How to Address Couples: Joint Forms of Address

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   Third , etc .        
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   or Lt. Gov.    
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First Lieuten
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Gay Couple      


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Governor, Tribal Council          
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Governor, Former    
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High Commissioner    
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Honourable, The

Indian Chief         
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    Writing &

Judge, former     
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     County or State     
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Junior, Senior,
    I, II, III, etc

Justice, Associate

     Supreme Court

Justice, Associate

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Late, The
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Lesbian Couple    
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Major General,
Man, business
Man, social
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Married Women       
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Mayor, U.S. City   
Mayor, Canadian City    
Mayor Pro Tempore
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   Protestant Clergy       
   Christian Orthodox     
Most Reverend, The        
Mother Superior
Mr. (Social)      
Mr. (Business)      
Mrs., Ms. (Use, Social Forms)      
Mrs. vs. Ms.     
Mr. & Mrs. / Couples   

Name Badges or Tags     
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Nun, Catholic
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Officer, Police     

Pastor, Christian Clergy  
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People with Two Titles      
Petty Officer
Place Cards            
Plaque, Name on a    
Police Chief
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Pope, Catholic
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Postmaster General         
Presbyter, Orthodox
President, corporate
President of
    College or
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President of a
    US State Assembly 
President (current)
   of the U.S.A.          
President (former)
   of the U.S.A.     
President of the
    U.S.A., spouse of  
    of the U.S.   
Priest, Catholic          
    Christian Orthodox 
Priest, Episcopal        
Prime Minister
   & Academics         
Pro Tempore,
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Ranger, Texas        
   U.S., Federal           
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Reservist, Military      
Retired Military
   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    

   3. Q&A on
       How to Address
       Retired Military   
Reverend, The
Right Reverend, The         

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
   U.S. Department,
   Member of the Cabinet
   of Defense, U.S.       
Secretary, Assistant       
Secretary General
   of the U.N.            
Senator, U.S., Federal       
Senator, U.S., State         
Senator, Canadian       
Senior, Junior,
     I, II, III, etc.         
Senior Judge 
Sergeant at Arms
Seventh Day
     Adventist Minister       
Sister, Catholic       

Solicitor General      
Speaker of the U.S.
   House of
Spouse of the
    President of the U.S.       
Spouse of the
    Vice President
    of the U.S.           
Spouse of an
    Elected Official            
State Attorney     
Surgeon General          

Texas Ranger        
Titles & Forms of
    Address, Useless?        
Tombstones, Names on
Town Justice
Town Manager       
The Honorable     
Tribal Officials     
Two Titles,
    Person With

Under Secretary       
US Attorney
US Federal Officials
US State Officials     
US Municipal Officials

Venerable, The        
Veteran (not Retired)         
Very Reverend, The         
VFW Officer/Official    
Vice Mayor       
Vice President
    of the U.S.
Spouse of the
    Vice President
of the U.S.
Vice President-elect
    of the U.S.      
Viscount and/or

Warrant Officer       
White House Staff    
Woman, business        
Woman, social        

Yacht Club Officer      


How to Address Couples:
Joint Forms of Address

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020

How to Address Military Couples?
How to Address U.S. Officials and Their Spouses?

Whose Name is First - the Gentlemen or the Lady - in Joint Address?     

How to Address a Couple: Mr. & Mrs.? or Given Names?     

How To Address Two Individuals -- Not a Couple?    
Same Sex Couples         

How to Address an Engaged Couple?           

How to Address a Couple: Both Doctors?      
How to Address a Couple: She is a Dr., He is a Mr.?        
How to Address a Couple: He is a Sr., Jr., II, III, etc.?

How to Address an Attorney and Spouse?      

How to Address a Pastor and His Wife?      
How to Address a Couple: Both Pastors?      
How to Address a Pastor and Her Husband?      
How to Address a Pastor and Her Military Husband?      

How to Address a Dean and His Wife?           

How to Write the Names on an Invitation?              

How to Address a Mr. & Mrs. on an Invitation
Or How Can I Use Her First Name Too?

     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?
       -- Lynna

Dear Lynna,
      I think those forms end up being awkward. The two forms that make the most sense to me are:
           Mr. and Mrs. (His Full Name) is traditional/formal.
           (First Name) + (First Name) + (Surname) is casual/informal.
      If you like the traditional form, use it.  If you don't, the second form is elegant and includes both first names. There is no reason everything has to be traditional/formal. Who says formal better?  No me. What's better is what's right for the occasion and the participants.
      The form
(First Name) + (First Name) + (Surname) is most often written:
            (Her Given Name) + (His Given Name) + (Surname)
      -- Robert Hickey

 Dear Mr. 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.

