I get it, you want a formal wedding. Or, maybe you don’t. I promise this is still relevant. Here’s the thing, formal etiquette doesn’t account for the realities of planning a wedding in today’s inclusive world.
Invitations and save the dates are generally the first interaction a guest has with your event. It sets the tone for the whole experience. You know this. That’s why you’ve painstakingly taken time selecting the perfect paper weight or a delicate deckled edge to match the vibe of your event.
You want every guest interaction associated with your wedding to be one of joy and hospitality - so what’s a modern couple to do?
WHAT ARE HONORIFICS?
Honorifics are the formal indicators before a guests’ name. You’ve heard them your whole life: Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., etc. Traditionally, these directly correlate to an individual’s marital or professional status and gender identity, all of which are highly personal parts of a person’s life. You can see how quickly it could turn awkward if care isn’t taken to ensure it’s done properly.
You can always eliminate honorifics entirely and simply use first/last names to address invitations to your guests - with the exception, generally, of professional titles.
If you do decide to move forward with honorifics, it’s your responsibility to ensure they’re used correctly. Just like it’s rude to call someone by the wrong name, attributing the incorrect honorific can be unintentionally offensive. If you’re unsure about a persons’ honorific, ASK!
Pronouns are words we use in conversation to refer to people without using their names. They are a wildly important part of speech and closely related to one’s identity. As such, it’s not only respectful, but critical we address each other by the correct pronouns.
It’s easy to draw a correlation between someone’s appearance/mannerisms and their personal pronouns. For example, assuming someone who presents as masculine uses “he/him” pronouns. Unlike many languages, English operates on a binary (meaning two) and only offers male and female pronouns.
In the absence of additional choices, gender nonconforming, transgender, or non-binary people have established, and may use, gender-neutral personal pronouns to better represent themselves.
PRONOUNS ALONE WON'T TELL YOU HOW TO ADDRESS A WEDDING INVITATION, BUT THEY CAN HELP INFORM WHICH HONORIFICS ARE APPROPRIATE.
Pronouns alone won’t tell you how to address a wedding invitation. But, they offer context into how your loved one identifies and can help inform which honorifics are appropriate.
There are actually a wide variety of pronouns and for people to identify with. You can see how limiting formal honorifics to Miss, Mrs., Ms., and Mr. is likely not enough.
HONORIFICS & TRADITIONALLY ASSOCIATED PRONOUNS
Here are a few of the most commonly used honorifics in the English language. Individuals who hold additional professional, or religious titles, such as Rabbis or Christian clergy, will have different honorifics.
Mr. (Pronounced "Mister")
Unmarried or married individuals over the age of 18 who identify as male (he/him).
Messrs. (Pronounced “MESSers”)
Married couple where both individuals identify as male regardless of whether they share a last name (he/him).
Mrs. (Pronounced “Missus”)
Married individuals who share their spouse’s last name and identify as female (she/her).
Ms. (Pronounced “Miz”)
Married Individuals who do not share their spouse’s last name and identify as female (she/her). Some married individuals who do share their spouse’s last name may also prefer Ms. Default to Ms. unless you’re certain they wish to be addressed as Mrs.
Mmes (Pronounced “Madames”)
Married couples where both individuals identify as female (she/her).
Miss (Pronounced “Miss”)
Unmarried individuals of any age who identify as female (she/her).
Mx. (Pronounced “Mix” or “Mux”)
Gender-neutral honorific for those who do not wish to specify their gender (any pronouns / gender identity).
Dr (Pronounced “Doctor”)
Gender-neutral honorific used for either medical or academic doctors (any pronouns / gender identity).
Hon (Stands for “The Honorable”)
Gender-neutral term used for elected officials including mayors, governors, members of congress, and judges (any pronouns / gender identity)
OKAY, THAT'S A LOT...
We know! And there’s so much opportunity for things to get muddy. The most important thing you can do when addressing your wedding invitations is clarity. Tell your guests exactly who is invited. What better way to do that than by simply using their names?
AN EXCEPTION IS MADE FOR GUESTS WHO HOLD A PROFESSIONAL TITLE...WHERE INCLUDING HONORIFICS RECOGNIZES THEIR ACHIEVEMENT
You see? In today’s day and age, honorifics are largely vestigial. They simply aren’t necessary to provide clarity. This is one of those instances where considering the spirit of the etiquette is far more valuable than sticking to a hard and fast rule.
An exception is made for guests who hold a professional title, such as religious leaders, elected officials, and medical or academic doctors. Those individuals have worked hard for that distinction, whatever it may be, and including professional honorifics recognizes their achievement.
So, go on! Ditch the honorifics, and all the etiquette stress that surrounds them! You have our permission (not that you need it).
Huge thanks to Chelsie (The Lumen Studios) for consulting on this article.