While the outside envelope of a wedding invitation must be addressed according to official postal protocols, proper etiquette dictates how to address the inside envelope. The protocol for addressing your sister or best friend is simple. When the invitation goes to multiple people or must deal with unique social situations, addressing the inside envelope gets a bit more complex.
Inside Envelope-Addressing Basics
The inside envelope is addressed only to the person or people receiving the wedding invitation by their last names with courtesy titles. An invitation to a single male individual, for instance, would be addressed to "Mr. Greeley," while an invitation to a married couple would be "Mr. and Mrs. Greeley." No information other than the names and courtesy titles of the invitees should be placed on the inside envelope.
Unmarried female guests may be addressed as either "Miss" or "Ms." Divorced women who kept their married names should be referred to as "Mrs."; those who went back to their maiden names should be addressed "Miss" or "Ms." If your single invitee is allowed to bring a date or partner, address the envelope "Miss Greeley and Guest." Single guests who have a professional or formal title should be addressed "Dr. Greeley" or "Father Greeley." For guests with multiple professional and formal titles, use the title by which you normally interact; for instance, your doctor who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Army should be referred to as "Dr. Greeley," while if the same man is the groom's commanding officer, he should be "Lieutenant Colonel Greeley."
Married Couples and Partners
List ordinary married couples by both courtesy titles and last name: "Mr. and Mrs. Greeley." If the woman kept her maiden name, list both on the same or separate lines: "Mr. Greeley and Ms. Anderson." Unmarried couples, whether they live together or not, should be addressed similarly: "Mr. Greeley and Miss (or Ms.) Anderson." In the case of male and female partners, list the male partner first; if the partners are of the same sex, invite them in alphabetical last-name order: "Mr. Norris and Mr. Smith."
When inviting parents and their children under the age of 18, list parents as appropriate above, then list children: "Mr. and Mrs. Greeley and Amy." List multiple children from oldest to youngest, if listing each separately by name. For families with multiple children, it is acceptable to address them in a group: "Mr. and Mrs. Horace Greeley and Children." Child guests over the age of 18 should be sent their own invitations; however, if these guests are the same sex, it is acceptable to send them a single invitation addressed to the "Misses" or "Messrs." Greeley. It is also fine to send younger children invitations individually, especially if you wish to honor special young friends and relatives.
Very Close Relatives
Except in the most formal of situations, very close relatives and friends may be addressed informally on the inside envelope. Instead of calling your sister "Ms. Greeley," you may call her "Donna" or even a family pet name. Your parents may be addressed as "Mom" or "Mother," as feels appropriate, if you are sending them formal invitations (many brides choose to invite parents and other members of their immediate families in person.) Very close friends may be treated like siblings, so your friend Mac Wilson can simply be addressed "Mac." If your very close relative is also bringing a guest to whom you are not close, you may opt for the more formal method, or you may simply say "Mac and Guest."
If there is any question about a guest's sex or marital status, as in someone in a transgender process or an active divorce, the guest's personal preferences should be adhered to. In cases where the wife in a married couple has a professional title, this title should be recognized: "Mr. Greeley and Dr. Greeley." If both have a professional title, recognize both: "The Doctors Greeley" or "Father Greeley and Dr. Greeley." In other special circumstances, error in favor of honoring the guest.
- Westchester Valley and Hudson River Wedding Guide: Wedding Invitation Etiquette - How to Address, Assemble, and Mail Wedding Invitations
- Somewhere in Time Calligraphy by Computer: Wedding Invitation Envelope Addressing Etiquette - Quick Reference Guide
- Calligraphy Lady: Etiquette for Invitations - Invitation Addressing Guidelines
- The Knot: Wedding Invitations Etiquette
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