What is the appropriate way to address an invitation to a widow? Do you use the husband’s name? One of my guests has been widowed several years and is now dating—the other is VERY recently widowed.
Thanks for writing in, as we know this can be a difficult topic to address. The most important thing to take into consideration is that this really comes down to your relationship with the widow. It is a difficult topic and you might feel worried about either offending or saddening the recipient, which is understandable.
Here’s what we recommend…
Addressing the Outer Envelope:
Proper etiquette holds that on formal correspondence, like wedding invitations, widows must be addressed with their deceased husband’s full name—regardless of the amount of time that has elapsed from his death. The name on the outer envelope should read, “Mrs. John Smith.” However, these days, many feel that addressing this way is dated. If you agree and feel more comfortable addressing it only to her, it’s appropriate etiquette to address the outer envelope with just the widow’s first name, “Mrs. Becky Smith.”
Addressing the Inner Envelope:
When addressing the inner envelope, etiquette says to leave off first names. Therefore, it should read “Mrs. Smith.” If you are allowing her a guest to the ceremony and/or reception, you can address it as “Mrs. Smith and Guest.”
To recap, when addressing invites to a widow, take your relationship with her and the length of time she has been a widow into account. If you’re close with her and she’s recently widowed, it may be appropriate for you to use her husband’s name. If a lot of time has passed and she’s now dating again, it probably makes more sense to address it to her single name.
Have an etiquette question for Etta? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll post an answer for you.