Confused or intimidated by how to address wedding invitations? Don’t worry—we feel you, and you’re not wrong. The way you address your wedding invitations is crucial not only for etiquette’s sake (you don’t want to offend your new great aunt before you’re even a part of the family, do you?), but for logistical reasons as well. You’re sending a message, quite literally, about who is invited to your wedding. If you address your wedding invitations inaccurately, your guests might get the wrong idea about who exactly is expected to show up on the big day… and there’s absolutely nothing more embarrassing for everyone involved than a person feeling unwelcome at the party you’ve been planning so carefully.
Complicating matters even further are double-envelope situations: you may choose to have both an outer envelope, which is typically addressed more formally, and an inner envelope that’s worded more casually. Don’t envision your cousin’s twin toddlers racing around your black-tie evening reception? Not sure what to write on your divorced almost-mother-in-law’s envelope? Read on for our life-saving tips that will guide you through every addressing scenario possible to ensure your wedding invitations make a favorable first impression.
Who’s Invited: A Family
The first consideration you face when sending wedding invitations to families is whether you want to be specific about whom in the family is invited:
- If you don’t want to call out specific family members, simply address the envelope to the entire family:
The Simpson Family
- If you do want to specify which family members are invited, write the names of each family member in listed fashion. Begin with the parent or parents’ names, and list invited children in order of age below. Female children under the age of 18 should be addressed as Miss:
Mr. and Mrs. Homer Simpson*
Mr. Bart Simpson
Miss Lisa Simpson
If You Have Two Envelopes:
Include just the parents (and follow the same rules as above) for your outer envelope, and then include only first names on the inner envelope:
- If the whole family is invited, use the family name or only the names of the parents on the outer envelope:
The Simpson Family
Mr. & Mrs. Bart Simpson*
- List the first names of all invited family members on the inner envelope:
Homer, Marge, Bart, Miss Lisa, and Miss Maggie
*See below for all the different ways you can address a married couple and choose your preference.
Who’s Invited: A Couple
In the world of wedding invitation addresses, couples get divided into two camps: those who are married, and those who are not. From there, the “not marrieds” get split further into living together versus living separately, while the “marrieds” go through consideration surrounding last names and titles. See below for the exciting outcomes! (We know you’re on pins and needles.)
- If a couple is not married but living together, you have two options. You can either list their names alphabetically by last name on separate lines:
Mr. Ross Geller
Ms. Rachel Green
- Or you can list both names on the same line, leading with whichever person you’re closest with. If you’re equally close with both, go alphabetical again:
Ms. Rachel Green and Mr. Ross Geller
- If a couple is not married and do not live together, send separate invitations.
- If both partners have the same last name, you can either list them together either just using the husband’s first and last name:
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Belcher
- Or use both the husband’s and the wife’s first and last names, if neglecting to address the wife directly feels outdated or awkward to you:
Mr. Robert Belcher and Mrs. Linda Belcher
Mr. Robert and Mrs. Linda Belcher
- If a couple has different last names, you can list either the husband’s or the wife’s name first based on your preference, whomever your closest with, or the alphabet. Mrs. is traditionally used to indicate the couple’s married status:
Mrs. Leslie Knope and Mr. Ben Wyatt
- If one partner has a hyphenated name, list the hyphenated name last. Either Ms. or Mrs. can be used:
Mr. Andy Dwyer and Ms. April Ludgate-Dwyer
- If one partner is a doctor, list the doctor first regardless of gender. You can choose to spell out “Doctor” rather than hyphenate it to “Dr.” if you would like to be more formal. If the doctor is a woman and she has taken her husband’s last name, reflect that:
Dr./Doctor Michaela Quinn and Mr. Byron Sully
Dr./Doctor Rainbow and Mr. Andre Johnson, Sr.
Dr. and Mrs. Perry Cox / Dr. Perry and Mrs. Jordan Cox
- If both partners are doctors with the same last name, you can address their invite to “The Doctors” or include their first names:
The Doctors Quartermaine
(The) Doctors Alan Sr. and Monica Quartermaine
Drs. Alan and Monica Quartermaine
- If both partners are doctors with different last names, list their names in alphabetical order:
Dr. Meredith Grey and Dr. Derek Shepherd
- If one partner has a distinguished title other than doctor, such as judges, reverends, military personnel, etc., apply the same rule for doctors used above:
The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Mr. Martin David Ginsburg
Captains Elizabeth and Jeremiah Holt, US Navy
Same-Sex, Married or Unmarried:
The same etiquette applies for same-sex couples as for any other couple, married or unmarried. If they’re married, definitely list both names on the same line.
