Eight weeks before your wedding comes the big day when you send out invitations (talk about making it feel real!). You've tackled the wedding invitation wording on the card, and now it's time to figure out how to address wedding invitations on the outside. That's right—there's even etiquette for how to address an envelope.
Before you head to the post office, you'll want to be sure to properly address the inner envelopes and outer envelopes. When you start addressing wedding invitations, you might start wondering which person should be listed first on the invitation? What if the invitation is to a whole family, including children? To help, we've put together an easy wedding envelope-addressing guide, complete with what to write in 13 unique situations.
What Are Outer and Inner Envelopes?
As a general rule, the outer envelope should be more formal, while the inner envelope is slightly less formal (the outer envelope, for example, might have a full name with title, and an inner envelope can have just a first name or initials).
1. To a Married Couple with the Same Last Name
What to do: You have a few options:
Use "Mr." and "Mrs." and spell out the husband's first and last name. If you decide to include the husband's middle name, it should be spelled out, not abbreviated as an initial.
Outer envelope: "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Warren"
Inner envelope: "Mr. and Mrs. Warren or "Thomas and Michelle"
Many modern women may have a strong aversion to having their name left out and lumped in with their husband. If you are a couple that is sensitive to this:
Outer envelope: "Mr. Thomas Warren and Mrs. Michelle Warren"
Inner envelope: "Mr. Warren and Mrs. Warren or "Thomas and Michelle"
2. To a Married Couple with Different Last Names
What to do: Write their names on the same line with the woman's name first; if the combined names are too long to fit on one line, list them separately.
Outer envelope: "Mrs. Maria Stevens and Mr. David Estevez"
Inner envelope: "Ms. Stevens and Mr. Estevez" or "Maria and David"
3. To a Married Couple with One Hyphenated Last Name
What to do: In the case of a spouse who has chosen to hyphenate their last name, then they should be addressed using Ms. (Mrs. is also acceptable) + her first name + maiden name + married name. (Same goes if a man has decided to hyphenate—substitute Mr.)
Outer envelope: "Mr. Marcus Craft and Ms. Amanda Crosby-Craft"
Inner envelope: "Mr. Craft and Ms. Crosby-Craft" or "Marcus and Amanda"
4. To an Unmarried Coupled
What to do: Invitations to a couple who are unmarried but live at the same address are addressed to both people on one line. List the person whom you are closest to first.
Outer envelope: "Mr. Stanley Kim and Ms. Amanda Rhee
Inner envelope: "Mr. Kim and Ms. Rhee" or "Stanley and Amanda"
5. To a Same-Sex Couple
What to do: In this case, it is totally acceptable to put either guest first. You can list the person you are closest to first, or simply address them in alphabetical order.
Outer envelope: "Ms. Lucy Stevens and Ms. Stacey Thompson"
Inner envelope: "Ms. Stevens and Ms. Thompson" or "Lucy and Stacey"
6. To a Single Female
What to do: Use "Ms." if she is over age 18. If she is younger, than "Miss" is the acceptable choice; it should be spelled out, not abbreviated as an initial.
Outer envelope: "Ms. Stephanie Chen" or "Miss Stephanie Chen" (if she is younger than 18)
Inner envelope: "Ms. Chen" or "Miss Chen" or "Stephanie"
7. To a Single Male
What to do: Use "Mr." if he is over 18. Otherwise, no title is necessary.
Outer envelope: "Mr. James Montgomery."
Inner envelope: "Mr. Montgomery" or "James"
8. To a Married Couple, One of Whom is a Doctor
What to do: List her first with her title; if the combined names are too long to fit on one line, list them separately. Spell out "doctor" on the outer envelope, and abbreviate on the inner.
Outer envelope: "Doctor Tami Takata and Mr. Christopher Smith"
Inner envelope: "Dr. Takata and Mr. Smith or "Tami and Christopher"
9. To a Married Couple, Both of Whom are Doctors
What to do: In the case of married doctors and the wife has taken her husband's last name, it is proper to use: "The Doctors."
Outer envelope: "The Doctors Smith" or "Drs. Matthew and Angela Smith"
Inner envelope: "The Doctors Smith" or "Matthew and Angela"
What to do: In the case of married doctors and one has chosen to hyphenate. If both titles don't fit on one line, indent the second line.
Outer envelope: "Doctor Matthew Smith and Doctor Angela Griggs-Smith"
Inner envelope: "Dr. Smith and Dr. Griggs-Smith" or "Matthew and Angela"
10. To a Couple with Distinguished Titles Other than Doctors
What to do: Apply the same rules for military personnel, judges, reverends, etc., that you use for doctors. If both titles don't fit on one line, indent the second line. And remember that whichever half of the couple "outranks" the other (say, a doctor, member of the military, or some other profession that includes a title) goes first, regardless of gender.
Outer envelope: "The Honorable Josephine Wood and Mr. Jonathan Wood" or "Captains Josephine and Jonathan Wood, US Navy"
Inner envelope: "Judge Wood and Mr. Wood" or "The Captains Wood"
11. To a Widow
What to do: Ask a family member who is closest to her whether she would prefer to be addressed by her married name (Mrs. Susan Brown) or by her husband's name (Mrs. John Brown).
Outer envelope: "Mrs. Susan Brown" or "Mrs. John Brown" depending upon her preference.
Inner envelope: "Mrs. Brown" or "Susan"
12. To a Divorced Female
What to do: In this case, you can use Mrs. or Ms. coupled with ex-husband's last name (if she still uses it) or her maiden name.
Outer envelope: "Mrs. Amanda Sherrow"
Inner envelope: "Mrs. Sherrow" or "Ms. Sherrow" or "Mrs. Chabert" or "Ms. Chabert" or "Amanda"
13. To a Family, Including the Children
What to do: When inviting an entire family, the family name or the parents' names should be listed alone, and everyone can be included on the inside. When including female children under the age of 18, address them with a Miss.
Outer envelope: "The Thompson Family" or "Mr. and Mrs. Alan Thompson" or "Mr. Alan Thompson and Mrs. Emily Thompson"
Inner Envelope: Alan, Emily, Roger, Chance, Miss Jennifer, and Miss Lily
Addressing Wedding Invitations for a Casual Wedding
You might be wondering, "What if my wedding isn't going to be that formal? Do I still have to make the wedding invitations formal?" Well, when it comes to addressing wedding invitations for a more casual event, we understand the temptation to just use first names, or first and last names without titles. While this isn't traditional, if the vibe is really backyard barbecue or a picnic in the park, you may be able to get away with it.
But this is definitely the right time to use more formal wording for older or more conservative guests—they may not notice that you were being particularly respectful, but they definitely will if they feel that you were too informal!