       -- Lynna

Dear Lynna,
    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 most formal option -- one 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 Governors' offices use my book.
     But when my niece, Kathleen, got married she didn't follow what's in my book for all of her guests.  But, for certain people who would be 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?
        (1) Casual for people you know would perhaps think casual will right:
               Jane and John Doe

        (2) Formal for people who will prefer the formal way:
               Mr. and Mrs. John Doe
        (3) And formal for people you don't know very well ... since when in doubt going formal is always safe. It's easier to explain being over dressed at a party than being under dressed ... so being more formal is easier to explain than being too informal.
       -- Robert

How to List an Honoree's Name When
He/She Is
The Honorable (Full Name)?
How do I write the name of an honoree who was our mayor. Is he Mr. (Full Name), Former Mayor (Full Name) or The Honorable (Full Name)?
        -- Ken

Dear Ken,
Former US elected officials continue to be officially listed as The Honorable for life. Since there's a new mayor he's not the mayor anymore and former mayor identifies him, but is not a form of address
      The Honorable
(a courtesy title) is used by others addressing the person. So, while it is never used by the host on his/her own invitation, it is used when listing a honoree
              The Honorable (Full Name)

     If you feel you need to note what his job was for some reason, you can include his office, or former office on the next line:
              The Honorable (
Full Name)
              Mayor of River City, 1990-2000

    -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Names of a University President
and Spouse on an Wedding Invitation?

     I love your book! I am working on a wedding invitation where the father of the bride is the president of a university.  When invitations go out from the university we use "President and Mrs. John Jones request the pleasure . . ."
     Should the wedding invitation be worded as "President and Mrs." , "Dr. and Mrs." or "President Dr. and Mrs."? 
     Do you write out "Doctor" on formal invitations or do you use "Dr."?
        -- Evelyn Cotton

Dear Ms. Cotton,
      Definitely not President Dr. Two honorifics are not traditionally combined in the United States.
      Formally it would be either:
               Dr. John Alexander Jones and Mrs. Jones
               Dr. and Mrs. John Alexander Jones
     The latter is also O.K., it is just less formal than the first form, but is useful when the name is long and space is an issue.
     Regarding the abbreviation of doctor, Dr. -- the abbreviation -- is correct even on formal invitations. Dr., Mr., Mrs. are abbreviations all used on invitations.
     University presidents are not typically addressed as President (Surname) outside their official duties and someone wants to emphasize his/her role.  University presidents are normally addressed by whatever honorific they are entitled to, typically Dr. and then identified by their office as in:
              Dr. John Jones, President of the University of Delaware

       -- Robert Hickey

How to Include the Mother's Given Name on the Host Line?
       The bride's parents are married but have always maintained different last names. Both have PhD's. So I think we just list us both with Dr. and list the woman (me) first. That's the social rule.
          That's the easy part. The part I am struggling with is with the groom's parents. They are married with same last name: the father has a Ph.D., groom's mother does not.  The groom's mother wants her first name mentioned. So Dr. & Mrs. John Minton doesn't work.
         How do I make the program's two sets of names look consistent as they will be right next to each other?
          Parents of the Bride:
                    Dr. Jean Wennick and Dr. David Dexter
          Parents of the Groom:
                    Mrs. Suzanne and Dr. John Minton
                    Mrs. Suzanne Boss and Dr. John Minton

          Dr. & Mrs. John and Suzanne Minton
          Or just list us all, one name at a time:
                    Dr. Jean Wennick
                    Dr. David Dexter
                    Mrs. Suzanne Minton
                 Dr. John Minton
          Or what? Thank you for your help!!!
          -- Jean W. 

Dear Jeane W.,
          You are right, what would be traditionally correct is:
                    Dr. Jean Wennick and Dr. David Dexter
                    Dr. and Mrs. John Minton
                    request the pleasure of your company
                    at the wedding of their children

          There is a reason why this is a problem without an elegant solution: Some names in your proposed invitation are formal and presented in the traditional way:
                    Dr. Jean Wennick and Dr. David Dexter
          But the groom's parents names are sort of free style:
                    Mrs. Suzanne Minton and Dr. John Minton
          If the groom's mother wants her name listed as Mrs. Suzanne Minton  (Mrs. (Woman's given name)(Surname) is the traditional form for a divorced woman) … then you are stuck with it.
          Good news is that using "and" between the names indicates they are a couple. When the names of parents on an invitation are presented without an "and" between them, it indicates they are divorced.
          You are stuck with something that is a combination of formal and informal … but if everyone is accepting it … that's probably more important than following the rules?  Right?
          FYI, a more elegant, less formal solution is not to use any honorifics:
                    Jean Wennick and David Dexter
                    Suzanne and John Minton
                    request the pleasure of your company
                    at the wedding of their children

          But, I realize, this may not be acceptable to all the doctors!
          -- Robert Hickey

How to Write The Names of Hosts
Who Have Post-nominal Abbreviations

      How should I write our names as the hosts on an invitation to our CPA's Association event? We are both CPA’s and the majority of the guests will be CPA’s.  I use my maiden name professionally.  Will they know we are married?

