POLL: Address Etiquette


Because it is not 1846, I refuse to address my invitations to “Mr. and Mrs. George Guestenbaum.”

But I do not know which of these alternatives is “more correct”


“Mr. and Mrs. George and Louise Guestenbaum” sounds more reasonable to me, but is also bugs me with its redundant “and”s.  For what it is worth, it’s the APW-approved style of addressing a married couple with the same last name.

But I disagree with the second bit of advice in that piece, which is to put people with different last names on different lines. It is my understanding that it is proper to put married couples on the same line and unmarried couples on different lines (The only time I break this rule is for gay couples that hold themselves out as a married couple to the community even if their state won’t recognize their marriage).  What do you think?


Regardless of how we set up that line break, when we address couples with different last names, who goes first?


And finally there is the issue of children.  I realize that children over the age of 18 should get their own invitation, but that means that my little brother’s best friend gets his own invitation separate from his parents, which makes me feel OLD.  But them’s the breaks.

For minor children, proper etiquette demands their names only go on the inner envelope, but we don’t have one of those. So what do we do?


Also, I really, really want to address a couple as “The Doctors Guestenbaum.” But the only married couple of two doctors we know has different last names. Feminism ruins my fun once again.

Thanks for voting and helping me sort out this mess. If you have any more rules I should know or tips for how to tweak them to make me not want to barf, please comment!


  1. I have to admit, we didn’t go incredibly formal when addressing. By cutting out the Mr. & Mrs. part, your first quandary is simplified, but only if you’re okay with being slightly less formal. And we put couples’ names (even unmarried couples) on one line together rather than on two separate lines even if their last names were different. But really, only mean awful people will take issue with how you address things (or very formal grandparents, which we luckily do not have), so no big deal, right?

    • Ooh, I like the informal route! I am NOT looking forward to this. The APW posts & comments on this issue have already led to me dissolving into giggle fits over Dr. Jane Sassy-Blow et al, and I’m not even close to addressing an envelope yet. Thank god for only having ~50 guests.

    • You know, while I agreed at first that only awful people will take issue with how something is addressed, I know a lot of women hate getting “Mr. and Mrs. Dude Duderton” mail, especially when her name is Ms. Chick Chickly. And I don’t think they are awful people, but that may be because I will soon be one of them.

      • Oh god, I hate it too. So it became Chick Chickly & Dude Duderton (or vice versa, depending on which was the friend – if we were friends with both, the guy’s name went first). And I then gritted my teeth at every card and wedding present addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Jeff R.

  2. Polls! Woo! We had a pair of same-name married doctors AND a pair of same-name married reverends. “The Reverends Zant” was definitely fun to write. Still sort of makes me laugh.

  3. I’ve always read that couples who are married (and like you, I’d include same-sex couples who consider themselves married in this category) go on the same line and that only unmarried couples get separate lines, regardless of their last names.

    As a sidenote: I am convinced that this whole invitation addressing task is just societal hazing. Seriously, who knew there would be so much pressure to “get it right” when addressing a stupid envelope? I had no idea there were so many rules involved until I had to do it! What a bizarre rite of passage…

    We actually did have a “The Doctors_____” situation, but even that was complicated because one of them has a PhD (technically still supposed to use Mr/Ms/Mrs, etc.) and the other is an MD. But apparently it’s a touchy subject for the PhD in the pair, so we just went with doctors anyway. That was about the extent of my tiny efforts to ignore the etiquette on this issue. :P

    • I am also struggling with the PhD issue. The etiquette-OCD side of me wants to address them by Mr. or Ms. The side of me that is marrying a future PhD wants to call them Dr.

      • Call ‘em Dr.

        The point of etiquette is to avoid offense. I can’t imagine any PhD’s being offended by being called Dr. (uh, ’cause they are), and there are plenty who get a bit irritated that their doctorate is somehow “not as good as” an MD, at least socially (I’m including myself in the latter category). It does no demean the MDs in any way to also call PhDs by their earned title. Everyone worked hard for those degrees and in this case the etiquette that says PhDs aren’t real Drs is backfiring on avoiding offense.

  4. I <3 polls. I did what Caitlin suggested, which is to just drop the Mr. & Mrs. bit entirely. Name order was determined by how well I knew them. AND even though I voted for the " and the Messrs. …" because it was fancy and I would have LOVED seeing a piece of mail addressed to me/my sibs when we were kids, I just put "and family" on the envelopes. In a couple instances I even went with the shockingly informal "the Guestenbaum Family" and didn't mention anyone by name.

    • I don’t actually know if we are inviting any families with two male children. If we were I would totally address them as “Messrs.” because it is adorable.

      • If you are inviting any single male children, you can address them as ‘Master’ e.g. Master John Smith, although this is very old fashioned. ‘Messrs’ is the plural for Mr, so married gay couple with the same name could be the Messrs Smith. Also two sisters could be the Misses Smith

        If you want to get super technical with children’s titles, the oldest male child is addressed as Master Smith, with younger brothers being Master John Smith etc. Same with the girls: oldest girl is Miss Smith, her younger sisters are Miss Emily Smith etc. However, I *think* this more a verbal thing, rather than for addressing envelopes. Umm, everthing I know comes from reading Jane Austen and Victorian children’s books, so possibly rather old fashioned and formal.

      • Above is the GREATEST COMMENT ever left on HitchDied!

        Also, my great aunts used to send mail to my brother with “Master” on it.

      • ooh I got another one for you: Mesdames. Mesdames is the plural of Mrs, so if you have a married lesbian couple who have the same name, you could theoretically address them as Mesdames Smith.

