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 or
Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Doe?
Or is there a better way than this?
The forms you mention are awkward … and I think the reason is:
Mr. and Mrs. (His Full Name) is traditional/formal.
(First Name) + (First Name) + (Surname) is casual/informal.
I am not suggesting ‘formal’ is always best. Sometimes casual is better. But when you think formality is called for, they you end up using the formal forms.
The forms you mention are a little bit formal and a little bit casual, and end up being awkward. Thus you find yourself looking for a another solution.
One option that is frequently used in formal circumstances when it’s desired to include the woman’s given name is:
Mr. (His Full Name) & Ms. (Her Full Name)
… though typically with they use the same “family name” the first option is the standard.
— Robert 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.
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 work in one place, won’t necessarily work everyplace.
What I suggest in my book is always the formal traditional option — one 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 Governor’s offices use my book.
But when my niece, Kathleen, got married last October she didn’t follow what’s in my book for everyone. But, for certain people 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?
Casual for people you know would perhaps think formal is old fashioned:
Jane and John Doe
There is nothing wrong with casual!
Formal for people who will like the formal way:
Mr. and Mrs. John Doe
And for people you don’t know very well … you have two options: (1) call them and find out their preference or (2) do what most people do and go with the formal form since it is what most people are accustomed to seeing. It’s easier to explain being over dressed at a party than being under dressed … so being overly formal is easier to explain than being too informal. And most importantly — there is nothing wrong with casual!
– Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info