            -- Roland Rodgers and Linda Fernandez

Dear Mr. Roland and Ms. Fernandez:
    Several rules apply.
    #1 rule is – if you and your spouse use different surnames ... you each use your (given name)+(surname).

rule is – you get an honorific or a post-nominal abbreviation ... never both.  Your husband is either Mr. Roland Rodgers or Roland Rodgers, CPA ... never Mr. Roland Rodgers, CPA
    #3 rule is that the "and" between the names of the hosts on a wedding invitation would indicate you are married, however on business occasions (not at a private social event) the concept is that your marital status is actually not pertinent.

Traditionally post-nominal abbreviations like CPA are not used on social correspondence. I wish you could include your relationship to the CPA Association in another way. Such as:
                    Roland Rodgers and Linda Fernandez, Chairs
                    and the Board of Directors of the CPA Association
                    request the pleasure of your company.

    Check out the posting I have on my page on Invitations.
    If you encounter this sort of thing often, my book has a complete chapter on joint forms of address.

             -- Robert Hickey

How to Include a Wife's Name the Host Line on an Invitation?
          A physician and his wife are co-chairing a hospital event.  How do I recognize them on the invitation?
          Are these the only two options?
                    Dr. and Mrs. John Doe
John and Mary Doe
          Anyway to include the wife's first name and also mention husband is a MD??
~ FLT in Lynn, MA

Dear FLT:
          When you want to include the wife's given name, and they are just Mr. and Mrs. a good option is to present their names informally and to drop the honorifics entirely:
                    John and Mary Doe
          Post-nominal abbreviations are not used on social correspondence and invitations, but one could say this is an official function and he is there hosting in an official activity. So you could also argue that using the M.D. might solve the problem:
                    John Doe, M.D. and Mary Doe

Have you asked them their preference? That might solve things quickly.  But, that said, traditionally and formally it would be either:
                    Dr. John Doe and Mrs. Doe
                    Dr. and Mrs. John Doe

          The issue for many people writing an invitation for their event is – for them it is a formal event – but it is actually not that formal (compared to a State Dinner at The White House.)  I'd suggest they create their dream 'formal looking invitation' but use casual wording that reflects their more informal/casual style. The invitation should reflect the event, and not every event or invitation has to be formal.
         If it is to be a formal invitation, then the traditions for how names are presented with honorifics and titles on formal invitations work well.

           -- Robert Hickey

How To List Hosts, Who are the Children of the Honorees?
      I am writing to obtain your help in answering a question for my husband’s parent’s 50th Wedding Anniversary invitation.  My husband, Tom, and I will host the event. What is the proper way to list our names? His parent's names?
     The children of …
     Dick and Jeane Merrill
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Merrill
              - Barbara Merrill

Dear Ms. Merrill:
     I am not so sure you need to identify yourselves as children. List the hosts as the hosts -- and people will either know ... or figure it out!
     Use whatever level of formality you want ... as long as you do it consistently.
     So ... to honor first

To honor
Dick and Jeane Merrill
on their
fiftieth wedding anniversary
Tom and Barbara Merrill
invite you to a
cocktail buffet
Saturday, the twenty first of June
at seven o'clock
The Century Club
Athens, Georgia

Or list the hosts first and the honorees second

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Merrill
request the pleasure of your company
at a dinner dance
In honor of the
fiftieth wedding anniversary
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Merrill
Saturday, the twenty first of June
at seven o'clock
The Century Club
Athens, Georgia
-- Robert Hickey

Does a Host/Hostess Use The Honorable on an Invitation?
    I am writing with regard the use of the Honorable on invitations. Our president, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and is the Honorable.
      How should we write the name of Dr. Jackson on invitations? What is correct for listing titles and degrees (both earned and honorary) with Honorables? 
     Is it proper to say:
          The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, PhD
          President of XYZ Institute

          invites you to join her and ...
      Please advise.
         -- DP

Dear DP:
    On invitations the host/hostess is actually writing his/her own name, and one does not identify oneself as "The Honorable": Others address the person as "The Honorable" it is never used reflexively.
     Also, post-nominal abbreviations -- like "PhD" -- are not used on social correspondence. Invitations, even official ones like this, are considered social.
YES to:
        Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson
nt of XYZ Institute
        invites you to join her and ....

