Is it time to update the etiquette for addressing a married woman?

A few years ago, my sister addressed an envelope to my dad and step-mom as “Mr. and Mrs. John Clise”. That is the proper way to address an envelope to a married couple. However, my step-mother was not pleased with being called “Mrs. John Clise”. She stated she has her own identity separate from my dad. My sister meant no offense and was simply following envelope addressing protocol.

I understand my step-mother’s outrage. The tradition of addressing women by their husband’s name seems very old fashioned and sexist. Much has changed since Emily Post wrote her bestselling book “Etiquette” in 1922. I have been grappling with how to approach this.

When a married couple does not share the same last name the proper way to address an envelope is “Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. Brad Jones”. That seems perfectly modern and appropriate because each has their own identity. But how do you address a married couple that has the same last name? “Mrs. Jane and Mr. Brad Jones”? “Mrs. and Mr. Jane and Brad Jones”? “Jane and Brad Jones”? “The Jones”? “Mrs. Jane Jones and Mr. Brad Jones”?

And that begs another question. Do women still want to be addressed as “Mrs.” or is “Ms.” just fine, thank you very much?

I posed the question to the World Wide Web and I saw many iterations, much disagreement and some heated comments. Many women were very uncomfortable with being addressed by their husband’s first and last name. However, many women were OK with it.

Here is what I think. If the married couple is older – as in in their 70s or older – and you know for sure they are traditional, I would go ahead and address the envelope as “Mr. and Mrs. Brad Jones”. Everyone else I would address thusly: For a formal occasion, “Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. Brad Smith.” According to Robert Hickey, an expert on titles and forms of address, that is the proper and respectful way to address a married couple in a formal way.  For an informal occasion, simply, “Jane and Brad Jones”.

What do you think? Would you be offended if you received an invitation addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Brad Jones”? Married women, do you prefer being called “Mrs.” or “Ms.”? Do you agree with my suggestion or do you have others?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Leslie Evans on June 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I’ve always DESPISED being called “Mrs. Christopher Evans”. It was hard enough to change my last name (I wasn’t forced, but I struggled with the decision) now I don’t get a first name, either? However, my grandmothers all took great pride in being called “Mrs. Stanley Irish”, “Mrs. E. Arnold Evans”. Perhaps it’s how we’re raised? Great topic, Arden!

  2. Tiffany on June 29, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I love being addressed as Mrs. David Nielsen. I take no offense; in fact, I like seeing it written on an envelope. It’s cute and it doesn’t happen often so I like the surprise!

  3. Alyssa on June 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    If it is someone of my generation (I’m in my 30’s) who addresses me as Mrs. My Husband’s Name, it is a bit curious, but I don’t take it personally. If it is someone older than me, I understand that they are observing an protocol from another time and I take no offense. I will not refer to myself as Mrs. My Husband’s Name and would only find it truly rude if someone else insisted that I did. I also think it is outmoded to do the “best wishes” to the woman versus “congratulations” to the man. A lot of manners are based, unfortunately, in gender bias and inequity and I try to follow the rule of offering consideration and courtesy unilaterally.

  4. Arden Clise on June 29, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Lesie, it’s so interesting that your grandmothers loved it and you don’t. I think back in their day a woman’s identity truly was through her husband because so few women worked outside the home.

    I didn’t take my husband’s last name although funny enough, we will sometimes get mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Arden Clise (my husband’s last name is Mamroth). So they obviously think Arden is a male name and I’m the Mr. My husband loves (not) that one.

    Tiffany, I don’t think you are alone, even in your generation that you like being addressed as “Mrs. husband’s first and last name”. That’s what makes this all so interesting.

    Alyssa, I agree, the gender bias can be off putting and I like that you try to follow being considerate and courteous to all. I don’t think the gender differences were meant to not be equal, I think they were based more on where women were at the time. You didn’t say “congratulations” to a newly married woman because it could sound like “congratulations, you finally landed a man!”

    Back in the day, it was a rare woman who didn’t get married right away and in her early 20s so as not become a spinster. Women were dependent on men’s incomes before we started to have work options, so getting married early and well was paramount.

    Wow, so much food for thought. Thanks everyone.

  5. Louise on June 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Actually, I don’t like titles at all, any of them. I am “Louise”, not a Mrs., or a Ms followed by my husband’s or my name. I know that for something formal like a wedding invitation, I expect it, but I don’t like it when setting up an account & I am required to select a title. The cruise line we often go on doesn’t even have a Ms., they only have Mrs. & Miss. Grrrrr….

  6. Arden Clise on June 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Louise,

    Thanks for piping in. I think the reason they have you select a title when you’re signing up for an account or what have you is so that if they get a gender neutral name like “Chris” or “Arden” they know if you’re male or female and can address the letter “Ms. Clise”.

    That’s really annoying you weren’t given the option of a “Ms.” Come on, how long has that been an option? Forever!

  7. Robert Hickey on July 1, 2011 at 9:08 am

    The issue of how to write a couple’s name is a hot one.

    However a basic of names, titles, and form of address is to write each name as unit — rather than mixing all their names. ‘

    There is an established pattern used for writing joint forms of address when one person has a rank or official title
    The Honorable Jane Jones and Mr. Brad Jones
    or military rank
    Captain Jane Jones and Mr. Brad Jones

    So better than: Ms. and Mr. Jane and Brad Jones
    Is: Ms. Jane Jones and Mr. Brad Jones

    Each person get’s their full name a unit and it’s more respectful.

  8. Arden Clise on July 5, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Hello Robert,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are right, writing each name as a unit follows the protocol of situations where one person has a title or rank. It’s a little more cumbersome to say Ms. Jane Jones and Mr. Brad Jones, it makes sense to keep each name and title as a unit.

    I appreciate you taking time to comment.

  9. Anna Beth on July 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm


    I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog during my internet search for the “proper” way to word my and my husband to-be’s names. I’ve decided to take his last name, but I am not ok with being Mrs. Man’s Name. I wouldn’t throw a rude fit if someone sent us a formal invitation with his name only, but whenever I am in control of the situation, I expect my first name to be stated. Thanks to your wording suggestions, when we are introduced as a married couple in 19 days at our wedding reception, the DJ will announce “Mr. and Mrs. His Name and Anna Beth Last Name.”

    I look forward to reading your blog for future etiquette advise!

  10. Arden Clise on July 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Hello Anna,

    I’m so glad you found me and took them time to comment.

    Congratulations on your engaagement and impending marriage. I hope you have a lovely wedding. I’m glad my advice was useful to you for the announcement.

    All the best to you.

  11. TT on July 26, 2011 at 10:37 am

    When you become married, you become the property of your husband. If you dont like it, dont get married. Its that simple.

  12. HeyRed on March 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe someone actually posted that when you become married, you become your husbands property. Maybe 100 years ago, but definitely not now. I will definitely not be my future-husbands property. That is for sure. We have a partnership and I pity that individual if they do not.

    Whew, sorry, I had to get that off my chest. I originally wanted to post my thanks because I was having a really hard time trying to figure out how to address my save-the-dates and wedding invites. I feel as though it is really sexist to be addressed and to address someone by their husband’s name. Not enough so to throw an embarrasing fit about it, but still be seriously annoyed. So, I was really uncomfortable about the possibility of maybe having to cave and do it. I am really digging the Ms. and Mr. Jane and Brad Jones. Even if I have to traditionalize it a bit and go Mr. and Mrs. Brad and Jane Jones, I would still be cool with it.

    Again, thanks a bunch. I was seriously agonizing over this.

  13. ArdenClise on March 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    @HeyRed, I agree with you about the previous comment. That’s a very outdated and sexist belief. A marriage should be an equal partnership. No one owns the other.
    I’m glad my post was helpful as you get ready to announce your wedding. Congratulations! Good luck with the addressing. I hope you have a wonderful wedding.

