Proper RSVP Etiquette for the Order of First Married Names

by Sabine McKellen ; Updated September 28, 2017

Even with formal invitations, the etiquette for addressing a married couple has relaxed.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

Gone are the days when invitations for a married couple would use the husband’s name to address both, i.e., “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.” Conventions have relaxed for writing out both names on an envelope.

Informal vs. Formal Invitations

When sending any correspondence to any couple -- unmarried, married, or married but using different surnames -- always write both their names on the same line:

John Doe and Jane Smith

It is an outdated rule that the husband’s name should always come first. Modern etiquette dictates that first name order is arbitrary, so you may choose to list them alphabetically or by the order of the partner with whom you’re more familiar. Both examples are correct:

John and Jane Doe Jane and John Doe

When addressing a formal invitation, use titles. This will require separating the two names:

Ms. Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe


If either partner has a professional, political or military title, that spouse “outranks” the other, so put his or her name first:

The Honorable Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe Dr. John Doe and Ms. Jane Doe

If both spouses have the same title, any of the three following examples are correct:

The Doctors Doe Drs. Jane Doe and John Doe Dr. John Doe and Dr. Jane Doe

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images

About the Author

Sabine McKellen began her career teaching English as a Second Language to adults from around the world. She has spent the past seven years in journalism, covering social issues, specifically in rural communities. Her work has appeared in community newspapers throughout southern California, and in various trade and educational magazines.