               -- Robert Hickey

Use of "Dr. and Dr." by PhD Parents on an Invitation?
    My husband and I have PhD degrees and are often addressed as Dr. (name) in social and academic circles.   We are parents of the bride-to-be and are confused about what titles we should use on the wedding invitation.  Should we use Mr. and Mrs. or Dr. and Dr.?

           -- VM

Dear VM:
    On a wedding invitation use your social form of address ... so if you are known socially as "Dr. and Dr." ... then use "Dr. and Dr." 
    When each person has a special honorific ... in this case "Dr." ... each gets their full name.
    If you both use the same last name and use Dr. socially the correct way would be

            Dr. Anthony Montana
            and Dr. Mazie Montana
  request the honor of your presence

    The "and' indicates you are married.
    Note: I have another Q&A on the topic of a couple ... both doctors.
               -- Robert Hickey

Dear Mr. Hickey
   Thank you very much for your prompt response.  It helps a lot. I can't understand why some wedding etiquette books advise against PhD's using the title of doctor.

           -- VM

Dear VM:
    I edited the new edition of Crane's Blue Book of Stationery ... and it has what I suggest above.
    I think using "Dr." really depends on the source of the information: 
    Sometimes medical doctors often don't think anyone else should use "Dr." One physician wrote to me (in care of this blog) saying that "PhDs want to be "Dr." except when the person next to them has a heart attack or when it comes time to write the check for malpractice insurance."  
    But those in academia and scientific research have a different point of view!
             -- Robert Hickey

How to Word an Invitation
from an Official Hostess & Her Husband?

     Our annual holiday party invitations have always read:

On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Chairman of the Board and First Lady
Avery and April McLean
Cordially invite you and yours to attend the

     This year we have a married female Chairman of the Board and I’m struggling on how to word the invitation.  Would the wording below be acceptable?

On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Chairman of the Board
Cindy Haygood and her husband Daniel,
Cordially invite you and yours to attend the ...

     This is a semi-formal event held at the Governor’s Mansion.
Debbie at the Alabama Automobile Dealers Association

Dear Debbie,
     What you've been doing isn't strictly casual ... or strictly formal  ... and it's sort of backed you in to a corner!
    There are no rules for casual and informal forms of address  ... everyone does whatever they want to do.
    On my site I am just showing formal forms ... which can be done consistently ... hence their benefit.
    But that said ... how about:

On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Chairman of the Board Cindy Haygood and Mr. Daniel Haygood
Cordially invite you to attend the ...
On behalf of the
Alabama Automobile Dealers Association
Ms. Cindy Haygood,
Chairman of the Board, and Mr. Daniel Haygood
Cordially invite you to attend the ...


    What do you think?
       -- Robert Hickey

Mr. Hickey,
     That is much better – just needed a professional opinion!  Thank you very much!
        -- Debbie

How to Write the Host Line
on a Corporate/Organization's Invitation?

I have a question regarding invitations, specifically corporate invitations.  Why is it incorrect for an invitation to be issued by a corporation or an organization?  Our company has always issued invitations with a host line reading, “XYZ Corporation invites you to ”,
     I now have read that the host must be a person. I plan to say we need to have an executive to issue the invitation instead but why?
       --MW in Savannah

Dear MW,
      Such rules always have a practical origin
      One of the obligations of a guest to to reply to the host and tell him or her that the guest is coming, Then the guest must find the host at the event and thank them for an invitation. And finally the guest find their host again to thank them as they depart.
     It can be an office, a name, or an office + name.
     Either of these provide the guest with what he or she needs to know to be a good guest.

The President of XYZ Corporation

Mark L. Henderson
President of XYZ Corporation

       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address an Attorney and Spouse?
     I have to write to and acknowledge several donors for an upcoming community event.
     How to I address the envelopes?
          1st couple, he is an attorney, she is not
     2nd couple both are attorneys
              -- PM, Meeting Coordinator

Dear PM,
    1) Socially attorneys are Mr./Ms. (Name) ... the post nominal Esq. is not used socially. Unless you are writing to them on a matter of which he is the legal counsel (and since you are including his spouse it's unlikely that his participation is as an attorney) ... no Esq.
        Thus, socially an attorney and his wife are simply:
            Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wilson
            Mr. Thomas Nelson and Ms. Nancy Henderson

                   Another option, if you want to include her given name or you
                   know she prefers
Mrs. is:
Mr. Thomas Nelson and Mrs. Nancy Henderson
... but I wouldn't do it unless you know she likes Mrs. since
                   traditionally Mrs. Nancy Henderson is the form used by a
                   divorced woman who want to continue using her former
                   husband's family name.