  14. Emily on May 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

    if i didn’t want to be addressed by my husband’s name, then i probably shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. Just because an envelope is addressed that way doesn’t mean you are anyone’s property but your own. It just means you are a FAMILY!

  15. Danielle on May 17, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I am curious to see what you would say about sending someone a birthday card/gift card and addressing it as Mrs (husbands first name) last name. For the past 2 years, my MIL has addressed my Birthday card as Mrs. (her son’s first name) and our last name. I have been completely offended. My husband says that is etiquette, but I think it is a dig. I do not mind at all if a letter is addressed to both he and I if it is his name, but I think on my birthday, my parents gave me a beautiful first name and I already took her last name, that my name should be on the card.

  16. ArdenClise on May 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Danielle,
    I think this is probably a case of your MIL being old fashioned. It is proper to address a married woman as “Mrs. Husband’s first name and last name”. If she were to write “Mrs. your first name, husband’s last name” it would mean you’re divorced. So she is following proper etiquette.
    However, she could address the card as “Ms. your first name and husband’s last name” and that would be OK. Or she could be less formal and simply address it as your first name and last name.
    If it bothers you, I would suggest saying something nicely to her. Tell her how much you appreciate the cards she sends you and let her know you are OK with her being more informal by addresssing the envelope with just your first name and last name.
    Good luck.

  17. ArdenClise on May 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Emily,
    All etiquette changes and evolves. 60 years ago women usually didn’t work outside the home so her identity was tied to her husband’s identity. Many women appreciated that. However, now that so many women work outside of the home and have their own identities it is time we update this old fashioned tradition of addressing women by their husband’s given and family name.  
    For women who like being addressed as “Mrs. husband’s first and last name”, they should be allowed to be addressed that way. For women who don’t want to be addressed that way we should honor that.
    Thanks for commenting.

  18. Anita on May 30, 2012 at 11:51 am

    As a married woman (about to turn 57) who did not take her husband’s name upon marrying 21 years ago, I much prefer that I am addressed by my first and last name and with the honorific “Ms.” I like my name very much, thank you! My husband is perfectly content with my choice, as he is completely secure in my love and commitment to him. I’ll say that the only problems I’ve had are with members of my husband’s family who are very conservative and (fundamental) religious. They refuse to address me as I wish, which I view as extremely rude.

  19. Anita on May 30, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Say what?
    My husband is my peer and partner, not my owner.

  20. Anita on May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Well, we did have one other, pretty serious problem with our having different last names. When our first child was born and we filled out the paperwork naming him and providing parental information for both parents. When we received our son’s birth certificate from our county’s vital records department, only the mother’s information appeared. We called to ask why and we told it was because we were not married. WHAT?! It turns out that the hospital staff took it upon themselves to assume that my husband and I were in fact not married so therefore omitted all of the father’s information.Getting the birth certifcate corrected took some effort. But worse, the vital records department had passed on the original information —  sans-father — to the Social Security Administration. If something were to happen to my husband, my child would not be considered his survivor. THAT really burned us up and THAT took even more time to correct. When our second child was born (at a different hospital), we were very proactive about making sure that the hospital got the vital information correct. That hospital’s staff was professional and polite in all their dealings with us.

  21. ArdenClise on May 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I was pretty attached to my last name too Anita. My husband, like yours, was fine with me keeping my name. We are both equals in the relationship and not having his last name does not make me any less committed to the marriage.
    Sorry to hear your in-laws have a hard time honoring your wish. Try to let it go and know it’s based on their beliefs, probably not something they are doing to purposely hurt you.
    Thanks for commenting.

  22. Jolee on August 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Thank you for this article. I have been wondering about this. I’m in my mid-30’s and kept my own last name. I remember graduating from high school and addressing announcements. My aunt insisted on using the “Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s First and Last Name” style, and even back then I thought it seemed incredibly outdated. I totally understand when people mistake me as Mrs. Perkin (my husband’s last name) because most women still do change their names and people who don’t know me don’t know better. However, I think that by now, after 5 years of marriage, our family members should know my last name! My MIL was writing me a check recently, and asked me what last name I use. A few months ago my husband’s cousin sent us a graduation announcement adressed the old fashioned way, and I was pretty offended. My identity is important to me, and I’m proud of my family history. I got that the cousin was trying to do it “properly”, and didn’t mean offense, but since then I’ve been wondering if etiquette has changed. My other question is this: if people I know continue to mistake my name, what is a polite and gracious way of informing them of my true name? And by the way, I prefer “Ms.”, never “Mrs.”. I find it interesting that society is concerned enough with a woman’s marital status to create a different title, but that men have the same title no matter their marital status.

  23. ArdenClise on August 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm

     Thank you for writing. It’s a shame your relatives don’t seem willing to recognize your given name. I do think it’s probably them either not knowing what else to do or forgetting what your last name is.
    I would suggest you make a nice request of your relatives. Next time you receive an invitation or letter addressed as “Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s First and Last name” call or email the person to respond to the invitation. Thank them for thinking of you. Then say something like, “When Brad and I got married I decided to keep my last name. Brad was fine with that. Please feel free to address mail to the two of us as Ms. Jolee (Your last name) and Mr. Husband’s First and Last name.”
    If they don’t change their ways, let it go. While it seems they are being disrespectful, life’s too short to worry about it.
    Good luck.

  24. Cathy on November 22, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    I am a strong advocate for changing the way married women are addressed — or more correctly, not addressed. When I got married, I did not change my name. I got married later in life and as an attorney, known by my maiden name professionally. But after several years I decided to change my name mainly to avoid confusion and just frankly make things easier with kids. As soon as I took my husband’s name I found that my identity virtually disappeared and I was relegated to merely a Mrs. I am a supporter of many nonprofits but am always listed as “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” even though my husband has had nothing to do with the donation I might have provided. As a family I’m happy to have him listed with me, but am so offended that in this day and age I still have to contact the charity and ask them to list my name with his. Have we really come that far if Emily Post and Miss Manners still insist on dropping the woman’s first name unless she is a doctor? Isn’t this the classic women keeping women down? As women continue to struggle to make salaries that are equal to men’s, it’s little things like this that subtly contribute to women being something less than men. And frankly, who makes the decisions about how married couples are addressed? I’d venture to say it’s 90% women! In other words, it’s wholly within the female collective power to change it. Honestly, how many men are even going to consciously notice the change. But it’s time to change — it’s just plain bad manners not to.

  25. ArdenClise on November 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Hi Cathy,
    I feel your pain. It does seem rather backwards that married women are still being addressed by their husband’s name. I’m all for changing it.
    Change starts by letting people know your preference, as you are doing with the non-profits you donate to. I think it’s also something we etiquette consultants need to discuss and start promoting a change.
    Thank you for commenting.

  26. Sara on December 21, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I was actually hurt when I receieved a greeting card congratulating us (the whole family) on the birth of our second son, last March and it was addressed (both on envelope and card) to Mr and Mrs (my husband’s first name) and surname. This was from some of our Nigerian in-laws who know well both my name and my husbands and really should feel no need to be so formal!   I understand that this is common practice in Nigeria, since they’re generally more old-fashioned – but boy did my hormones ( a week after birth) get a chance to rev up properly! It’s not the first time these people have addressed me in this manner – as if I didn’t exist – and especially when YOU as a woman HAVE GIVEN BIRTH and you get a greeting more addressed to YOUR HUSBAND than yourself,  then you have reason to be…slightly livid. I generally though just detest being called anything but my own name, which is a double-name, both my maiden and my married, and no title please – but if you just need to put one, please do call me Ms. I’m not one of my husband’s possessions – which is originally how Mrs. came about ”Mr’s”…. This should be obvious, shouldn’t it?????

  27. ArdenClise on December 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Sara,
    In your case, I do think your in-laws were trying to follow proper etiquette, but unfortunately it came across as rude to you. This is a heated topic and I think eventually the practice of addressing women as Mrs. Husband’s first and last name will disappear just like corsettes did. But, it will take time.
    Thanks for the history lesson on the birth of the term Mrs. it makes it even less desirable knowing that.

