Writing and Addressing Military Invitations

—-Military Invitations: Writing Ranks & Names

———–Writing the invitation when Bride or Groom has a Rank
———–Both Bride and Groom Have a Rank
———–Parent of the Bride has a Rank   Military Invitations Writing and Addressing
———–How to Write Time and Date on a Military Invitation:
———–Rank to Use if the Bride or Groom is about to be Promoted

—-Addressing Invitations to a Military Guest

———–Addressing Invitations to Military Guests: The Basics
———–Military Guests who are Doctors or have other Degrees
———–Abbreviating Ranks

—-Addressing Invitations to a Military Couple

———–One is in the Military
———–Both are in the Military and have the Same Rank
———–Both are in the Military and One has a Higher Rank

—-See also a general post on All About Invitations

– Robert Hickey Military Invitations Writing and Addressing


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Writing Invitations with Military Names

Bride or Groom has a Rank:
Form of Rank on an Invitation – Full Rank? Short Version?

How do I write the name of a soon-to-be commissioned Second Lieutenant, USMC? ,
—-Lieutenant, USMC
—-Second Lieutenant, USMC
Back in my youth, it was common for Lieutenants to abstain from including either “Second” or “First” in invitations, or on calling cards. But, what is the current format?  My brother, a West Point graduate, insists that simply “Lieutenant” is proper, while I, a former NCO, hold that the proper format is to include either “Second” or “First” Lieutenant on all invitations or calling cards and related items.
—-—-—-—-— JWE

Dear JWE:
FIRST: In the past, forms of address for USA lieutenants varied slightly from USAF and USMC lieutenants which I think is the source of the various “right forms” you are encountering. But, current DOD directives show forms of address in writing for official correspondance to be identical for all services.
—-Official Form:
—-—-(Full Rank) (Full Name) (Branch of Service)
—-—-Second Lieutenant Marc Goodman, USMC

SECOND: On a formal invitation (like a wedding invitation) it is traditional for junior officers to have their names presented all spelled out on two lines:

(Full name)
Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps

THIRD: However, contemporary style guides show all armed services personnel present their name with the rank before the name.  More about that in the next post Both Bride and Groom Have a Rank for more on this issue.

Second Lieutenant (Full name)
United States Marine Corps

Note that this is all spelled out (no abbreviations), on two lines.

— Robert Hickey Writing and Addressing Military Invitations

Both Bride and Groom Have a Rank:
How to Write The Names When Both are Military?

My fiance and I are both active-duty military. I am a Navy Lieutenant Commander (O4) and he is a Marine Chief Warrant Officer Five. He will be in uniform for the wedding, I will not. Should we both have our ranks on the invitations? If so, could you please advise on how this should be written. Using John and Jane Doe, Is it:

at the marriage of
Jane Doe
Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy
John Doe
Chief Warrant Officer Five, United States Marine Corps

________— Laura

Dear Laura,
____I asked my experts on military protocol and military invitations to give me their view, and here’s what I found. Pamela Eyring, Director of The Protocol School of Washington® says: “The Blue Book of Stationary suggests members of the US armed forces follow the same etiquette as civilian weddings with the exception of the use of military titles & service designations. Military titles are never abbreviated unless necessary because of space limitations. The rank should be placed on the same line as the name, with the service listed the next line below. To have consistency on the invitation, my recommendation would be to use both as rank+name and branch of service:

Lieutenant Commander Jane Doe
United States Navy
Chief Warrant Officer John Doe
United States Marine Corps

____I also asked Diane Brown of Protocol Solutions and a fellow training facilitator at the PSOW and she added: “Historically, use of ranks by military personnel was only for officers 03 and above. If they were not an 03 or above, the rank would appear on the second line with the branch of service.  From my perspective, the military has evolved in many ways regarding enlisted service members, so I wouldn’t be opposed to using the enlisted rank, if desired by the military couple. Often, military members simply do not use their ranks. The Service Etiquette book has some good examples of wedding invitations for service members.”
—-Simple points:
—-—-1. Ladies name first.
—-—-2. Rank should be spelled out followed by the name.
—-—-3. The service should be under the name, spelled out.

