Addressing Invitation to Divorced Guest

Online Users: 1,342 guest(s), 0 user(s). Replies: 5

MaryMcGwen Posts : 19 Registered: 4/27/10
Addressing Invitation to Divorced Guest
Posted: Jan 8, 2011 4:06 PM

Please share your opinion... I am struggling with this situation...

I have a very close friend of mine who I'll call Jane, Jane and I grew up together and I built a very close relationship with both Jane's mother and step-father (more so Jane's mother). I totally planned to invite both Jane's mother and step-father to my wedding. Recently, Jane's mother and step-father announced their separation and soon-to-be filed divorce. The relationship ended messy and Jane's mother is not longer speaking with her step-father (nor is Jane speaking with her step-father). Now, that my wedding is only a few months away and I plan to send out invites... I am struggling with how to word Jane's mother's invitation. Should it be...

Mrs. Mary Smith and guest
Mrs. Mary Smith
Mrs. Mary & Mr. John Smith

Also... I do not know if she will be taking her maiden name back or keeping her married name.


Thank you!


Aunt Posts : 794 Registered: 12/31/10
Re: Addressing Invitation to Divorced Guest
Posted: Jan 8, 2011 4:52 PM Go to message in response to: MaryMcGwen

Dear Mary,

First: Avoid the "and guest" in all your invitations, not just this one. You need to keep control of your guest list.

If you want to know if Jane is seeing someone, just call her up and ask. If the answer is positive, then ask for that person's name and address so they can get their own invitation. The same hold true for an elderly person who might need someone to drive them to the event and assist them while present.

Now, for this specific situation.

She is still officially married, but separated, and there are hard feelings between your friend, your friend's mother and the step-father.

I suggest you drop the step-father from your guest list, out of courtesy to your friend and her mother. Unless you have a separate relationship with him apart from his involvement in the Jane/Mom family, it is likely you won't ever seen him again, anyway, except by coincidence.

Normally Proper Etiquette asks that established couples, ie married couples, be invited together. A publically separated couple is not an established couple, so you are on solid grounds there.

If Jane and Mom live under the same roof and if you want to send a joint invitation, do this:

Ms Mary Smith
Ms Jane Smith
123 Elm St

If either prefer traditional titles, then go with:

Mrs Mary Smith
Miss Jane Smith

If they live in separate households, then just send separate invitations.

You might want to ask Jane about her mother's last name situation. If Jane tells you "Maiden name for sure", then use that name. Besides, even if she does change her name back as part of the divorce court order, she will get mail in both names for a good long time to come. You have known her by her married name for years, so I can't see there's a big problem in using her married name for a few more months, unless either Mom or Jane specifically tell you to use the maiden name.


Aunt Posts : 794 Registered: 12/31/10
Re: Addressing Invitation to Divorced Guest
Posted: Jan 8, 2011 5:09 PM Go to message in response to: MaryMcGwen


The subject of proper address for divorced women comes up from time to time, and now is a good time to review the historical rules.

Historically, a woman used her own given name in public ONLY before her marriage.

Miss Marge Bouvier

After marriage, she used Mrs with her husband's full name. In English, the "Mrs" title means "wife".

Mrs Homer Simpson

Should Homer choke on a donut and die, his widow's public name remains the same.

Mrs Homer Simpson.

If there is a Homer Simpson, Jr. and (perhaps) a Mrs Homer Simpson, Jr, the widow might add "Sr" to her name so son and DIL can drop the Jr.

Mrs Homer Simpson, Sr.

This worked for decades in English-speaking societies, for the simple reason that divorced women were hidden away in convents, never to be seen in polite society.

Those evil days are over, and now divorced women do indeed circulate in polite society. However, how should she be addressed? Nothing really works.

"Mrs Homer Simpson" is incorrect as she is no longer the wife of Homer Simpson, and Homer could marry again, creating a new and duplicate Mrs Homer Simpson.

"Mrs Marge Simpson" is incorrect because Mrs refers to a husband's name and Marge is herself, not her own husband.

"Miss Marge Simpson" is incorrect because Miss refers to a never-married woman, still using her father's last name, and makes people snicker when she goes about her business with her children.

Polite Society came up with a really crazy compromise for the proper name of a divorced woman. The maiden name (ie her father's name) is combined with her married name, thus avoiding the dreaded exposure of the lady's first name in public and creating a name unique to that lady, not duplicated by a long line of future ex-wives.

Mrs Bouvier Simpson is the correct name for a divorced woman.

You've never heard of that one? I'm not surprised. It's crazy. In my entire life of 56 years, I have known exactly one (1) divorced woman who used that style: my grandmother. She was from the Deep South and was very etiquette conscious. She was born in the nineteenth century and died in 1977.

Because the supposed "correct" form for a divorced woman is so dumb, our society has accepted the technically incorrect but much less dumb Mrs Marge Simpson form. That is the form I suggested in the earlier reply, in the event that the two ladies prefer the traditional forms of address.

Or, just use the much easier and just as correct Ms form. That's what I do.


MizJodi Posts : 65 Registered: 3/8/07
Re: Addressing Invitation to Divorced Guest
Posted: Jan 10, 2011 12:43 PM Go to message in response to: Aunt

I always love the history lessons from Aunt! Just wanted to say that :)


Aunt Posts : 794 Registered: 12/31/10
Re: Addressing Invitation to Divorced Guest
Posted: Jan 10, 2011 1:10 PM Go to message in response to: MizJodi

Dear Jodi,


It just goes to show how much better the Ms designation is.


myras Posts : 396 Registered: 2/26/10
Re: Addressing Invitation to Divorced Guest
Posted: Jan 11, 2011 2:06 PM Go to message in response to: MaryMcGwen

Unfortunately, divorces always have fallout, even for people not directly involved.

It seems that your most important and closest relationship is with your friend, Jane. So, the best thing you can do is talk the situation over with her. I assume that, because you are close, you would like to invite Jane's mother as well. And, because things are messy and both Jane and her mother are not speaking to step-dad, you would not want to make things any more miserable for them than they already are. Sooo, it's sad and all, but step-dad should not be invited.

The only exception would be if both Jane and her mother told you that they were totally OK with his being at the wedding (and how likely is that?)


Thank You
for Signing Up!

Check your e-mail inbox for the latest updates from

Give a Subscription to Brides Magazine as a Gift
Subscribe to Brides magazine