  28. rocknthepumas on January 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    I was just married. I did not take my husband’s last name. It was a personal choice. I am attached to my name, and it is who I identify myself as. It doesn’t have anything to do with taking a feminist stand, not being committed to my husband, or being an offense to his family. My husband would love it if I would take his name, but (tries to) understand(s) my feelings. Both of us have already had to defend my choice. I have a feeling that this will be a lifelong, exhausting battle. People assume I have taken his name, which I suppose is understandable, as it is more common. Already mail is pouring in addressed to me by his name. 
    Now it is time to finally start sending out thank you cards. I am ordering them now, and would like to put both our first and last names on the card. I have asked for others’ opinions, and received several negative comments. Mostly insinuating I am being rude or offensive. I just want to keep my identity, and let people know I didn’t change my name. Is this a rude way to do it? 
    Thanks for for any advice. 

  29. ArdenClise on January 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

     Hi Brooke. I feel your pain. I too kept my maiden name and after 19 years of marriage we still get mail addressed to us by my husband’s last name.
    I. It’s OK to politely correct people when they use the wrong name.
    2. Yes, it’s fine to have stationary printed with your first and last names for more formal correspondance. For more informal correspondance you would just have you and your husband’s first names printed on the stationary.
    The order on the stationary should be “Brooke Smith and John Carter” (I made up the names, obviously, but your name comes first.)
    Congratulations on your marriage and good luck with all of this.

  30. Amanda on January 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I am stil lin my 20’s and while i agree that we are not our husband’s property. I love the idea of being called Mrs. his first and last name. I don’t lose my identity by something written on a piece of paper. I make my own identity, and part of my identity to be his wife. Just as he is my husband and has mentioned that he wouldn’t be offended if someone referred to him as Mr. my first and last name. I understand when a woman wants to keep her maiden name, especially if she marries after her career is established, and in a professional sense would prefer to be referred to as her maiden name.. but it’s just not for me.

  31. cloistergirl on January 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    SOOOOO offended to be Mrs. Husband’s Name… especially when my in laws are SO concerned with the appropriate title for my husband’s Naval rank, yet I don’t even get named.

  32. ArdenClise on January 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    It sounds like your in-laws are following proper protocol. They probably don’t know it’s offensive to you. I’d suggest you nicely encourage them to address you as Ms. your first name and husband’s last name. Tell them why it matters to you.
    I know it’s hard to not have an identity when you’re addressed by your husband’s first and last name. Many older people don’t know it can be offensive.

  33. ArdenClise on January 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    You’re not alone Amanda. I’ve heard from a few women who don’t mind being addressed by their husband’s name. I do think though, it makes it harder to have so many variations. If we simply had one standard for women it would make it so much easier when addressing us.
    Thanks for commenting.

  34. b bells on February 21, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I am honored to be called by my husbands name on a formal invition or any kind of written correspondence, probably because I think he is a better person than I and the association of being his wife would automatically make me look better, right? However, I get really peeved when he introduces me by saying “this is MY wife….” I realize he doesn’t mean it as ownership, I just dont like the sound of it.

  35. ArdenClise on February 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    You sound like a lovely person. Your husband is lucky to be married to you. As far as how your husband introduces you it is really a personal preference. I like when my husband introduces me as his wife, Arden Clise. If he were to just say “this is my wife” I too would be offended.

  36. Bert on May 5, 2013 at 9:47 am

    After using this article several times over the past couple years to inform people how offensive it is to some of us when we are addressed as “Mrs. husband’s name,”  I must add my comment. I disagree strongly with this statement which appears in the article: ” If the married couple is older – as in their 60s or older – and you know they are traditional, I would go ahead and address the envelope as ‘Mr. and Mrs. Brad Jones’ “.  In fact, among the women I know (some of whom may appear to be “traditional”) just the opposite is true.  Many of us in our 60’s and 70’s, because we were so involved in the struggle for women’s rights and gender-neutral language, feel more strongly about such things than do younger women. I find that younger women, who weren’t around for that fight, often don’t understand why it matters so much to us. I have found the following to be a very useful resource on the subject of addressing women and couples:

  37. ArdenClise on May 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Hello Bert,
    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your perspective and understand your outrage. I am in favor of getting rid or Mrs Husband’s first and last name completely. It’s outdated and sexist. Where I goofed was to make an age specific comment. Because, you’re right, age has nothing to do with it. I know both young and older women who prefer being addressed by their husband’s name and vice-versa. 
    The Emily Post article is very helpful. However, she too has the Mrs John Kelly option listed. I think the bottom line is to try to find out what people prefer. If I know someone wants to be addressed as Mr and Mrs Husband’s name then that is how I will do it.

  38. Teresa on August 6, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Please forgive me for being very blunt, however, I am a thirty-something, and I consider NOT addressing me as Mrs. Doe or Mrs. John Doe as being very rude. Banks, cashiers and the like address me often by my first name, and I feel upset, but since it is not lady-like to make a fuss, I rarely say anything.
    When it comes to filling out forms and the like, often I am unable to address this. Many forms do not even ask if I am Miss or Mrs. anymore. When I have the chance, I leave the signature of Mrs. John Doe on all non-familiar correspondence.
    If you will forgive me stating, I do not find that the 2nd Wave Women’s movement has done my country any favors. Certainly, I feel feminists have ruined things for women like myself. Overall, I think society is weaker, and especially ruder, as a result of feminist take-over. Sometimes, I think perhaps I have been born in the wrong era.
    Perhaps I would not feel so strongly if traditional ideas were presented “equally,” as it were, along with more liberal ones. But that is not the case. Even growing up in a rather strong conservative background, it was both directly and indirectly implied that I was a failure in life if I did not pursue a career and “make something of myself.” My husband was “cultured” to think the same way. It took time for both of us to understand that we both prefer me giving full attention to bringing happiness to our home and our “next generation.”
    I do not begrudge women who want to have a career, but I do feel it isn’t right that a select few get to change the rules for everyone else. While maybe not as many want to stay home as I do, clearly many women do not have an issue with the traditional addresses of marriage.

  39. Lu on August 7, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Got a letter this morning addressed to Mr & Mrs John Doe. As a Ms whohas kept her surname upon marriage I am offended by being addressed this way. Particularly as I lose my entire identity and name when addressed in this manner.
    A second item to note is when you have specifically told them that you have not changed your name, yet they insist on referring to me as Mrs

  40. ArdenClise on August 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

    @Teresa Thank you for your comment and your perspective. From the comments on this post, it is clear that we are a very diverse world with very diverse values and beliefs. One woman thought I was being rude by giving a suggestion that if a couple is older and more traditional then it’s probably best to address them as Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. Other commenters are incensed by being addressed that way and want to be addressed as Ms. and their first and last name.
    As woman have moved into the workplace, often out of the necessity of a two income family, it has caused a shift in how we are addressed. I don’t think it’s just feminists that have caused the shift. I also very much disagree that feminism has made people rude. People are rude on their own accord, feminism has nothing to do with it. In fact, I would argue that feminism has helped make it so that women are treated more equally and with more respect, which is really what feminism is all about.
    I also don’t think a select few are changing the rules. The work force is now made up of 50% women. Would it make sense to address a woman in the workplace as Mrs. John Smith? No, that would be silly. Professional women need to have our own identities. We can still choose to be addressed as Mrs. but we do need a name, not our husband’s name, at least in the business world.
    The bottom line, as I’ve stated before, is we need to be respectful of people’s preferences. If I know someone wants be addressed traditionally then even if I disagree with it, I must honor it. And if a woman has kept her surname, it is important to address her with it rather than assign her husband’s last name to her. When we honor and respect people’s preferences and values we are being polite.

