How to Write Invitations
& Names on Invitations

Related Forms of Address:
—-Couples: Military
—-Couples: Private Citizens
—-Couples: U.S. Officials
—-Couple, Same Sex
—-First Names
—-Gender-Neutral Honorifics
Man or Woman, Social
—-Woman, Married
Mrs. vs. Ms.
Spouse of an Official


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Write Invitations: Hosts, Guests of Honor and Participants

How to Include the Mother’s Given Name on the Host Line?

The bride’s parents have different last names. Both have PhD’s. I am going to list them ‘ladies first, men second’.  The groom’s parents have same last name: the father has a Ph.D., groom’s mother does not. The groom’s mother wants her first name mentioned. So – Dr. & Mrs. John Mintondoesn’t work.

How do I make the program’s names look consistent with each other?

Parents of the Bride:
——–Dr. Jean Wennick and Dr. David Dexter

Parents of the Groom:
——–Mrs. Suzanne and Dr. John Minton
——–Mrs. Suzanne Minton and Dr. John Minton
——–Dr. & Mrs. John and Suzanne Minton

Or just list us all, one name at a time:
——–Dr. Jean Wennick
——–Dr. David Dexter
——–Mrs. Suzanne Minton
——–Dr. John Minton

Or what? Thank you for your help!
——–——–——–— Jean W.

Dear Jeane W., How to Write Invitations
There is a reason why this is a problem: Everyone wants a ‘traditional looking’ invitation, but we don’t want to rigidly follow traditional rules. The ‘traditional rules’ got to be the standard because they delivered an elegant solution in the vast majority of cases. When we cherry pick which rules to follow – this is what happens! And today it is not unusual.  Here would be my process: Put the names in the “Mr. and Mrs. Order”  Men first, ladies second:
——–Dr. David Dexter and Dr. Jean Wennick
——–Dr. John Minton and Mrs. Suzanne Minton

I’d ask the grooms mother if she want’s Ms. Suzanne Minton or Mrs. Suzanne Minton?   Mrs. (Woman’s given name)(Surname) is the traditional form for a divorced woman – but some women don’t care.  Follow the link in the list at right to Mrs. vs Ms. for more on this.

—-So this is what it looks like:
——–Dr. David Dexter and Dr. Jean Wennick
——–Dr. John Minton and Mrs. Suzanne Minton
——–request the pleasure of your company
——–at the wedding of their children

FYI, a more elegant, less formal solution is not to use any honorifics. When you don’t have honorifics then you do follow the ladies first order:
——–Jean Wennick and David Dexter
——–Suzanne and John Minton
——–request the pleasure of your company
——–at the wedding of their children

But, I realize, this may not be acceptable to all the doctors!

— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Write the Host Line on a Corporate/Organization’s Invitation?

Why is it incorrect for an invitation to be issued by a corporation or an organization? Our company has always issued invitations with a host line reading, “XYZ Corporation invites you to ”,

I now have read that the host must be a person. I can say we need to have an executive to issue the invitation instead – but why?
————–MW in Savannah

Dear MW,
Such rules always have a practical origin.

Obligations of a guest include to (1) reply to the host he/she is or is not coming, (2) find the host at the event and thank them for an invitation and (3) find their host again to thank them as they depart.

On an invitation the host can be:
—-—-an office/position
—-—-a person’s name
—-—-an office + a name.

Each of these provide the guest with what he or she needs to know to be fulfill their obligations as a guest. For example:

The President of XYZ Corporation


Mark L. Henderson
President of XYZ Corporation

— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Use The Honorable by a Host/Hostess an Invitation?

I am writing with regard the use of the Honorable on invitations. Our president, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the Honorable.
—-How should we write the name of Dr. Jackson on invitations? What is correct for listing titles and degrees (both earned and honorary) with Honorables?
—-Is it proper to say:

The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, PhD
President of XYZ Institute
invites you to join her and …

—-Please advise.
—————-— DP How to Write Invitations

Dear DP:
On invitations the host/hostess is actually writing his/her own name, and one does not identify oneself as “The Honorable”:  Others address the person as “The Honorable (Full Name)” but it is never used reflexively.
—-Also, academic post-nominal abbreviations — like PhD — are not used on social correspondence. Invitations, even official ones like this, are considered social. For use of honorary degrees –  see that post.
—-So YES to:

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson
President of XYZ Institute
invites you to join her and ….

— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

How to Write Hosts’ Names When The Hosts are a Governor and a Judge?

