Envelope Addressing Etiquette FAQs

Wedding Envelope Addressing FAQs: How to Address Wedding Envelopes | Sarah Ann Design

Okay, sweet brides-to-be… buckle up! This post is a long one. However, it covers one of my most-requested topics: how to formally address wedding invitation envelopes. It’s a lengthy read, but I hope it will be a helpful reference for you as you draft your wedding guest list. So, bookmark this post and keep it handy! You’ll be glad to have it in your back pocket when it comes to those tricky etiquette questions.

Ready to get started? Let’s do this!

What is the standard formal envelope addressing format?

The majority of your envelopes will likely be addressed to married couples. As such, most of the envelopes will follow this format—listing “Mr. and Mrs.” along with the gentleman’s full name.

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
1234 Main Street
Dallas, Texas 75231

Note that all street names and states are spelled out, not abbreviated. For a formal occasion, write out the invitee’s full name instead of their nickname (i.e., “Christopher” instead of “Chris”). Traditionally, it is not considered proper to add a middle initial (i.e., “Mr. and Mrs. John B. Smith”) unless he commonly uses that title in social and/or business settings.

*Just one caveat here… even though it is the time-honored proper tradition, there are some people who take offense at this format because the wife’s name is not as prominent as her husband’s. Personally, I think sharing my husband’s surname is a lovely expression of unity and an acknowledgement of his leadership in our marriage; I am honored to see his name listed on our correspondence. However, I am fully aware that some more progressive thinkers may not share my traditional point of view! If you think one of your guests might be offended by the traditional format, try to be sensitive and gracious—just address her envelope accordingly, by alphabetical order:

Mrs. Alyssa and Mr. Robert Smith   – or –   Mr. Albert and Mrs. Rebecca Smith

What if a couple is not married, but lives together at the same address?

Address one envelope to the couple, listing each name on the same line:
Mr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Doe

How do I add “plus ones?” 

You may wish to indicate that guests can bring a date or a friend to the wedding. In this case, simply add “and Guest” (capitalized) after the invitee’s name. This signals that your guest may bring an additional guest of their choosing. It applies to both male and female invitees.

Mr. John Smith and Guest
Ms. Jane Doe and Guest

However, you should acknowledge engaged couples or couples in a long-term relationship by using their specific names. In this case, the main invitee is listed first, whether they are male or female; the envelope will go to the main invitee’s address.

This format is used to invite someone you know personally, as well as their significant other (someone you do not know personally). Write the name of the significant other in place of “and Guest” on the envelope. For example: consider your friend Jane from college. You do not personally know her fiancé Bob, but wish to acknowledge their relationship and invite him along with Jane (who is the main invitee). Write the name of her significant other (her fiancé Bob) in place of “and Guest” on Jane’s envelope:

Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. Bob Wilson
Mr. John Smith and Ms. Katie Jones

If you do know both people personally, each should receive an individually addressed invitation—unless they live together (in which case you should refer to the previous question).

How should I address envelopes to single women?

Single ladies should be addressed with “Ms.” unless they are under 18 years old—in which case, “Miss” is the proper title. Children (usually under the age of 13) do not require a title before their names.

Ms. Jane Doe

How should I address envelopes to single men?

Easy peasy! “Mr.” works just fine for single men. Years ago, young boys were addressed as “Master,” but that form has since become antiquated. Children (usually under the age of 13) do not require a title before their names.

Mr. John Smith

What if one of the guests has a proper title, like a doctor?

Address the envelope according to educational or professional “rank.” The doctor should be listed first, whether male or female (this is true for both medical degrees and PhDs); if the husband is a doctor, simply substitute “Dr.” in place of “Mr.” However, if the wife is the doctor, her name should precede her husband’s.

Dr. and Mrs. John Smith
Dr. Jane Smith and Mr. John Smith

If they are both doctors, the envelope should be addressed accordingly:
Drs. John and Jane Smith

What should we do if a guest is divorced?

Divorced or separated situations can be tricky.

