Your wedding invitations are one of the most momentous messages you’ll ever send. They’re your guests’ first look at your upcoming nuptials, and therefore should give a little hint of what’s to come at the big celebration. So, assuming you’re planning on hosting the most perfect, amazing, romantic day ever, you certainly don’t want to muddy that in any way with something as silly as an incorrectly addressed invitation.
That said, looking for wedding invitation ideas and figuring out how to address wedding invitations can require some special delivery savvy. That’s why we’re here to fill you in on all the down-and-dirty details of not only doing it right, but doing it well.
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General etiquette for addressing wedding invitations
Understanding the basics of wedding invitation etiquette is helpful when you’re getting started. So before we get into the fine points of addressing wedding invitations, you should keep a few rules in mind. These are the bread and butter of invitations in terms of finessing your guest list, and eventually requesting for the people on it to join you in celebrating your big day.
As you plan out who you’ll invite and settle on the the right wedding invitation wording, make note of the following:
– Titles: Use your guests’ correct social and professional titles (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Mx, Ms, Dr.) in their abbreviated forms and any suffixes (ex: Jr., Sr., IV., Ph.D.) where needed. Be respectful of pronouns any individual may use, and reference them accordingly when choosing their title.
– Names: In general, it’s best to use your guests’ full names rather than initials, nicknames, or shortened names. Of course, there may be cases when a guest strongly prefers a nickname; use your best judgment. However, you can feel free to skip middle names and initials unless a guest uses their middle name as part of their preferred name. If you aren’t sure of a guest’s full name or spelling, just ask.
– Addresses: When including street names on your invitations, use the full street names rather than abbreviations (i.e., ‘Street’ over ‘St.’). If you’re opting for online invitations that don’t necessitate them, be sure to use your guests’ most updated email addresses. Unless you’ve been told otherwise, send invitations to personal email addresses rather than professional ones.
Likewise, if you’re not sure of a guest’s preferences on any of the things listed, just ask. Your guests will probably feel honored by the care you’re taking to get it right.
Paperless Post makes it easier than ever to address your online wedding invitations and keep track of RSVPs.
Why you should properly address wedding invitations
Addressing your invitations may seem like only a tiny tier of the massive cake that is your overall wedding planning. But in the same way choosing the perfect dress or asking the right questions to the wedding venues you’re scoping out is important, doing it properly will make a difference to the people you’re inviting. Seeing their names, titles, plus-ones, and family members spelled out correctly on the invite will show your guests how genuinely their presence is welcomed.
Do you know how many people you’ll be inviting to the wedding? Taking the time to verify all the details not only ensures you don’t leave anyone out, but avoids potential offense from using the wrong terms and titles and confirms you’re not sending your invites to the wrong person. (Wondering when to send out your wedding invitations? We’ve got you there, too.)
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The breakdown: How to address invitations to different groups and individuals
Now that you know the components of addressing your wedding invitations, it’s time to talk about how to put it all together.
— How to address wedding invitations to an individual
— What’s the difference between Miss, Mrs., and Ms.?
— How to address wedding invitations to a married couple
— How to address wedding invitations to an unmarried couple
— How to address wedding invitations to a family
— How to address wedding invitations to those with special titles
— Addressing wedding invitations for a casual wedding
How to address wedding invitations to an individual
Individuals are probably the easiest people to address on this list, but there are still a few variables. For a male guest, simply address the card with his full name and title:
Mr. James Porter
For a solo female guest, you’ll want to confirm whether she prefers a title of Miss, Ms., Mrs., or a professional title like Dr. If you still aren’t sure, it’s safe to address her this way:
Ms. Eliza Watson
If allowing individuals to bring an unknown plus-one, you need only indicate this on the inner envelope or invitation by adding and guest after their name or by including a note or box to check on the wedding invitation. If you’re addressing an online invitation with a plus-one, send to Ms. Eliza Watson and guest, and mark the guest count as 2. If you do know the added guest’s name and you’re addressing an unmarried couple, we’ll get to that later on.
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What’s the difference between Miss, Mrs., and Ms.?
—Miss can be used to indicate an unmarried woman.
—Mrs. can be used by women who are married—even women who are married but have chosen to keep their maiden name.
—Ms. is for any of the above.
And that’s it. However, it truly is up to the person’s preference. If your Aunt Diane goes by Ms. Khan even though she’s been married to Uncle Ray for 40 years, that’s fine. Your best friend from college might like to be “Miss Collins” because it makes her feel like she’s in an episode of Downton Abbey. A quick text to your guest will be all you need to find the answer and make sure that the wedding invitation envelope looks beautiful—and respectful—to whomever it’s addressed to.
How to address wedding invitations to a married couple
There are many options to choose from when addressing a married couple. The very traditional method of formal addressing includes the titles of a husband and wife, the husband’s first name, and the last name they share, as follows:
Mr. and Mrs. James Porter
However, there are modern alternatives that make it easier to be inclusive. These alternatives also make more sense when you need to incorporate any variations in names and titles. This happens more than you think: For example, if you’ve invited a married doctor, someone who uses a hyphenated name, or spouses with different last names altogether. In this method, you simply list both full names separately, as follows:
Mr. James Porter and Mrs. Eliza Porter
Mr. James Porter and Mrs. Eliza Porter-Watson
Dr. Eliza Watson and Mr. James Porter
Mr. Scott Holmes and Mr. Robert Henry
Note that you can list a couple’s names in any order, although generally, one should list the person with a professional title first. (More on that later.)
