Rue 1.0

Etiquette Essentials: Addressing Envelopes

Miss Manners addresses front of the envelope etiquette with stationery designer Courtney Khail

Addressing envelopes can be a confusing set of conflicting advice. Luckily, we have Courtney Khail joining us on Rue Daily today to help sort it all out. Courtney is a watercolor artist and stationery designer living in Denver, Colorado. You can see more of her work, read her blog, or purchase her artwork here.

For formal occasions, such as wedding invitations, it is common to write out full names, abbreviating titles only when necessary for space requirements. When writing to a couple, there are several ways to determine who should be listed first. When the couple is married and shares a last name, the woman is typically listed first. A person with a formal title such as doctor or honorable judge is given listing priority. If both share the title, it may be written once in the plural form. For same sex partners, unmarried couples, or married couples with different last names you may either list the person closest to you first or list in alphabetical order. If you are including young children, their first name can be listed on the second line. Remember with wedding invitations that you may also have an inner envelope and, being more informal, can employ use of knicknames there.

Courtney suggests saving the formal etiquette for the most fancy of affairs, and on less formal occasions let your own judgment make decisions. More often you will not be sending such a formal letter, you are merely sending an invite to a housewarming party or a thank you for a holiday gift. In this case, the formal rules can apply if you’d like, but consider breaking a bit from formality. For example, if you never call your friend Liz “Elizabeth,” do you need to on her birthday card? Whatever you decide, don’t forget to have fun with a cute font (we’re currently loving Bombshell Pro) or pretty calligraphy, like Courtney’s seen here.

*Read more Etiquette Essentials stories over here!

  • Duchess & Bird

    I was under the impression that for married couples you write “Mr and Mrs. [mans name] then last name. If it is a formal invite why would you use her first name? But it is never too late to learn something new and refresh those manners!

    • Katherine McEachern

      Very correct! Sorry for the confusion. That envelope was meant as an informal letter, which is also why the state was abbreviated. Typically for a very formal invite, you would use Mr and Mrs. [mans name] but for less formal occasions we like to include the woman’s name of the envelope as well. (Though you would not be wrong to keep the formal style for less formal events.)

      • Joanna Kenney

        It is confusing! And there is a reason to justify both ways. I’ve worked for a custom invitation studio and we would always list the woman and then the man so as not to separate his first name from his surname. When only using the titles Mr. and Mrs. then the male is mentioned first.