Bottom line: In this case, I would do it as Pam suggested above.”

Also note that neither Pam or Diane includes “Five” with “Chief Warrant Officer.” DoD guides say “the numbers” aren’t used in social address.   Let me know if that helps.

—-—-—-—-— Robert Hickey Military Invitations Writing and Addressing

Thank you Robert
—-I am still undecided whether or not to use my rank on the invitation but my fiance will definitely use his. I appreciate your assistance and think it’s pretty cool that you asked someone in military protocol since I am transferring to the Pentagon in a few months!
— Laura

Father of The Bride has a Military Rank?

How do I list the father of the bride who is a retired Major General on a wedding invitation? I am checking your site and you said that you don’t list “retired” on social invitations. Does that include Major Generals? Just making sure I write the invites correctly.
—————— The Wedding Planner

Dear TWP:
—–On social communications … invitations, holiday or birthday cards, personal letters, thank-you notes, and all other personal unofficial mail … you don’t use branch of service – USA, USMC, USN, USAF, USCG – or Retired – when writing their name.
—–On official communications … letters regarding their actions as a military officer —  active or retired — you do include the branch of service and if retired … you do add  Ret. or Retired.
—–The style applies to all personnel … officers and enlisted … both guests and fathers of brides!

—–#1) Formally if he is the host his name would appear:

(Rank) (Full Name)
requests the honor of your presence

—–#2) If he is issuing the invitation with a spouse, formally the rank’s name together as a unit:

(Rank) (Full Name) and Mrs. (Surname)
request the honor of your presence

—–#3) However when space is an issue this is also acceptable. It tend to be shorter left to right.

(Rank) and Mrs. (His Full Name)
request the honor of your presence

—–For more on writing women’s names on the host line see the post Married Woman.

— Robert Hickey

Do I Use Military Time & Date on a Military Invitation?

My family is hosting a commissioning party for 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?  Should we give the date military style —  10JUN20?
————–— Jessica W., Athens, Georgia

Dear Jessica,
In the US Army’s Protocol Guide they don’t use:
—–—–1400 hours & 10JUN20
—–They use:
—–—–at two o’clock & the tenth of June
—–See below.

— Robert Hickey Writing and Addressing Military Invitations

Which Rank to Use if the Bride or Groom is About to Get Promoted?

My situation is what if an Air Force cadet was getting married a week after getting commissioned. At the time of the wedding the cadet will be a 2nd Lt but when the invitations go out he would still be a cadet.

When sending the invitations for their military wedding, would they put as his rank 2nd Lt or Cadet? Cadets hold no rank prior to commissioning or are listed as an E-3 in the reserve, it’s a really gray area. What should be the rank on the invitation?
—————-— V/R, John Victoria

Dear VR
If he will be a 2nd Lt on the date of the wedding … use 2nd Lt on the invitation. That will be his correct name and rank at the event. Only potential snafu will be … if anything gets in the way of the commissioning!

— Robert Hickey   Military Invitations Writing and Addressing

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

Addressing Invitations to a Military Guest

How to Address Invitations to Military Personnel?

How do your address wedding envelopes for military (Air Force and Army) active and retired, enlisted and officers. It is not a military wedding however many military will be attending.
—-—-—-—-— Diane

Dear Diane:
The correct social form of address on an invitation to all personnel – both officers and enlisted – is:
—-(Full Rank) (Full name)

Examples would include:
—-General William Smith
——–—-General William Smith
——–—-and Mrs. Smith

—-Ensign Susan Scott
—-—-—-Ensign Susan Scott
—-—-—-and Mr. Gregory Scott

—-Chief Warrant Officer Nancy Thompson
—-—-—-Chief Warrant Officer Nancy Thompson
—-—-—-and Dr. Timothy Thompson

—-Gunnery Sergeant Brian Tillman
—-—-—-Gunnery Sergeant Brian Tillman
—-—-—-and Ms. Linda Stephenson


—-#1) You don’t include their branch of service … USA, USAR, USMC, USMCR, USN, USNR, , USAF, USAFR. USCG or USCGR … after on social correspondence. A wedding invitation is social correspondence.

