it is offensive to many. I think we are much wiser to use it only with people we know prefer it. I also have no problem with Mrs. When it is used properly (when a woman takes her husband's last name or they both hyphenate).

    That said, I let me restate my key point: it is NEVER proper to use Mr. And Mrs. John Blow with a woman who's name is Jane Sassy-Blow or a woman who has kept the name Jane Sassy. What you are using is neither her legal nor her social name. While I agree that it's important to keep intentions in mind, the bottom line is that we still are responsible for addressing people by their proper names (and keeping track of what they are). That is the point of this post, and I will stick to my guns.

    Etiquette is, by it's very definition, about the fact that we have to treat people with proper respect, even when it makes our lives more difficult (and that includes, perhaps, calling people to ask how they like to be addressed). Intentions are very important, as is giving people the benefit of the doubt, but in the end Etiquette is about our actions. It is never the easy way out.

    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16491075523419372429 Dalilou

    Doing the invitations was really difficult. I generally wrote the Mr. and Mrs. John Smith for the older generation whom I know prefer it- and a few younger ones that are traditional-minded. I addressed Mr. John and Ms. Jane Smith for the younger set and the few older folks who seemed hip to the script, and I paid really close attention to see if a wife kept her legal name. It’s confusing out there but I think I managed to avoid offending most folks!

  • April

    AMEN. When I sent our save-the-dates out, I hand-addressed them (no calligraphy! *gasp*!) with people’s first and last names only, and completely left off the titles.

    Because when was the last time I called one of my friends, “Mrs. Smith!?!” freakin NEVER!

  • Anonymous

    Even Miss Manners says to address a wife by her hyphenated name if that is what she uses.

    And married couples with different last names are written separately on different lines.

    And “Ms.” is fine.

    But for all the other married couples, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow is still considered proper.

    I personally don’t read into it that the woman is “property”, but I come from an earlier generation.

    I remember my grandmother (born 1910) and her generation and those ladies did not think of themselves as “property” no matter how slanted the past is portrayed.

    Geez, my grandmother did all the household finances and made all of the financial and investment decisions, even though she was a housewife.

    I find younger generations hold some extreme ideas of what women’s lives were like back then. Yet when I remember what it was actually like, the women had a lot more self esteem than how they are now portrayed.

  • Anonymous

    Oops.

    In talking about Miss Manners, I should have mentioned that I’m a totally different “Anonymous” than the first one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17382805205018716125 Valarie

    I love it!! It is about time someone said it outloud.

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

    Anon #2,
    I do, in fact, remember past generations. My grandmother was also born in 1910 (perhaps you are underestimating my age) and she was tough as nails. I trusted that went without saying. That does not mean that times haven’t changed. I am the *second* generation in my family to be insulted when addressed as Mrs. John Blow, so times changed long ago. The changing of social mores does not have anything to do with disrespect for past generations. Think of it, instead, as each of us honoring our grandmothers memories by living as strong women in the times that we were born into.

    Finally, please don’t say “even” Miss Manners says Ms. is ok. Of course Miss Manners says Ms. is ok. Miss Manners is one of the wisest, wittiest, and most practical writers around. It’s also Miss Manners who points out that etiquette is about respect. The bottom line is: you need to address people as they wish to be addressed (that includes addressing older women as Mrs. John Blow, as covered in my first post) and addressing people by the names that they use socially. Period.

    Finally, please read my first post. I discussed, at some length, the fact that couples with different last names traditionally have their names written on different lines. I suspect that I’m more familiar and respectful of etiquette then you imagine.

    Meg

  • Anonymous

    Meg,

    I did read your original post.

    But I was responding to your later comment that you didn’t think Mr. and Mrs. John Blow was the default standard anymore.

    I merely pointed out that except for couples with separate names, or a woman with a hyphenated name, it is still considered the default standard – not because it’s fancy, but because it’s, well, standard.

    (Even Miss Manners says so.)

    Now if society decided to make it a point of discussion as they did with the invention of the title “Ms.”, and agreed to change to something else, then the standard would change.

    In the meantime, I would hope that any married couple who shared the same last name wouldn’t be offended just because I addressed their invitation in the standard way!

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

    I’m sorry, I think it is, at least for my generation, no longer standard. And I looked it up, Miss Manners believes we live in a “time of choice” and people should “be addressed as they wish to be addressed.” However, on this point even miss Manners opinions would not sway me. This standard changed more than 30 years ago, society needs to move to accept that change. As a person with a platform, I am going to do my part.

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

    And one final note:
    “Now if society decided to make it a point of discussion as they did with the invention of the title “Ms.”, and agreed to change to something else, then the standard would change.”

