Anyone familiar with addressing an envelope is probably wondering how we have a full article on how to address wedding invitations. More goes into wedding invitation envelope wording than names and addresses and a postage stamp, though. Wedding planning involves a long to-do list and a long guest list. Make sure your invitations get to your wedding guests with envelopes that appropriately call out their professional titles, military titles, relationship status, and more. Here’s exactly how to address those invites.
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 than someone feeling unwelcome at the party you planned so carefully.
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? We’ll guide you through every addressing scenario possible to ensure your wedding invitations make a favorable first impression.
The most formal of invitations have both an outer envelope, which contains the mailing address, postage, and return address, and an inner envelope. The inner envelope is printed with only the recipients’ names, and contains all the pieces of the invitation suite: the invitation, RSVP card, RSVP envelope, and any additional enclosures such as a reception card, a map with directions, or invitations to additional weekend activities. When two envelopes are involved, the outer envelope is addressed more formally while the inner envelope is slightly more casual and frequently incorporates first names.
If you choose to send wedding invitations without an inner envelope, which is more common these days, simply focus on properly addressing the outer envelope. Below, we provide guidelines for how to address invitations with a single envelope vs. an inner and outer envelope for your reference.
When sending wedding invitations to a family, first decide 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:
If you do want to specify which family members are invited, write the names of each family member in list form. 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:
If the whole family is invited, use the family name or only the names of the parents on the outer envelope:
Then list the first names of all invited family members on the inner envelope:
Or you can use BOTH the husband’s and the wife’s first and last names, if you’d prefer to address both partners equally:
If a married 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:
If one partner has a hyphenated name, list the hyphenated name last. Either “Ms.” or “Mrs.” can be used:
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. Note that for academic doctors, you should always use the abbreviated “Dr.” rather than spell it out. If the doctor is a woman and she has taken her husband’s last name (or uses it socially), reflect that:
If both partners are doctors with the same last name, you can address their invite to the plural, non-abbreviated “Doctors” to be more formal. Traditionally the woman’s name comes first:
If both partners are doctors with different last names, traditionally the woman’s name comes first, or you could list their names in alphabetical order:
If one partner is a judge, list the judge’s name first using the term “The Honorable,” and then use “Judge” for the inner envelope:
If one partner has a distinguished title, such members of the clergy, rabbis, or military personnel, the distinguished title comes first regardless of gender:
If both partners have distinguished titles, follow the same format as for medical doctors listed above regarding same or different last names. The higher-ranking title should come first, and if they are the same rank, traditionally the woman is listed first:
For outer envelopes, address them using the choices above for each married-couple scenario. For inner envelopes, you can be less formal though one of two options: titles + last names, or first names only (but only if you are very close with the couple). Here are examples of inner envelope addressing etiquette for married couples:
For a couple with the same last name:
For a couple with different last names:
For a couple with a hyphenated last name:
For a couple with one doctor:
For a couple with two doctors, same last name:
For a couple with two doctors, different last names:
For a couple with a judge:
For a couple with one distinguished title:
For a couple with two distinguished titles, same last name:
For a couple with two distinguished titles, different last names:
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:
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:
If a couple is not married and do not live together, send separate invitations.
The same etiquette applies for same-sex couples as for any other couple, married or unmarried. If they’re married or live together, definitely list both names on the same line. If one partner has a hyphenated last name, list the hyphenated name last:
For a same-sex couple with different last names, you can list names either alphabetically or according to whichever guest you’re closest with:
If the guest is a single female, use “Ms.” unless she is younger than 18—in this case, “Miss” spelled out is more acceptable:
If the guest is a single male, use “Mr.” unless he is younger than 18—then no title is necessary
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.
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.
If the guest is a judge, use the term “The Honorable” before his or her full name:
If the guest is a priest, use the term “Father” before his full name:
The same etiquette rules apply here as with couples when it comes to inner vs. outer envelopes. Outer envelopes follow the above suggestions. Inner envelopes either drop first names or just use first names—but only if you are very close with the individual. Here are examples of Inner envelope addressing etiquette for individuals:
For a single female:
For a single female under 18:
For a single male:
For a widow:
For a divorced female:
For a single judge:
For a priest:
For guests to whom you’ve allowed a plus-one, send only one invitation—to the person you’re truly inviting—to that person’s address. If you know the name of the guest, include his or her name on the envelope as you would for an unmarried couple:
If you do not know the name of your friend’s guest, simply write “and guest” after your friend’s name. You do not capitalize either “and” or “guest:”