Envelope Etiquette

Wedding invitation envelopes should always be addressed by hand and mailed 6 to 8 weeks prior to the event. It is a good idea to take a self-addressed, assembled invitation suite to the post office. Have the postal clerk verify the postage, and mail it to yourself. This will ensure your invitations have the proper postage.  Some post offices will still do hand canceling, but it will take some effort to locate one. Many times it simply depends on which postal clerk you get.

The wedding invitation is often the first impression of the wedding an invited guest will have.  The wedding invitation, and the manner in which it is addressed, should set the tone and give the recipient a sense of how formal or informal the wedding celebration will be.
Black ink is the most formal and traditional manner in which to address a wedding invitation envelope. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to address wedding invitation envelopes in colored ink.

Remember that the "host" is extending the invitation.  Who is listed as the host on your invitation? It is customary to designate the host on the first line of the invitation. Traditionally the host is the bride's parents (but not always).  The invitation envelopes should be addressed according to the relationship with the host(s).  This comes into play for less formal weddings and the use of Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Tom, and Aunt Jane, etc.

The use of double envelopes, or a similar method, allows the host to be specific in their invitation.  Single envelopes can leave doubt in the recipient's mind as to whether children or guests are invited.
Your English teacher would cringe at capitalizing "Guest" or "Escort" or "Family." However, I would estimate that 98% of my clients prefer that I capitalize these words, as they feel it is much more pleasing to the eye.

The use of the word "and" between two adults on an outer envelope implies marriage. Therefore, proper etiquette dictates that you should not see the following:

Miss Jane Kline and Mr. Thomas Farr

but rather:

Miss Jane Kline
Mr. Thomas Farr
(2 separate lines)

Another common etiquette problem involves the use of "Mrs." and "Ms."  A married or widowed woman, only uses "Mrs." with her husband's name.  To use "Mrs." with a woman's name always indicates she is divorced.

"Ms." is never used with a husband's name, as in the following example of improper etiquette:
Mr. and Ms. Thomas Farr

If you are only inviting a married woman and not her husband, then it is perfectly acceptable to address the invitation to:

Ms. Jane Farr
Either Ms. or Ms (no period) is acceptable.

By addressing an envelope in the following manner:

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and Jane Farr

In essence, three people have been addressed (Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Farr, and also "Jane Farr").
If you desire to have the first name of both the husband and the wife addressed, then it is best to drop the titles all together:

Thomas and Jane Farr

Following are examples of etiquette when addressing wedding invitation envelopes:  

Married Couple
Outside Envelope: 
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Farr
Inside: 
Mr. and Mrs. Farr

Married Couple with invited children
  Outside Envelope: 
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Farr
  Inside: 
Mr. and Mrs. Farr
Rachel and Matthew 

Married Couple with different last names
Outside Envelope:
Ms. Jane Kline
Mr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Ms. Kline and Mr. Farr
OR

Outside Envelope:
Ms. Jane Kline
and Mr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Ms. Kline and Mr. Farr

Married couple, woman is a doctor
Outside Envelope:
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Mr. and Mrs. Farr
OR
Outside Envelope:
Dr. Jane Farr
and Mr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Dr. Farr and Mr. Farr

Married couple, both doctors with same last name
Outside Envelope:
Drs. Thomas and Jane Farr
Inside:
Drs. Farr
OR
Outside Envelope:
Dr. Jane Farr 
and Dr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
The Doctors Farr
OR 
Outside Envelope:
The Doctors Farr
Inside:
The Doctors Farr

Married couple, both doctors with different last names
Outside Envelope:
Dr. Jane Kline
and Dr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Dr. Kline and Dr. Farr

Single Woman
(choose either Miss or Ms.)
Outside Envelope:
Miss/Ms. Jane Kline
Inside:
Miss/Ms. Kline







Single Woman with guest
(choose either Miss or Ms.)
Outside Envelope:
Miss/Ms. Jane Kline
Inside:
(choose either Escort or Guest)
Miss/Ms. Kline and Escort/Guest

Single Man
Outside Envelope:
Mr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Mr. Farr

Single Man with guest
Outside Envelope:
Mr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Mr. Farr and and Guest

Divorced Woman
Outside Envelope:
(choose either Mrs. or Ms.)
Mrs./Ms. Jane Farr
Inside:
Mrs./Ms. Farr

Widow
Outside Envelope:
Mrs. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Mrs. Farr

Unmarried couple living together
Outside:
Ms. Jane Kline
Mr. Thomas Farr
Inside:
Ms. Kline
Mr. Farr
** 




Unmarried couples may be listed alphabetically, ladies first, or the closer friend first (recommended). 

The use of "and" indicates marriage. It is customary to list unmarrieds on separate lines without the use of "and" to connect them.







**


I have listed the most common forms of address.  I have etiquette books to help with religious, education, political and military forms of address.  The following two books are excellent resources for wedding invitation and envelope etiquette:

Crane's Wedding Blue Book

Wedding Invitation Handbook (New)
Wedding Invitation Handbook (Used)


Finally, the main purpose of etiquette is to put your guests at ease - to make them feel comfortable and informed about your event.  If your wedding is going to be more traditional and formal, then by all means your invitations should reflect that.  If your wedding is going to be less traditional and less formal, then your invitations should reflect that.  I have done calligraphy for many, less formal weddings. For example:

Outer Envelope
Tom and Jane Farr
Inside:
Tom and Jane

Outer Envelope
Mr. and Mrs. Tom Farr
Inside:
Uncle Tom and Aunt Jane
Rachel and Matt

I hope you will find this page useful as you compile your guest list!
Please don't feel as though I am the etiquette police. :)  I will address your envelopes in whatever manner you choose. This page is simply a guide to proper etiquette for those that are interested and want the advice.
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