        I KNEW a childhood reading Victorian children’s books would eventually be useful.

      • Wait, there were married lesbian couples in your Victorian children’s books?! ;)

  5. I’m with D-Day in what we’re actually going to do. Our invites are a postcard, I’m pretty sure being highly formal would be out of place with everything about our wedding.

    • Yeah, this is one place the wedding blogs are failing me, because they’re like, “Oh, you’re having a kooky wedding! Just write whatever the heck you feel like!” But I’m having a pretty traditional, formal wedding. I want to communicate that with our invitations. But I do envy you laid back wedding types right now!

      • Ha, I had the same problem. Everyone says “oh, it’s a gay wedding–you can do whatever you want!” But our wedding was actually quite traditional and formal. We actually ended up doing mostly Mr. and Mrs. His Name for married couples with the same last name, despite all the intense squirming that it caused for my inner feminist. There were a few cases where I thought people would be uncomfortable with that, so I just asked what they preferred before addressing them.

  6. Yes, we’re dropping all the Mrs. and Mr. s and whatnot and just saying “Jane and John Smith” or “Jane Doe and John Smith.”
    To highlight even more how lazy we are: There are some family members who are dating (quite seriously) people we don’t know. And rather than asking these relatives (one of whom is my ex-stepfather, don’t even ask), we are just writing things like “John Smith and Jane.” No last name. SO ghetto. But they’ll get the point.

  7. The stance we are taking is to address envelopes to couples based on how we think they’d like to be addressed. So, my elderly aunt and uncle? Mr and Mrs John Smith. My married friends where the wife has kept her name? Mr John Smith and Ms Jane Doe. Wife took his name? Mr and Mrs Smith. Unmarried and very informal? Jane and John. Kids under 18? Outer envelope addressed to parents, and first names of all invited hand written at the top of the invitation.

  8. I had no idea unmarried couples were supposed to be listed as a two-liner. Seems odd when so many people now don’t ever get married, but live with their partners and are in long-term committed relationships. I think we’ll probably end up tossing the Mr/Mrs altogether and go with Jane and Joe Herschenbottom, or what have you, except for the very oldest generation on our invite list.

  9. For what it’s worth, all the wedding invitations my boyfriend/now fiance and I have received have had us both with our different last names on the same line. I did not even know it was a point of etiquette.

  10. Woo! My answers were all the most popular. I say just do whatever looks and feels right to you, especially if you know its how the person wants to be addressed. I was a little inconsistent with mine, but no one will be bringing theirs to compare or anything.

  11. Well, I seem to have voted with the majority, but. When we did our engagement party invites, we put couples with different surnames on the same line, like ” Mr A Betterfriend and Ms B Hisgirlfriend” – and thought that was ok. As far as invites we have received, the same goes, Miss E Anotherring and Mr J Mexican, on the same line. That is if people even bother with surnames. The number of invites we have received addressed with just “Emma and Jon” written on…

    • I think the US Postal service technically requires a last name on personal mail (businesses can get away with “resident” and such). I know I had a piece of mail I sent to “Ban” returned, but got away with mail sent to “Grammy,” so if that rule does in fact exist, it isn’t universally enforced.

  12. You can send mine and Lexi’s invitations together and address us as, “The Future Doctors Moore.” Ya know – just to satisfy that urge. :D

  13. So what we ended up doing was having a different format for our friends and for our parents’ friends.

    For our friends, we did John and Jane Doe or Jane Smith and John Doe. We only went onto a second line if one of the last names was REALLY long (which it could be, as my husband’s last name has 12 letters in it!).

    For our parents’ friends, who tended to be more conservative, we did it the way that you’re choosing to eschew, with Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. The exceptions to this were couples who had different last names and in that case, we did Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. John Doe, all on the same line.

    • I think the generation gap strategy works in a lot of situations! If I knew more of our “grown-up” guests better (a lot are Viki’s friends who I have met but don’t know well) I would be more comfortable making that kind of distinction.

  14. I recently received an invite to a rehearsal dinner with Mrs. Louise and Mr. Candyman and I thought it was the DUMBEST thing ever. It actually made me mad. The dude’s name comes first in my book. For kids, I addressed th einvite to The Guestenbaum Family and called it a day (no inside envelope for us either) . For unmarrieds, I put who I knew first and then partner second. I did the same thing with my gay couples.

  15. On the invitations that we recently (regretfully) sent out, I included the couple’s name on one line regardless of marital or same-name status because I’m modern like that and I think I tended to put the husband’s name first if they had the same last name (attributing a certain predilection for tradition on their part), but used the name of the person we know best first (or if the wife has many last names, she went second just because it looked better that way).

    I named the kids on the outer envelope on the second line, indented underneath their parents’ names. It may not be kosher, but I know how much my kids wanted their own invitations and to see their names on the envelopes (and the invitation itself), so I assume that other kids want to know that they have been specifically invited, too.

    But, um, we weren’t trying to be formal and traditional, and if anyone calls me “Mrs” I tend to get a little tweaked.

  16. One note of caution: be VERY CAREFUL with the “And family”. It may not come up, but in many cultures that means “oh, how nice, we can bring the cousins too”. We found this out when my aunt got married and had to (try to and fail) explain to her MIL that it just means the kids. So, there may be people you want to address a little differently, just in case.

  17. good luck with this. I totally did it all wrong and just addressed it how it felt which was things like ‘Jen and Alex 123 school st boston, ma 12345′. whatevs, they got them!

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