It's not until you sit down to draw up a wedding guest list that you appreciate how damned determined everyone is to keep up the hoary old tradition of addressing couples as "Mr. and Mrs. His Full Name." Why are people still so stuck on this?
Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell, who is currently planning a wedding, writes of her paper-product woes. Her mom took point on the invites, but Rampell had one simple request: Married female guests' first and last names must be included on the invitations. Many people default to Mr. and Mrs. Himself in formal situations, but she hates the custom and didn't want it followed at her own wedding. As requests from the bride go, it's far from extreme.
The trouble started when she tried to include her own mother's name on the invite:
When my mother instructed a stationery vendor to begin our wedding invitation with "[Mother's name] and [Father's name] request the pleasure of your company . . . ," the stationer was aghast. In all her years of crafting wedding invitations, she squawked, not once had she veered into such utterly tacky territory. My mother called me in a panic, convinced that my requested wording would subvert the proper order of the universe.
So they found another vendor. But then they ran into trouble with the calligrapher, too:
She sent the calligrapher an Excel spreadsheet with all our invitees' names and told her to transcribe them exactly as we had them or else suffer the wrath of Bridezilla. The calligrapher agreed.
But guess what form of address was on the envelopes that my married friends received? "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith." Even, in at least one case, where the wife had kept her maiden name.
First off, any vendor who just straight disregards your wishes should be given the boot. Sorry, but I'm not paying money for someone to second-guess the decisions I've made. Proofreading is great; outright dismissal of the client's wishes shouldn't fly in any business.
But then Rampell started looking around and discovered she was swimming upstream against the entire Internet, which is full of self-anointed wedding gurus and etiquette referees and stationary companies insisting that you simply must use Mr. and Mrs. So and So because that's the done thing and my God you wouldn't want to horrify the neighbors, right?
I'm going to let you in on a little secret about wedding invitations: Tradition be damned. You can do literally whatever you want, and don't listen to any vendor or Internet resource that tells you otherwise. The envelope is going in the trash, anyway; guests just want the correct time and place so they can put it on their refrigerators. Unless you literally misspell someone's name, they're probably not going to care. Far more important than doing the "correct" thing is keeping this from turning into a giant time suck.
Personally, for many of my guests, I just flat-out asked how they wanted their invites addressed. Names can be a sensitive topic, and there's something to be said for respecting other women's decisions (especially when those women are near and dear enough to score a seat at your reception). If Aunt Mildred wants to be Mrs. What Is His Face Again because she's really touchy about the family accepting her third husband, well, frankly my hands were too full to fuss about it.
But I certainly wasn't going to address my own friends as Mrs. I Remember Our First Conversation About That Dude, no matter how many rulebooks tell me otherwise. Etiquette is supposed to be a tool for helping navigate the world in a manner that's respectful of other people; when a stricture becomes irrelevant or even outright incompatible with your beliefs, chuck it right out the window. Pass it on, brides.
Photo via Joshua Rainey Photography/Shutterstock.