The general rule for guest addressing wedding invitations to same-sex couples is that the rules are constantly evolving. This is an area of etiquette that knows no tradition. What matters most is making guests feel welcome. But for practical purposes, we’ve summarized a few useful tips here for addressing married and unmarried same-sex couples, both men and women.
A key starting point is knowing the two things that signify an invitation is for a married couple–whether gay or not:
- Names are written on the same line
- The word “and” appears between the names
Unmarried Same-sex Couple
If a same-sex couple is NOT married, write their names the same way you would write other unmarried couples’ names:
- List the two names on two separate lines without the “and”
- Use proper (or preferred) social titles (Mrs. is the proper social title for a married woman and would not apply)
Invitation: Brocade Border
It’s important to keep in mind that there are many same-sex couples who still can’t legally marry in their state, but would otherwise be married. In those situations, you can address their invitation as you would for any other married couple (see below).
Married Same-sex Couple
Treat this the same way you would any other married couple:
- Write the names on one line with “and” between the names.
Invitation: Kiss the Bride
- If last names are different, you could list them in alphabetical order by last name (though there is no rule that says you must).
- If the names are so long that two lines becomes necessary, keep the “and” in there.
Invitation: Modern Laurel
- Use proper (or preferred) social titles (Mrs. could apply unless Ms. is preferred)
- Use first names even when sharing a single surname
Invitation: Side by Side
When in Doubt, Just Ask
The majority of same-sex couples continue to keep their names and can be addressed as such, whether or not they are legally married. But if you want to be sure, just ask. They will very likely appreciate a polite inquiry rather than an incorrect assumption. And for their part, same-sex couples who marry and change their names can communicate it to everyone easily and naturally through their own wedding stationery, such as ‘at home’ enclosure cards, thank you note cards, and even wedding announcements. For more help navigating the evolving landscape in same-sex etiquette for weddings as well as everyday situations, check out Steven Petrow’s website on practical manners for gay and lesbian relationships.