How to address wedding invitations to an unmarried couple
For unmarried couples attending the wedding together, your method of addressing will be similar to that of married couples with name variations: simply list each person’s title and full name.
If you’re inviting a couple but you don’t know one of the partners, or if you’re inviting an individual to bring a plus-one, it’s still a nice touch to include both—if you can find out the name of the other person, that is. However, if you’re inviting an individual who you think might bring a guest but aren’t sure, see our above note on adding “and guest” to an individual’s invitation.
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How to address wedding invitations to a family
If you’re inviting any families including children, you can use a form of address that acknowledges all parties directly, such as:
The Watson Family
While it’s a slightly less formal approach, it’s still helpful in ensuring you don’t leave anyone out. If the family isn’t too large, you may also choose to include the children’s names—especially if they’re adult children living at home—on the envelope as well (though this is even more informal).
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How to address wedding invitations to those with special titles
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to include your guests’ professional titles on their invitations. Afterall, they’ve worked quite hard to earn them, and putting those distinctive titles on their wedding invitation envelopes is a sign of respect.
However, unlike with street names, it’s best not to write out those titles in full, and instead opt for an abbreviation—whether the title comes before or after your guests’ name. Here are some commonly seen professional titles you may come across while addressing your envelopes:
Dr. (Doctor – typically reserved for medical doctors in the case of wedding invitations)
If a couple you’ve invited shares the same professional title, you can combine them like so:
Drs. James and Doreen Conn
Some professional titles fall after the guest’s name instead of in front:
Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology)
In this scenario, you should include the suffix only when the envelope is addressed to a solo person. When a person with a professional suffix is part of a couple, ditch it for their preferred social titles:
Donald Dyment, Esq.
Mr. Donald Dyment and Ms. Beth Hurowitz
And what about social titles that fall after a name, such as Jr., Sr., and III? If these titles are a part of the person’s identity, feel free to include them whether they’re flying solo or not. And if you aren’t sure, it’s OK to leave them out, too.
Addressing wedding invitations for a casual wedding
What changes when your wedding is a more casual affair? In general, many of the guidelines above still apply in terms of ensuring accuracy and being sensitive to personal details. However, depending on the casualness of your wedding, you have the option to use a less formal addressing approach.
If the situation feels right, you can adjust your invitations to feel slightly more personal, such as:
— Skipping titles
— Using nicknames and shortened names
— Including childrens’ names
— Abbreviating street names
However, even if your wedding features a tractor-pulled hayride to the chapel or you’re requesting guests to arrive barefoot, you don’t necessarily need to drop the formality in your invitations. Adding those special touches helps to signify the deep emotions you and your partner carry with you to your wedding, as well as the respect you hold for that invited guests—regardless of how formal or informal the event itself may be.
Here’s the bottom line: do what feels right for you. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to opt for the more formal approach.
What information goes where?
Once you’ve figured out what titles to use and for whom, you’ll also need to consider the exact shape of your invitations and where those addresses will go. The main thing to keep in mind is that figuring out how to address wedding envelopes will vary depending on whether you’re using printed or online invitations.
Print invitations: Single envelope vs inner and outer envelopes
Whether you’re primarily sending printed invitations or need to send a few invites to your offline friends and family, you may encounter the puzzle of inner and outer envelope addressing.
According to Emily Post, your outer envelope is the most formal layer and uses titles, full names, and the address of any adults being invited. For example:
Mr. James Porter and Mrs. Eliza Porter
1234 Blue Street
Gary, Indiana XXXXX
Meanwhile, the inner envelope can omit the street address. Here, you can include either titles and last names only, or opt for a more personal use of first names:
Mr. and Mrs. Porter
James and Eliza
If the invitees include children, you can also add them to the inner envelope below their parents’ names:
Mr. and Mrs. Porter
Online invitations: An easier approach
Given that they require no physical envelopes at all, using online invitations simplifies things quite a bit, saves you money on invitations, and prevents excess paper waste. However, you might still wonder where to list kids’ names, or whether the same etiquette applies to titles.
With premium online invitations, such as those from Paperless Post, your guests are sent a digital wedding envelope they can open digitally to view the invitation itself. In such cases, you can follow the same rules as above for what to include on the outer envelope. Of course, you should opt out of including a street address and simply include the names of your guests.
Paperless Post: The stress-free way to address your invitations
The rules and conventions of addressing your wedding invitations can seem a little complex, but it’s these small details that show your appreciation for those who’ve been invited to partake in your special day. Once you’ve skillfully navigated the waters of titles and hyphenated names, addressing and sending the invitations themselves won’t seem quite as complicated.
Make things even easier on yourself, your guests, and the earth with paper-free wedding invitations from Paperless Post. Our user-friendly tools make it simple to address your invitations automatically using our customizable, beautifully designed cards.
Plus, you can track RSVPs and follow up with guests directly from your Paperless Post account, so connecting and following up with the people you care about is a breeze.
After all, that’s the whole point of your wedding invitations—to bring all your favorite humans together to celebrate your love.