Love, Heartbreak

Etiquette 101: Should You Use Mrs. Or Ms. For A Widow On A Wedding Invitation?

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Etiquette 101: Should You Use Mrs. Or Ms. For A Widow On A Wedding Invitation?

There is all sorts of etiquette to follow when it comes to wedding invitations. Sometimes, it gets pretty delicate, like when we're dealing with a death. For example, a widow who lost her husband.

Addressing a wedding invitation to a widow should be handled with care. It’s easy to be worried that you’ll say the wrong thing and be hurtful or offensive. But to help you, there are some pretty straightforward guidelines to abide by.

While a lot of the "rules" will vary depending on what the widow is comfortable with, and what your relationship with them may be, before weighing whether to use Mrs. or Ms., consider these tips.

RELATED: 11 Best Free Wedding Invitation Templates

1. Use a full, proper name

Much like other sorts of wedding invitations, a full and proper name is always a safe bet when addressing a piece of mail to anyone.

Says entertaining and etiquette expert Brenda Cascio of GB Design House, “Traditionally, you write her married name — i.e., Mrs. John Smith. However, she may prefer her own name — i.e., Mrs. Jane Smith.”

2. Call and ask

To avoid offending someone, call the person in question and just ask her. She will appreciate the effort to make her more comfortable at the wedding, and as this is a pretty sensitive issue (and also a sensitive time if the loss is recent), that's a very important consideration.

If you aren't close enough to her to ask her this question, you may also need to question why you are inviting her to your wedding in the first place.

3. It also matters who the mail is coming from

There's also an old adage to the effect of taking something from whom it comes, and this is the case here. It’s possible that a widow may prefer different forms of her name depending on what the occasion is, and who the mail is coming from.

For a wedding invitation from a bride who knew her husband, she might prefer Mrs., but from someone who did not know her husband, she might prefer Ms. The best course of action is to just ask.

4. There's a general rule

If you want a general rule of thumb, it does exist: A widow should be addressed as Mrs. unless the couple feels she would feel uncomfortable. “If there is any hesitation one way or the other, the couple absolutely should ask her directly,” advises Danielle Rothweiler of Rothweiler Event Design.

5. Keep this in mind

The same rules apply for any guests the couple is unsure of, such as divorced women and women with hyphenated last names, so you may want to make a note of everyone's status before you start writing out those wedding invitations.

RELATED: How To Address Wedding Invitations

Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.