    2) Socially, if both are attorneys and use the same family name ... use the same forms noted above.
                 -- Robert Hickey

How to Formally Write a Couple's Name
When He's a Jr. II, III, etc.?

        What is the proper way to write a couple's name when he is a "II".  
        The couple is Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
        Do I write their name as:
                Wesley P. II and Patricia D. Ames
                Wesley P. and Patricia D. Ames II
        Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
                -- K.L.O.

Dear K.L.O.,
         He’s the only one who is a “II" … so the "II" only appears when his name is written alone as a unit.
         When the names are formally presented …. He’s first.
                  (His Full Name) and (Her Full Name)
                  Wesley P. Ames II and Patricia D. Ames
                  Mr. and Mrs. (His Full Name)
         Mr. and Mrs. Wesley P. Ames II
         These formulas work all the time … for couples who are and who are not juniors, II, III etc.
         What you are avoiding is:
                  Patricia D. and Wesley P. Ames II
         Because she is not:
                  Patricia D. Ames II
         When names are combined … combining is informal … his given and family name are last and are kept as a unit. AND .... Since it's not his full name, the Jr., II, III etc. is left off.
                  (Her Given Name) and (His Given and Family Name)
                  Patricia and Wesley Ames
         But one more thing about writing names -- especially if you are including names in a program on in a donor list:  When I look at donor/contributor lists, in programs or carved on founder’s walls in museums  — 95% are like I’ve stated above.  The other 5% are written in other ways.
         The final determination is — to write their name they way the persons submits their name to be presented.  In the end, savvy organizations present names the way the listed person says they want their name presented. It matters less that the editor doesn’t like the style …. It matters more if the contributor likes the style. It’s their name and it’s their money!
                  -- Robert Hickey

How to List a Couple's Name When He is a Jr. or Sr.?
       When writing a couple's name would you write Charles Henry, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers. Or would it be Charles Henry and Daisy Ellis Rivers, Sr.

            -- Betsy Mizner @

      I am preparing programs for my wedding. We are listing our grandparents who have passed. My grandfather was a junior.  However, my grandmother, his wife, is also deceased.  Where do we put the junior as to not confuse him with the other men with those names?
      Example:  Jane and Thomas Smith, Jr. (?) or Thomas and Jane Smith, Jr.
            -- Kristen Smith

Dear Ms. Mizner & Ms. Smith:
       When one combines names ... as in ... Jane and Thomas Smith or
Charles Henry and Daisy Rivers ... these are casual, informal forms.
       The casual forms are sort of a free style ... there are no rules.  But with casual forms, the names can't be done as elegantly and consistently as they can when using formal forms. That's what the formal forms were developed to do ... to be consistent and elegant.
       #1 The traditional form for a married couple is:
              Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rivers, Sr.
       #2 When you want to include both given names ... both her name and his ... write each name fully and do not combine them:
              Thomas Smith, Jr. and Jane Smith
Charles Henry Rivers, Sr. and Daisy Ellis Rivers
In such a listing, the and between their names indicates they are married/are a couple because individuals who are not married/are a couple are listed separately / not listed together.
              -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Two Doctors?
       I attended a dinner given in the home of a plastic surgeon (him) and a dentist (her).  Both are doctors with their own practice.  When I was introduced it was first names.  How do I address the envelope of the thank you note?
        -- Cecilia Bonnington

Dear Ms. Bonnington:
I cover how to address two doctors in my book: Chapter Nine - Joint Forms of Address.
When couples have the same rank ... which they do in this case since the are both Dr.  ... on the mailing envelope they would be listed in the order established in the order in Mr. & Mrs.
        Dr. Adam Wilson
            and Dr. Cynthia Wilson

    or if they use different last names
        Dr. Adam Wilson
            and Dr. Cynthia Smithson

    Then on the salutation, since you are on a first-name basis address them as:
            Dear Adam and Cynthia,
    But if you were not ona first-name basis, then just use the conversational forms:
            Dear Drs. Wilson,        
If they use the same surname you can combine them.
            Dear Dr. Wilson and Dr. Wilson,
            Dear Dr. Wilson and Dr. Smithson,

    What I've outlined above is formal, so it's never incorrect. Note that I'm intentionally avoiding -- and suggest you do too -- any form that combines their names and "Dr." like Drs. Adam and Cynthia Wilson.

