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Calligraphy Etiquette 101

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As you plan the wording for your wedding or special event invitations and envelopes, you may find it difficult to navigate through the many etiquette rules that come along with a formal invitation! Your invitations are the first thing your guests will see – and they will set the tone for your event, so they should be considered carefully. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be hard!

To make your addressing a little easier, I have summarized some of Emily Post’s etiquette guidelines below!


  • Always use full given names, as opposed to nicknames.
  • Spell out numeric street numbers. For example – write Fourty Fifth Street instead of 45th Street.
  • Single number house numbers should be spelled out. For example – write Eight North Street instead of 8 North Street. Double or more digit numbers may be written in numeric form.
  • North, South, West, East should always be written out, as well as Avenue, Street, etc.
  • State names should be written out, instead of abbreviated.
  • Invitations to married couples should be written to “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith”. The names of both members can be included on the inner envelope (i.e. John and Mary).
  • “Miss” generally refers to a girl under the age of 18. Once she is 18 or older, “Ms.” is traditionally used.
  • “Ms.” is also the preferred term for ladies whose marital status is unknown.
  • Children over the age of 18 still living at home should receive their own invitation.
  • For invitees that are given a guest, address the outer envelope to the invitee alone (i.e. Ms. Mary Smith) and the address the inner envelope to the invitee “and Guest”. The inner envelope would read “Mary and Guest”. If you know the name of the guest that your invitee will bring (for example John), always substitute their name for the generic “guest”. However, be aware that this will signal to your invitee that the invitation is then to “Mary and John”. If John is unable to attend, Mary will not bring a different guest.
  • For an unmarried couple, address the invitation to the full name of each guest, on one line. Typically the guest that you know better would be listed first. If in doubt, just go alphabetically, or you can never go wrong with the “ladies first” rule!
  • If any of your guests have distinguishments (for example doctors or judges) address your invitation to Dr. and Mrs. Charles Smith and The Honorable Jan Doe and Mr. John Doe.


Although jumping through etiquette hoops can be a headache for any bride, don’t let it overwhelm you! I am always happy to help my brides craft the perfect wording for their guest addressing!

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