Single envelope or double envelope? That is the question. Back in the day when invitations were hand-delivered by horse and rider, things could get muddy and soiled quickly. Thus, the concept of outer and inner envelope was created. Outer envelope would arrive dirty, but alas! Open that stained and disheveled outer piece to unveil the gorgeous, unblemished, perfect inner envelope, beautifully addressed with hand calligraphy for the recipient.
Fast forward 100+ years to the reality of 2011. Horseback rider? Muddy, dirty streets? Not anymore. Today, items arrived fairly pristine right at your front door or mailbox. This being the case, the double envelope is no longer the necessity it was in the past. Here at T.H.E., only around 20% of our clients order inner and outer envelope. A formal event (black tie affair or late evening event) is a good candidate for a double envelope set because it keeps the mood conservative and traditional. A more casual affair is a good candidate for a single envelope because it keeps the feel light and unpretentious.
So, how to address a single envelope versus a double envelope set?
I recently stumbled across Betsy White’s stationery boutique and I LOVE her “socially correct addressing” section, which I have pasted here. (PS, super cute stuff, Betsy!)
SOCIALLY CORRECT ADDRESSING: TIPS & RULES
It is traditional to use the complete, formal name and address of your invited guests on the outer envelope of a double envelope set (or on the outside of a single envelope).
The inner envelope of a double envelope set carries only the last name preceded by titles (Mr., Mrs., Doctor) of the primary person or couple being invited. There are no addresses on the inner envelope.
Invited children’s first names appear under the parents’ names. (Invited children over 18 or older still dwelling with their parents should receive separate invitations).
If you are allowing single people (who are not dating anyone long-term) to bring a guest, you would indicate this on this inner envelope by adding “and guest” to their title and surname.
If your invitation set does not include double envelopes, write the complete, formal name and address of your invited guests on the outside of the single envelope. Children’s names should be listed below parents’ names on the envelope.
If you are allowing single people (who are not dating anyone long-term) to bring a guest, you would indicate this on the outside of the single envelope by adding “and guest” line beside the single guest’s name.
Do not use abbreviations on the envelope other than “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
Spell out Avenue, Road, Street, etc. as well as the State name.
Remember, before purchasing stamps, have one fully assembled invitation weighed at the post office to determine proper postage. Don’t forget to purchase stamps for the response (Rsvp) envelopes as well.
• Mr. – adult males
• Miss – never married female, regardless of age
• Mrs. – married, separated, widowed or divorced female
• Master – young male, usually under the age of 18
• Ms. – separated or divorced females, married females who kept their maiden name
• Mmes. – Mesdames, married same sex female couple with same last name
• Mssrs. – Messieurs, married same sex male couple with same last name
• Doctor – usually used for Medical Doctors only, but it’s common for most doctoral degrees
• The Honorable – federal and state judges, justices of the peace, and magistrates
• Children – oldest to youngest if listed individually
• Unmarried couple living together – list the lady’s name first
• Married couple with different last names – list the lady’s name first
• If one person is a Doctor – list the Doctor first, regardless of gender
• If both are Doctors – Use “The Doctors Doe” on inner and outer envelopes
• If one person is a Reverend – list the Reverend first, regardless of gender
• If one person is Military – list that person first, regardless of gender
• If both are Military – list the person with higher rank first, regardless of gender
• If one person is a Judge/Justice – list that person first, regardless of gender
• Gay couple – oldest first unless they’ve stated differently
Use of Plurals
when names end in:
• o add an s – The Delanos
• y add an s – The Purdys
• s add an es – The Joneses
• z add an es – The Cortezes
• sh add an es – The Marshes
• x add an es – The Foxes
• ch add an es – The Bunches
Never use apostrophe in family names to indicate plural:
• WRONG: The McCarthy’s
• CORRECT: The McCarthys
Here’s to all of your envelope successes in the future! Now you can be “in the know” for proper etiquette and stop second-guessing yourself.