                    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Couple If She is Dr. & He is Mr.
And They Use Different Last Names?

      My brother (Erwin Wright) and sister-in-law (Monica Vintner) write their names as Wright and Vintner on the return address. She has kept her maiden name, has a PhD, and teaches at a univeristy. What is the correct way to address them on invitations (formal and informal), as well as holiday or anniversary cards?
           -- M. Torres

Dear M. Torres:
     By standard precedence, she is  first since she is a "Dr." Partners with special honorifics (doctorates, military ranks, etc.) are most formally listed first in joint forms of address:
          Dr. Monica Vintner
           and Mr. Erwin Wright
           3333 Smith Court
Henderson, OH 44444
     That's the formal way.
     But -- if you are addressing informal correspondence ... Hummm.
     Since they list themselves "Wright and Vintner" on their return address -- they have established that to be their casual preference.  For casual correspondence I'd follow their lead and address their envelopes as:
          Wright and Vintner
           3333 Smith Court
Henderson, OH 44444
     And inside write "Dear Monica and Erwin"
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Couple If She is a Dr. and
He is About to be a Dr. But isn't a Dr. Yet?

      I am a calligrapher who is writing wedding invitation envelopes for a couple who has a form-of-address question: A married couple who both use the husband’s surname is being invited.  The woman is a recent medical school graduate.  The man will be graduating from medical school within a few weeks after the date of the wedding.
      How should the couple be addressed on the envelopes of the invitation?

      -- KNR 

Dear KNR:
        1) Officially one only has any degree when one has the diploma in hand.
        2) People with "Dr." have higher precedence than people who are "Mr./Ms." -- unless the "Mr./Ms." is actually the intended guest and the "Dr." is being included only as a courtesy to the "Mr./Ms."  In that case the higher precedence is granted to the intended guest.
        But for this I will assume they are being invited equally ... so ... she is higher.
        So most formally it would be:
                Dr. Cynthia Wilson
                and Mr. Thomas Wilson
        Inside envelope use:
                Dr. and Mr. Wilson
        If this sort of thing comes up often, I cover this in my book.  
        In Chapter 9: Joint Forms of Address, on page 141 I show the variations of 'Doctors' in couples ... for both those using the same surname and different surnames.
      -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Two Pastors?
    What is the proper way to address a letter to my pastor and his wife is also a pastor? Thank you in advance.

         -- Susan Wise

Dear Ms. Wise:
     I cover how to address two pastors in Chapter Nine: Joint Forms of Address.
You didn't mention if they both use the same last name ... so I will assume the do.
    And I will also assume you address each as Pastor (surname) in conversation rather than Dr., Father, or something else.
    That said ... on the envelope ... address it to "your pastor" first ... and put the name of his or her spouse on the second line:
        The Reverend Clinton Jones
            and The Reverend Susan Jones

    On the salutation to both use:
        Dear Pastors Jones,

      -- Robert Hickey

How To Address a Pastor and His Wife?
     How do I address a note to a pastor and his wife when both hold PhD's and she is a college professor?
     -- Lucy Hendershott, Great Falls, Virginia

    How do I address a pastor and his wife when she's doesn't have a special title?  She uses Mrs. or maybe Ms.
     -- John Price Buchanan, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Dear LH and JPB:
    I include forms for every different type of formal joint address in my book. On social correspondence (as opposed to official correspondence mailed to their office)  you don't use academic or any other kind of post-nominal initials. So no PhD.
    Put each name a line of its own ... so each gets their full name just right
            The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Dr. Marilyn Winslow

        The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Mrs. Winslow

    Clergy goes first. A person with an advance degree is lower than a member of clergy.
    Traditionally when a wife has a special honorific ... like "Dr." or a military rank she gets her full name.
when a wife uses "Mrs." and the same family name -- the wife's given name does not appear.
     If you want the full name of the pastor's wife to appear, then you have to get inventive. Today many women are perfect fine with "Ms." all the time. Thus a more contemporary form would be:

           The Reverend Dennis Winslow
                and Ms. Marilyn Winslow

    You definitely want to avoid:
         The Reverend and Mrs. Dennis and Marilyn Winslow
      And finally regarding:

            The Reverend Dennis and Mrs. Marilyn Winslow
     The form Mrs. (Her Given Name + Surname) is disliked by some women who follow the rule that it is the form for a divorced woman who could not be Mrs. (His
Given Name + Surname) anymore so subsequently uses Mrs. (Her Given Name + Surname).
                -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Female Pastor & Her Husband?
      How do I address a sympathy card to our female pastor and her husband on the death of her husband’s son from a previous marriage?
    -- nskcomstock