  41. ArdenClise on August 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    @Lu I understand your anger. As I stated to the commenter Teresa below, who prefers being addressed as Mrs. John Doe, we are a diverse world and we must be respectful of people’s preferences. You might politely and kindly remind others that you have kept your surname and prefer to be addressed by it. Sometimes it takes people a while to make changes. Be forgiving.

  42. Kris on August 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

    I really try hard not to have something like an address on an envelope offend me.  And, if people address me by my given name preceeded by Ms. or Mrs., I’m fine with that either way.  I don’t believe their intent is to offend me.  As long as they are polite and respectful when addressing me, I’m happy. 
    For older couples when I address an envelope I will use Mr. and  Mrs. John Doe.  For those younger I will use Mrs. Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe or less formally, Jane and John Doe, or their own last names if different.
    However, if I get mail addressed Mr. Kris Hanson, I will toss it without reading because I think it is rather obvious I am a woman if you know me!

  43. Lark on August 7, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Honestly, I really don’t care.  I am who I am no matter how someone addresses an envelope to me.  I’m a Miss but I get Ms. all the time which says “divorced” to me.  I am not divorced; I’ve never been married.  Whatever.  People who know me know who I am and I’m not going to fuss about those who don’t.

  44. ArdenClise on August 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Kris and Lark, I think that’s a good attitude. You’re right, I don’t think people mean to offend. I think it’s either they don’t know, or aren’t sure what name to use. My husband and I have different last names and my in-laws would address mail to Eric and Arden Mamroth, I think because they didn’t know my last name, not out of spite or tradition.
    Sometimes it’s best to assume people mean well.

  45. Guestoftheguest on August 6, 2014 at 6:50 am

    @Lu If your given name is representative of your entire identity – I think you have other concerns than how someone may address an envelope which will most likely end up in the recycling bin.

  46. John on December 21, 2014 at 11:46 am

    You women need to stop bitching about taking the backseat when it comes to names. At least you were invited along for the ride when a man asked you to marry him. You should show a little respect and stop being like a fem nazi. That is all.

  47. Tina on December 25, 2014 at 11:30 am

    @John There are several assumptions underlying your comment, including a)that the man did the asking and b) that keeping your own name is somehow intended as disrespectful to your husband. I asked my husband to marry me. Maybe I should have insisted he take my last name? I also kept my own name, out of respect for my own personal and professional identity, and not out of any disrespect to him. When I discussed it with him, he rolled his eyes and said “I call you by your first name anyway, why should I care what your last name is?”

  48. Solar on January 8, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I am generally offended by any of those archaic and discriminatory discourtesy titles.

  49. Solar on January 8, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    I should add that I am male, in my 30s, and I really dislike being called Mr.
    If you have my name, use it, don’t add a prefix. I will also never use any such title for any communication I put out.

  50. ArdenClise on February 4, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    @Kris Good perspective Kris. I do think for the most part people are not trying to be offensive when they address someone with a title and the husband’s first and last names. I think they are just trying to be proper.

    As for tossing mail addressed to Mr. Kris Hanson, I do the same when I get Mr. Arden Clise. Even funnier is when my husband, whose last name is Mamroth, get’s mail addressed Mr. Eric Clise.

  51. ArdenClise on February 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    @Solar Thanks for commenting. It is indeed a changing world and it seems some of these old traditions need to be updated. I think they will be, but it takes time. 

    As I’ve said to others, assume people mean well if they call you Mr. The United States is very casual compared to the rest of the world. It would be very insulting to call someone you just met or who you don’t know well by their first name. 

    When in Rome do as the Romans do.

  52. Laura on March 9, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    @Kris The problem with considering “older couples” over 60 as likely to appreciate the more formal Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith is that over 60 now means baby boomers like myself who don’t want to be addressed in such a way. I did change my name but I want to be acknowledged as a separate person from my husband, though I would not take offence if I did receive such an invitation. So maybe older couples for the sake of this argument should now be those over 70 or even 75.
    I now face this quandary as we decide how to address invitations to my son’s wedding. This married couple with the last name category is the tricky one. I’d suggest: Mrs. (Ms.) Marjorie Smith and Mr. Fred Smith as least awkward.

  53. Manorisims on April 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    I honestly HATE being called by such an archaic name as Mrs. John Doe.  Especially if I’m donating to a non-profit and I was the one that wrote the check.  Just because my husband’s name was also on the check and he is a male doesn’t mean I should just loose my first name.

  54. Gramps Mickey on May 14, 2015 at 6:00 am

    I’m 76 and do not consider myself “old.” A woman has a first name. All forms of address should acknowledge that identity. There is no such person as “Mrs. John Jones.” This appellation does not appear on any birth certificate or drivers license. Use her name in forms of address

  55. Arden Clise on May 14, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Hello Gramps Mickey,

    I agree with you. It’s an old tradition based on women’s identities and financial security being tied to their husband. Today, women make up over 55% of the workforce, we deserve our own identity with our own names.

  56. Hanna on May 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Hi – I came across your blog post researching etiquette for wedding invitations. For my female married friends, I’d like to acknowledge them first, then their husband by using:
    Mrs. and Mr. Jane and John Doe.
    Are there any major issues with using Mrs. and Mr.? Everything I’ve found says only use the female first if she outranks him socially as a Doctor – this is problematic for me as a feminist that the male outranks his wife by default. Thoughts?

  57. Arden on May 18, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Hello Hanna,

    Traditionally the man is first. However, I would list who you know best first. Ie: Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. John Smith. We usually use Ms. for women married or unmarried, but if you know your friend prefers being Mrs. then use that title.

    I hope that helps. Have a wonderful wedding.

  58. Tali on August 25, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Hi Arden. I stumbled across this post and found it very curious that most women no longer take pride in their married name. I’m 28, recently married and find it a joy and sign of honor to be referred to by my husband’s name. I know my role as a woman and wife is just as important and valued as his role. I think there’s simply been many shifts in our society’s view on marriage. Besides, how frequently do we even get the honor of being referred to by our husband’s name?

  59. Arden on August 26, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Hi Tali,

    Thanks for commenting. It’s all a matter of perspective and what you value. Many women don’t want to be referred to by their husband’s first and last name. They want an identity separate from their husband. But, like you, there are many women who really enjoy being addressed by their husband’s name. They consider it an honor. Vive la difference! The most important point is to respect how people choose to be addressed, even if you don’t agree with it.

  60. Alexa on September 10, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    My family received a wedding invitation addressed to “The Alex Hyatt Family.” NOT EVEN ALEX HYATT AND FAMILY! or Mr. And Mrs Alex Hyatt. I was pissed.

  61. mj on September 13, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I think it’s one that is still relevant. In my social circle, most couples have maintained their birth names, though there have been a few who both hyphenated. Also my married female friends all use Ms. (or Dr., if applicable), and some don’t really mind when someone uses Mrs. without knowing their preference, but there are several who are very upset by that.

    I’m interested to know your view on proper address for couples in which the husband takes the wife’s last name, and the wife maintains the same name from birth. Since they share a last name, are both Mrs. and Ms. appropriate options for addressing the wife? Or just Ms. since the last name originated with her? Is referring to the husband as Mr. Wife’sfirstname Wife’slastname appropriate formal address?

  62. Arden Clise on September 14, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Alexa, I can understand your anger at how the wedding invitation was addressed. Someone apparently doesn’t know proper forms of address. Sorry to hear that.

    MJ, isn’t it wonderful the world is changing and men are taking their wives last names? Your question is a good one. First off, Ms. would be appropriate whether the husband took the wife’s last name or the wife took her husband’s name. Ms. is the correct term for women today. Mrs. is an abbreviation for Missus, which simply signifies a woman is married. That was a proper way to address women at one time so that men knew if women were married or not. Today, because a majority of women work and aren’t (as) dependent on men for their financial well being, it isn’t important to designate a woman’s marital status, especially in the business world.

    The proper way to address a modern couple, whether the woman took the man’s last name or the man took the woman’s last name, is, Mr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Smith.