I am doing an invite for a luncheon and the hosts are the Governor and Judge (wife). How do I properly list them as hosts on the invite? Do I put Governor Dave and Judge Nancy Frendenthal or do I use The Honorable Nancy Freudenthal for the spouse?
————–– C. B. Frazier

Dear C. B. Frazier: How to Write Invitations
#1) One does not refer to oneself in writing as The Honorable ... others address you in that way … so she is not The Honorable when she’s the hostess.

#2) Very high officials …. governors, presidents, chief justices, speakers of houses …. are referred to ‘by office’ e.g. The Governor of Wyoming … not by name. So don’t use Governor (Name).

#3) Why go so formal? An invitation is a keepsake for guests. Guests are delighted when a host and hostess informally greet them. But keeping the invitation formal honors the office and the citizens. At The White House the invitations are formal … the conversation less formal! It’s a good model.

So … all that said …. I’d suggest:

The Governor of Wyoming
and Judge Nancy Freudenthal

— Robert Hickey   How to Write Invitations

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How To List an ‘Honorable’ Guest on an Invitation

Our city has an annual Holiday Reception,  We will have some very high-level Canadian visitors. How do we appropriately list our international visitors on the invitation? There is a total of nine Canadians, so I am assuming because of the length, we would list the highest ranking official such as,… “The Right Honourable, full name, Deputy Premier and Minister International & Intergovernmental Relations”  first. Is it appropriate to say after that, “and his entourage”, or “and honored Canadian guests”?
——————–— Thank you, KD   How to Write Invitations

Dear KD:
——#1) You asked about a guest who is the Right Honourable, but the use of the Honorable is the same – neither is used on the host line but – either can used on the guest of honor line,

——#2) Notable guests who happen to be attending an event are not listed on an invitation. In a welcome remarks have the host recognize their presence.

——Guests of honor are typically listed on invitations. They are the featured attraction. The event is in their honor.  On a purely social invitation you would not mention offices: E.g,. see the first example.  When it is an official event, you can mention it and be more elaborate: see the second example:

To Honor
The Right Honourable (Full Name)

The Mayor of Idaho Falls
requests the pleasure of you company
at a reception
Wednesday, the second of December
at seven o’clock
2525 North Water Avenue
Idaho Falls


In Honor of
The Right Honourable (Full Name)
and distinguished guests from
The Ministry of International and Government Relations
of the Canada

The Mayor of Idaho Falls
requests the pleasure of your company
at a reception
Wednesday, the second of December
at seven o’clock
2525 North Water Avenue
Idaho Falls

——I suggest you use the US spelling honor in the invitation. But with the name – use The Right Honourable – with the “U” – for this official since that’s the way he is accustomed to seeing his name written at home.

— Robert Hickey   How to Write Invitations

How to List an ‘Honorable’ Groom on an Invitation?

On a formal engraved wedding invitation, how do you list the groom’s name on the invitation when he is a judge on the state court of appeals?

The Honorable Micheal James Wilson
Mr. Michael James Wilson

—-Many thanks….. I am going to purchase your book today!
—————-— Jill in Fort Worth

Dear Jill:
The host does not use the Honorable with his or her own name in the host line. But honored guests and participants are listed as the Honorable. Thus he would be:

The Honorable Michael James Wilson

—-On invitations grooms DO get their honorific, rank or courtesy title:

Lieutenant Michael James Wilson
Dr. Michael James Wilson
The Reverend Michael James Wilson

— Robert Hickey -How to Write Invitations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to List an Academic on an Invitation?

I am hosting a cocktail reception in my home honoring a local university. The university president and his wife will be attending and I want to list them on the invitation as the guests of honor. Please advise as to how I should list the couple:

Dr. and Mrs. James P. Clements, President, West Virginia University
James P. Clements, PhD, President, West Virginia University and Ms. Beth Clements
President of West Virginia University Jim Clements and Beth Clements

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
——————-– Sally

Dear Sally: How to Write Invitations
High officials may or may not need to be identified on invitations. Do the invitees know the notable guests?  If you are not going to mention his office, then you can use the formal, social form of the couple’s name:

Dr. and Mrs. James P. Clements

If you are goint to include his position then formally it would be:

Dr. James P. Clements, President, West Virginia University and Mrs. Clements

Academic post-nominal abbreviations are never used on social correspondence – so no (Full Name) PhD.  Use Dr. (Full Name).