Dear nskcomstock,
    Most formally on an envelope your Pastor is listed first since she is The Reverend (Full Name) and he is a Mr. (Full Name). People with courtesy titles rank higher than people without them.
     And because she has a title ... she gets her whole name as a unit ... not mixed in with her spouse's name. So avoid anything resembling The Reverend Allyson and Mr. Wilson Smith
... which is really bad.  
     And assuming they use the same last name ... the most formal would be:
          The Reverend Allyson Smith
               and Mr. Wilson Smith

     In the salutation you could use the form you think she prefers in conversation ....
          Dear Pastor and Mr. Smith,
          Dear Dr. and Mr. Smith,

     Or if you are on a first name basis use:
          Dear Allyson and Wilson,

               -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Pastor and Her Military Husband?
     My question has to do with addressing envelopes.  Our Pastor, Alyson Smith, of the Presbyterian Denomination, is married to a retired Lieutenant Commander, USN, Richard.  He is to be awarded his PhD soon.  Regardless of the degree, I have not been able to find out how one is to address an invitation, card, or letter to the two of them, together.
         --- Bobbi Sue Minton

Dear Ms. Minton:
I have an entire chapter on joint forms of address in my book for just this type of situation. I am guessing you are addressing him socially, so ... socially his name is written:
        Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith
    As a member of the clergy, her name is written:
        The Reverend Alyson Smith

    Regarding his PhD.
In the US academic post nominals are never used with a rank. So he can be Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith (or Commander Smith in conversation) or Richard Smith, PhD (or Dr. Smith in conversation if he wants to be address as "Dr.") but never Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith PhD.

    Usually holders of PhD's don't use Dr. (name) unless they work in academia or research. E.g., the holder of a doctorate in French who teaches would use
Dr. (name) .... The holder of a PhD in finance who works at a bank wouldn't. But ultimately it's his option how he is addressed.

    An active duty or retired military person has higher precedence than a civilian so is listed first. So in most circumstances the joint form would be:
        Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith
            and The Reverend Alyson Smith

    BUT if she is the invited guest ... and he is invited as her escort, then as the guest her name would appear first:
        The Reverend Alyson Smith
            and Lieutenant Commander Richard Smith

    I have spelled out "Lieutenant Commander" every time above, to avoid the whole issue of how to abbreviate his rank. I cover that in my book on pages 94-98 (service-specific abbreviations) if you need that information.
                  -- Robert Hickey

Whose Name is First? His? or Hers?
    In an salutation for a married couple using just first names .... whose name is first?  His? Or hers? Dear Anne and Steve or Dear Steve and Anne?

         -- Anne Robinson

    On a wedding program should I list my parents as:
        1) Michael and Linda Swaggerty   OR
        2) Linda and Michael Swaggerty
    We didn’t use Mr. and Mrs. for this, as we prefer all the guests know the parent's first names.
         -- Linda Swaggerty

    On shared stationery – how should we list our names? His name first? My name first?  We will be married soon and I have chosen to retain my maiden name.
    My fiancé honestly doesn't care whose name is first. I think it seems like I am secondary to him if his name comes first on everything (which I agree is rather ridiculous but I cannot seem to get past the feeling). What is the "proper" way to do it?

         -- Laura T

Dear Anne, Linda, and Laura:
      In my book I include the following: When writing two names (typically when addressing invitations, but the rules work for other situations, too), there are two ways.
      1) Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with different surnames, women are listed first, men are listed second:
            Ms. Laura Thompson and Mr. Henry Smith
            Laura Thompson and Henry Smith
            Laura and Henry

    It is this way in "social etiquette" because gender is a consideration in traditional social forms of address.
Social etiquette says, when the guests are a couple with the same surname, women are listed first, men are listed second. I've seen this described as 'ladies first' or 'keeping his name as a unit."  Either way the result is the same:
            Laura and Henry Smith
            Laura and Henry

      3) This contrasts with business and official etiquette (and the rules of protocol), in which gender is not a consideration.
       In the business and official arenas, if both halves of the couple are of equal precedence, they always are listed alphabetically by surname:
            Mr. Henry Adams and Ms. Laura Wagner
          Henry Adams and Laura Wagner
            Henry and Laura
    This rule is the one you follow for same sex couples:
            Mr. Frank Baker and Mr. Thomas Wilson
            Frank Baker and Thomas Wilson
            Frank and Thomas
            Ms. Amy Clifton and Ms. Maria Yeonas

