The Protocol School of Washington

Robert Hickey, "Honor & Respect"

How to Address a Family

How to Address a Family with Different Surnames?

I kept my maiden name and use it both professionally and socially (Angie Wilson). We now have a son with my husband’s last name (Husband: Tom Smith, Son: Taylor Smith). If someone were to send an invitation to the family, how would they address it?

—-What about:  How to Address a Family
——–The Smith Family
—-—-The Smith-Wilson Family
—-—-Mr. and Ms. Smith Wilson and Master Taylor Smith
—-—-The Tom, Angie and Taylor Smith & Wilson Family

—-—-—-—-– Angie Smith-Wilson

Dear Ms. Smith-Wilson,

If you are going to (1) jettison ‘Wilson’ and use ‘Smith’ or (2) want the hypenated version – ‘Smith-Wilson’ –  you should decide that and tell everyone it’s your preference so they can use it.

But, here is a way it’s done:

When people are addressed as a ‘unit/couple/family’ have different surnames – each gets their name written out fully:
—-—-Mr. Thomas Smith
—-—-and Ms. Angie Wilson

When they have children – children are included last, typically oldest to youngest if there are several:
——–Mr. Thomas Smith
—-—-Ms. Angie Wilson
—-—-and Mr. Taylor Smith

Regarding Mr. Taylor Smith’ vs. Master Taylor Smith’ for your son. I’d suggest you use ‘Mr. Taylor Smith’.   ‘Master (Full Name)’ is the form shown in many etiquette books for very young boys. But except in the most conservative circles it’s rarely used nowadays. A traditional Grandmother is about the only one who might send a card to a young grandson and address the envelope as:
—-—-Master Taylor Smith

– Robert Hickey     How to Address a Family

How to Address an Invitation to a Family?

I would be very grateful if you could give me advice on how to best address the following wedding invitation.

—-#1)  How should we include children on the invitation?
—-—-Dr. and Mrs. John Smith,
—-—-and their children
—-—-Dr. and Mrs. John Smith,
—-—-Miss Helen Smith
—-—-and Master Peter Smith
—-—-—-—-or something else?

—-#2) Does it make a difference when the children have a role in the wedding (e.g. as a flower girl) but the parents are regular guests?
—————–— Party Planner

Dear Party Planner:
—-#1) It is better to list every guest on the invitation. List the parents and the children. If for some reason you only list the parents on the mailing envelope, then list the children individually on the inside envelope so everyone is clearly invited.

—-—-Dr. and Mrs. John Smith,
—-—-Miss Helen Smith
—-—-and Master Peter Smith

—-#2) I’d use “Miss (Full Name)” for a very little girl. When girls get to be teenagers they generally prefer “Ms. (Full Name).”  

—-#3) “Master” is hardly ever used except in conservative circles and there only for very little boys. If he’s not a very little boy, consider using “Mr.”

—-#4) You should issue an invitation to the flower girl.  You can include  her in the family invitation. No separate invitation is necessary. A participant already knows or will discover the details of the event.  But sending an invitation lets them see what everyone else is seeing … and provides a keepsake.

— Robert Hickey

Related Forms of Address: --------Boy --------Couples: Military --------Couples: Private Citizens --------Couples: U.S. Officials --------Couple, Same Sex --------Family --------First Names --------Girl --------Man or Woman, Social --------Woman, Married --------Miss --------Mrs. vs. Ms. --------Mx. --------Retiree --------Spouse of an Official --------Widow

Robert Hickey, "Honor & Respect"

When Should You Use the Forms of Address on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.


Not Finding Your Question Answered?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  After checking the list and reading the posts, 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 or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – but leave out your name and change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 

Robert Hickey, "Honor & Respect"

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