Etiquette 101: Whose name should be first, the husband’s or the wife’s?

8 Jan

mydeskspace

My interest in “paper etiquette” started in college as I began more frequent correspondence via letter with family and friends and increased as I began my professional career— you have to know who to address and how in any business. But I think my real education grew exponentially as I planned my wedding. (There are SO MANY RULES to consider. It’s a nightmare.) And lest you think I nailed it all perfectly, I can assure you, I did not.

Some might think that attention to etiquette today is completely antiquated, but I’ve always believed that the intention of following such rules is politeness and if there is one thing I pride myself on, it’s politeness. The subject of whose name should be written first has come up within our own family conversations over the years so when it resurfaced this holiday season, I decided to do a little research to learn if there is a rule for the correct order to writing a husband and wife’s name. Here’s what I learned:

Outside of the traditional, formal “Mr. & Mrs. John Doe”, the wife’s name is ALWAYS first when using first names: “Jane and John Doe” (1). In social importance, the woman is always first, then males, then children. Traditionally, the man’s first and surnames are never separated. The confused idea of the man’s name first (John and Jane Doe or Mr. John Doe and Ms. Jane Smith) is neither traditional nor appropriate.

At Emilypost.com, she notes that traditionally, a man’s name was first on an envelope address (Mr. and Mrs. John Doe), and his first and surname were not separated (Jane and John Doe), but that “nowadays”, the order was irrelevant.

I beg to differ. Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior and Crane’s Blue Book of Social Stationery either state outright or give examples consistent with the following:

Married Couples
– Formally: Mr. & Mrs. John Doe
– Informally: Jane and John Doe
– In which man is a doctor: Dr. & Mrs. John Doe
– In which woman is a doctor: Mr. and Mrs. John Doe or Dr. Jane Doe and Mr. John Doe
– In which both spouses are doctors: Dr. and Mrs. John Doe, or The Doctors Doe, or Dr. Jane Doe and Dr. John Doe

Interesting, right? I’d actually never read that about the husband’s first and surname never being separated, but have always preferred to list the woman’s name first out of respect. I don’t know why exactly but I think the fact that Brian (my husband) always holds open doors and ushers me ahead of him when we enter any room or restaurant,  (wasn’t it women and children first into the lifeboats when the Titanic sank? …just saying!), but balks when I try to make him walk ahead of me, has ingrained this sensitivity into me. Anyways, I’m glad I took the time to look into this so I finally know what is what.

Sources:

1 – Crane’s Blue Book of Social Stationery (2002) uses this for its examples (pages 89, 108, 110, 111, 112). “The woman’s name appears first” appears on 112, 113, among countless others.

Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (2005) states on page 603, “That gentlemen appear first in the traditional designation of a married couple, Mr and Mrs, should not be allowed to go to their heads. Given the choice whenever other forms are used, the lady’s name appears first. ”

Emilypost.com

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/When_writing_to_husband_and_wife_do_you_put_the_man%27s_name_first?#slide=2

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8 Responses to “Etiquette 101: Whose name should be first, the husband’s or the wife’s?”

  1. Candice January 8, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Interesting that when the man is a doctor you must let it be known but when the woman is the doctor it’s okay to leave it out.

    • addie2u August 21, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

      That was glaringly obvious. I actually read those examples twice to make sure I read them correctly. Reminds me of what my grandmother always said “men inherently need their egos stroked” (no matter how self-assured they come across). 😉

    • Lyndsey April 30, 2016 at 8:03 am #

      I’m not sure what sort of website I have stumbled onto, but I’m currently working on my doctorate and would be very offended if, after I earned it, I was still reffered to as Mrs John Doe, especially if my husband were referred to as Dr John Doe. I lose my first name AND my title I will have worked just as hard as all the male Drs who earned the degree and dserve to have this acknowledged. I suppose some might call me an angry feminist, but women have egos too and should have their acomplishments noted. I guarentee any female Dr who recieves mail addressed to Dr. and Mrs jane doe when they are both Drs is not going to be happy with the writer of this correspondence. I see these comments are old, so I may just be writing to myself anyway.

      Honestly, I can’t stand the idea of being reffered to as Mrs “man’s full name.” I always prefer at weddings where the couple are intruduced as Mr and Mrs Jane and John Doe if they are sharing their last name. It may not be proper, but language and customs do often evolve. I know it’s “tradition,” and I will be accused of being too sensitive, but these things do have underlying meaning. The bride becomes nothing more than the Mrs. who married to the complete man with a full name. She apparently has no first name worth mentioning while being intruded to her wedding guests.

      Also, like the French, I believe that it’s become unessary to refer to a female’s marital status when addressing her. In English, men are always mister. There is no need to declare a woman’s marital status anymore. The French now legally use madam for all women, married or not, although colloquially mademoiselle is still used. Many other countries, such as Portugal, Denmark, germany and Italy generally ony use the married term for all women . English could just miss, or misses. I know we can use Ms. but it doesn’t feel like a real word and often sounds to much like Miss. Anyway, that’s just my two cents.

  2. Staci January 9, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    What an interesting post!! I find myself trying to remember how I usually put our names when I sign cards and stuff and I think I usually put Tim’s name first but I’m not sure haha.

  3. Kazzyfam Ak March 5, 2017 at 5:46 pm #

    But Why Did The Woman’s Name Appears First In Wedding Invitations

  4. Julita April 25, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

    okay… but what if you are trying to include a title? dont? for example – i’m sending out a list of attendees to the attendees themselves, so they know who’s sitting at their table… i want to list Jane & John Doe, but also state that John Doe is CEO of Company A. So how do i do that?

    if i wasn’t listing his wife, i’d write: John Doe, CEO, Company A

    so is it… : Jane and John Doe, CEO, Company A? Doesn’t that imply they are both CEO? sigh. help.

  5. CANDICE July 26, 2017 at 1:07 am #

    WHAT ABOUT A HUSBAND AND WIFE WEBSITE THAT IS INFORMALLY NAMED WITH EACH PERSONS FIRST NAME… WHO’S NAME SHOULD BE FIRST… WIFEYANDHUBBY.COM OR HUBBYANDWIFE.COM??

    • Wendy July 26, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

      Personally, I think the wife’s name should be first. Our of respect. Hope that helps!

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