Skip the drama when addressing wedding invitations

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Invitation calligraphy by Etsy seller InspiredCalligraphy
Invitation calligraphy by Etsy seller InspiredCalligraphy
I can't handle addressing these wedding invitations.

Everyone says I should address it to “Mr. & Mrs. Man's-First-Name Man's-Last-Name” but it pisses me off…

…addresses like this completely blow past the female component of a relationship!

Any ideas for how to be true-to-self without trying to make an in-your-face statement?


I'm not sure what etiquette would advise, but my solution was to skip last names completely on my invites. I addressed them with first names and affectionate titles, ie “Dad & Andrea” (for my father and his girlfriend), “Auntie Cherie & Dave” (for my aunt and her boyfriend), and “Dallas & Erin” (for my married friends who shared a last name). I usually listed whoever I felt like knew better first, i.e. “Susannah & Michael” for my best friend from high school and her husband.

Obviously, your mileage may vary with this technique and it's probably not up to any sort of etiquette, but it felt like the simple, straightforward solution to me.

I'd love to hear from Offbeat Brides — how did you address YOUR envelopes?

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Comments on Skip the drama when addressing wedding invitations

  1. This is great advice! I did this on our Save the Dates (and plan to for the invites) and it saved a ton of etiquette stress and it sets a nice tone.

  2. I love just using first names, but if you want something more formal you can write: Mr. and Mrs. Chuck and Kate Lastname. If you’re concerned about etiquette, I read somewhere that using “Mr. and Mrs.” with both first names is completely appropriate.

  3. I used the nickname approach on our engagement party invites and it actually caused some problems. I had a couple of the invites returned. These were friends who were renting and possibly still had roommates. It that case it apparently can cause confusion at the post office. But, in general I love the casual/fun approach!

  4. Must admit- I too am guilty of indulging in first name invites. It has worked perfectly so far (*fingers crossed*!)

  5. I also abhor “Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname”
    I just went with omitting the “Mr. or Mrs.” from all of the invites and just went with first and last names. “Steve and Lisa Johnson” or “Paul Brady and Lisa Johnson”

    It saved a lot of headache for me.

  6. I omitted the Mr., Mrs., Ms. titles completely from the invites because I felt that it was a silly thing to do, seeing that I normally never use titles when I send Christmas cards, letters and things like that. ymmv, of course.

    So, it was just first and last name (in the case of couples, like Ariel, I put the person’s name first that I knew better.)

    There were no complaints and I felt good knowing I didn’t do something just because “that’s the way it’s done”, when it didn’t make sense to me to do it that way.

  7. My wife and I just said, FEH, forget about addressing etiquette. We addressed the invitations in the same way that we always addressed the people receiving them. Or the way that we thought the invitee would most like to be addressed.

    For example I knew my grandmother would like to be Mrs. First Name Last Name. So I wrote that. For aunts and uncles I wrote Auntie FirstName and Uncle FirstName.

    Everyone seemed to be happy, or at least we had no complaints 🙂 and it made us VERY happy.

  8. We’re doing the same thing and we are even handwriting them. If anything, we will momentarily shake folks out of the societal conditioned trance. It’s a great thing!

  9. See, that is how I always send out my invitations for everything! My mom always makes fun of me for it so for our wedding invitations I just put everyone’s full name, It felt weird addressing my grandma as “Margarita Menchaca” instead of Grandma Marggie. Honestly I don’t think I will ever do it again.

  10. I think this is yet another one of those things where people feel like there’s a special way to do something, because it’s for a wedding … which in actuality it’s like, “How do you normally address your envelopes? Do it that way.”

    For me, etiquette usually feels like a way to make simple things way, WAY more complicated than they need to be.

    (hmm: maybe I should write a post about my thoughts on etiquette…)

  11. Yes please Ariel! That’d be a great post!

    I adressed my invitations to
    First name (woman’s usually or who ever I know best) & First name (or guest) Last name.

    I used people’s regular full names, except for a few exceptions (Mike instead of Micheal things like that) just because of the postal service, I dont have great faith in the USPS.

    Is it considered bad etiquette to use address labels instead of hand adressing them?