- For a same-sex couple with the same or hyphenated last names, follow the same etiquette as above:
Ms. Susan Bunch and Ms. Carol Willik-Bunch
- For a same-sex couple with different last names, you can list names either alphabetically or according to closeness to you:
Mr. Mitchell Pritchett and Mr. Cameron Tucker
If You Have Two Envelopes:
For outer envelopes, follow all the rules stated above. For inner envelopes, ease up on the formality with one of two options: titles + last names, or only first names (if you are very close with the couple). Here’s the rundown for inner envelopes per couple scenario:
Not Married: Ms. Green and Mr. Geller —or— Rachel and Ross
Same Last Name: Mr. and Mrs. Belcher —or— Robert and Linda
Different Last Name: Mrs. Knope and Mr. Wyatt —or— Leslie and Ben
Hyphenated Last Name: Mr. Dwyer and Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer —or— Andy and April
One Doctor: Dr. Quinn and Mr. Sully —or— Michaela and Byron
Two Doctors, Same Last Names: The Doctors Quatermaine —or— Alan Sr. and Monica
Two Doctors, Different Last Names: Dr. Grey and Dr. Shepherd —or— Meredith and Derek
Two Titles, Same Last Names: Judge Ginsburg and Mr. Ginsburg
Two Titles, Different Last Names: The Captains Holt
Same-Sex, Hyphenated Last Names: Ms. Bunch and Ms. Willik-Bunch —or— Susan and Carol
Same-Sex, Different Last Names: Mr. Pritchett and Mr. Tucker —or — Mitchell and Cameron
Who’s Invited: An Individual
We should really cal this section “addressing wedding invitations to non-partnered women,” because let’s be honest, addressing an invitation to a man is pretty straightforward and unwavering (unless he’s under 18—see below).
- If the guest is a single female, use “Ms.” unless she is younger than 18—in this case, “Miss” spelled out is more acceptable:
Ms. Elizabeth Lemon
Miss Donna-Jo Tanner
- If the guest is a single male, use “Mr.” unless he is younger than 18—then no title is necessary.
Mr. George Constanza
- If the guest is a widow, it’s best to ask someone close to her if she prefers to still be addressed using her husband’s name, or if she prefers her married name. Some widows might also prefer to use “Ms.” so be sure to inquire.
Mrs. George Devereaux
Mrs. Blanche Deveraux
- Similar options exist if the guest is a divorced female: you can address her envelope using “Ms.” or “Mrs.” and either her ex-husband’s last name (if she still uses it) or her maiden name, depending on her preference.
Mrs./Ms. Cookie Lyon
Mrs/Ms. Cookie Holloway
If You Have Two Envelopes:
The same etiquette rules apply here as with couples above when it comes to inner vs outer envelopes. Outer envelopes follow the suggestions already mentioned, and inner envelopes either forego or focus solely on first names. Here are examples for inner envelope etiquette for individuals:
Single Female: Ms. Lemon —or— Elizabeth
Single Female, under 18: Miss Chase —or— Angela
Single Male: Mr. Costanza —or— George
Widow: Mrs. Devereaux —or— Blanche
Divorced Female: Mrs./Ms. Lyon —or— Mrs./Ms. Holloway —or— Cookie
The wedding invitation-addressing game wouldn’t be any fun if there weren’t a few MORE rules now, would it? Here are some final morsels of etiquette to snack on as you near the finish line:
- If both names don’t fit on one line, indent the second line.
- If you’re have a seriously casual wedding, such as a backyard barbecue or brunch in the park, you might be able to get away with addressing your envelopes less formally, such as leaving off titles or just using first names. But otherwise, err on the side of formality: people expect a bit more pomp and circumstance surrounding weddings, and older or conservative guests will take note if you are too informal.
That’s it! You’re now a bona fide expert on how to address wedding invitations. Good luck with your stack of envelopes, and beware of paper cuts (we can’t help you there).