Some people will want to list them as James and Beth Clements (wanting to mention Mrs. Clements’ given name – Beth).  I’d use the first + last name format for a an informal party. Formal?  Informal?. That’s your call.  If you want to establish an informal atmosphere – here is another idea.  Since President is informally used as an honorific in academia, how about:

West Virginia University President James P. Clements and Beth Clements.

— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

Should I Use Dr. or Ph.D. on an Invitation?

If a person holds a Ph.D., should his or her name be Dr. (Name) on a wedding invitation? Or (Name), Ph.D.?
Is this true for the father of the bride?
—–The groom?
—–Is the rule for names on wedding invitations and wedding envelopes different than the guidelines for social correspondence?
—–—–—–—–— Beverly & Russell, Winchester, Virginia

Dear Beverly & Russell:
Wedding invitations and their envelopes are social correspondence. Post-nominal abbreviations (Ph.D. is a post nominal abbreviation) aren’t used on social correspondence:
—–—–DON’T use Ph.D.
—–—–DO use Dr. (Name).

—–Another question that typically comes up is whether to use Doctor or Dr. (spelled out or abbreviated) on the invitation or on the mailing envelope? The rule is to spell out everything and not to use abbreviations.

—–But, Mr., Mrs., Dr., and Ms. (for which there is no spelled-out version) are typically used on invitations – and when addressing envelopes – in even the most formal circles. I think Doctor (Name) looks oh-so-highly precious, but I know some wedding planners who would wrestle me to the mat on that one.

— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

Use of “Dr.” by a “PhD” on an Invitation?

My daughter is marrying a man who works for a federal agency approving research devices. He insists that on the wedding invitation his PhD should be recognized by listing him as “Dr. John Mark Smith.”   We are from the South and think this is incorrect as it will leave the impression (with those who don’t know him and what he does) that he is a medical doctor. I don’t want to raise an issue over something inconsequential but am finding it difficult to accept some of the new and more “modern” wedding etiquette as really appropriate. Is it appropriate to list the groom as “Dr. John Mark Smith” when has a PhD?
—————-— Just Paying for the Wedding

Dear Just Paying,
How a person is addressed … is their domain. To me it is the first rule of names. If he’s says he is “Dr. John Mark Smith” … that’s his name. You should put it on the invitation.
—-—-But, this is not a new and modern etiquette. Those holding non-medical doctorates working outside of academic or research usually don’t use “Dr.” as an honorific. But those working in academia or research typically do.  Maybe he works in a laboratory setting?
— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

Use of  ‘Dr. and Dr.‘ on an Invitation?

My husband and I have PhD degrees and are addressed as Dr. (name) in social and academic circles. We are parents of the bride-to-be and are confused about what titles we should use on the wedding invitation. Should we use Mr. and Mrs. or Dr. and Dr.?
—————-— VM

Dear VM:
On a wedding invitation use your social form of address. You don’t use the academic post nominal, PhD.  If you are known socially as “Dr. and Dr.” ... you should use “Dr. and Dr.”
—-—-When a person has a special honorific … in this case Dr. … you get their full name.  If you both use the same last name and use Dr. socially the correct way would be:

Dr. Anthony Montana
and Dr. Mazie Montana
request the honor of your presence … etc.

—-—-The “and’ indicates you are married. Divorced hosts just leave out the ‘and.’

— Robert Hickey   How to Write Invitations

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How To List Hosts Who are the Children of the Honorees?

I am writing to obtain your help in answering a question for my husband’s parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary invitation. My husband  Tom and I will host the event. What is the proper way to list our names? His parent’s names?

The children of
Dick and Jeane Merrill
The children of
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Merrill

—————– Barbara Merrill

Dear Ms. Merrill:
If the list of hosts is long (it’s a long list of children) then the form you suggest could work. But traditionally a person is be listed as the host – not an nameless group. If the number of children is manageable, I’d list them all.

If it is just the two of you hosting, I am not so sure you need to identify yourselves as children?  List yourselves as the hosts — and people will either know who you are or figure it out!

Use whatever level of formality you want … as long as you do it consistently. So … one option is to list the honorees first:

To honor
Dick and Jeane Merrill
on their
fiftieth wedding anniversary
Tom and Barbara Merrill
invite you to a

Or list the hosts first and the honorees second

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Merrill
request the pleasure of your company
at a dinner dance
in honor of the
fiftieth wedding anniversary
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Merrill

— Robert Hickey   How to Write Invitations

How to Word an Invitation from a Hostess & Her Husband?

Our annual holiday party invitations have always read:

On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Chairman of the Board and First Lady
Avery and April McLean
cordially invite you and yours to attend the…

—-This year we have a married female Chairman of the Board and I’m struggling on how to word the invitation. Would the wording below be acceptable?