  12. I did the same as most on here with either just first names or the way I’d write their Christmas cards or whatever.

    I don’t have a huge problem with the “mr. and mrs. his first and last” and I had heard from my sister in law that her mom was demanding she do it…she didn’t of course..but when I went to invite her parents, I did do theirs “mr. and mrs. john smith” just because I knew her mom would like it LOL. Sister in law called me the next day to thank me for the wonderful phone call she got about how I was doing things right. She’ll only ever see her invite, so I don’t care, just did what I knew would make her happy, and it makes me laugh cause she thinks I’m so proper.

  13. We haven’t sent our invitations yet, just the save the dates, but we are only using Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast for people we think would prefer that. Otherwise we’re doing Mr. and Ms. HisFirst and HerFirst TheirLast or Mr. HisFirst HisLast and Ms. HerFirst HerLast (adjusted for whoever we know better being first), along with at least one Ms. and Ms. HerFirst and HerFirst TheirLast.

  14. And if you are going to write a post on etiquette (which sounds cool) do pick up Miss Manners wedding book first. It’s awesome in deeply offbeat in many ways. I have that book and your book by my bed. Only worth reading on weddings.

  15. Oh, and etiquette, as in Miss Manners (the sane source) says that you always address someone as they wish to be addressed. Which seems really fair. IE, Mrs. Jon Doe for your grandmother if thats what she likes, and Ariel & Dre if that’s what y’all want. She also says the womans name always goes first, for whatever that’s worth.

  16. Second the motion, Meg–I have a huge pet peeve about people hating on etiquette without reading the divine Miss Manners first. She is eminently sane, practical, and feminist (oh yes! Believe it!). Not to mention hilariously witty. 🙂 And she has no love for the wedding industrial complex, either–she has some wonderful snark about the petty questions people ask her, as though it’s engraved in stone how to arrange the wedding party in photographs, etc.

  17. I just wrote down people’s names. No Mr and Mrs. Just John and Jane Doe. It’s funny though because when my fiance’s mom gave us her list she didn’t have any of the ladies names and I asked her for them and told her that there would be no Mr and Mrs stuff happening. She didn’t seem to mind – she knows that we aren’t having the most traditional wedding ever so no big deal.

    I highly doubt anyone will even notice or realize that we weren’t all professional or traditional or whatever we were supposed to be. 🙂

  18. Oh, and etiquette, as in Miss Manners (the sane source) says that you always address someone as they wish to be addressed. Which seems really fair.

    Miss Manners and I are in complete agreement on this point. Thanks for the book recommendation, ladies!

  19. Hooray! I had a big feminist crisis about this and polled my colleagues for what they did…
    I wanted to be a little formal but still use everyone’s first name, so I did it like this:

    Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Smith
    Mrs. Jane Smith and Mr. John Garcia

    I also put whoever I knew best first on the list.

  20. I agree with what people have been saying about either using only first names or using both first and last name. Like Lauran, I also plan to put the person I know best first, even if (gasp!) that means putting the woman first. I firmly believe that etiquette should not be an excuse for sexism. Plus, most of the time when people say, “this is how it should/must be according to etiquette, they actually have never read an etiquette book, and certainly don’t know that different books have different opinions!

  21. this is EXACTLY what I did. I even used some people’s Burning Man names, like “Wonderboy” and “Captain Hook”

  22. I’ve never been to Burning Man – I didn’t know their were Burning Man names. Takes me back to Woodstock (G-D, yes I am that old).

  23. Thats funny that you posted that link Ariel. I know most of those people on that thread in real life. Flint’s name really is Flint, Ive seen his drivers liscence, he is invited to my wedding too.

  24. I also addressed using first names…and in the past few days I’ve had three invites returned as a result. But it sounds like others haven’t had a problem…so maybe it’s just that the mailperson can’t handle my incredible handwriting. 🙂

  25. I hate Mr & Mrs Man’s Name, too. Even for the parents hosting, If it’s Mr. & Mrs. Dad’s name, I feel like it’s slighting the mothers. I never thought of just using guests’ first names on the invitations, but that’s a great idea.

