You're just getting ready to send out your wedding invitations - and the addresses are the final detail you need to figure out. You've put a lot of work into the invitations, getting the wording right, getting them all the information they need and making sure the etiquette is spot on.
Before you start printing those addresses, or sending them to a calligrapher, or writing them yourself, you'll want to pause for a minute and go through your guest list and make sure you've got it right. Which person should be listed first? What titles do you use? What if the wife 'outranks' the husband? What about including families or children?
We'll go through as many situations as I can think of today in the easy to use envelope addressing guide.
Tips to get started
Mrs., Ms. or Miss?
Mrs. is a married woman or a widow who is not remarried
Ms. is an unmarried woman over the age of 18, a married woman who kept her last name or a woman who is divorced. If you are ever unsure what title a woman uses, Ms. is the safest option
Miss is a girl under the age of 18
guest is not a proper noun, so keep it lower case!
Street names and states
For formal addressing, write everything out! Spell out words that are usually abbreviated such as South, Avenue and Boulevard. You'll also want to spell out state names.
pro tip - for anyone that lives in Washington, DC. you DO want to leave the quadrant abbreviations as is - NE, SE, NW, etc. I was once told by a postal worker that for this specific are, the scanners search for those abbreviations as the mail gets sorted, spelling them out can cause delays in delivery.
Addressing with titles
In general the outer envelope is going to be the most formal including all titles. The inner envelope can have two different options based on the formality of your wedding. If you are having a formal wedding, the inner envelope would have their title and last names. If you prefer a more casual approach, the inner envelope would have just the first names.
Outer Envelope: Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Mays
Inner Envelope: (formal) Mr. Mays and Mrs. Mays OR (casual) Andrew and Laura
For the purposes of this blog post, I'm going to go with the more casual inner envelope option, it's my personal preference.
A quick note on inner envelopes. Not everyone uses inner envelopes and that is totally OK. They are there to keep your invitation safe in the mail, and they add formality to your invitations, but they aren't absolutely necessary. They add a special touch, give your invitation a clean presentation and are a reminder of who is invited in case your guest threw out the mailing envelope.
Rules are always meant to be broken and my etiquette motto is - do what makes you happy. So what you see here is a guide to etiquette suggestions and what the 'norm' is, but ultimately, do you so you are comfortable, I promise, no one is going to check the etiquette book to see if you were right.
Modern guest addressing shows a nod to grammar, but also honoring the women in your life by including their names on the invitations. If this is you, just follow a few simple rules:
Correct: Mr. Carlos Davis and Mrs. Anne Davis
Incorrect: Mr. and Mrs. Carlos and Anne Davis (there are too many ands here!)
Also incorrect: Mr. Carlos and Mrs. Anne Davis (does he even HAVE a last name?)
You can use this pattern for all of your envelopes, or just use it for those that you know would appreciate it or who specifically have an issue being referred to by her husband's name.
OK, here we go! Remember, do you, ask people when you don't know, and remember that this is the most formal mail you will ever send.
A married couple with the same last name
The most common presentation here is to use "Mr. and Mrs." followed by the husband's first name and last name.
Outer envelope: Mr. and Mrs. Gary Simmons
Inner envelope: Gary and Ruby
A same-sex married couple with the same last name
For a same sex couple either name can go first, names can be together or separate. If you're in doubt, ask the couple how they prefer to be addressed
Outer envelope: Mrs. Laura Brooks and Mrs. Linda Brooks OR The Mmes. Laura and Lina Brooks
Inner Envelope: Laura and Linda
A married couple with different last names
When you have a couple with different last names, address the female guest first.
Outer Envelope: Mrs. Evelyn Edwards and Mr. Patrick White
Inner Envelope: Evelyn and Patrick
An unmarried couple
For an unmarried couple, you'll also address the female first and put her significant other on the second line. This should be written without the word 'and' - and implies that they are married
Ms. Nicole Ramirez
Mr. Steve Bennett
A married couple with one hyphenated last name
If one spouse has chosen to hyphenate their last name, they should be listed separately
Outer envelope: Mr. Aaron Kelly and Mrs. Jean Clark-Kelly
Inner envelope: Aaron and Jean
A single female guest
Use Ms. if she is over 18, Miss for anyone under 18
Outer envelope: Ms. Catherine Carter
Inner Envelope: Catherine
A single male guest
Use Mr. if he is over 18, no title is necessary if he is under 18
Outer envelope: Mr. Jim Jones
Inner envelope: Jim
A married couple, the husband is a doctor
As we get into guests with distinguished titles, I do prefer a more formal approach to the inner envelope here to make sure that those titles are included.
If the husband is a doctor, use "Doctor and Mrs." followed by his name.
Outer envelope: Doctor and Mrs. Peter Campbell
Inner envelope: Dr. Campbell and Mrs. Campbell
A married couple, the wife is a doctor
If the wife is a doctor and her dectree 'outranks' her husband's social title, they should be listed separately with her name first.
Outer envelope: Dr. Brenda Powell and Mr. Wayne Powell
Inner envelope: Dr. Powell and Mr. Powell
If both couples are doctors
Address them together with both first names.
Outer envelope: Doctors Samuel and Jacqueline Hernandez
Inner envelope: The Doctors Hernandez
Other distinguished titles.
These same rules apply to other distinguished titles such as military personnel, city official, judges, reverends, etc. Whichever person in the relationship 'outranks' the other i listed first regardless of gender
Outer Envelope: The Honorable Patricia Sanchez and Mr. Peter Sanchez ..... or Captains Christopher and Christine Kelly, US Army
Inner envelope: Judge Sanchez and Mr. Sanchez ..... The Captains Kelly
Families and Children
You can address either an entire family or put the parents names on the first line and the children on the line below. Not every resource will tell you this.
Most guides will tell you that just the parent's names should be on the outer envelope. As a parent and after working with couples for as long as I have, I find that while technically more proper, it can get confusing. If a parent sees an envelope that has just their names on the outside, but their kids listed on the inner envelope, they might wonder if one of those is wrong. Or if they lose the inner envelope and have just the outer envelope they may not realize their kids are invited. My personal preference is to list children in both places to avoid confusion.
Outer Envelope: The Allen Family or
Mr. and Mrs. Steve Allen
Peter, Patricia, Christine and Christopher Allen
Steve and Paula
Peter, Patricia, Christine and Christopher
Are you ready to get organized? I hope this will give you a jump start to your invitation list. If you want even more tips and tricks on wedding stationery and planning your wedding, you might want to sign up for the Guest List Organizer below. It comes with all the important info you need to get your invitations designed and mailed out with ease.