On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Chairman of the Board
Cindy Haygood and her husband Daniel,
cordially invite you and yours to attend the …

————— Debbie at the Alabama Automobile Dealers Association

Dear Debbie,
What you’ve been doing isn’t strictly casual … or strictly formal … and it’s sort of backed you in to a corner!  You should include his full name, not just his  given name. And I don’t think it’s necessary to define who he is: People will figure it out.

—-But that said … how about:

On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Chairman of the Board Cindy Haygood and Daniel Haygood
cordially invite you to attend the …

On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Ms. Cindy Haygood, Chairman of the Board, and Mr. Daniel Haygood
cordially invite you to attend the …

—-What do you think?
—-—-—-— Robert Hickey   How to Write Invitations

Mr. Hickey,
That is much better – just needed a professional opinion! Thank you very much!
—-—-—-— Debbie   How to Write Invitations


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to List a Former Elected Official on an Invitation?

My group wants to honor and thank a former California State Senator who served our district with distinction.

We are wondering how to list her on the invitation?  We do not want to affront the current State Senator, who will receive an invitation and likely attend. They are are good friends and good friends of our organization. Please tell us what won’t work, what will do, and what you condsider best:

Tina Jonas
Senator Tina Jonas
Former Senator Tina Jonas
Senator Tina Jonas, retired
Honorable Senator Tina Jonas
Our Senator Tina Jonas
Our Dear Former Senator Tina Jonas

Thanks in advance for your help.
—————-— Mike Malone in Los Angeles

Dear Mr. Mitchell:
Refer to your guest of honor on the invitation as:

The Honorable Tina Jonas

Once an ‘honorable’ always an ‘honorable’ (more or less).

The office/job of a guest of honor may or may not be identified … and it sounds like people getting this invitation will know who Tina Jonas is. But, If you feel obliged to identify her you would write something like:

State Senator from California’s 41st District, 1996-2014

In conversation (orally) she can be addressed as Senator Jonas if that’s her preference, which is not inconsiderate of the current State Senator. Positions of which there is only one office holder at a time DON’T continue to use their honorific (governor, speaker, mayor).  But positions where many have the same title at the same time (genernal, admiral, senator, professor, Dr., senator) DO continue.

One interesting oddity about State Senators is – they are not addressed simply as Senator Jonas in the presence of a United States Senator. In a room with a current U.S. Senator, she would be State Senator Jonas.

—-—-—-— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How Do I List a Deceased Hostess on an Invitation?

I have a quick question that I am hoping you might be able to answer. A baby shower was to be hosted by two individuals. Regretfully, one of the individuals passed away about a week ago. The family asks that the deceased still be listed as hostess on the invitation. How would that be worded?

Posthumously Caroline Giles
The Late Caroline Giles

Please advise.
— Helen Carley

Dear Ms. Carley:
Invitations are issued by host who will attend an event. No exceptions.
FIRST Decide who will now host the event. THEN the host should open the event with a welcome such as … I cannot welcome you today without saying that as we gather to celebrate of the joyous start of a new life — we also celebrate a another life well lived — that of Caroline Giles. Caroline an I were to jointly host this event and nothing would have brought her more joy than to see this wonderful gathering of friends and family ….. etc.

— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

How to List a Deceased Father on an Invitation?

I am in a dilemma.
—-I thought it might be nice to include my fiance’s parents — not in the hosting line, but after his name, such as Mr. & Mrs. John L. Foster request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter Susan Renee to Donald Joseph Smith, son of Mr. & Mrs. Harold B. Smith. However, his father is deceased.
—-Since I am using Mr. & Mrs. John Doe for my parents on the hosting line, then it should be congruent when I mention his parents son of Mr. & Mrs. Harold Smith but with his father being deceased, every etiquette guide I found said they’d be written such as son of the late Mr. & Mrs. Harold Smith — —-BUT that makes it sound as if BOTH his parents are deceased.
—-How should I do this?
————— Natalie Foster

Dear Ms. Foster:
If you want to include his parents use:\

son of Mrs. Harold B. Smith

—-This makes it clear that he is deceased … since she is still using “Mrs.” and his name.
—-If your fiance thinks this is unacceptable, another option — which I think is bit awkward — but it is certainly clear is:

son of Mrs. Harold B. Smith and the late Mr. Smith

—-My niece Katie, got married last year and was in a similar situation: Katie’s fiance was Ian Dexter. His father, Kevin Dexter, died several years ago. His mother subsequently married John G. Graham. Ian wanted his father remembered on the invitation.
—-Their invitation read:

son of Mrs. John G. Graham and the late Mr. Kevin Dexter

— Robert Hickey   How to Write Invitations

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Write Invitations: Wording and Text

Should I Use Honor or Honour on My Invitation?

