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Addressing Etiquette

Remember: Traditional addressing reflects the formality of the EVENT – not the level of formality of a friendship.

The following addressing etiquette pertains to using a single mailing envelope.

NAME LINES

Formal invitation etiquette calls for FULL names, including titles and middle names. If the guest's middle name is not known, you may use only first and last. Do not use middle initials - either include the middle name or leave it out all together.

Right: Mr. and Mrs. William Robert Smith, junior -or- Mr. and Mrs. William Smith, junior
Wrong: Mr. and Mrs. Billy Smith, Jr.
Even Worse: Billy & Sue Smith

STREET LINES

Everything is spelled out, except the actual house number: Street, Drive, Avenue, Boulevard, Parkway, Road, Circle, Court, etc. Also, North, South, East, West, Northeast, Southwest, etc. should be spelled out.

Right: 124 Saint Mary’s Street
Wrong: 124 St. Mary’s St.

WITH AN APARTMENT NUMBER

Right: 156 South Magnolia Avenue, Apartment 1-A
Wrong: 156 S. Magnolia Avenue, Apt. 1-A

CITY, STATE ZIP

Spell it all out: North Carolina, South Dakota, District of Columbia.

Right: Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316
Wrong: Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316

HINTS

Always spell out Doctor, Reverend, Colonel, Lieutenant...etc.

The designations “Attorney” and “esquire” are not used on social invitations.

For a formal invitation designations such as junior and senior are separated by a comma and are not capitalized - example: Mr. and Mrs. John Adam Smith, junior.

A comma does not separate designations such as II and III - example: Mr. and Mrs. John Adam Smith III.

Using first names on informal invitations—such as for a very casual rehearsal dinner—is acceptable, but ALWAYS put the woman’s name first, i.e.: “Sue and Billy Smith.”

TITLES & TIPS

Couples with Different Last Names

This includes couples living together, same-gendered couples, and wives who’ve kept their maiden names. These names are presented on separate lines and can be listed in one of several ways: alphabetically by last name, woman’s name first, or put the person to whom you are closest first.

Example:

Ms. Elizabeth Anne Smith
Mr. Justin Parker Williams
123 Eastwood Road
Charleston, South Carolina 29407

Ms. or Miss

The title Ms. is proper for any woman over the age of 21, which is no longer considered suitable only for the business world; this title is used socially as well.

Both Doctors

What about spouses who are both doctors, if she has taken her husband’s name?

List them on separate lines, woman first—as follows:

Doctor Elizabeth Anne Smith
Doctor Justin Parker Smith
123 Pine Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29407

What about when she’s a doctor and he’s not (same last name)?

First and foremost, NEVER put Mr. and Doctor Christopher Michael Lewis. List them on separate lines, woman first—as follows:

Doctor Meredith May Lewis
Mr. Christopher Michael Lewis
405 West Market Street
Atlanta, Georgia 30310

Widows

A widow’s invitation should be addressed to Mrs. James Alan Johnson, not Mrs. Eileen Adams Johnson.

Here’s why: Mrs. refers to the Mistress/Wife of a male. The title Mrs. should always come in front of a man’s name. A woman cannot be her own wife (as in Mistress/Wife of Eileen—that makes no sense); she is the Mistress/Wife of James, a title she keeps forever, unless she remarries.

Keep in mind that a younger widow's invitation may be addressed to Ms. Eileen Adams Johnson, but an invitation sent to your 90 year old widowed great aunt should probably read Mrs. James Alan Johnson.

Divorced Women

Divorced women who still maintain their married surname often prefer to go by Ms.

And guest

You probably have single people on your guest list, and giving them the opportunity to bring a date is a wonderful gesture. Note the word guest is lowercase.

Mr. Smith and guest
123 East Main Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601

Judge or Mayor

The Honorable and Mrs. James Franklin Smith
123 East Main Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601

Master & Misses

If a guest has only one child, then the address can look unbalanced with just the child's first name on a line all by itself. In this case, a title and last name for the child can look more balanced. For infant boys through age 8, the proper title is Master. Boys age 8 – 16, there is no title. For boys 16 and up, the proper title is Mr. The proper title for little girls is Miss.

When should the term "and family" be used?

Take the time to find out the names of invited children and list them by name. The only time that "and family" would be considered acceptable is when a family has so many children that squeezing their names on the envelope would be impossible.

What about zip codes with the extra four digits, zip+4 (27513-1100)?

We recommend using the 5 digit zip codes. They are more aesthetically pleasing and less corporate.

Have a question we haven't answered? Contact us!

Guest Addressing Credits: Addressing etiquette by Carrie Shuping in-house calligrapher and addressing expert from her addressing guide, No Regrets.