The best rule of thumb is to use the guest’s preferred name and title, if you know their preference. You will probably be aware of her surname choice: whether she chooses to keep her married name, or revert to her maiden name. However, you might not know her preferred title: whether she would like to be called Mrs. or Ms. If you are unsure of her preference, “Ms.” is the safest option. A divorcee’s name should be listed without her ex-husband’s name. All of the below are acceptable, and may be used depending on the guest’s preferred social title:

Ms. Jane Smith
Mrs. Jane Smith
Ms. Jane Doe (maiden name)

If she has remarried, simply list her name along with her new husband’s and do not reference the divorce:

Mr. and Mrs. Jim Davis

If an ex-husband or ex-wife is now dating someone else, use the format listed above for plus ones / significant others:

Mr. John Smith and Guest
Mr. John Smith and Ms. Katie Jones

Ms. Jane Doe and Guest
Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. Jim Davis

How should I address the envelope to a widow?

Formally, widows’ envelopes are still addressed with their late husband’s name:

Mrs. John Smith

However, it has also become acceptable to address the envelope with her name (as with divorcees, use her personal preference if known):

Mrs. Jane Smith
Ms. Jane Smith

Are there any other special formats to consider?

So glad you asked 😉 There are a few other “special cases,” though they tend to be encountered less frequently. In each of the situations listed below, address the envelope according to “rank” (i.e., if the woman has the honorary title, her name should be listed before her husband’s):

  • Judge, Senator, or Representative
    • The Honorable John Smith 
    • The Honorable John Smith and Mrs. Jane Smith 
    • The Honorable Jane Doe 
    • The Honorable Jane Smith and Mr. John Smith
  • Military
    • Captain and Mrs. John Smith
    • Captain Jane Smith and Mr. John Smith
    • Captains John and Jane Smith (both officers of the same rank)
  • Church
    • Catholic Priests: The Reverend Father Joseph Thompson, S.J. (initials of order if used)
    • Catholic Nuns: Sister Mary Elizabeth Wright, O.S.J. (initials of order if used)
    • Catholic Bishops: The Most Reverend Joseph Thompson
    • Protestant Clergy: The Reverend Joseph Thompson
    • Married Protestant Clergy: The Reverend Joseph Thompson and Mrs. Jane Thompson
    • Rabbi: Rabbi Joseph Thompson

How should we address envelopes to a whole family, including kids?

Ideally, kids would only be listed on an inner envelope (the main outer envelope would be addressed to the parental married couple)… however, very few of my couples use the inner/outer envelope combo. It’s perfectly acceptable – and most common – these days to only use one envelope! Address the envelope to the whole family by listing the parents’ names, followed by the children’s names in birth order on a separate line:

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Anna, Kevin, and Rachel Smith

Please do use the Oxford comma!

Alternatively, you may address the envelope to The Smith Family. Though it is not traditional, this format has become increasingly popular and is quite acceptable. Just be careful—technically, you have not specified how many guests are included in “the family.” The Smiths could RSVP with as many family members as they want—and still technically be within the boundaries of proper etiquette! Listing individual names eliminates confusion and helps keep your guest count accurate.

Note that children 18 years and older should receive their own invitation, even if they are still living at home with their parents.

What if we are hosting an adults-only wedding? How can we make it clear with our invitations?

The proper way to specify invitees is with a correctly addressed envelope. To indicate “parents only,” the envelope should be clearly addressed only to the intended recipients, not to the entire family (i.e., “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” instead of “The Smith Family”). You should not list “adults only” on any printed material, especially the main invitation—that would be a bit of a faux pas, according to traditional etiquette! If you feel that you really must reinforce the no-kids policy, consider a subtle note on your wedding website. Need help wording it? Feel free to steal the snippet below!

“As much as we would love to celebrate with everyone, we have decided to limit our guest list to adults only. We hope you can understand, and we look forward to seeing your little ones another time!”

Well, I think that just about covers it, huh? But when you run into the oddball envelopes (i.e., he’s a military-ranked medical doctor married to a superior-ranking Supreme Court Judge), just give me a call. I’m happy to help answer any questions to the best of my ability! And – as always – you can refer to Emily Post for any etiquette concerns.

My best advice? Don’t get too caught up in the details. The important thing is that you’ve invited loved ones to join you in celebrating the happiest day of your life. With good intentions, an egregious addressing offense is unlikely. And (shh, don’t tell anyone I said this!) after reading this post, you probably know way more about proper addressing than any of your guests do. In all likelihood, they’ll just be honored to receive an invitation and to be included in your special day!

Good luck, and happy addressing!

Ready to begin the envelope addressing process? I’d love to work together!


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