Your big day is approaching quickly and the invitations need to be sent. Not sure how to properly address them? Here are the dos and don’ts for writing the address lines.

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Guests’ names:

As a rule of thumb, the outer envelope should be more formal, with titles and full names. The inner envelope is more informal, typically only title abbreviations and last names. Inner envelope should also list the names of all invitees at the address, including children. Here are the guidelines:

Outer envelope:

  • Name(s) of the guest(s) should be written in the middle of the envelope. Keep in mind their titles and marital status.
  • Titles such as Reverend, Doctor, Captain, etc. should not be abbreviated.
  • Mister and Misses should be abbreviated to Mr. and Mrs.
  • Junior and senior can be abbreviated or spelled out. If abbreviated: Jr. or Sr. (capitalized). If spelled out: junior or senior (not capitalized).
  • Use full names only, do not use initials or nicknames.
  • Suffixes are all properly proceeded by a comma, including Roman numerals.
  • Write out the word “and”, do not use symbols.
  • Do not add “and family”. Children’s names will be listed on the inner envelope.

Inner envelope:

  • Exclude the first names of the recipients, write only their titles and last names.
  • When you are sending invitations to friends and people with whom you are on a first name basis you can write only their first names on the inner envelope.
  • Write the first names of children to be invited below the parents’ names in order of age, oldest first. If you don’t include each child’s name, you’re implying that children are not invited. Omit children’s names if they are not on the guest list.
  • If an invitation to a single guest extends to an unknown escort, address the inner envelope with your friend’s name followed by “and guest”.
  • It’s fine to write familiar names for close family. For example: Aunt Hannah and Uncle John.

Addressing a married couple with the same last name:

Invitations are always addressed to both members of a married couple, even though the bride and groom may know only one of them. Both names should be written in one line.

OUTER ENVELOPE: Mr. John and Mrs. Hannah Patterson or Mr. and Mrs. John Patterson

INNER ENVELOPE: Mr. and Mrs. Patterson or John and Hannah

Addressing a married couple with different last names:

Write the name of the person you are closer to first. If you are equally close with both of them, list them in alphabetical order. Both names should be written in one line.

OUTER ENVELOPE: Mr. John Patterson and Mrs. Hannah Smith

INNER ENVELOPE: Mr. Patterson and Mrs. Smith or John and Hannah

Addressing an unmarried couple living together:

As with a married couples, both names should be included on the outer envelope, but each name gets its own line. List them in alphabetical order. Names can also be separated by a coma. For example:

Mr. John Patterson
Ms. Hannah Smith
Mr. John Patterson, Ms. Hannah Smith

Mr. Patterson
Ms. Smith

Addressing a same sex couple:

Same rules as for any other unmarried or married couple. If the couple is married, list the names on the same line and use “Ms.” instead of “Mrs”. If the couple is not married, separate their names with a coma or give a new line to each name. You can list their names with ot without the titles. For example:

OUTER ENVELOPE: Ms. Maria Smith and Ms. Hannah Patterson or Maria Smith, Hannah Patterson

INNER ENVELOPE: Ms. Smith and Ms. Patterson or Maria and Hannah

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Addressing a doctor or doctors:

If you are addressing a couple where one of the people is a doctor, list his or her name first preceded by “Doctor”. Etiquette dictates that the spouse with the professional title is listed first.

OUTER ENVELOPE: Doctor Hannah Smith and Mr. John Patterson

INNER ENVELOPE: Doctor Smith and Mr. Patterson

Or, if she uses her husband’s name socially:

OUTER ENVELOPE: Doctor Hannah Patterson and Mr. John Patterson

INNER ENVELOPE: Doctor Patterson and Mr. Patterson

If both people are doctors, write Doctors in front of couples names.

OUTER ENVELOPE: Doctors Hannah and John Patterson or Doctor Hannah Smith and Doctor John Patterson or The Doctors Patterson

INNER ENVELOPE: The Doctors Patterson or Doctor Smith and Doctor Patterson

Same goes for anyone with a distinguished title, such as Reverend or Captain. If both titles don’t fit on one line, indent the second line.

OUTER ENVELOPE: The Honorable Hannah Patterson and Lieutenant John Patterson or Captains Hannah and John Patterson, U.S. Navy

INNER ENVELOPE: Judge Hannah and Lieutenant John, U.S. Navy or The Captains Patterson

Addressing a family:

Write the word “The” followed by the family’s last name. Children can be included on the inner envelope of their parents’ invitation by their name(s) – they should not be addressed on the outer envelope. For girls under 18, use “Miss.” Boys don’t need a title until they’re 18 – then they’re addressed as “Mr.”

OUTER ENVELOPE: The Smiths or The Family Smith

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Sarah Smith
James Smith
Mr. and Mrs. John Patterson
James, Peter, Miss Anna and Miss Samantha

Addressing a single individual:

Write the title, first and last name of the individual.

OUTER ENVELOPE: Ms. Hannah Smith or Mr. John Patterson

INNER ENVELOPE: Hannah or John

How to add “and Guest”:

Since it’s awkward to address the outer envelope as “Mr. John Patterson and Guest” the inner-outer envelope system works well. Address the outer envelope to “Mr. John Patterson” and the inner envelope to “Mr. John Patterson and Guest”. If you’re using only outer envelope, include a short note with your invitation: “Dear John, you’re welcome to bring a guest to the wedding. Please let me know. Best, Hannah.”

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Write the address below the names on the outer envelope. This should be the address of the family or the person you are most familiar within a couple (if the couple is not living together). Do not abbreviate or use initials in the street address, spell out all words in an address on your envelopes. Use “Street”, “Post Office Box” and “Apartment” rather than “St.”, “P.O. Box” or “Apt.”. This applies to city and state names as well. House numbers smaller than 20 should also be spelled out. Add post office box numbers if needed.

Return address:

The preferred place for writing/printing the return address is on the outer envelope’s back flap. Don’t use abbreviations, write out all words here, too. The return address is important for knowing which guests did not receive their invitations. If an invitation is returned to you unopened, it means that you probably wrote the wrong address. Call up your guest and confirm the correct address.

RSVP envelopes address:

Address the return envelopes. These are the envelopes that your guests will send their responses in. You should put your name, house number, street, town, state, and zip code.

*Be sure to check other posts on this subject: What Makes the Wedding Invitation Suite and Wedding Invitation Assembly.

*You can purchase wedding invitations featured in this post in our SHOP.