            Amy Clifton and Maria Yeonas

            Amy and Maria

      -- Robert Hickey

Whose Name Is First If One of Them Is a Date?
      Whose name is first if I am inviting to a business event a couple, who use different surnames? She is the one we are really inviting, he's being invited as a courtesy to her.  Alphabetically he is first, but it seems funny to list him first since he is coming as the date?
              -- Mary Harrison

Dear Ms. Harrison:
    1) If a person is the guest to an official event (e.g., the woman is the reason the invitation is being extended) and her spouse is attending as her guest ... her name goes first:
             Ms. Mary Harrison
                  and Mr. Albert Baker

     His name would be listed first if he is the intended guest.
   2) When they are both invited, so neither is the 'invited guest' then the person with higher precedence is listed first regardless of gender.  E.g., if the woman holds a higher office, higher rank, or has a special honorific -- she outranks her husband who has a lower office, lower rank or has no special honorific -- a protocol officer sending out official invitations would always list the woman first in a married couple. E.g.:
        The Honorable Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert
        The Reverend Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker
        Her Excellency Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker
        General Mary Harrison
            and Major Albert Baker
        Major Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker
        Dr. Mary Harrison
            and Mr. Albert Baker

     I cover all this and more in the chapters in my book on Joint Forms of Address and Precedence.
   -- Robert Hickey

How Do I Address Two Individuals, Not a Couple?
        How do you address a business letter to two people at the same company when they have different titles? The people are David McGraw, Supply Manager, and Wayne Kammerer, Maintenance Manager.
       - Linda Whedbee

        I am acknowledging a donation from a mother and her adult daughter.  How do I address them, and what salutation would I use?
       - Harold Towle
Dear Ms. Whedbee and Mr. Towle:
    Most often adults receive individual communications. In business the letter is directed to one and the other is copied on the correspondence. Socially only young children are included on their parents invitations.
     But ... if you want to write one letter, list them individually, with the name of the person with the higher precedence first. That would be the senior person first in business
or if you are not aware of any hierarchical order, list their names in alphabetical order. For the family members list the mother first following the social convention of deferring to age. The word "and" appears between names in a couple .... so there's no 'and' between them on these envelopes.
    On an envelope or address block on a letter:
        Mr./Mrs./Ms./etc. (Full Name)
          Mr./Mrs./Ms./etc. (Full Name)
   As the salutation:
          Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./etc. (Surname) and Mr./Mrs./Ms./etc. (Surname):
                    -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Dean and His Wife?
Hi Robert,
I'm writing a thank-you letter to a dean and his wife. He has a doctorate but I am not sure how to address the envelope and start the note. What is the proper way to do this?
             -- Susan @ Athens Interiors, Athens, Georgia

Dear Susan,
    I am guessing this is an 'academic dean" rather than an "Episcopal dean” Right?
    The issues I think you are asking are;
        * Should he be addressed as “Dr.” or as “Dean”?
* How do you include his wife's name?
    Official letters to a Dean sent to his office are addressed to Stephen Smith, PhD.
    Social letters to his home are addressed to Dr. Stephen Smith. I see on your note that you are an interior designer.  If you are writing to him about design work at his home, I’d use
Dr. Stephen Smith since that would be personal rather than professional issue to him.
    Most formally Dean is used as an honorific in conversation when one is acting as a Dean: “Dean Smith, will you be chairing the faculty meeting?” And other people will refer to him (when he is acting as Dean) as "The Dean will be here in 15 minutes."  "Dean Smith will see you now."
    But back to your letter:
    On the envelope if they use the same last name:
        Most formally a social letter:
            Dr. Stephen L. Smith
                and Mrs. Smith

        Or less formally:
            Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Smith

        Most formally: Dear Dr. Smith and Mrs. Smith,
        Or less formally: Dear Dr. and Mrs. Smith,
Most formally a social letter if they use different last names
        Dr. Stephen L. Smith
            and Ms. Mary Johnson

    Salutation: Dear Dr. Smith and Ms. Johnson
               -- Robert Hickey

Not Finding Your Question Answered?
(1) At left is a list offices/officials covered and (2) below are other topics covered in my blog. Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     But after checking both lists if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – but I always change the names and specifics.
      -- Robert Hickey

Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
Sequence Post-Nominal Abbreviations: Sr., Jr., etc.    
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services
       Addressing Active Duty Personnel              
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

Author's Name on His/Her Book       
Business Cards, Names on
Introductions, Names in
Invitations: Names on
Invitations: Names of Armed Service Personnel on        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates, Names on    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
Tombstones, Names on      

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 6 April 2020


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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Available in   Hardcover   /  Kindle   /  Apple Book

Copyright © 2020 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.