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How to address mail to same-sex couples

Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners

It’s nice to know that Miss Manners is up to speed with the homo thing

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 envelopes and wedding gifts to gay and lesbian couples. 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 in 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.

Miss Manners has a simple solution:

Use the plural form of “Mrs.” or, in the case of two gentlemen, the plural form of “Mr.” These are, respectively, “Mesdames” and “Mssrs” (“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.

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