  26. We couldn’t get our stupid label maker on the computer to work, so instead of stressing, we simply hand wrote the addresses using first and last names only, usually putting the female’s name first (when I could remember). Only took us about an hour or so. My fiance helped with the addresses & neither of us has the best handwriting, but honestly, who wants to spend hours and hours writing these out with perfect penmanship. Down & Dirty addresses do the same thing as beautiful formal calligraphy in my opinion.

  27. Oh Thank GOD! I thought I was a crazy person, because this is how I felt most comfortable addressing the invitations. Alas, I was greeted with strange looks of confusion/scorn. Thank you Thank you! I am glad to see that I’m not the only one!!!

  28. I did the same thing! I also got strange looks when I said I wasn’t printing up fancy address labels, but rather, addressing them all by hand…

  29. I think hand addressed envelopes are warm and personal, much nicer than any fancy address labels. I also believe the most special invitations are those that are written by hand and personally address the invited person. Only possible I imagine at small intimate weddings and ceremonies but a delightful touch.

  30. With my sister getting married next year, I thought she’d be the ultimate bridezilla. So far, she’s been okay. Your site is providing me with much humor and many tips for her to keep bridezilla at bay!

  31. We are also doing firstname lastname, no titles except for the pastor and his wife. Although we didn’t actually use titles on the invitation itself either – both our parents wanted to have just their names. And I think it makes total sense – after all, I’m not having a black tie wedding and reception anyway, so why would I go all formal on the envelopes?

  32. I plan on addressing the invites based on however I think the recipients would prefer to be addressed, as others have mentioned. One thing I’m considering, for people who I know would find Titles too formal and stuffy, is to write out their full names, including middle names, as in Jessica Susan Robinson. Several of my friends really like their middle names, and when do you get to use your middle name? I figure for people who like their middle names it’s an alternative way to mark that it’s a special occasion. Of course for people like my dad who use a nickname all the time and dislike their legal first and middle names I’ll go with whatever they prefer to be called.

  33. I only printed the names on fancy labels because I’m lazy. 🙂 I do agree that it is nicer to have hand written – but by the time I wrote my 80th name down it probably wouldn’t be legible anymore. 😉

    PS – I used the Willy Wonka font – which I think is warm and personal in it’s own way. Capital letters get top hats on them? How awesome is that!?

  34. I didnt really use Mr or Mrs…or last names.

    I addressed them (for the most part) “Jon and Jane”.

    Only if I invited a single person, then I used their first and last name.

    It seemed the least conventional, so that was my style.

  35. I also have a problem with the Mr. & Mrs. formal address. Reducing a woman’s entire existence to three minuscule letters seems so misogynistic it makes me want to scream. But your personal opinion of women changing their name should not be used to judge women who have chosen to change their name. Think of all the women who question you or look appalled when you say you either won’t change your name or are going to hyphenate it. Do you really want to pass judgment on them the same way they pass judgment on you?

    • It’s not about passing judgement on women for changing their name. Generally, women who change their names after marriage only change their surname. Unless they’ve also changed their first name to their husband’s why would their own first name be omitted?

  36. I ditched the formality of “Mr. and Mrs.” and just used first and last names. To solve the problem of whose name goes first when addressing to a couple, I listed the names alphabetically for guests that I don’t know well (i.e. the groom’s parents’ invitees); for the guests that I did know well, I wrote the name of the person I am closest to first. This felt like the right way to do things for me, and I couldn’t care less what the etiquette books say.

  37. I did the same thing! I also got strange looks when I said I wasn’t printing up fancy address labels, but rather, addressing them all by hand…

    Normally, you’d get eaten for printing address labels. It’s considered extremely impolite. I like them because of the sheer terror of my handwriting.

  38. ALWAYS write a last name! ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS. Especially if the addressee lives in an urban area or apartment building. Technically, if there is no last name on an envelope, mail carriers are supposed to return them to sender. And trust me, many do.

    • Really? How bizarre. I can’t see how it affects the post office: all they need to know is the physical address to deliver it to. The name of the addressee is none of their business and doesn’t affect their ability to deliver. Weird rules!