    Thanks for commenting.

  63. Jojo E on November 29, 2015 at 1:21 am

    Hey there, Arden. Thanks for the post it was really helpful. I was assigned to make an observation about the usage of the female personal address and compared it among the English speaking people and non English speaking people. Btw, nice comments though!

  64. Arden on November 30, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Hello Jojo,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Is there a difference between English speaking people and non-English speaking folks when it comes to how women are addressed?

  65. Jules on December 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Hello Arden:
    I saw your question about how woman are addressed in other countries, and as I have lived in quite a few, thought I would answer that for you. Spanish, French, Italian, and German speaking countries (just to name a few) address women not by married status, but by age. So, if you are considered not yet a woman (teenager or perhaps young twenties), you are called the equivalent of “Miss”. The moment you look like an adult, you are called “Ms/Mrs.”. Of course, there is not that relatively new usage issue that exists in English of “Ms v Mrs.”. Either you are a child (“Miss”) or an adult (“Ms/Mrs.”); your married status does not matter.
    By the way, we should not forget the origins of English, where both the terms “Ms” and “Mrs” are actually “Mistress”, and that term also has no significance if the woman is married or single. Mistress, just like Master, meant that the woman was of higher social standing. Unfortunately, in pretty recent years (the last 100ish), “Mrs.” suddenly got twisted into signifying being married. Are we getting more old-fashioned in the 20th & 21st centuries? (that said as a pejorative!)

    One thing I do not understand is how many people still think it is “polite” or ok to address a woman by her husband´s first name on an envelope! (The “Mrs John Smith” question). It always appears that the person addressing the envelope in such a way suffers from either of the following: A) doesn´t know the woman´s first name B) doesn´t care to remember it or find it out C) doesn´t care either way if the woman turns up, as only the man is the truly invited guest, or D) thinks women are chattel. It is rude no matter how you look at it. You might as well say, “Hey you, whatever your name is”!
    I do not know of anyone who likes being called “Mrs John Smith” (be it professionals or housewives). And I have heard from several people that these invitations usually end up in the garbage, without even an RSVP. It is one thing to accidentally call or address someone newly acquainted by her husband´s last name based on assumption, but I cannot find any excuse to address anyone by her husband´s given name. (As I like to joke: “How does a dog get its name when you buy it? The new master gives it to him.” )

    As some more trivia about matrimonial names in other countries: in France a woman uses her husband´s name socially or informally, if so desired. Legally (like identification paperwork), however, she cannot use his name. Any time a woman uses her husband´s name, it legally is considered a “stage name”; formally, you cannot use any name other than what you were given at birth. I personally like Spain´s culture: the woman also keeps her name and just adds on a “of Smith” (e.g.) if she so desires. By using the “de”, you know it is the husband´s name. The children use both parents´ names, and anyone I knew was proud to make sure you knew and used their mother´s name, too. It was not cumbersome to use the double names, because it just rolls off the tongue. Of the people I knew, several went by their mothers´names when studying in the UK (e.g.) just because that name was easier for English speakers or else there was a mistake at enrollment (think of American application forms with space for one name). Of course, they didn´t consider it a “mistake” to be called by their mother´s name!

    Hope that answers your one question about addressing women in other cultures! (I just wish there was an answer to why some people think it is “nice and polite” to address envelopes in only the man´s name – “Mr & Mrs John Smith” – but I know from experience would consider it next to a mortal sin to address the same envelope in the woman´s name – “Mrs & Mr Jill Jones”. It is pretty disheartening to think that in the year 2015 women are still “less than” men.)

  66. Arden on December 16, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Hello Jules,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing some really interesting facts. I had no idea about Mrs. being short for mistress. As for how other countries handle addressing married women, I would agree that Spain’s tradition for married names is very civil and respectful to both men and women. As for why many people still address envelopes as “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith,” I think it’s a long-held practice that people have not realized is old fashioned and considered disrespectful by many. However, there are still women who want to be addressed this way. I’m all for getting rid of the outdated practice.

  67. Rosemary on December 21, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    I am 68 years old and have just been informed by a much loved neice that she does not wish to receive her christmas card in her husbands name, She and her 12 year old daughter feel it conveys a message that the woman is owned by the man. I have been married for 45 years and I don’t wish to be referred to as a manuscipt (Ms being the abbreviation). Get a life, I can’t believe that people get so upset about such trivial matters I have never felt owned by my husband and I have always been very proud to be addressed as Mrs. (husbands name). Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me!!!!! I daresay these same women want their husbands to open the door for them. I’m just thankful to be on someone’s Christmas card list I don’t care how they address it I accept their wishes in the manner I trust they are sent.

  68. Arden on December 22, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Hello Rosemary,
    The topic of addressing a married woman is a heated one. Many women resent being addressed by their husband’s first and last name. It makes them feel they don’t have an identity. There are also many women, like you, who are perfectly fine with being addressed that way. What’s important is that you honor how someone wants to be addressed. If your niece prefers you address the Christmas card envelope as “Mr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Smith” then it would be respectful to do so. And, she should honor how you like to be addressed and write the envelope as “Mr. and Mrs. husband’s first and last name.”

    Mrs. is not used very often any longer, but it is still used because some women want their marital status known. Until this is all sorted out, we need to honor people’s preferences.

  69. Jan on January 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I cannot believe what I’m reading here. “Mrs. and Mr. Jane and John Doe?” That is ludicrous. These women who whine about “keeping their identity” after they’ve willingly changed their names have no leg to stand on. This rule of etiquette will never change. When a woman changes her last name, she becomes “Mrs. John Doe.” Period. She can still be “Mary Jones” informally, but her proper name is “Mrs. John Doe” as long as she is married to John and after his death, until she remarries or takes back her maiden name. If a woman wants to retain her identity, it’s very simple: don’t change your name. I didn’t. I already had a name. The idea of changing it never occurred to me, and frankly, I don’t understand why anyone does it unless she hates her name. The proper way to address my husband and me is:
    Ms. Jan Garver
    and Mr. Paul Flanders (the “and” is what signifies the fact that we are married; there is no “and” before the man’s name if a couple is not married)
    Had I changed my name, I would be accepting the fact that I was Mrs. Paul Flanders, and I certainly wouldn’t complain when people addressed me properly.

    “Mrs. Jane Doe” means that Jane divorced John and kept his last name. Had she reclaimed her maiden name, she would be “Ms. Jane Jones.”

    As a calligrapher, event planner, and etiquette expert, I happily spend a great deal of time explaining to my clients the proper way to address their guests because I feel it is part of my job to ensure that their invitations go out the way they are supposed to. An envelope addressed the way you are suggesting would be laughed at by most people, and it would cast a bad light on the hosts as well as the calligrapher, who is supposed to know how to do things.

    I apologize for the heterocentric discussion here; I will be happy to tell anyone how to properly address same-sex couples as well! 🙂

    Please stop disseminating incorrect information. Some rules of etiquette were never made to be changed because to do so would make no sense whatsoever.

  70. Arden on January 19, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Hi Jan,

    Thank you for visiting and sharing your insights. According to Robert Hickey, who wrote a book on using Names, Titles, and Forms of Address, and who works for the Protocol School of Washington, the updated and correct way to address a modern couple where the woman doesn’t want to be addressed as Mrs. John Smith is like this: Ms. Jane Jones and Mr. Brad Jones. Etiquette evolves, it has to, to address our changing society. When women married 100 years ago their identity was their husband’s identity so it made sense to go by the husband’s first and last name. They also wore bustles and corsets and didn’t have the right to vote nor have opportunities to work, for the most part. Much has changed in 100 years. Women make up more than half of the workforce. We vote, we don’t have to get married and we don’t have to be addressed as Mrs. John Smith.

