Envelope Etiquette

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.  Occasionally, the postal clerk may agree to let you hand stamp the envelopes.
The wedding invitation is typically 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. In today’s world anything goes so far as color is concerned!  Remember that the “host” is the one who 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 certainly 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 GrandpaGrandmaUncle Tim, and Aunt Donna, 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 implies marriage. Therefore, proper etiquette dictates that you should not see the following:  Miss Katherine Gaddy and Mr. Theodore Ingmire but rather:Miss Katherine Gaddy
Mr. Theodore Ingmire
(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.

  • The word “and” should be spelled out, as in “Mr. and Mrs.” for all married couples. Occasionally the calligraphy ampersand needs to be used for a very small envelope, to help shorten the line. I will only do this with if it is necessary.

  •  There are no abbreviations used in addressing envelopes, except Mr., Mrs., Dr., Sr., or Jr. The only exception: Dr. can be spelled out when room allows.

  •  The use of nicknames or abbreviated names is considered inappropriate, unless your affair is one of a casual nature. Middle initials are not used; the full name should be spelled out.

“Ms.” is never used with a husband’s name, as in the following example of improper etiquette:
Mr. and Ms. Theodore Ingmire

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

Ms. Katherine Ingmire
Either Ms. or Ms (no period) is acceptable.

By addressing an envelope in the following manner:

Mr. and Mrs. Theodore and Katherine Ingmire and Janet Fetter

In essence, three people have been addressed (Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Ingmire, and also “Janet Fetter”).
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:

Theodore and Katherine Ingmire

  • The words “and Family” are not used on the outer envelope. To invite children, only first names are listed on the inner envelope, in order of birth, from oldest to youngest.

    Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Hacker
Ryan, Emily, and Matthew

  • If a child living with his/her parents is 16 years or older, he/she should have their own invitation. The title “Miss” or “Master” is used for children.

Following are examples of etiquette when addressing wedding invitation envelopes:

Married Couple
Outside Envelope:
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Ingmire
Inside: 
Mr. and Mrs. Ingmire
Married Couple with invited children
  Outside Envelope: 
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Ingmire
  Inside: 
Mr. and Mrs. Ingmire
Ryan and Matthew
Married Couple with different last names
Outside Envelope:
Ms. Janet Klutts
Mr. Timothy Young
Inside:
Ms.Klutts and Mr. Young
OR

Outside Envelope:
Ms. Janet Klutts
and Mr. Timothy Young
Inside:
Ms. Klutts and Mr. Young
Married couple, woman is a doctor
Outside Envelope:
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Ingmire
Inside:
Mr. and Mrs. Ingmire
OR
Outside Envelope:
Dr. Janet Hutcherson
and Mr. David Spelling
Inside:
Dr.Hutcherson and Mr. Spelling
Married couple, both doctors with same last name
Outside Envelope:
Drs. Theodore and Katherine Ingmire
Inside:
Drs. Ingmire
OR
Outside Envelope:
Dr. Katherine Ingmire
and Dr. Thomas Ingmire
Inside:
The Doctors Ingmire
OR
Outside Envelope:
The Doctors Ingmire
Inside:
The Doctors Ingmire
Married couple, both doctors with different last names
Outside Envelope:
Dr. Jane Klutchen
and Dr. Randall Atkins
Inside:
Dr. Klutchen and Dr. Atkins
Single Woman
(choose either Miss or Ms.)
Outside Envelope:
Miss/Ms. Penelope Dial
Inside:
Miss/Ms. Dial

  • If two adults (brother and sister, mother and adult daughter, etc.) are living together, they should receive separate invitations.

  • For instances where the wife has chosen to retain her maiden name after marriage, two lines are used, with the word “and”, to denote them as a married couple.

Example:

Mr. Robert Thompson

and Ms. Catherine Campbell

  • For couples living together, two lines are used, with no “and”. If you know both people equally well, the woman’s name comes first, with the man’s name dropping down to the second line. If you know the man better, his name should appear first.

    Example:

Ms. Janet Tumbler
Mr. Allen Duncan
123 Fifth Avenue
Bonkers, New York 10034

  • Gay couples are listed on two lines, with the most familiar partner listed first.



Single Woman with guest
(choose either Miss or Ms.)
Outside Envelope:
Miss/Ms. Jan Lindell
Inside:
(choose either Escort or Guest)
Miss/Ms. Lindell and Escort/Guest
Single Man
Outside Envelope:
Mr. Theodore Ingmire
Inside:
Mr. Ingmire
Single Man with guest
Outside Envelope:
Mr. Kelly Kluger
Inside:
Mr. Kluger  and Guest
Divorced Woman
Outside Envelope:
(choose either Mrs. or Ms.)
Mrs./Ms. Patricia Bonds
Inside:
Mrs./Ms. Bonds
Widow
Outside Envelope:
Mrs. Thomas Ingmire
Inside:
Mrs. Ingmire
Unmarried couple living together
Outside:
Ms. Nicole Leggins
Mr.  Anthony Bourblu
Inside:
Ms. Leggins
Mr. Bourblu
** 


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.

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.


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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 site is an excellent resource for wedding envelope etiquette:

Cranes (Click on Addressing the Envelope)

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 as well.  I have done calligraphy for many, less formal weddings. For example:

Outer Envelope
Tim and Donna Hacker
Inside:
Tim and Donna

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




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