  39. To the contrary of many misguided individuals, etiquette is not a stagnated art. It is to be applied in an appropriate manner, where the manner depends on the circumstances. For example, if one were to address a letter to my grandparents in the ‘Mr. and Mrs. John R. Doe’ format, my grandmother would take no offense. However, when I have received letters addressed in that manner, I am immediately offended and honestly would love to smack the writer in the face.

    Simply put, it is no more appropriate to offend a 70-year old than it is to offend a 30-year old, particularly where one has every reason to believe that the 30-year old, for example, might be just as offended by the ‘Mr. and Mrs. John Doe’ format as the 70-year old may be by the ‘Jane Doe’ format.

    Further, expense of time and effort is no excuse for addressing all invitations in the same manner. One cannot reasonably say that she is adhering to older etiquette norms so as not to offend older guests, all while callously dismissing the contemporary norms that her younger counterparts find more acceptable.

  40. This is a random sort of note, but in an etiquette class I took, the proper way to do it is actually Mrs. and Mr. Smith. The reasoning is that you shouldn’t separate the man from his surname. But if you’re talking about non-traditional wording anyway, it doesn’t matter so much.

  41. My dad is doing our invites and envelopes so he is making us do the proper thing. Trufully I did not but oh least our invites are cool.they look like comics

  42. We invited plus ones and children so we skipped some drama for a lot of them by using “______ family”. “Smith family” seemed easier and more “us” as cliche as it sounds.

  43. For my invites – I did Mrs. Jane Doe & Mr. John Doe (intentionally putting the female name first just because, unless the man was a doctor or in the military to which I used that title and put them first). I also did The Smith Family whenever I could. I also have many friends who didn’t change their names, so then I did Ms. Jane Smith & Mr. John Doe.

    I would also caution that I hired a calligrapher for both my Save the Dates and my invites. For my Save the Dates, I gave the person my list exactly like the above and she changed all my envelopes to be “traditional”. She assumed I didn’t know what I was doing, so all my invites came back Mr. & Mrs. John Smith. For my invites I hired a different calligrapher and explained why this way important to me and I had no problems. So if you do hire someone, don’t assume they will follow your list.

  44. I wrote “Grandma and Grandad”, “Debs and Chris”, “Mark and Rosie” etc 🙂
    Just whatever name I’d call them if I was in the same room as them!

  45. Mannnnn! I wish I saw this earlier on in the year.. I need to subscribe to Offbeat Brides for real! LOL That was my side note, but on the real.. Times have drastically changed since the 1800-1950’s and family dynamics have changed drastically. How would it be if I was creating the calligraphy on envelopes for a lesbian family to place Mr. & Mrs? That would be completely offensive in my opinion. I think the idea of just placing the first names and then saying ” & family if the entire family is invited is much more courteous. And also times have changed where other adults share households too, so I think sending an invite to all the adults and their families (if they have them) in the household is courteous too. You can also address the envelop to say ” The Last Name Family” with the address details ( I think that is also a good option to use when many family members live under one roof or if a family is polygamous. )

  46. Just be sure not to go crazy on the font itself. We have some that have never made it nor have come back to us. We can only figure it was the font.

  47. If you ask me its 100% anti etiquette to address anyone by a title that they dislike. I know plenty of women who are offended by being eliminated and about 3 who like being Mrs. Husband but none of of them are offended by being addressed by their own name or Mrs. Own Name. So I don’t get why ettiqute lovers still say ” you must address all women by their husband’s name weather they like it or not or weather they took his name or not because its the only polite and correct thing to do”. For what it’s worth we asked every friend on our guest list about thier preference and only 1 ( for real 1!) Came back with Mr and Mrs Husband and frankly it was him who responded and he is a vain chauvinist jerk so I believe the true count comes to ZERO women preferring it. Time for etiquette to change when you are outright offending people with it.

  48. I addressed all of mine to Her Name & His Name. Or for same-gender couples, whoever I like more first. Apparently there was some discussion of my invitations at my sister in law’s baby shower, but while everyone noticed the gender switch not a single person was surprised at it, coming from me. They were more interested in figuring out the algorithm for who got paper invites vs. email ones (basically, all the net un-savvy peeps got paper except for two people who just never answered my request for an email addy, and both moms got both for keepsakes; apparently they did deduce this all at the party so, yay?).