Should I use Honor or Honour on my invitation?
—————–~ Helen Krell

Dear Ms. Krell:
Honour with a U is the British spelling. If you are British, Canadian, Indian or anywhere where you use the British spellings – its perfectly normal.

I think it’s a needlessly fancy for an American to use the British spelling unless you also use favour, harbour, colour, vigour, ardour, and humour, too.

But, Crane’s Stationers report that on well over 1/3 of the U.S. invitations they produce — U.S. customers use the British spelling honour.

— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

How Do I List a Judge on an Invitation?

On a wedding announcement, how should I write the name of the judge who officiates at the wedding ceremony? Should he be referred to as The Honorable So-and-So or Judge So-and-So?
—————–— Elizabeth Levinson

Dear Ms. Levinson:
Refer to the judge as:

The Honorable (Full Name)

Call him or her Judge (Surname) in conversation. Also use Judge (Surname)  a place card, and in an introduction to other guests.
— Robert Hickey How to Write Invitations

Is The Spouse of an Official Listed as Hostess On the Host Line on an Official Invitation?

In your book you show all the options of how to list a husband and wife as host and hostess of an event.

What if a husband is president of a company and invites his direct reports with spouses to a dinner party off site (but not at the president’s house)? Should the invitation state the president as the host and his wife as the hostess? Or just the president as the host?
—————–— Rhonda

Dear Rhonda,
There could be a company policy in a particular company stating a policy to the contrary, but it’s typical when a corporate exec hosts employees and their spouses … and the exec’s spouse assumes the duties and responsibilities of a co-host (hostess) … for the exec’s spouse to be listed on the invitation. I asked some graduates of The Protocol School of Washington® to comment on what they do in their environment:

From a Protocol Officer at a Military Base:
It would be common for social events (dinner’s etc.) but not for ceremonies. On the invitation we always list both names if spouses were invited to the event. i.e.:

The Commanding General, 2d Marine Division
and Mrs. Smith
request the pleasure of your company

From a Protocol Officer at a Museum:
If the Chairman of our Board and his wife are serving as hosts, we include the wife on the invitation to telegraph that spouses are welcome. We would do this even if the event is not in their residence. We also include the spouse if the event is for families, again to signal that the event is open to families.

From a Protocol Officer at a University:
Yes, we include the spouse of the official on the invitation if they will act as host/hostess of the event even if the University is paying. For us, it is more a question if she (or he) is actually going to participate.

From political situations – show below.

— Robert Hickey

Whose Name First on a Royal Wedding Invitation: The Bride or Groom?

I have been engaged by a local group as a consultant for an event. They want to hold a black-tie dinner to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I am responsible for most of the arrangements and will provide a dining etiquette presentation to the guests. I am just putting together the invitations and have written Prince Harry’s name before Meghan’s. Would you agree?
—–I have been in contact with the office of the private secretary to Prince Harry on other matters and they have been very helpful but I am to embarrassed to ask them, I should really know these things. I thought I would ask the expert!
—————————-– Jan C. in Ontario

Dear Jan C. in Ontario:
Among commoners typically the bride’s name is first: The parent’s of the bride invite you to the marriage of their daughter to this man, etc. But in this case his name is first since he is royalty and has higher precedence.  See the three invitations below. All list the royal person first:

—–#1) The Crown Princess of Sweden to Daniel Westling, a commoner.

—–#2) The Prince of Wales to Diana, who was from a noble family … but not royal.

—–#3) Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

FYI when I was in Belgium and I read a story in Point de Vue, a magazine that focuses on nobility, about the maker of china souvenirs (mugs, plates, etc.) who had already made items with William & Cate’s initials intertwined … his “W” first …. her “C” second … then destroyed them all. Reason being that WC had the wrong connotation and they redid them with the “C” on top sitting in the open “W” — deemed to be more suitable.

— Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Write Invitations: Spelling and Abbreviating

Can I Abbreviate Names on an Invitation?

The names on my invitation are too wide for the page! What can I abbreviate?
—————~ Barbara Montgomery

Dear Ms. Montgomery:
The formal form is to write out everything on an invitation. That means names in full, including middle names. Rather than use a middle initial, omit a middle name. But when space is an issue, people do abbreviate.

