How To Address Mail To Couples With Different Last Names

It’s the holiday season and holiday cards are getting sent out in large batches.  New contacts have been added to your list this year because you’ve met so many new people.  You know some of them are married but aren’t sure if the wife has changed her name.  You know for sure that a few have not and you’re stuck on how to address cards and packages to these lovely folks.

Let Auntie Andie help you out.  As someone who did not change her name upon marriage and who lived with her significant other for many years before marriage, I’ve been the recipient of many letters, cards, and packages gone wrong.  To be honest, I’m really not sure why there is such confusion but I’m here to help you out on how to address mail to those with different last names.

As part of my research I did a Google search to see what other people have to say on the matter and everything I found related to wedding invitations.  Interesting, no?  Nothing relating to addressing regular mail.  This, and many cards addressed to me in humorous and frustrating manners,  have prompted this small tutorial.


Married and Unmarried Couples:

Don’t:

Do not just assume that the wife has changed her name and address the letter/card/package old-school formal style. Example:

Mr. and Mrs. Scott Coder

123 Happy Lane

Peppermint City, OH 33332

Unless you know without a doubt, 100%, you’d bet your life on it, that the wife does not mind having her name erased and her husband’s full name used in its place, this is not acceptable. Unmarried couples are included in this because sometimes when a couple has been together for ages and they will be getting married, some folks find it cute to address cards and such in this manner.

It is not cute.

Never assume that the female in the equation is down with this.

If you are unsure if the wife has changed her name, ASK.  You will not look like a fool if you ask first but you will look like a fool if you assume and address the card improperly.  Remember gang, unless you know without a doubt, the above example is never okay.

A better option would be (and this is ONLY USED if you know the wife has changed their name):

Do:

Mr. Scott and Mrs. Andrea Coder

123 Happy Lane

Peppermint City, OH 33332

Acknowledge the wife and that she actually has a first name and use it in addressing mail.

Now let’s get down to business and discuss couples with different last names.

Do’s and Don’ts for Addressing Mail to Couples with Different Last Names:

If The Couple Is Married:

Your best friend or favorite cousin just got married and kept her last name.  You want to send her and her husband a card, but how should it be addressed?

Do:

Address the card with each name on a separate line. Research shows that married couples should go on the same line but, in my opinion, that can look sloppy, especially when dealing with long last names. I say put them on separate lines like this:

Ms. Andrea Bloggins

Mr. Scott Coder

123 Happy Lane

Peppermint City, OH 33332

Don’t:

Address the wife as “Mrs.” If she didn’t change her name it’s a safe bet that she doesn’t want to be called Mrs. If you are unsure ASK her. Or ask her husband.  People would rather be asked first than have mail addressed to them incorrectly. Trust me.

If The Couple Is Not Married:

The same rules apply as if the couple were married.  Please see above example.

This also applies to same-sex couples.

Whether the couple is married or not married:

Do not just use the first name of one of the people on the same line. Example:

Don’t:

Ms. Andrea Bloggins and Scott (or vice versa)

123 Happy Lane

Peppermint City, OH 33332

This not only makes it look like the other person is an afterthought but it is also clear that the person sending the mail is clueless.  Don’t be that person.  Address each individual and make them feel important.

Do:

Always provide a title (Mr., Ms., Mrs.) to the person you are addressing the letter to.  These are adults we are referring to and adults should always have a title put before their name.

Don’t:

Take one last name and use it “family” style.  Example:

To The Bloggins Family

123 Happy Lane

Peppermint City, OH 33332

People with different last names don’t really want to be referred to in that way.


Putting it simply, if your name is Tom, you probably would get a tad miffed if people kept calling you Paul.  After all, Paul isn’t your name.  I’m sure you would correct someone if they called you by the wrong name, right?  Same rules apply to those with different last names.  They don’t want to be called by the wrong name.

These are not rules set in stone but gentle suggestions from someone who has been dealing with such a situation for over a decade.  Take your time this year addressing holiday cards and packages (though these rules apply to addressing general mail as well) and make sure you address them properly.  Not only will you feel better but the recipient will feel like you know what you’re doing and that you care.

Now go forth and address mail with confidence!

28 thoughts on “How To Address Mail To Couples With Different Last Names

    • Mike, it’s really close to Chocolate Valley. ;)
      Kalin, Yes exactly! I have found that the majority of women who have changed their name do not want their entire identity to be erased. Please acknowledge that they have their very own first name! So many people still find old school acceptable and it really is outdated and needs changed.
      Nicole, I feel like a butthead when I correct people and tell them it’s “Ms.” but I would rather come across as snotty than end up cranky because I’m addressed incorrectly.
      Kirstie, I very much dislike “Mrs.” too and really just find it an outdated title. Thanks for sharing! :)
      Rose, you’re welcome!
      Kate, Ha! Nicknames go in parentheses. ;)

  1. I’m recently married and *did* change my last name, but Mr and Mrs Josh Ourlastname bugs the CRAP out of me. Mr and Mrs Ourlastnam is fine. But don’t give him a name and not me!

  2. I’m with Kalin- Mr. & Mrs. Jeremy Outlastname would bug the crap out of me, too.

    I’m also caught off guard when people address me as Miss + my married name. Umm…no? Sometimes I feel like an ass when I correct them.

  3. Thanks for posting. As a wife who hyphenates her maiden name with her husband’s last name it irritates the crap out of me when I get called Mrs. (insert husbands last name here). Ugh! I like Ms. (insert maiden name here). I’m not a MRS.! I very much dislike Mrs. (insert husbands first & last name). I am a person with my own name thank you very much! It’s bad enough my first name is spelled incorrectly about 99% of the time (I’m used to that) but the last name thing bugs me!