—-#2) You don’t indicate whether the are “active duty” or “retired” on social correspondence.  So no Retired or Ret.

—-#3) There are service-specific abbreviations for the ranks. I cover them in my book, but they are a bit complicated to get into in a short post. Typically on wedding invitations every word is spelled out, so I suggest you  just spell everything out and not abbreviate.

—-#4) For more discussion on how to write the names of married women (spouses) see the post Married Women.

— Robert Hickey   Military Invitations Writing and Addressing

How to Address Military Personnel
With Academic Degrees On an Invitation?

My fiance has a friend who is a medical doctor who is also on active duty with a rank of Captain in the Air Force. How should we address the wedding invitation?
—-—-— Carol B.

Dear Carol B.:
All active-duty armed service personnel are addressed in writing as:
——–(Full Rank) (Full Name)

There are different forms for “official” and “social” correspondence: I cover that in detail in my book, but here are the basics:

On social correspondence post-nominal abbreviations are not used … thus there no branch of service – USAF – and no referece to his service in the medical service corps – MSC – with his name.  Post-nominals for his healthcare doctorate are never used with a military rank. So no MD, DDS, DPM or whatever it is.

A wedding invitation’s mailing envelope uses the social form:
—-—-Captain William Blake
—-—-—-—-Captain William Blake
—————-and Mrs. Blake

If you are using inside envelopes, the form is to use you what would call him, and most formally that would be:
—-—-Captain Blake
—-————Captain and Mrs. Blake

He might identify himself as Dr. as he enters an exam room where the patient sits in a backless paper gown … But in the military, the etiquette is to address all personnel by rank. One’s name & rank are the important information: how one serves is also important, but is secondary.

Form more discussion of writing married women’s names in joint address see the post Married Women.

— Robert HickeyMilitary Invitations Writing and Addressing

May I Address Invitations Using Abbreviated Ranks?

I am wondering if it is improper to use abbreviated ranks on an invitation’s envelope. Would this be correct on the envelope?
——–LTC & Mrs. John Smith
—-—-—-—-— Diana

Dear Diana:
Tormally everything in an address on a formal invitation’s envelope is spelled out … except for …

—-#1)  Calligraphers will want to spell everything out but the US Postal Service prefers the two-letter state abbreviations: MD, VA, PA

—-#2)  Dr., Mr., Mrs. and Ms. are used on formal invitations..  There is no spelled out versionof Ms. anyway.

—-#3)  And within the Armed Services, the service-specific abbreviations for ranks .. LTC vs. LtCol vs. Lt Col … for the Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, Marines, and Air Force respectively – are  used on an invitation’s mailing envelope.  These abbreviations are always used by the U.S. Armed Services. You can use them too, but just make sure you get CAPS and spacing right or you will put your guest into the wrong service.

A comment on the way you wrote the name. Formally when addressing a person who has an honorific, rank or title – other than Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. – you don’t break up their honorific or rank from their name.

—-So rather than this:
—-—-LTC and Mrs. John Smith

—-Formally this is better:
—-—-LTC John Smith
—-—-and Mrs. Smith

—-—-LTC John Smith and Mrs. Smith

The logic is that the person with the rank gets his or her name as a unit on a line by itself. For more on writing married women’s names in joint address see the post Married Women

— Robert Hickey Military Invitations Writing and Addressing


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Addressing Invitations to a Military Couple

How to Address an Officer and Spouse?

How do you address an invitation to a Admiral Linda Weston and her civilian husband Thomas Weston?  It’s for our donors lunch so for us it’s business but we hope it feels social to the guests.
————— M. M. K.

How to I addrress an invitation to a Navy Commander and his wife?
—-—-—-— Julie Copper

Dear M.M.K. & Ms. Copper:
Let’s start with just addressing the service member:
—-—-(Rank)(Full Name)
—-Which looks like:
—-—-Admiral Linda Weston

Now the couple. 