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Wilson Westerhaven and Mrs. Westerhaven

Less formal
Lt. Colonel and Mrs. Christopher Westerhaven

— Robert Hickey

How to Write Invitations

Can I Abbreviate Anything on an Invitation?

Can I abbreviate anything on my invitation?
—–—–—–~ Lee Elwood

Dear Ms. Elwood
Some names or addresses contain words that are always abbreviated … e.g., Saint is always abbreviated in St. Louis.
—-Double compass direction in addresses NW, SW, NE, and SW are typically abbreviated.
—-Doctor is routinely abbrevated to Dr., and are Mrs. and Mr.
—-But other than those — spell everything out and then evaluate it. When space is an issue sometimes you have to use an abbreviation.
— Robert Hickey

How Do You Write ‘The Third’ on an Invitation?

On my wedding invitation should I write my father’s name with a 3rd. or III.
————— Claire Wagner

Dear Ms. Wagner
—-#1) Sequene Post-Nominals
—-—-On the invitation use Roman numerals … “III” … rather “the third” or “3rd.”
—-—-Same with the second .. II … or the forth … IV
—-—-Spelling out ‘Junior’, is more formal that abbreviating it. Abbreviate only when space is an issue.

—-#2) Senior
——–Some fathers informally use ‘Senior’ in their go-by name — not actually going to court to make it part of their legal name. On a formal invitation one is using the official forms of the name. Thus I would leave informal additions like ‘Senior’ off.  But if it’s important to the family, then spell out Senior, rather than abbreviating it. Abbreviate only when space is an issue.

— Robert Hickey

How to Write the Year on An Invitation?

On a wedding invitation, which is correct: two thousand twenty three OR two thousand and twenty three?
I prefer two thousand twenty three, but almost all of the wedding samples I’ve looked at use two thousand and twenty three.
—————–— Paula Koloski

Dear Ms. Koloski:
Traditional wording would be:

Two thousand and twenty three

—–The first word in is capitalized.

—–If you don’t want to include the year … that’s completely acceptable.
—–The old rule is not to include the year.  Why? Most invitations are sent out 4-6 weeks in advance so people know it’s the next time that date arrives, not a year away. For party invitations it routine to leave off the year.
—–But since wedding invitations are kept as “keepsakes” people like to include the year for future reference.

— Robert Hickey

How to Write House Numbers in An Address?

How did I write a house number on an invitation?
—–Would I use “1” or “One?”
—–If “One” is the correct form, at what number do I begin using the numeric version? I seem to remember something about writing out “One” through “Ten,” and to use the numeric form after “11.”
—————– Amy S.

Dear Amy S:
Yes … house numbers are spelled out One through Ten ... then you use the Arabic numerals …. 11, 12, 13 etc. … thereafter.
—–FYI … if you need more information, or this sort of question comes up often, there is a section in by book just on such details on invitations..
— Robert Hickey

How to I Write the Time on an Invitation?

My family is hosting a commissioning of my brother who is becoming a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Since he’s entering the world of military time and ‘twenty-four hundred hours” should we use military time on the invitation?
——————— Jessica W., Athens, Georgia

Dear Jessica,
Time is writen out … on just one line and everything is in lower case. If you are concerned that they won’t know it’s AM or PM include ‘in the morning’, ‘in the afternoon’ or ‘in the evening’.

at two o’clock

In the US Army’s Protocol Guide they don’t use 1400 hours
They use at two o’clock just like everyone else.  See below.
— Robert Hickey

How to Write the City on an Invitation?

Everyone knows in what state I am getting married. On an invitation should I write “Nashville” or “City of Nashville?
— Vicki Cantrell

Dear Ms. Cantrell,
Write simply (city), (state) with a comma between:

Nashville, Tennessee

You would write city of if “city” is part of the city’s name. E.g., New York City. For weddings in New York City, the state is left off.  I guess there is only one. Washington, DC doesn’t have a state, so no state there. But for the others, use (city), (state).

Our events are so special to us — sometimes there’s an urge to fancy them up. Maybe City of Nashville sounds grand to some? Resist the urge to embellish. Keep it simple.

— Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Who Gets an Invitation?

Should An Adult Child Get their Own Invitation?

I received an invitation to the wedding of a first cousin’s child addressed to us as The Wright Family. My daughter Jessica, now 22 and living in Florida, was not listed by name, but is, I believe, invited. I think they should have been mailed to her in Florida as she is an adult not living at home.
—-I am trying to remember the rule about children over 16 should receive their own invitation at their proper address: not Mommy and Daddy’s if they don’t live there. I want to explain the rules to my cousins!
——————–— Val Wright, Severna Park, MD

Dear Val,
O.K. … there are a couple of parts to your question!