  4. Awesome post. As a member of the 20-something generation, I always deal with this when addressing cards. I never know anyone’s statuses! Thanks for this.

  5. Kate says:

    I like the guide – but where do we put inappropriate nicknames? Instead of the real first name? Mr. FancyPants Lastname and Ms. Prissyface Last name”?

    I don’t like titles so I tend to omit them altogether. I suppose I should rethink my stance though.

  6. Sarah says:

    This would have been hugely helpful last week ;) So what do you think of this:

    Married couple, several kids, and wife took hudsband’s name: “The xyz Family”

    Unmarried couple living together: “Adam and Eve” I used just both first names.

    Be gentle!
    S

    • Hi Sarah! I think The XYZ Family is totally fine if you are including the kids in with the card. If you just want the card to go to the parents (because are the kids really even going to mind?), then I would do Mr. First Name and Mrs. First Name XYZ.

      Unmarried couple living together I would do Mr. First Name Last Name, then on the second line, Ms. First Name and Last name. Only because holiday cards, to me, are more formal. If this were a shooting-the-breeze, kind of letter, then “First Name and First Name” is totally fine because it’s a more causal tone. I still think as adults, they should be provided a title, so even Mr. First Name and Ms. First Name is acceptable.

  7. Awesome, awesome post!

    I have a doozy though. What if a family is in the middle of a divorce and hubby has moved out. I don’t want to say “Smith Family” because Mr. Smith is already gone and I don’t want to insult the wife if she has returned to being Ms. Jones. But the kids are still Smith. Gah!!!! Help!

    • Mama Pea, Okay, first you’re gonna have to find out if the wife has changed her name. Either ask outright or do some stealth investigating. I’m going to take a stab at it and say, if they are currently in the middle of a divorce, a name change hasn’t happened yet. If there is no name change, then I would do Ms. Jones and Family. If her name has changed, do the same thing with the new name, Ms. Maiden Name and Family. :) I hope that helps!

    • Monica, no worries! :)
      Heather, really?! That would drive me crazy! Don’t stress about the card, you and I are friends so not addressing it to Scott isn’t something that ruffles either of our feathers. Promise! :)

  8. Heather says:

    I get called Mrs ALL the time and I’m not even freaking married OR living with someone! Do you see a wedding ring on my left hand? Grrrr.

    Anyhoo sometimes I just address the envelope as Andrea and Scott (which I did not do this time tho! My bad :( ) as an example.

  9. Thank you for this! I have two last names now and do not hyphenate. I cause drama for everyone. At the same time I’m totally cool with Andy & Amanda BLOGGINS (LOL!) but not Mr. & Mrs. Andy Bloggins. Dude.

  10. Rebecca says:

    I really appreciate you posting this :^) I hyphenated my last name and 98% of both my family and my husband’s family send things to Husband and Me Husband’slastname or Mr and Mrs Husband’slastname. Granted, both our families are lazy, but you don’t see me sending cards out to Lazyass Relative. Maybe the only people who are concerned about this are people who actually have different last names? Why can’t everyone else be thoughtful about this?

  11. This is a HUGE pet peeve! I hyphenated, and people REALLY don’t know what to do with that. They think I have “two last names” and they can just pick or choose which to use. It seriously irks me when women’s names are entirely left off. What, we get married and suddenly don’t count? Especially when we get an invite from friends who KNOW I hyphenated and leave off my first name AND last name … there is no Mrs. Ryan Engineer here, thanks! Just a Ms. Charise Editor-Engineer. ;)

    I am actually anti-title and prefer a more informal addressing in my personal life (of couse I use them in the business world), so didn’t use them on my wedding invites last year. But either way, I haaaaaaate being called “Mrs.”; why should the woman’s title refer to her marital status when the man’s doesn’t?

  12. Jonathan Fletcher says:

    Thank you for posting this, Ms. Ratulowski. It really helped take the anxiety out of my dilemma regarding how to address a married couple with different last names.

  13. Colin says:

    How would I address a letter to a couple where the wife has hyphenated her last name with that of her husband’s, but her husband’s has not changed? I don’t want to piss off my sister-in-law

  14. Kathleen Selman says:

    Help. Im a bit stupid.. My daughter is keeping her maiden name and her husbands name so how do I address the envelope please.
    thank you
    Kathleen

  15. Rosalie says:

    How do you send a thank you card from a couple who is unmarried and do not live together and you want to include both names on the envelope? Should the Males name come first?

  16. Elaine Ethridge says:

    How difficult is it to write Mr. Hill Billy and Mrs. Nosein Air when those are their names. I didn’t change my name and good grief, how difficult it appears to be for other people! You can also change it up and put Mrs. or Ms Air’s name on the first line. It shouldn’t matter whose comes first, but it comes to mind as Mr. and Mrs. usually, because of long usage. I am fine with Ms or Mrs. because I consider Mrs. just a term denoting marriage.

  17. AX says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am going to send a blast email to everyone on my and my husband’s contact list. We keep getting mail addressed to Me & Him HisLastName or Mr. & Mrs. HisLastName and it peeves me to no end. It is hard to believe that people are so quick to make this kind of presumption in 2015.

    • The children don’t really need to be included on the address. But if you feel you must include them you can do, Mr. First Name Last Name and Ms. First Name Last Name and Family.

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