(1) List the service member first. All else being equal … people in uniform have higher precedence than people not in uniform

(2) No branch of service is used on social correspondence. USA, USMC, USN, USAF or USCG – and Retired or Ret. status are not noted on social correspondence. Invitations, even if related to work are considered social correspondence.

—-Here are the formulas.

—-#1) If the ranked person is a man – and if his spouse uses (Mrs.) + (same family name) – then traditionally her given name does not appear:
—-—-(Rank) William Stanton
—-—-and Mrs. Stanton

—-#2) If the ranked person is a man – and she uses a different family last name or has a special honorific – her full name appears:
—-—-(Rank) William Smith
—-—-and Ms. Linda Blake

—-—-(Rank) William Smith
—-—-and Dr. Linda Smith

—-#3) If the ranked person is a woman – his full name always appears:
—-—-(Rank) Linda Stanton
—-—-and Mr. William Stanton

—-—-(Rank) Linda Blake
—-—-and Mr. William Smith

—-#4) When a person has a rank — they get their (Rank)+(Name) as a unit — not combined with anyone else’s name. So if the ranked person is a man, then this form is less formal. It’s not horrible, but definitely informal:
—-—-(Rank) and Mrs. (His Full Name)

Probably more answer than you wanted … but I hope it is useful.

— Robert Hickey Military Invitations Writing and Addressing

How to Address an Invitation When Both Are in the Armed Services and Have the Same Rank?

Your knowledge of protocol would be most desired regarding a wedding invitation. I have son-in-law who is a Lieutenant in the United States Navy and my daughter who is a doctor and also a Lieutenant in the Navy. It is my understanding that Lieutenant would outrank doctor with regard to the military. Would the social invitation be Lieutenants Walter Karl Thompson and Melissa Sue Thompson or Lts. Walter Karl Thompson and Melissa Sue Thompson? I would appreciate your assistance in this situation.
— Janet

Dear Janet:
Yes … one’s precedence in the armed services is only based on rank (and if ranks are the same, one with the earlier date-of-rank is higher) …. not one’s mission in the service: doctor, pilot, mechanic, etc.

So if “Walter” has an earlier date of rank, then the most formal … and what I suggest is the following …. which would be to give each name full:
Lieutenant Walter Carl Thomas
and Lieutenant Melissa Sue Thomas

If you were going to abbreviate Lieutenant … the USN service-abbreviation for lieutenant is:
All caps, no period.

On the inside envelope names are sometimes combined in cases like this:
Pastors Thomas
Ambassadors Thomas
Lieutenants Thomas

But giving each person their entire name is the most formal:
Lieutenant Thomas and Lieutenant Thomas

— Robert Hickey Military Invitations Writing and Addressing

How to Address an Invitation When Husband and Wife Have Different Ranks?

How does one address an invitation to an active duty general and his wife who is a retired lieutenant colonel? Thank you!
— Bekah

Dear Bekah:

—-Mailing Envelope
General William Smith
—-—-and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Smith

—-Inside Envelope:
—-—-General Smith and Colonel Smith

—-#1) Each gets their full rank and name on a line by itself

—-#2) A General gets his or her name first … regardless of gender …. since a General outranks a Colonel.   There could be an exception, if she was the actual invitee and he was only being included as her escort,… but General then Colonel is the usual precedence.

—-#3) I assume this is a social event … so there is no need to mention their “active duty” or “retired” status … or … their branch of service …. since these are NOT included on social correspondence.

—-#4) Sometimes people want to try and get both names on one line.  Generally with ranks the line gets too long.

—-#5) On the inside envelope use the oral form of their name. All the graded ranks of General are addressed in conversation as General (Surname).  Both Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels are addressed in conversation as Colonel (Surname).  If you aren’t familiar with the tradition of full ranks and basic ranks, look up in the specific rank in the list at right on this page and use the form I suggest for the salutation. The saluation and the conversational form are the same.

People keep telling me that I should mention all this stuff is in my book … and it is.

— Robert Hickey Military Invitations Writing and Addressing


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”