Common sense and consideration should be the basis of etiquette and good manners.
  — John Quincy Adams

At Elite Calligraphy we follow Crane`s Wedding Blue Book as a general guide for addressing etiquette, but however you choose to address your envelopes is the final word.

The Essence of Etiquette

It`s not about rules, it`s about guidelines that help make our personal and professional relationships more comfortable and effective. We tend to feel more at ease when we understand what others expect of us. The etiquette we follow when sending a letter or invitation, like etiquette in other areas, revolves around three basic building blocks: common sense, courtesy and usage.

Common Sense

The foundation of etiquette is common sense. On an invitation, for example, you must convey essential information if you want your guests to show up at your event. Your guests need to know who is inviting them to what function. They also need to know the date, time and place. A properly worded invitation includes all of that information and presents it succinctly and coherently.


Courtesy, the spirit of etiquette, makes for better and more rewarding relationships. It also requires us to be considerate of others. You may come across some guidelines that might not work in your situation. If you followed those guidelines, you might, perhaps, offend someone you love. Is your relationship with that person more important than the wording of your invitation? If so, courtesy demands that you find an alternative. Etiquette is proper only when it facilitates and strengthens relationships.


The third building block is usage. Etiquette has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve. Many of the customs that were proper 50 years ago have faded away, like a gentleman tipping his hat. Likewise, many of the customs we practice today will be outdated 50 years from now.

A Natural Evolution

As old customs become obsolete, new ones take their place. Not long ago, for example, reply cards were considered improper, even offensive and insulting. Wedding invitations were always answered in your own handwriting on your own stationery. As our lives became busier and busier, many of us no longer had the time to sit down and handwrite a reply. Since hosts and hostesses could not risk not receiving responses, they began to send reply cards with their invitations. This made it easier for their guests to respond. The courtesy extended to their guests was a common-sense approach to the problem of late and never received responses. As more and more invitations were sent with reply cards, reply cards became more and more acceptable. Today, they are sent with almost every wedding invitation.

In other words, at some point the traditional way of responding to wedding invitations was not working. Common sense suggested that a solution was needed. The solution was simple: Extend to guests the courtesy of an easy-to-use card with a stamped, pre-addressed envelope. This solution worked and through its usage reply cards have now become perfectly proper. These three building blocks — common sense, courtesy and usage — are the basis for all the guidelines that social etiquette provides.

Abbreviations should be avoided. The words Post Office Box, Street, Avenue, Drive, etc. and East, West, North and South should be spelled out as well as the name of the city and state. Single digit street numbers should be spelled out (i.e. One, Two, Three... etc.). Street Names that are numbers can be written two ways - 94 East 54th Street or 94 East Fifty-fourth Street. Unless your envelopes are unusually large, it is a good idea to not exceed 5 lines in your address as they tend to start looking a bit messy with any additional lines.

Couples Outer Envelope Inner Envelope
Married Couples
notice the use of " and" to
signify marriage in the following
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Jones Mr. and Mrs. Jones or
Amanda and Sam
if you want to be informal
Unmarried couples
who don’t live together
Miss Amanda Baker
the only name on outer should be
the person who lives at the address
Miss Baker
Mr. Jones
Unmarried couples
who live together
Miss Amanda Baker
Mr. Jack Baker
Miss Baker
Mr. Jones
Married Couple
she kept maiden name
Mrs. Amanda Baker
and Mr. Samuel Jones
Mrs. Jones and Mr. Baker
Married Couple
she has hyphenated last name
Mrs. Amanda Baker-Jones
and Mr. Samuel Jones
Mrs. White-Jones and Mr. Jones
Married Couple
she has a professional title,
he does not
Doctor Amanda Jones
and Mr. Samuel Jones
Doctor Jones and Mr. Jones
Married Couple
and both are doctors
Doctor Amanda Baker
and Doctor Samuel Jones
or The Doctors Jones
The Doctors Jones
Married Couple
both are doctors but
with different last names
Doctor Amanda Baker
and Doctor Samuel Jones
Doctor Baker and Doctor Jones
Same sex couples
list them in alphabetical
order by last name
Mr. George Albertson
Mr. Roger Madison
Mr. Albertson
Mr. Madison
Single Guests Outer Envelope Inner Envelope
Unmarried or divorced female Miss Amanda Baker
or Ms. Amanda Baker
Miss Baker and Guest or
Ms. Baker and Guest
Divorced female
kept married name (Wilson)
Mrs. Amanda Wilson
or Ms. Jane Wilson
Mrs. Wilson and Guest or
Ms. Wilson and Guest
Widowed female Mrs. Amanda Baker
or Mrs. Amanda Baker
Mrs. Baker and Guest
Don`t use and Guest if
recently widowed
Children Outer Envelope Inner Envelope
Child under age 18 Do not put on outer envelope
Only list the parents
Nicole (1 child)
Nicole and Jimmy (2 + kids)
List by age, oldest first
Child age 18 +
should have own invitation
Miss Nicole Jones Miss Jones and Guest
Military Outer Envelope Inner Envelope
He is a commissioned officer Colonel and Mrs. Samuel Jones Colonel and Mrs. Jones
He is a non-commissioned
officer or enlisted man
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Jones Mr. and Mrs. Jones
He is a retired
commissioned officer
Colonel and Mrs. Samuel Jones Mr. and Mrs. Jones
She is a commissioned
officer, he is not
Mr. and Mrs. Amanda Jones or
Captain Amanda Jones
and Mr. Samuel Jones
Mr. and Mrs. Jones or
Captain Jones and Mr. Jones
Miscellaneous Outer Envelope Inner Envelope
Judge The Honorable and
Mrs. Samuel Jones
Judge and Mrs. Jones
Reverend Reverend and Mrs. Samuel Jones Reverend and Mrs. Jones
If you have a question about a particular etiquette situation that does not appear here, please feel free to e-mail us and we will be happy to assist you in any way that we can.
© Reserved Elite Calligraphy 2010