  71. Debbie Steinman on January 21, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Thought I should write as yesterday I signed a form at the hospital with Mrs. I was surprised to hear the young nurse say ” wow these days most women don’t sign their names with Mrs. anymore – I was a little shocked. I said I’ve always signed this way out of habit, I guess I am dating myself (age 60 baby boomer) and of German background. This topic really intrigued me and I think there are many baby boomers that are not aware of this small change to etiquette. With divorces and retaining maiden names etc. it can be daunting to properly acknowledge couples these days. I guess I need to get modern and up to date so I will drop the Mrs. when signing firms from here on. This is a great topic for the World Wide Web to clarify so everyone gets informed.
    Thanks for including the comments as it shows our different perspectives.

  72. Arden on January 27, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Hi Debbie,

    Thank you for your comment. It’s an awkward time because there are still people who want to be addressed as Mrs. or even Mrs. John Smith. Sometimes change takes time as people get used to a new way of approaching things. But, it’s important to honor how people want to be addressed. I’m sure in another 20 years we’ll be looking at yet another set of etiquette rules that accommodate our changing world.

  73. Cara on February 4, 2016 at 10:09 am

    So basically we have to go to each couple before addressing invitations and ask how each one wants to be addressed? That’s preposterous. People need to stop being so easily offended.

  74. Stephanie on March 8, 2016 at 7:04 am

    I sent out wedding invites and encountered this same problem. I am with Cara on this one. If someone thinks highly enough of you and your spouse to send you a greeting card, holiday card or invitation to an event, do not get upset if they do not address the envelope exactly as you want. It is absurd to try and figure out what everyone wants this day and it seems that no matter what you do, inevitably SOMEONE is offended. Society is changing and everyone has different preferences, which is fine, but don’t complain if someone isn’t up to date on exactly what you want as there are too many options/variables!

    I honestly don’t care what I am called…it is an envelope.

  75. Arden Clise on March 8, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for your comment Stephanie. You’ve got a good attitude. Assume the best from others.

  76. Angie on March 8, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    I am forty years old and agree heartily with Tali, Rosemary and Jan. I believe it is a wonderful tradition and hope to see it remain one. I am quite confident in my identity yet also very content being formally labeled using my husband’s name. I take great pride in his name as I do in him. Call me old fashioned if you will, but perhaps too much has changed and we should once again embrace our unions as higher than our individual identities. My two cents.

  77. S on March 23, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Both first names!!!

    When I got married 24 years ago, I wrote a poem to express my feelings on the topic….

    I married for love
    I married for kisses
    I did not marry
    to be JUST a Mrs.!

  78. Arden on March 23, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    I love that! Thank you for sharing your poem.

  79. Toshia on April 7, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I recently butted heads with my boss on this. Typing an envelope address to a donor she insisted it go to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. I watched Jane Smith write the check and I knew that she would be upset by the salutation yet nothing would sway my boss from being proper.

  80. Arden Clise on April 7, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Toshia, that’s frustrating. Your boss is right, it’s the correct way to address a married couple with the same last name, but I just think it’s wrong and outdated. Maybe Jane will call and ask that she be addressed by her name next time.

  81. Calvin on September 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

    I wonder which one is correct as I read many story here to my side I think Mrs and Mr was the correct one now no more Ladies first as now Man will come first as the head I was writing a name to my friend start with Mrs and Mr Huggo

    It was to read what people think

  82. Erin on December 6, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I’ve enjoyed reading the many passionate opinions and preferences here. What a wonderful debate. At the end of the day, I agree that it’s important to respect each individual’s preferences. Etiquette, after all, is intended to convey respect and create a sense of comfort or ease on the part of the recipient. Our names are important. They are the hallmark of our identities. As such, I think its most polite to make the effort to address people according to their preferred names. I wouldn’t go around calling my friend William “Billy” because it was easier. I certainly wouldn’t do it after being corrected. I always feel dismissed when I receive a letter to Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. My name is nowhere in there and it feels as if I don’t even exist on paper. When that happens, I try to find a relaxed way to mention to the sender that my name is Herfirst Herlast, but focus my comments on appreciating the sentiment of the invitation, greeting, or whatnot. I try to take those cards in the spirit in which they were sent. The one time I feel truly hurt is when someone who knows my preference continues to insist on addressing me as Mrs. Hislast. They might as well just make up any name they want, because it’s not my name. Those, I have decided to start sending back (with the exception of my 95 year old grandmother who sometimes calls my by my sister or cousin’s name anyway). Unfortunately, so far everyone but my mother has been gracious and respectful of my choice to keep my name. I find it ironic given that she’s the one that got to pick my name in the first place.

  83. Kim on February 11, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    I am getting married soon, hence finding this post looking up etiquette for addressing invitations. I have really struggled with the issue of my own name (keeping or changing or hyphenating my surname) as I am proud to be a member of my own family. Perhaps these feelings are emphasised by studying my family history, and the pride of being able to track my family name back over 200 years. Eventually, and with more than a hint of reluctance, I have decided to change my surname, purely because neither Hislast-Mylast, nor Mylast-Hislast sound right, and I will be very proud to be his wife and more than happy to let people know that. So yes, I am taking his surname, and yes, I intend to be referred to as Mrs.
    HOWEVER, I am not him, just as he is not me. It is important to both of us that we are acknowledged as individuals who together are greater than the sum of our parts. Personally I find it downright rude to use the archaic “Mrs Hisfirst Hislast”. It seems rather dismissive to address anybody by someone else’s name. It’s really no different than a sibling who is perpetually addressed as “So-and-So’s sister/brother”.
    Again, maybe there is a hint of pride playing a part here, as I have spent my whole life fighting to be called Kim (per my birth certificate) as opposed to Kimberly, but I’m certainly not going to give up my whole identity just because my fiance and I have now chosen to publicly and legally confirm the love we’ve shared for the last thirteen years.
    That said, if somebody who did not know how passionately I feel about the issue happened to address me in that way, I would give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they had read one of the many, many articles online recommending this grossly outdated etiquette, rather than thinking they meant any disrespect.

    A little side-note on other countries: I have several Portuguese and Spanish friends and their way is very respectful, using both surnames, however it can mean ending up with VERY long names, as a person could hypothetically end up with a surname of maternalgrandmother-maternalgrandfather-paternalgrandmother-paternalgrandfather. Then, if two people with names like this have a child, the child would get both sets of surnames, resulting in an eight-barrelled surname! Of course, names do usually get dropped somewhere along the way, else they would exponentially expand with each generation and get truly ridiculous, but in theory it’s possible… boggles the mind doesn’t it?!

  84. Arden on February 13, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Hi Kim,

    Thank you for your wonderful comment and thoughts. It sounds like you gave a lot of thought on whether to take your husband’s last name or not. It is a hard decision especially if your family has so much history. I like too that you realize some people just believe they are following proper etiquette in addressing a woman by her husband’s first and last name. Always good to assume the best.

    Thank you to for sharing the information about Portugal and Spain. I didn’t know that was how they handled names when getting married. I like it except how long it makes the surnames. We all have our name problems don’t we?

  85. Carol on April 13, 2017 at 11:05 am

    What’s wrong with Mr. & Mrs. Smith – drop both first names. That’s how I addressed envelopes for married couples.

  86. Arden Clise on April 13, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    HI Carol,

    That’s certainly one option. Some might think it’s too informal for more formal occasions such as a wedding or milestone celebration.

  87. JLS on April 23, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I use this format: Mr John and Ms Jane Doe. Each person is recognized that way, and the woman’s identity isn’t subsumed by the man’s.

    There’s no point to having the term “Ms” if all it means is “Miss”.

    There are a number of people who are highly indignant that a woman would have any opinion other than that being Mrs John Doe is fabulous and wonderful, and if you don’t like it you don’t really love your husband.

    I took my husband’s LAST name. Not his first. We did that so we’d all have the same last name. Why is that a problem for anyone else?

  88. confused on August 15, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I just received a donation solicitation from my alma mater addressed to Mr. & Mrs. John Doe. It really bothered me (& quite a few of my friends ) that the female in the relationship was the one who attended the institution. However our husband’s name was used. So in this instance i think it is inappropriate to use the husband’s name.