  49. Just venting, and this seems like a good place.

    However you address it, make it clear who is invited. I have a complicated family (brother (21yo), me (22yo), and my dad live together, and my mom (divorced from dad) doesn’t live here but spends a lot of time here), and the invitation was sent to “Larry and Family” So I know my dad’s invited, but what about the rest of us? The RSVP card listed no number of people invited. Frustrating!

    I just got an invite for a bridal shower addressed to “Lastname + Family”. What? And children are invited? I don’t mean to be a jerk, but if you’re going to be lazy about addressing it, you should use wedding shower if everyone is invited.

    TLDR: make it clear who’s invited.

  50. I went for “Matt and Annette Fuller” for the return labels, since I’ll be changing my name with our marriage license anyway. They can get used to that as my last name. 🙂 And for the addresses, just a simple First Last & First Last.

    I actually just sent out my invites last Friday, so I’m hoping people start getting them soon (might take longer because of the bank holiday?). We used a colored envelope like in the picture (but dark blue), with those silver pens that you shake before you write. Creates such a great look we didn’t even need to have a calligrapher do it–the shiny ink makes my handwriting look much more fancy. 🙂

  51. This is so perfect. Thank you so much for sharing this.
    I’m planning a come-as-you-are casual wedding and I can’t stand the idea of addressing our STDs and Invites super stuffy-formally. I totally needed this advice!
    It’s like, why on earth would I address things to 4 different Mr. and Mrs. Wathens, when I call them all by their first names? And when you want to make it clear that everyone (including small children) are welcome and encouraged to come, I want to include their names, too! So, now, I can! I’m so excited, thank you!!! 🙂

  52. We had a pretty intimate wedding, and we, too, took the first names approach in sending out invites. I may have taken my husband’s last name, but it definitely doesn’t identify who I am as a person. I know my friends and family members can share in my sentiments, so we happily stepped to our own beat, tradition be damned! 🙂

  53. Yes, thus is the year 2016. Speaking of marriage I thought the two getting married become a new single unit. The man should not dominate over the woman, they are both equal, so why should I address someone as Mrs. Edward Stevenson? Is her name not good enough?

  54. I took a leaf from what etiquette said to do for formal letters to male-male couples, and just applied it to all couples. I figured that the most “formal” forms are to take the time to spell out the person’s full name and title, while “informal” is usually a shortening. So, in that spirit, I spelled out each individual’s full name, and put an “&” between married couples to indicate they went together. This also was a lot easier on the Excel mail merge I used- I just put the names for each family in order in “line 1″,”line 2″,”line 3” columns, and put the & before “line 2” names. This is what I hope we’ll end up with when etiquette is done fighting over all this, probably as we see gay marriages more common and therefore gendering everything in the forms of address becomes less useful. I also used Ms. for almost all the women except a few who I knew would prefer Mrs. So my final product looked like:
    Mr. John Doe
    & Ms. Jane Doe (or the reverse order, depending who I knew best/random)
    Miss Susie Doe (for a child)
    Address Zip Code

    I’m actually really proud of this solution!
    I think it worked well- and it meant I didn’t have to do things differently whether the wife had a different last name or the same name as her husband, since my list had a mix of both. It even worked for the children with different last names from their parents(re-marriage) on my list. I just couldn’t do the Mr. & Mrs. John Doe thing, it’s the 21st century for heaven’s sake. It also wouldn’t even be practical for lots of cases, like when the husband and wife have different last names.

  55. We are a Transgender couple, and therefore have quite a few friends who are at different points in their own transitions – or identify as gender-fluid. We left all Ms/Mr/Mrs off everything, and asked the variable people what name they would like on everything. This also included people in our theater group that we technically only knew by stage names! We did keep the Malefirst & Femalefirst lastname (or malefirst malelast & femalefirst femalelast) format intact for couples – but that was more to be appealing to the more traditional family members.

  56. It’s been eleven years since this post was written, and it’s still so helpful! I’m so glad things have continued to move in this direction. And for what it’s worth, and as pretty as calligraphy can be, I’ve seen some addressed envelopes that are so frilly they’re barely readable. The poor, poor mail carriers who have to squint and look sideways to figure that stuff out!

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