Addressing Wedding Invitations (and staying a feminist)

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


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.

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