    Society has made this a point of discussion: I’ve been very aware of it for my whole life. That said, for anyone who was not aware it was a general point of discussion, consider yourself warned, in the nicest possible way. The standard has changed already in many social circles. If it hasn’t changed yet for you, please be aware that it has changed for others, and will continue to change.

    And, “In the meantime, I would hope that any married couple who shared the same last name wouldn’t be offended just because I addressed their invitation in the standard way!”

    Perhaps if we all had our very best natures, we would manage to not be offended. That said, names are very personal, and since this is no longer standard for many of us, it’s good to be aware that you will in fact offend some people very deeply if you use this form of address. Now you know.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01669707863959514208 Jans

    I have a question for you Meg! When do people stop being “and guest”? We are recently engaged and just received a wedding invite were I was listed as an “and guest” and I was IN a wedding this summer as the MOH and I was offended that my then boyfriend of five year was an “and guest”on her invite.

    I read your original post a while ago and I can’t remember if you addressed this. I want to avoid “and guesting” people who obviously deserve to be addressed.

  • Anonymous

    Meg,

    When it comes to addressing wedding invitations, Miss Manners is my only source. It’s misrepresenting her to say she says people should be addressed the way they want to be addressed.

    She was referring to couples with different names. But Miss Manners is still saying that the proper address on a FORMAL wedding invitation is Mr. and Mrs. John Blow.

    Mr. and Mrs. Blow is considered informal.

    Also, Mrs. Sassy Blow is reserved for a divorced woman who kept her married name. Miss Manners and others say that it is never proper for a married women to be Mrs. Sassy Blow.

    I would not say that society has discussed this issue in the same way as “Ms” was discussed. The whole “Ms” thing was discussed in major newspapers and magazines for years before it was adopted.

    The discussion of how to address married couples with the same last name has not yet reached that wide an audience.

    Considering all this, at this time I would go the traditional route if I were having a formal wedding. I would be more comfortable with Mr. and Mrs. Blow if the wedding were very informal.

    I find it incredibly sad that some people would latch onto this as something to get angry about, when nothing new has yet been agreed on in our society.

    I’ve always thought of myself as fairly “indie”, but I see that I don’t quite fit in here.

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

    Anon,
    First of all, you don’t need to agree with me on addressing wedding invitations, or on any particular point, to fit in here. That is not going to stop me from sticking up for points I think are deeply important. I think good for you to understand that people may well be offended by Mr. and Mrs. John Blow (it’s nice to be aware of these things) but in the end, you are free to do what you choose. The bottom line of this post was not that Mr. And Mrs. John Blow is never acceptable, it is that people need to be addressed by the names that they feel are proper, not the names that we feel are proper for them, and I continue to stick by that point. I will also stick by the point that Mr. And Mrs. John Blow has gone out of fashion for very specific reasons as the standard mode of formal address, but you can of course choose to disagree.

    Second of all, my views on addressing wedding invitations have nothing at all to do with my being (or not being) Indie, they have to do with me being feminist, and being raised by a feminist. I don’t find refusing to be addressed by my husband’s given name as ‘indie,’ for me it’s part of my fundamental belief system. In the end, I think people tend to use labels like Indie in a way that makes it seem like it’s a club that you are in or out of, and that is unfair to everyone concerned – unfair to you, unfair to me. Am I Indie? Maybe. It depends what standards you are using, or which of my choices you are considering. Am I a feminist? Yes, always. But your choices, feminist or no, do not need to reflect my choices. We’re also clearly coming from different social worlds. The idea that everyone is not very aware of the Mrs. John Blow issue is mind boggling to me, and clearly it’s something that you didn’t think was a major issue.

    Finally, just so you know, I actually went back and re-read quite a bit of Miss Manners revised edition of “Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior” last night, before I responded. She has a fascinating section in the beginning on allowing people to style their names as they wish. In addition, if you look at p. 308, you’ll see the bit where she discusses this very issue, and the fact that it is quite heated on both sides. She suggests that we address people as they wish to be addressed in this “age of choice” and that we try not to get too upset when people address us otherwise. I (like many) am less good at the second part of her entreaty, but we all have our failings. Finally, as always with a complex writer with Miss Manners, I think it’s important to think about her writings in their entirety when coming to conclusions, rather then site her chapter and verse. Her whole thesis is that etiquette is about respect, and that etiquette is constantly changing to reflect the social mores of the time. When you take these two things together, you’ll understand why it is absolutely proper etiquette to acknowledge that modes of formal address are changing (or in some circles changed years ago).

    Meg

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

    Ok, I’m closing this thread. The bottom line: you need to address people as they wish to be addressed. If you don’t know, it’s your responsability to ask. And yes, when it comes to names (as opposed to honorifics) you must always address people by the name they use socially, no matter what you think of it.