Complicated family setups, budgets and tradition can all affect the way you address your wedding invitation envelopes, which in turn can lead to confusion about who is actually invited. That's where wedding etiquette comes in. Whether you choose to strictly adhere to etiquette or totally ignore it, it's best to know the rules before you put pen to envelope.
A well-addressed envelope does more than get your wedding invitation from Point A to Point B; it makes clear exactly who is invited. Properly listing guests' names instantly stresses for whom the invitation is intended. However, omitting a partner's name can lead to confusion about whether the partner is included, prompting more questions and phone calls to you.
Couples and Singles
To address married couples with the same name, use "Mr. and Mrs. John Plum." If a wife has kept her maiden name, it is proper to acknowledge the different names, so write "Mr. John Plum and Mrs. Joan Pear." For an unmarried couple living together, put their names on separate lines.
To invite a gay married couple who share the same surname, write "The Messrs. Paul and David Smith." For married lesbians, swap "The Messrs." for "The Mesdames." If the gay or lesbian married couple have different last names, proceed each full name with "Mr." or "Mrs." If your guest is single and you are allowing him to bring a date, write "Mr. Matt Hunter" on the envelope, then "Mr. Hunter and Guest" inside.
You can write "and Family" on your invitation, but if you know a child's name, feel free to include it. Etiquette does not dictate you should write each child's name on the envelope, however. It's best to address your relations formally on the outer envelope, then use more familiar names inside. If inviting adult brothers who live together, use "The Messrs. Phil and Tom Buxton." For sisters, write "Misses Eleanor and Sarah Craig." For an adult brother and sister, write "Mr. Phil Buxton and Miss Sarah Buxton."
If your guests have titles, etiquette suggests you use them. If a wife is a doctor, write "Dr." in front of her full name, then write her husband's full name. If he is the doctor, either "Dr. Andrew and Mrs. Smith" or "Dr. and Mrs. Andrew Smith" is sufficient. If both are doctors, use "The Doctors Smith" or "Drs. Andrew and Mary Smith." Elected officials, such as mayors and judges, should be written as "The Honorable Beverly Jones and Mr. Nathan Jones." Priests and ministers should be addressed as "Reverend Father Patrick Riley." Rabbis should take "Rabbi and Mrs. David Sugar."
If your wedding is child-free, tell parents in their invitation so as to avoid embarrassment or confusion. In this case, etiquette dictates leaving the children's names off the invitation envelopes, not mentioning them in the invitation, and relying on family and friends to pass the message around. You might also want to add an inoffensive phrase such as "Adult Reception" or specify the number of seats you have reserved in the party's name.
Write the address guests should reply to on the back of the envelope and don't forget a stamp for their RSVP. Insert the invitation so the front faces the back flap and will be the first thing a guest sees when opening the envelope. If you are using inner envelopes, print your guests' names on the front and don't seal them. Insert the inner envelope so that the front of the inner envelope is the first thing a guest sees when opening the outer envelope.