  89. Arden Clise on August 15, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Hello Confused. Well, it sounds like your alma mater needs some lessons on how to address their alumnae. i bet they don’t get very many donations from their married female alumnae for this goof. That’s too bad. I’m sure they meant well, but didn’t really think it through.

  90. Courtney on April 26, 2018 at 8:08 am

    I recently married my husband who is from Germany. While we lived in America we received several pieces of mail that read “Mr. and Mrs. “his first and last name”. My husband was outraged to see that. Where we live in Germany and throughout the country that is very outdated and considered sexist. We used the service Postable so guests could fill out online the ways they would like to be addressed in our efforts to be respectful. We had the officiant pronounce us “Mr. and Mrs. Last Name. When i receive mail addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. “his first and last name” I plan to politely let the senders know that I will not be addressed this way. Personally, I feel that it insulates the my husband is head of the household and thats simply not true.

  91. Arden on May 1, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    Hi Courtney, thanks for commenting. Many people are still following outdated etiquette when it comes to addressing an envelope to a married couple with the same last name. I agree, it’s a good idea to nicely let people how you wish to be addressed.

  92. Lisa on December 23, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    My mom is 82, and she finds it insulting to be addressed by her husband’s first name.

  93. Vi Edgely on December 28, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    I am in my seventies and find it insulting to be addressed by husband’s first name. I think it is disrespectful to my mother who gave me my name. The reason for women being called by their husbands names goes back to the laws of coverture where a couple became one in law and that was the man.

  94. Aradia on May 6, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve been married for 10 years, and i’ve chosen to hyphenate my name. However professionally I use only my maiden name.
    I personally feel disrespected and unacknowledged when I receive invitations, requests for donations or holiday cards addressed as “Mr. and Mrs John Doe”. Did I just disappear once I got married? Who’s the person who actually RSVP’s by the deadline, thinks of gift ideas, buys the gifts, forces the husband to go, reminds the husband several times that he can’t go fishing on that particular date, dresses him (and myself), and sends thank you notes? It’s the person that isn’t even acknowledged on the invites! It’s rude. Give women ‘some’ credit.

  95. Bette Day Stern---no need for any title on October 12, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    I’m 66 years old and do not acknowledge anything that refers to me as my husband’s name. It outrages me, in fact. I’ve stopped donating to certain charities that somehow think I belong to my husband (which is what Mrs. used to mean). Today I got a pledge card from MY college addressed to Mr. and Mrs. my husband’s name. He’s never set foot on my college campus and they’ve erased me as the person who did go there. I sent a strongly worded letter to the alumni office telling them if they didn’t change this in their records, there would be no more money coming their way. No need for Mr. or Mrs. at a.. What’s wrong with first name, and first name, last name? Okay, rant over.

  96. Ann on October 20, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. I ask all my clients, family members, and friends how I should address them. Do they want to be called by Dr. First name or Last name, do they prefer Mrs., or do they prefer Ms.? It’s 2019 and it is very easy to learn individual preferences. I find in my community women prefer Ms. regardless of marital status. A woman in 2019 is not defined by a partner and we have come a long way since coverture. However, some women do like being called Mrs. Husbands Name and that is okay too. I have even found some people do not like to use “Dr.”, but others are proud as the title brings them status. At the end of the day, it is most respectful to address a person by the name they like to be called. Be respectful of all people and call them by the name they would like.

  97. Arden on October 23, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Ann, that’s a great way to proceed with the tricky issue of addressing people. Thanks for sharing!

  98. Julia P on December 17, 2019 at 1:49 am

    The subordination implied by Mrs John Doe is infuriating. Quite honestly, I’m not sure my marital status is relevant either. Let’s just address Jane and John Doe, or John and Jane Doe.

  99. Kay Yar on April 10, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you so much, Arden — great article, and great follow-up comments. I’ve read every comment, and there’s a lot to take in and digest. I especially enjoyed Erin’s post on December 6, 2016 — it was very heartfelt and really spoke to me; I can relate to much of what she’d shared.

    What brought me here is this: I just received an invitation to my stepson’s wife’s baby shower from my stepson’s wife’s mother — and it was addressed to me as: Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast. While I took Hislast name as my last name when we married, I do mind being referred to as Hisfirst name when correspondence is addressed solely to me. What would you suggest for setting boundaries?

    {My google keyword search: “etiquette mrs husband name” — link to this article came up as #2.}.

  100. Arden on April 11, 2020 at 7:59 am

    Hi Kay,
    Thank you for your comment and the information on how you found the article. Very helpful! To answer your question, a lot of people still think that Mrs. Hisfirst HisLast name is the proper way to address a married woman. However, It’s good to assume best intent; that your relative was thinking she was addressing you the proper way. If this was a one time occurrence I would let it go. However, if you continue to receive correspondence addressed Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast name I suggest reaching out to her and kindly asking if she would mind addressing you as Ms. Kay Yar or just Kay Yar, whichever you prefer. A note here, Mrs. Kay Yar traditionally would signify you are separated or divorced although that is starting to change. I hope that helps. Enjoy the baby shower.

  101. Ms. Batchelor on June 15, 2021 at 12:25 am

    It is hard to believe it is still “proper” to address women the way we do and that anything questioning this notion is harder to find while searching the Internet. It is also a little hard to believe some women still actually enjoy becoming Mrs. John Doe instead of maintaining their own (and even current) identities. It makes me angrier than it should that change isn’t officially happening. I was asked to address an absurd amount (200 +) of retirement reception invitations for a teacher who recently retired. Yes, it is crazy that we are snail mailing that many invitations at her request, but I digress. She gave me the information to use to address the envelopes. Only husband’s names were mentioned, even though she was really only inviting the wife and kids. It still blows my mind any time something like this happens. I generally perform a Google search on the topic a few times a year hoping for something new. I wish we, as women, were farther along than we are in 2021. I am a 33-year-old, unmarried (God forbid!), professional woman in a long-term, committed relationship. I have chosen not to marry because of issues I have with marriage like this one. Women seemingly aren’t allowed to maintain their own identities in the south (Alabama of course) or even opt out of becoming a “Mrs.” instead of just plain, old and seemingly normal “Ms.” I work in education and most everyone addresses me wrong, even with a stylish office door hanger sign with my preference. Most still use “Miss” on their own. Some assume and use “Mrs.” Some are confused and don’t know how to address me. Men don’t have extra titles revealing their marriage statuses, and they never will. It also wouldn’t be understood here for me to keep my last name if I ever chose to marry my partner. I have a great example of this too. My sister, who is a local physician, never legally changed her name after marriage because she was already established as a doctor, and it is a huge hassle for a doctor to change names. However, she felt pressured to change her last name on social media to match her husband’s name. It’s crazy to me. She is very well-known. He is not. She is also the “breadwinner.” Both things are true for my partner and I too. I have made peace with becoming what people here call an “old maid,” but it still pisses me off that nothing has been discussed in the mainstream. Why do we continue to act like this doesn’t bother a large number of us? It is definitely time to update our etiquette for addressing women IN GENERAL. Thanks for your very relevant post, even a decade later. I hope you are continuing to question the status quo because it isn’t working for all of us, and I see the damage first hand that our male-dominant world is having on young minds in rural Alabama. I want more for my young people than for them to focus on finding a husband to take care of them. I want us to run the world!

  102. Itis2021People on August 6, 2021 at 7:50 am

    The year is 2021, I never changed my name to match my partner’s, and yet I still get the courtesy of getting slapped in the face with a Mr. and Mrs. John Doe letter. I can’t wait for this to die. That is not in any way my name!

  103. Arden on December 3, 2021 at 11:22 am

    It’s a common practice, unfortunately. Some day it will end. In the meantime, we need to be patient and forgiving of people who believe that is the proper way to address a married woman.

