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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