Everyone who is invited should be listed on the envelope for clarity. So for your family the best, in this case, a formal example would be:

—-—-Mr. and Mrs. William Wright
—-—-Miss Jessica Wright

If there is an inside envelope, the invited guests are listed again:

—-—-Mr. and Mrs. Wright
—-—-Miss Wright

On the inside envelope the tradition is to use the ‘conversational’ form of their name. The above form is a formal ‘conversational’ example. Certainly your cousins could write Uncle Bill, Aunt Val, and Jessica on the inside envelope if they wanted to be less formal.

—-Yes, family members living independently are sent their own invitations.
—-But, let’s give them a break and assume they believe Jessica is still “a minor the nest” and your address is still her best mailing address.  So either sending Jessica her own invitation or listing Jessica by name on the invitation with you would have been better.
—-Whether the cut is 16 years of age … sending an invitation to a young adult is always considerate and appreciated.
—-And, whether she is Miss Wright or Ms. Wright: Either is correct. “Miss” is a more traditional (maybe old fashioned?) since every young woman older than 12 might choose to be “Ms.” nowadays.
—-As for taking it upon yourself to inform your cousins of the correct rules: be careful. Dorothea Johnson, founder of The Protocol School of Washington® always followed the rule that she did not provide guidance on etiquette … unless the person paid her to do so. My rule is the person has to preface the question with ‘Robert, what do you think I should do?”  Unless they use those word before a question, they generally don’t appreciate — often resent —  your comments.
— Robert Hickey

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Address an Invitation?

How to Address a Mr. & Mrs. on an Invitation – Or Can I Use Her First Name Too?

I’m addressing invitations and wondering what the best way is to include the first names of both spouses.
—-Which way is more correct:
—-—-Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Doe
—-—-Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Doe?
Or is there a better way than this?
————— Lynna

Dear Lynna,
I think those forms end up being awkward. The two forms that make the most sense to me are:

—-—-Mr. and Mrs. (His Full Name) is traditional/formal.

—-—-(First Name) + (First Name) + (Surname) is casual/informal.

—-If you like the traditional form, use it.
—-If you don’t, the second form is elegant and includes both first names. There is no reason everything has to be traditional/formal. Who says formal better? No me. What’s better is what’s right for the occasion and the participants.
—-The form (First Name) + (First Name) + (Surname) is most often written:
—-—-(Her Given Name) + (His Given Name) + (Surname)
— Robert Hickey

Dear Mr. Hickey
I’m realize that traditionally, a formal invitation should be addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. However, I find it offensive to omit the female’s name and wish to find a formal way of including it.
—-This is actually a HUGE topic right now amongst women. Many are of the mindset that when etiquette becomes offensive, then its no longer proper etiquette. So, this debate has blossomed to figure out the best way to include both people’s names and to perhaps give up the “don’t separate a man from his name” tradition or to start putting the wife’s name first even if she’s not using Ms. and so forth. Consequently, people are just making up their own way to do it and there isn’t continuity. However, It seems they are yearning for continuity but can’t decide on the appropriate alternative.
—-To be honest, I don’t think either Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Doe or Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Doe sound good. Perhaps it’s just awkward because it’s new? I suppose other options could be Mr. John Doe and Mrs. Jane Doe, or Mrs. Jane and Mr. John Doe.
—-—-—-—-— Lynna

Dear Lynna,
Thanks for your thoughtful note.
—-Etiquette is something that

—-—-#1) changes over time

—-—-#2) is specific to a situation, and

—-—-#3) is specific to a group.

—-So it’s not etiquette that is offensive … it’s that rules that worked in one place, won’t necessarily work everyplace.

—-What I suggest in my book is always the formal option — a way that can be done consistently for a wide variety of guests. And yes, the forms I present may be too formal for every situation.

—-The people who use my book are usually people working for high officials … perhaps in their office …. or organizing events where the guests include some high officials … military officers, elected officials, ambassadors, clergy, academics, and international visitors.

—-In those places you need to have a single style for all the types of names you write. What works best when addressing people from many different places ends up being the most formal. The White House, The U.S. Supreme Court, and many Governors’ offices use my book.

—-But when my niece, Kathleen, got married she didn’t follow what’s in my book for all of her guests. But, for certain people who would be accustomed to formality … she did.

