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My Good Greetings - Beautiful, Customizable, Earth-Friendly Photo Cards, Invitations and Stationery

Addressing Wedding Invitation Etiquette

So you’ve got your guest list finished and your invitations ready to be sent out. Now you just need to address the envelopes, and just like the wedding invitations themselves, there’s etiquette and protocol to follow. You might think this is the easy part, but there’s plenty to keep in mind when addressing wedding invitations. The one basic rule of addressing wedding invitation etiquette is to make sure your guests know exactly who is invited, and who is not.

It’s common to have a plain white outer envelope as well as a more fancy, more colorful inner envelope that is often included with the invitation set you’ve ordered. Both of these envelopes need to be addressed, and each has it’s own set of rules, with few exceptions. One standard rule for both is they should be hand written. In this technological age, however, it is becoming more acceptable to have the address information typed. If you choose this method you’ll want to choose a formal calligraphy style font, something that resembles the hand written. Another rule of thumb is that all words (with the exclusion of some titles) should be spelled out in their entirety, even for the physical address. Everything should be spelled out - directions, street names and numbers, apartments, everything. If the address has a suite or apartment number, the words suite and apartment should be spelled out and included. If the address is on a numbered street, such as 1st ave. or 13th St., they need to be spelled out - First Avenue or Thirteenth Street. An exception can be made for the sake of aesthetics if the address, when written out in full, becomes hard to read or is difficult to fit onto the envelope.

The following is an example of a properly written address on an outer envelop of a wedding invitation:

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Christopher Williams, junior
1305 West Fourteenth Avenue, Apartment B-12
San Francisco, California 95555

Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to dive in to the good stuff. Addressing wedding invitation etiquette is determined by several things about the invitee - their marital status, if they have children, their profession and so on. On the outer envelopes, full names should be listed, avoiding nicknames or initials if at all possible, and including suffixes such as junior, etc. On the inner envelopes, only the title and last name of the invitee should be included.

For your guests that are single, the following list will show the proper invitation etiquette for several scenarios. If you wish to convey to your invitee that they can bring a guest, the phrase and guest, all lower-case, should follow their name in the inner envelope only.

Guest: Unmarried Female
Outer Envelope: Ms. Jane Smith
Inner Envelope: Ms. Smith (and guest)

Guest: Unmarried Male
Outer Envelope: Mr. John William Smith
Inner Envelope: Mr. Smith (and guest)

Guest: Divorced Female, retaining married name
Outer Envelope: Mrs. Jane Smith
Inner Envelope: Mrs. Smith (and guest)

Guest: Divorced Female, using maiden name
Outer Envelope: Ms. Jane Smith
Inner Envelope: Ms. Smith (and guest)

The following list will show the proper invitation etiquette for your guests who are married or in relationships. In situations where the persons in the couple are listed separately, always list the female first or follow these guidelines: If you’re inviting an unwed couple who do not live together, list only the person who lives at the address on the outer envelope, and list them first on the inner envelope. If you’re inviting an unwed couple who do live together, a same gender couple, or two people not in a relationship but living at the same address, list them in alphabetical order by last name.

Guest: Married Couple
Outer Envelope: Mr. and Mrs. Robert Christopher Williams
Inner Envelope: Mr and Mrs. Williams

Guest: Married Couple, woman has retained maiden name (list each separately, woman first)
Outer Envelope:
Mrs. Jane Smith
Mr. Robert Christopher Williams
Inner Envelope:
Mrs. Smith
Mr. Williams

Guest: Unmarried couple, living separately
Outer Envelope: Mr. John William Smith
Inner Envelope:
Mr. Smith
Ms. Jones

Guest: Unmarried couple, living together; Same gender couples (using Ms. or Mr. for both invitees); two invitees not in relationship living at same address
Outer Envelope:
Ms. Lucy Jones
Mr. John William Smith
Inner Envelope:
Ms. Jones
Mr. Smith

When it comes to inviting children, the only time the children would be listed on the outer envelope is if no inner envelope is included. Otherwise, just listing the parent or parents is sufficient for the outer envelope. On the inner envelope, the children first names only will follow the parent or parents name on the second line, listed in order of age, oldest first. Children over 18 years of age, even if living at home, should receive their own invitation. If you do not wish to invite the children, then simply do not list them on the invitation. It should be clear to your guests that they are not invited.

Here is a list of other scenarios that come into play in addressing wedding invitation etiquette.

Guest: Judge
Outer Envelope: The Honorable and Mrs. Robert Christopher Williams
Inner Envelope: Judge and Mrs. Smith

Guest: Clergy
Outer Envelope: The Reverend Robert Christopher Williams
Inner Envelope: The Reverend Williams

Guest: Doctor (medical)
Outer Envelope: Doctor John William Smith
Inner Envelope: Doctor. Smith (and guest)

Guest: Doctor (Ph.D)
Outer Envelope: Dr. John William Smith
Inner Envelope: Dr. Smith (and guest)

Guest: Female Doctor, Married (list female first)
Outer Envelope:
Doctor Lucy Jones
Mr. Robert William Jones
Inner Envelope:
Doctor Jones
Mr. Jones

Guest: Married couple, both doctors
Outer Envelope:
Option 1:
Doctors Robert and Lucy Jones
Option 2:
Doctor Lucy Jones Doctor Robert William Jones
Inner Envelope:
The Doctors Jones

Guest: Officer, male, active or retired (spell out rank in full)
Outer Envelope: Colonel and Mrs. Robert Christopher Williams
Inner Envelope: Colonel and Mrs. Williams

Guest: Officer, female (list separately, female first)
Outer Envelope:
Lieutenant Lucy Jones
Mr. Robert William Jones
Inner Envelope:
Lieutenant Jones
Mr. Jones

There are many other scenarios that may arise when addressing your wedding invitations. Just use your best judgment based on the previous guidelines and you will be just fine.

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