Miss Manners Lends Us A Hand

We get lots of questions from folks wondering how to properly address a wedding gift or letter to gay newlyweds. I do my best to answer these questions correctly (as a lover of proper grammar and the art of correspondence), but have found a few gay wedding etiquette rules, including this one, to be elusive and difficult to research.
So, I went straight to the source: Miss Manners (sorry, Emily Post!). You can see the full text of her column, as printed on September 7 in the Chicago Tribune or review an excerpt below:
“Dear Miss Manners–I work for a company that specializes in wedding products for gay and lesbian couples and, because we offer wedding invitations and bill ourselves as “mother-approved shopping,” we often get questions about proper etiquette when addressing gay and lesbian couples.
“Though this seems to be somewhat uncharted territory, I find that I am able to offer recommendations to my clients that follow the basic rules of respect, or that can be modified off of traditional etiquette for heterosexual unmarried couples or those married couples who do not share the same last names. With the recent shift in legal marriage, however, I have found myself stuck in how to best answer this question:
“How do I address a wedding invitation to a lesbian (gay) married couple who have the same last name? Can one add both names with something along the lines of Mrs. Sally & Betty Jones, or is it most proper to drop one name (Mrs. & Mrs. Betty Jones)? If so, how does one determine which name to drop?
“Gentle reader–“Mrs. and Mrs.” not only encounters the problem you mention, but it is jarring to those who know the traditional rule that “Mrs.” is never used with a lady’s first name. Furthermore, those who violate that rule do so to indicate divorce or widowhood, neither of which is appropriate here.
“You should not be looking to the Mr. and Mrs. form, in which one person’s given name disappears, and which is increasingly avoided for that reason. Sally is not becoming Mrs. Betty Jones nor is Betty becoming Mrs. Sally Jones.
“After all this carping, you will be surprised to hear that Miss Manners has a simple solution, which she could have come out with in the first place.
“Use the plural form of “Mrs.” or, in the case of two gentlemen, the plural form of “Mr.” These are, respectively, “Mesdames” and “Messrs.” (“The Mesdames Sally and Betty Jones,” “The Messrs. Trevor and William Cartwright”).
“All right, Miss Manners admits that these are odd plurals. But they are at least traditional and dignified.”
I must also offer a special thanks to Irma of savvyplanners.com who saw this column and wrote in to share the advice they have posted on this same topic on his site.

2 thoughts on “Miss Manners Lends Us A Hand

  1. Kathryn!
    It is an unusual issue (for the time being). I love that our clients (and their friends and family) “bother” to check the etiquette on the matter. It is a topic worthy of investigation and I am happy that Two Brides also cares enough to ask the question. savvyplanners.com is thrilled to have been quoted and/or referenced, over the years, in regards to the manner in which GLBTI couples should be addressed. Etiquette, in general, is a dying art. Thanks to you and your team for highlighting this issue.
    Irma Rabinowitz,
    Client Care,
    (a GLBTQI wedding firm)

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