—-So since you asked … why not address the invitations as you think the guest would like their name to appear when they get the envelope?

—-—-#1) Casual for people you know would perhaps think casual will right:
—-—-—-—-Jane and John Doe

—-—-#2) Formal for people who will prefer the formal way:
—-—-—-—-Mr. and Mrs. John Doe

—-—-#3) And formal for people you don’t know very well … when in doubt going formal is always safe. It’s easier to explain being over dressed at a party than being under dressed … so being more formal is easier to explain than being too informal.

NOTE; for more discussion on use of the form Mrs./Ms. (Her Given Name)(Surname) =  Mrs. Jane Doe see the post Mrs. vs. Ms.

— Robert

How to Invite a Guest and Fiancée?

I am in a dilemma: I need to send an invitation to a gentleman and his fiancée, can you help me please?
—-— Jocelyn J

Dear Jocelyn J:
Here are some options, but be sure to read the NOTE that follows, too!

—-If they already present themselves as a couple and have the same mailing address, the normal form to use on the envelope is:
—-—-Mr. Henry Smith
—-—-Ms. Nancy Wilson

—-Or, if you know she uses Miss
—-—-Mr. Henry Smith
—-—-Miss Nancy Wilson

—-#1) Etiquette books put an “and” between names if they are married …. no “and” if they are not.
—-#2) Some people use fiancée to describe someone with whom they are already living. If they do not live together … it would be more correct to send each their own invitation to their home address.
—-#3) If the gentleman is actually the guest … and the fiancee a date being included as a courtesy …. It would also be correct to address the invitation just to the gentleman …. and communicate you are looking forward to seeing them both at the event. You can do this by listing them both on an inside envelope if the invitation has one … or including a note extending the invitation through him to his guest, his fiancée.

— Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address an Invitation to a Family?

I would be very grateful if you could give me advice on how to best address the following wedding invitation.

—-#1)  How should we include children on the invitation?
—-—-Dr. and Mrs. John Smith,
—-—-and their children
—-—-Dr. and Mrs. John Smith,
—-—-Miss Helen Smith
—-—-and Master Peter Smith
—-—-—-—-or something else?

—-#2) Does it make a difference when the children have a role in the wedding (e.g. as a flower girl) but the parents are regular guests?
—————–— Party Planner

Dear Party Planner:
—-#1) It is better to list every guest on the invitation. List the parents and the children. If for some reason you only list the parents on the mailing envelope, then list the children individually on the inside envelope so everyone is clearly invited.

—-—-Dr. and Mrs. John Smith,
—-—-Miss Helen Smith
—-—-and Master Peter Smith

—-#2) I’d use “Miss (Full Name)” for a very little girl. When girls get to be teenagers they generally prefer “Ms. (Full Name).”  

—-#3) “Master” is hardly ever used except in conservative circles and there only for very little boys. If he’s not a very little boy, consider using “Mr.”

—-#4) You should issue an invitation to the flower girl.  You can include  her in the family invitation. No separate invitation is necessary. A participant already knows or will discover the details of the event.  But sending an invitation lets them see what everyone else is seeing … and provides a keepsake.

— Robert Hickey

How to Address an Invitation to a Widow?

How should I address an invitation to my aunt — Nell Darwish. My Uncle George (her husband) has been dead for 20 years.
————— RND, Nashville

Dear RND:
Widows have the option of using either “Mrs. (His Full Name)” or “Ms. (Her given name)(Surname). Best plan is to know her preference. Here’s the most formal, traditional answer using her traditional married  name.:

—-Outside envelope (most formal form for a widow):
—-—-Mrs. George Darwish

—-Inside envelope (using whatever you call Nell in conversation … for example):
—-—-Aunt Nell

—-Many etiquette books give the form for the inside envelope as … Mrs. Darwish. The tradition is — the outside envelope wass for the post office — and as it likely was soiled in route, it was removed by the household staff and only the inside envelope would have been presented to the recipient … probably on a silver tray. So I say what the tradition really is that you write what you would write on a birthday card you hand carry to a party — what you call them in conversation.

—-So while Mrs. Darwish is not incorrect … she’s a member of the family and I’d use the more intimate form, Aunt Nell, which expresses the warmth that’s intended with the invitation. I’ve gotten many family wedding invitations to “Mr. Hickey”.  It always strikes me as odd – they never call me that.  I think what happens is they send the guest list to a calligrapher who doesn’t know the guests so they just use the formal form for everyone

—-See also How to Address a Widow.

— Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”