How to Address Wedding Invitations
If you are about to send our your save the dates or wedding invitations you might be wondering how to address them. There can be a lot of variables. For instance, what if they are married but the wife kept her maiden name? Or what if the couple lives together and aren't married? Perhaps you are inviting children to your wedding. These are all situations you might come across. Even if you are choosing not to have a formal wedding per se it is a good idea to go the formal route with your invitations. You will be inviting guests from all generations to your special day and going traditional may be the way you want to go. Note: This is the "traditional" form of addressing invitations. These traditional views may or may not fit for you or your wedding. In the end you need to decide what is best for you and your guests and keep in mind the differences between the older and younger generations.
First I want to talk about the basics. When addressing your invitations you want to make sure you spell out the word and and legal names are always used. You don't want to use abbreviations. Always spell out words such as lane, avenue, boulevard, etc. If you are unsure if a person lives in an apartment or townhouse it is best to use the word "number". All state names should be written out as well.
All professional titles such as Doctor, Colonel, Lieutenant, etc. should be fully written out. If the couple is married and the man is a doctor, you would put that in the title. However, if the couple is married and the wife is a doctor you would put Mr. and Mrs. on the invitation. (Note: This is more common with older generations. Keep in mind your guests and whether you should include professional titles for women too)
COUPLES LIVING TOGETHER
If the couple is married with different last names or unmarried and living together, the woman is listed first. However, if the couple is not living together but is in a serious relationship you would list whoever is closest to you first. You never want to put "and guest" on the outer envelope. You can include "and guest" on the inside envelope or RSVP card if you would like. For same-sex couples you would again put whoever is closest to you. For both situations if you are close to both then you would list them alphabetically by last name.
THIRD OR HIGHER GENERATION
If guests are a third generation or higher it is proper to use roman numerals after their name. If guests are only a second generation, you would write out the word "junior" in all lowercase letters.
For widows you always address the invitation as "Mrs. Timothy Smith" for the wife will still carry her late husband's name. However, if you have women in your family that would not want to fall under a man's name after he has passed it is safe to put "Ms. Sarah Smith." Keep in mind this is less appropriate and should only be used in specific situations to not offend more traditional generations.
It is not proper to write "and family" on a formal invitation. One main reason is that you want to be very clear as to who is invited to your wedding, so it is best to list everyone out. Children's names follow the parents in age order from oldest to youngest. There is also etiquette for how to address children based on age. If a woman is over the age of 21 you would address her as "Ms." and if under the age 21 as "Miss". If a male is over the age of 16 you would address him as "Mr." and as "Master" if under the age of 16.