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Luckily though, there is a simple strategy for this seemingly complex task: Divide and Conquer. The key to addressing wedding invitations is to break each contact's information into manageable tasks, become familiar with how to handle each task, and then combine all the work you have done to complete the overridding goal.
The most effecient way to accomplish this is in these three steps:
First you determine the correct title (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.) for each individual on your guest list. Next, you must select the proper type of guest(s) each invitation will hold (single guest, married couple, etc.). Then combine both the title and type information to complete both the inner and outer envelopes for the invitation.
While this guide breaks down and explains all the specifics of addressing wedding invitations, the BridalTrack Addressing Calculator will take your guest information and generate invitation envelopes for you. To use it, simply click on the link above, fill in the contact information of a guest, click a button and you will be shown properly addressed inner and outer envelopes for that guest.
Titles for guests can be broken down into two types: Professional ("Dr.", "Rev.", etc.) and Personal ("Mr.", "Mrs." etc.). Use the below rule to determine the proper title to use on guests with multiple titles:
A professional title takes precedence over a personal title.
For example, the title "Dr." takes precedence over the title "Mr.". Additionally, if a woman has a professional title, there is no need to find out if "Mrs." or "Miss" is applicable because her proper title will be her professional one. For people with multiple professional titles, use the one that they prefer or the one by which they are more commonly known.
Listed below are the most common professional and personal titles used today. While the lists are not comprehensive, they do provide you with the titles that you will most likely encounter when addressing your invitations.
These titles reflect a person's career or achievements. Retirement from a profession does not exclude them from use of that title. If someone was once a doctor, judge or any of the other professions that allow a special title, they still receive that title.
There are no gender differences within professional titles, they are applied to a person regardless of gender or marital status. For example, a married female judge would use the title for a judge, not of a married woman.
In alphabetical order, here is a listing of common professional titles:
Only for a medical doctors.
Used for non-medical doctors. For example, veterinarians, dentists and people who have earned a Ph.D.
For judges, ambassadors and people who have a career as an elected official.
Used for clergy. If a member of a specific denomination uses a title specific to his position, then it is proper to use that title instead of "The Reverend".
While not listed individually, unabbreviated military titles are to be used when addressing wedding invitations to those in the military. These titles include "Private", "Private First Class", "Sergeant", "Colonel" and all others. The same goes for people with specific religious titles like "Bishop", "Rabbi", "Cardinal" and all others.
If a person does not have a professional title, use the personal title that best matches each individual guest. In alphabetical order, the personal titles are:
Used for an unmarried female who does not use a married name. If a widowed or divorced woman still uses her husband's name, her title would be "Mrs.".
For for a male guest.
Used for a female who uses her married name, or is married. "Mrs." is the correct title for a widowed or divorced woman who still uses her husband's name. It is also correct for a married woman who does not share her husband's last name.
Never used. The correct title to use is "Miss", the abbreviated form is not used formally.
Again, a professional title takes precedence over a personal title. There will always be confusion about some guests and the best way to resolve it is to find out directly from them or someone who knows them. Don't be shy, it is better to ask and do it correctly than remain silent and improperly complete their invitation.
Every single invitation you will send out will fall into one of the following three types:
Type 1: Single Addressee
The easiest case. You are inviting just one person with this invitation.
Type 2: Couple With Same Last Name
Very simple also. You are inviting a married couple.
Type 3: Couple With Different Last Name
Maybe they are married, maybe not. These are the confusing invitations to address.
One key to the entire process is understanding that each step is virtually independent of the others. The titles you assign people do not have any effect on the type of contact. Titles are essentially part of guest's names and the types are rules for how all their information should appear on their invitations.
Likewise, the actual address has no bearing on the rules of each type. Therefore, all the below examples will use personal titles and the address "123 Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103"
This type consists of just one person's information. When you have only one name to send an invitation to, this is the proper format to use for each envelope of the invitation:
For a single guest, the outer envelope displays their title, first name and last name all on the same line. Below that is their mailing information. The inner envelope of a single guest does not include their first name or mailing information. It just shows their title and last name.
The only place that " and Guest" is written is on the inner envelope. Furthermore, the ability for the people you are inviting to bring a guest is at your discretion. You do not have to allow guests.
This guest type is a married couple who share the exact same last name. If the wife hyphenates her name or uses a different last name, then Type 3 would apply to their invitation.
When you are mailing to a married couple who share the same last name, this is the proper format to use:
The outer envelope displays the husband's title, the word "and", the wife's title, the husband's first name and then the husband's last name. Remember, these examples use only personal titles. If the wife was a doctor, judge, or in the military, she would receive her proper professional title instead of "Mrs.". The same is true for the husband, he would receive his proper professional title.
There is one exception to this case. If the husband and wife share the same professional title (both are doctors, both are judges, etc.), then their envelopes would be addressed as such:
When a married couple with the same last name share a professional title, the outer envelope displays a pluralized title, both of their first names and their last name. The inner envelope, displays a pluralized title followed by their last name.
This type includes couples who have different last names, regardless of their relationship. The overriding rule for this case is that each individual's name will appear on its own line. This is true for both the inner and the outer envelope. Determining who gets top billing is they key to addressing these envelopes correctly.
If the couple is married, then the wife will appear on the first line and her husband on the second, as such:
If the couple is not married, then you list them alphabetically by their last names. The person's gender and title has nothing to do with it.
If a couple is not married and not living at the same address then you should not include them on the same invitation. In that instance, you can mail one invitation to each person or mail just one invitation to the person with whom you are closest and allow a guest. As far as etiquette is concerned, both ways are proper and your relationship with that couple should dictate which method is chosen.
Also, if a child of a guest is over 16 years old and you would like to extend an invitation to them, send them their own invitation. The child would become an entirely different guest and you would address their invitation appropriately without regard for their parents' invitation.
To extend an invitation to minor children address the inner invitation envelop like this:
The childrens' names will appear on one line and just below the other names on the inner envelope. The outer envelope will remain the same as if children were not included.
The key to successfully and properly addressing wedding invitations is to divide and conquer. First, go through your list and decide which title is the correct one to use for each individual you will be inviting. This requires not only familiarity with your guests, but with the rules for assigning titles to guests.
Once that is done, decide which type of guest each invitation will contain. Determine if they are a single address, a married couple with the same last name, or a couple with differing last names. Using that information, you can apply those rules to their titles, names and addresses to succesfully address their inner and outer invitation envelopes.
Going methodically and in order will ensure that you correctly assign titles and types to the people you want to invite. It will definetly simplify the process into manageable parts and ensure it is done properly.