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Miss Manners: Etiquette allows variations in addressing married couples

Dear Miss Manners: As a recently married woman, I must admit that I broke traditional protocol in addressing invitations, and I hope that others will do the same for me.

I kept my maiden name, and I have numerous friends who did the same. Rather than addressing them in the “appropriate way,” which would be “Ms. X Smith” followed by “Mr. Y Jones” on the next line, I addressed them as “Mr. and Mrs. Y Jones and X Smith.” When I address things solely to the woman in such a couple (and what I prefer to receive), I address it to “Ms. X Smith.”

I feel that addressing it as such is a more appropriate way to honor the sincerity and depth of the married relationship as well as the independence of the two individuals, which is generally the intention of keeping one’s last name. (As an aside, we both intend for our children to solely have their father’s last name, as I kept my father’s.)

I feel that etiquette has fallen a bit behind the intent of keeping one’s last name and should be helped along in this regard.

I married my husband because we love each other enough to have each committed our lives to each other, and we approach life as a couple and as a team, not as two individuals who happen to share an address – which I feel the “correct” way of address implies. (It is the same way you would address an envelope to roommates who happen to be different genders, which I did also have on my guest list, and addressed them as such.)

As an authority on manners, can you help society work this out?

Gentle Reader: As an authority on manners, Miss Manners regrets that she cannot recognize you as a fellow authority. In the manners business, we do not grant ourselves privileges that we deny to others.

Etiquette did move ahead on the issue of surnames for married females – from a standard formula that enfolded the wives’ identity into the husbands’ to allowing free choice.

As there is no practical way of recognizing all ancestry, we now have a wide variety. There are ladies, not all of them antique, who prefer the old form. Others may use the husband’s surname but with their own first names; still others retain their birth names, or hyphenate the two surnames, or create an entirely different one. Couples may use the father’s surname for the children, or a hyphenated name, or alternate the two surnames when there is more than one child.

You have made your choice among all these possibilities. Why cannot you respect others’ right to do the same?

Send questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.