  104. Melissa on January 28, 2022 at 9:53 am

    I’m my family’s historian. I love to do genealogical research to uncover long lost details of my ancestor’s lives. While I understand that it was respectful at the time, I find that women’s identities are buried more deeply, confused with other previous or subsequent spouses, or simply lost altogether in “Mrs. John Smith”. Mrs. John Smith could be any of 100 women, but Edith Smith would narrow it down to three. Mrs. John Smith makes the spouse an accessory to their husband, not a person in their own right: Mr. John Smith and his wife, who is essentially only important to indicate that Mr. Smith got married. I’ve seen several reference in social club announcements to Mrs. John Smith, which seems to imply that she bears a marital status that is significantly influenced by her husband’s status.

    That said, my almost-80-year-old aunt didn’t take to kindly to my recommendation that she drop this form of formal address, but I did notice that she changed how she’s addressing envelopes to younger relatives. 😉

  105. Beth on July 23, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    I didn’t take my husband’s last name; in fact we kept things nice and even by giving one of our children his last name and one of them mine. Despite all that, I STILL get letters addressed to Mr. and Mrs. his first and last name and it makes me feel disrespected. Personally I find it highly offensive to completely omit a woman’s name from a communication that’s partly meant for her. Let’s be done with this and all customs dating back from a time when a woman was considered a man’s property!

  106. Andrea on December 18, 2022 at 7:43 pm

    I get offended when I am addressed as Mr and Mrs his first and last name, I never changed my name after marriage so I am being reduced to his names even though I don’t share any of them…

    We really need to make a concerted effort to get this etiquette updated. Can you imagine a man being addressed as Ms and Mr her first and last name?

  107. Lora on April 6, 2023 at 12:58 pm

    I am the breadwinner and do not like it when mail is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Bob Smith. However, I did choose to take my husband’s name, so I am not ‘Ms.’ I see that reserved for unmarried women, married but use their maiden name, or as a business title. When addressing a married couple who have the same surname, I can’t stand redundancy and see no need to repeat a surname twice. I prefer the format ‘Mrs. Jayne and Mr. Bob Smith’ and the salutation would be Mr. and Mrs. Smith. For women who use their maiden name, I would address the letter to Ms. Jayne Thompson and Mr. Bob Smith and the salutation would be Ms. Thompson and Mr. Smith. She is not Mrs. Thompson because she is not married to her father. For women who hyphenate, a letter would be addressed as Mrs. Jayne Thompson-Smith and Mr. Bob Smith. The salutation would still be Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

  108. Arden on April 6, 2023 at 1:30 pm

    Hi Lora, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Ms. is for both married and unmarried women. It was created to be the equivalent of Mr. which does not designate if a man is married or not. Women did not like having an honorific used that designated whether she was married or not. So, even if you took your husband’s last name you can use the Ms. honorific. However, some women still prefer using the Mrs. honorific if they are married, and that is just fine. We have choices, which is a nice thing.

  109. bex on May 1, 2023 at 6:48 pm

    I personally don’t like the Mr. Mrs. Ms. stuff and find it antiquated. But if I prefer Ms. because no one needs to know my marital status if the don’t know the mans. Marriage is not a part of my identity and worth.
    I also do not plan to change my last name if married.
    I live with my life partner, we are not married but present as we are, because we basically are without the legal contract. My partners work sent us a photo from an event and called it “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith”. (not real names for privacy.) It really irritated me. I know they probably meant no harm, didn’t know my name, and we present as married. But Heck I would have taken Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Smith or something over compeltely removing my identity. It makes me feel like the guys property and not an equal partner. I really dislike how a woman gets treated different in general if people know she is married.
    I have been tempted to label things before as Ms. and Mr. Jane Smith before to send the message home.

  110. Dan on June 19, 2023 at 10:19 am

    Came across this in doing some checking. My wife kept her name and recently got mail from 2 relatives with “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe.” Annoying but then got one with “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and Jane Smith” Wow, sounds like we’re a throuple!
    After some chuckling and talking, we thought that maybe when sending our Xmas cards out we should flip the script and address those that are married with the same last name as “Mrs. and Mr. Jane Smith” In the past we send them as “Jane and Jim Smith” so we already do it a little different. Thoughts?

  111. Sue T, on October 31, 2023 at 7:07 am

    I’m in my 70’s and married 30+years. With my first marriage in 1969 I was proud to be Mrs Patrick Thomas. Until my divorce! About then, Ms was becoming main stream so I used my own first name and became Ms “Sue Thomas”.

    Then with my second marriage to ” Sam Gott” in 1975 I was keen on keeping my own first name but formality was changing. Instead being “Ms Gott” I was mostly Sue. Letters were addressed to “Sue Gott” or Ms. Sue Gott”. I wasn’t offended with formal letters addressed to Mr and Mrs Samuel Gott.
    Alas another divorce in 1987 and I fiercely reverted back to my maiden name. I was now “Ms Sue Tiffany”.

    And then came my third marriage to Roger Tew with both of us in military. This time I was Captain Tew. I dropped the middle name on my birth certificate and used Tiffany instead. So my legal name became “Susan Tiffany Tew”. Mail came to us addressed as Maj Jeffrey Tew and Captain Susan Tew.

    I’ve been retired since 2010 and in all honesty I haven’t paid much attention to how it is addressed. Have not received a wedding invitation in 12 years and anything else comes addressed to one person or “resident”.

    Sometime I do get sentimental for the bygone days. I long to hear someone introduce me as Mrs Jeffrey Tew instead of just “Sue”. I don’t know why but it seems somehow that a cultural sign of respect for “elders” has been lost when titles are dropped. I was just Sue when I was 10 years old so I suppose I am feeling pegged as a child again.

    I take no offense with however people address me. And when people ask me what I want to be called (mostly doctors nowadays!) I tell them Susan. I see it as a compromise. To me “Susan” is formal and respectful. “Sue” is for family and friends. Plus any calls or mail addressed to Susan Tew means it didn’t come from friends or family and I don’t feel obligated to open the envelope or take the call.

  112. April Robinson on December 16, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    My mother was so proud if daddy and was quite happy to be Mrs. Harold Robinson. She still goes by that on some occasions. They were married for 54 years but daddy passed nearly 18 years ago.
    I’m kinda grasping for the best wsy to write mine and my husband names. I had the name Robinson for 48 years befote I married and I just didn’t want to change it. I asked if it would hurt his feelings if I didn’t take his name (Hewett) and he understood and supported me.
    Now I’m not exactly sute what I should be writing!

  113. K Fisk-Clark on December 19, 2023 at 11:21 pm

    When my husband and I got married, we had been together for 7 years. So when it came to choosing my last name it felt weird changing it to his. My last name is my identity. It shows where I came from. I decided to hyphen both our names. That caused a bit of a stir with some older members of his family. His uncle and auntie send us a Christmas card every year. The envelope addressed: Mr and Mrs T Clark. It makes me angry that they are disrespecting my personal choice. And putting in the “T.” Ahh. It’s 2023, women and men are equal.

  114. Arden on December 26, 2023 at 2:37 pm

    Yes, it is frustrating. You can either assume people mean well and let it go or have a kind conversation with your aunt and uncle stating your preference. Good luck to you.

  115. Arden on December 26, 2023 at 2:39 pm

    Hello April, just use Mr Husband’s first and last name and Ms. April Robinson. Keep the honorific (title) with the full name. Or for more casual situations just write your first and last names without an honorific.

  116. Arden on December 26, 2023 at 2:47 pm

    Dan, I rarely use an honorific unless it’s a formal occasion; so first and last names works for me. As for flipping the order and using the wife’s first name it’s a fun idea, but I have to wear my etiquette hat and say it’s not proper etiquette. Better, Ms. Jane Smith and Mr. John Smith. Each person gets an honorific and their first and last name even if a couple shares the same last name. But the non etiquette side of me says I’m all for equality so why not flip it as you did.

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