{Etiquette} Addressing Your Wedding Invitations

Grace Edmands CalligraphyCalligraphy by Grace Edmands Calligraphy (thanks Grace!)

Today I wanted to share some outer envelope addressing etiquette with you.  I’ve been collecting this information for years from various sources as different scenarios have come up for my clients.  Family situations have grown more complex in recent years, so I’ve tried to include the basics as well as the more complicated scenarios.  Though I’m not a bonafide etiquette expert (as proven by my personal story at the end of this post), if you need help with addressing an invitation to a family whose situation is not covered in this post, let me know, and I’ll see if I can track down the answer for you!

FIRST, a few basic tips:

  • Always use proper titles for doctors, PhDs, military officers, etc.
  • Address the invitation to all who are invited, by name
  • Medical doctors should be addressed using “Doctor” and PhDs should be addressed using “Dr.”
  • Address both active duty and retired military officers with their proper titles
  • Always spell out names of cities and states, and words like “Street”, “Avenue”, “Suite”, “Apartment”, etc., with the exception of “Washington, D.C.”

 

MARRIED COUPLES
Same last name: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

Wife uses her maiden name, use “Mrs.” and place her name on the line above his:
Mrs. Jane Jones
Mr. John Smith

Same last name, but wife has a proper title and the husband does not, place her name above his:
Doctor Jane Smith
Mr. John Smith

Husband has a proper title and wife does not: General and Mrs. John Smith

Both the husband and wife have the same proper titles: Drs. John and Jane Smith

Husband and wife have different proper titles, put wife first:
General Jane Smith
The Honorable John Smith

 

INVITING CHILDREN UNDER 18
Place children’s names on a separate line below their parents.  If children have the same last name as their parents, only write their first names.  If children have different last names than their parents, include their last names.  Invited children over 18 should receive their own invitations, whether or not they reside with their parents.  For them, use the rules for “single guests.”

Invited children under 18 with the same last name as their parents:
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Mary, Elizabeth, and Joseph

Invited children under 18 with different last names than their parents, use separate lines:
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Mary and Elizabeth Jones
Joseph Smith

 

SINGLE GUESTS & UNMARRIED COUPLES
Single guests use Ms., Miss, or Mr., or their proper title: Ms. Elizabeth Rogers   -or-  Doctor Henry Jones

Unmarried and/or same-gender couples living at same address should be addressed alphabetically by last name:
Ms. Mary Jones
Ms. Elizabeth Rogers

 

SO NOW FOR A TOUGH ONE
How do you address an invitation to a military husband with a medical doctor wife with five kids under 18 (who are invited) who all have different last names?
Doctor Jane Smith
General John Jones
Mary, Elizabeth, and Ryan Smith
Joseph and Henry Jones

 

AND NOW MY EMBARRASSING STORY
When I got married, I addressed my own invitations.  (I didn’t have the pleasure of hiring a great calligrapher like Grace Edmands.)  I researched proper etiquette for addressing, of course, but I still made an embarrassing error:  I addressed the invitation to my husband’s boss as “Mr.” when it should have been “Dr.”  Now that I think about it, his wife might be “Dr.” too!  I feel badly that I didn’t show the proper respect for his title.  I simply forgot that he had a proper title, because I usually just call him “Bob.”  But you know what?  I don’t think he ever held it against me.  He’s never mentioned my error.  And my husband still has a job, lol!

So the lesson is twofold:  First, do your best to address your invitations properly.  Second, if you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up.  Reasonable people will forgive you for your oversight.  In the end, we’re all just human.

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