Address & Postage Etiquette
A Cheat Sheet
- Spell out all words in an address on your envelopes
- Rather than "St.," "P.O. Box," and "Apt.," use "Street," "Post Office Box," and "Apartment"
- This applies to city and province/state names as well; instead of abbreviations, write "Saint Catharines, Ontario," and "Washington, District of Columbia"
- House numbers smaller than twenty should also be spelled out
Social & Professional Titles
- Your guests' names should be written in full on outer envelopes
- Do not use nicknames or initials
- Use the appropriate social titles; addressing married couples as "Mr. and Mrs."
- If a man's name has a suffix, write "Mr. Joseph Morales, Jr.," or "Mr. Joseph Morales IV"; "Junior" can be spelled out on a more formal invitation
- It gets a little tricky when husband, wife, or both have different professional titles. If the husband is a doctor, for example, the titles will appear as "Doctor and Mrs."; if the wife is a doctor, her full name would come first, as in "Doctor Sally Carter and Mr. John Carter." If both are doctors, write "The Doctors Carter"
- If they have different professional titles, list the wife first: "The Honorable Pamela Patel and Lieutenant Jonathan Patel." If a wife has kept her maiden name, her name should appear first and be joined with her husband's using "and"
- Write out all words here, too
- The preferred place for printing the return address is on the envelope's back flap
- Traditional etiquette called for blind embossing, or colorless raised lettering, for wedding invitations; the idea behind this was that guests would get their first glimpse of the fancy engraving on the invitation itself
- Blind embossing is still available, although postal services discourage it, as it is difficult to read
- Today, most couples have the return address printed in the same method as their invitations
Outer and Inner Envelopes
- Sending out an invitation in two envelopes ensures that each guest will receive a pristine envelope, even if the outer one has been torn or soiled in the mail
- Still, the two are not necessary; you may omit the inner envelope if you wish (we often do, especially if we have created a website where guests can RSVP online)
- The outer envelope includes all of the information the postal service needs for delivery
- The inner envelope should have the names of the invited guests in the household (including children, whose names do not appear on the outer envelope)
Envelope Addressing for Married Couples
- This classic envelope incorporates social titles and the husband's first name on the outer envelope, and only the titles and last name on the inner one
- Note that all the words (including the state and the house number, because it is less than twenty) are written out
- The writing doesn't have to be aligned on the left; our calligraphers often stagger the lines in aesthetically pleasing ways (if you have specified custom calligraphy in your order)
- To some couples, omitting wives' first names feels too old-fashioned; including the first names of both husband and wife after their titles is appropriate
- The house number, even though it is less than twenty, can be written as a numeral for a less formal feeling
- In keeping with a more personal style, the couple are addressed by their first names on the inner envelope (if you have them)
Different Last Names
- When a husband and wife have different last names, the wife's name is traditionally written first
- Connecting the couple's names by the word "and" implies marriage
- For an unmarried couple that lives together, names should be written on separate lines without the word "and"
- On the inner envelope, both are addressed by their titles and respective last names
Envelope Addressing for Families and Single Guests
With Children, Formal
- This outer envelope is identical to that of a couple without children -- its writing, which is for the purposes of the post office, should be as simple and clear as possible
- On the inner envelope, the name and title of each invited guest in the household is written out
- A boy under the age of 13 is "Master," not "Mr." Girls and young women under age 18 are called "Miss"
With Children, Informal
- Parents' first names are both used on this less traditional version of the outer envelope ("Post Office Box" is abbreviated as well)
- For the inner envelope, the parents' and children's first names are written without titles
- Since they are young siblings, the word "and" (which implies marriage when used with adults' names) linking the children's names is acceptable
- For a single woman, either "Ms."or "Miss" is appropriate; many people find the former preferable
- The guest's name is the only one that appears on the outer envelope
- On the inner envelope, however, write the guest's name followed by "and Guest"
- If you know whom he or she will be bringing, it's more personal to include that person's name, on a separate line
Assembling the Invitation Elements
All enclosures should be printed in the same method and on coordinating papers; here's the order in which they should be stacked to go in the outer envelope:
- The invitation is on the bottom, print side up. A sheet of tissue paper (originally used to prevent smearing) can be placed over it
- Stack all other inserts, such as a map, reception card, and reply card, on the invitation in order of size (smallest on top)
- The reply card should be under its envelope's flap; this envelope should be preprinted with the mailing address, and should be stamped as well
- Insert everything into the inner envelope with the print side up, so that when guests open the envelopes they will see the lettering (the same rules apply with a single-fold invitation, where the print appears on the front
- For a French-fold or double-fold invitation which has the print inside, all enclosures go inside the card
- Slip the unsealed inner envelope into the outer envelope with the names facing the back flap
- Bring a completed invitation to the post office to have it weighed; many require postage for at least two ounces, currently 60 cents
- Have a reply card and its envelope weighed as well, to ensure that you don't over- or underpay for that postage
Ask what's available at your local post office, or browse through a wider variety at the following:
- Canada Post
- U.S. Postal Service
- "Love" stamps, in one-ounce and two-ounce rates (currently 37 and 60 cents), are always available, so you can match the stamps on your invitations and reply cards
- Vintage stamps can be purchased from philatelic societies, ebay, and other vintage retailers
- They are worth the amount printed on them, but they can cost much more, since they are collectible and limited in quantity
- Here's a handy little list of vintage stamp resources:
- In Canada (much less popular than American stamp retailers, unfortunately! Vintage or antique stores are probably your best bet!):
- In the United States:
Some of the best examples we've come across in our travels:
- Consider sending your envelopes by priority or express mail, so you can track them
- Allow enough time for invitations to be delivered, postmarked, and mailed out
- Be sure to ask the postmaster how long this process will take
We know this is a long list of guidelines. Sorry!
It is our hope, however, that we have demystified this process for you by providing additional resources & clarification.
Should you have any additional questions, please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.