5 Things to Do Before Addressing Formal Invitations

There comes a time in life when you are called upon to send formal invitations, whether it is to a wedding or a marriage-equality fundraiser.

What follows are steps to maximize mellowness while being afraid you’re doing it wrong and no one will want to be friends with you anymore.

addressing formal invitations
I can’t wait to learn how I’m doing it wrong
(via Found in Mom’s Basement)

1) Prioritize.

Also! The invitation is primarily a vector of information! This is easy to lose sight of when anonymous persons on the Internet claim that by addressing a married woman as “Mrs. Woman Manly” you are calling her a divorcée of ill-repute.

However more important than whether to spell out the number twenty is getting the invitation in the envelope and making the little mark on each RSVP indicating to whom it was sent, because I forgot to do that and it made me really mad.

The only line anyone is really going to read on the invitation address is the names. Narrow target. Vital target. I have to redo a couple tonight because it dawned on me I spelled two people’s names wrong. PARP.

So it’s worth reviewing your address list and asking :

– Who moved recently or is about to?
– Is Rob’s full first name Robert or Robin? Are you sure that’s how “Eleanor” spells her name?
– Who probably has a doctorate, but you’re not 100% sure because you’re an inattentive jerkface?

Make up for being a jerkface by cooking pot roast
(Via Intimate Weddings)

2) Give yourself plenty of resources.

Get plenty of envelopes and give yourself plenty of time to work on them. Planning for more than one session to work on them is dandy. Decrease likelihood of rage-quitting.

You may want

– A widely-spaced document of all the addresses, formatted like they will be on the envelopes, so that’s one fewer part of your brain you’ll have to use.
– pencil
– straight-edge
– eraser
– nice pen
– glue stick, in case you need to peel a stamp off one envelope and put it on another. THESE THINGS HAPPEN.

addressing formal invitations
This kind of straight-edge optional

3) Check a few different opinions on the “appropriate” way to address people, and figure out what YOUR opinion is.

Maybe you want to be extra-formal and extra-old-fashioned and call all the married couples “Mr. and Mrs. Man Manly.” Go for it.

Maybe you’re throwing a more casual event and “Woman and Man Manly” is appropriate. Beautiful.

Maybe you want some formality but “Mr. and Mrs. Man Manly” seems inappropriate for some of the people you’re inviting, and you want to see other common options. No problem!

For all these, after much searching, mistake-making, raging, re-searching and re-doing, About.com has far and away the most detailed, practical and well-organized article on formal address that I found. They even have examples! Blessed, blessed examples. Whoooo.

The upshot is that politeness is key, and the most polite thing to do is address people in the way they’re accustomed to being addressed. That way the grandparents can be “Mr. and Mrs. Man Manly” and your college friends can be “Mrs. Woman and Mr. Man Manly” and NO ONE DROPS FROM FRIGHT AT ALL.

Whatever you do, don’t take the first Google search result you find and treat it as gospel. Nope. Only a very foolish person would do that. A foolish person with a huge grudge against Martha Stewart now.

addressing formal invitations
I didn’t have an opinion about Martha Stewart before, but now I do and it is rage

4.a) If you’re using handwriting, pencil some guidelines on the envelope.

Yeah, it took time and challenged my phobia of prep work, but it was worth it. Having guidelines to follow made the aesthetic difference between “invitation” and “threat from crazed fan.”

4.b) If you’re using handwriting, practice a little.

I know what cursive capital “J”s are supposed to look like. I’ve made my share of them in my day, though that day was twenty-six years ago. But holy cats my hand forgot how to make them. It took a few to learn, and I wish those few hadn’t been on pre-penciled, pre-return-address-labeled envelopes.

addressing formal invitations
I probably should have looked this up before

5) Let it be.

Of the wedding invitations I’ve received, alas I don’t remember how the couple chose to address the envelope. What I do remember are the contents — each individual approach — which always reflected the balance of sophisticated-charming-traditional-creative-formal-informal-serious-playful that was right for each couple.

That’s the take-away.

I hope the same is true for my recipients, and they forgive the many eccentricities and cursive “J”s about to appear in their mailbox.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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