Post # 1
For an unmarried couple living together, I know that the rule of thumb is to put the woman’s name first. But what should do if I’m friends with a guy living with his fiance, but don’t know her at all other than her name? Do I still put her name first? Is it totally faux pas to put my friend’s name first (Mr. Joe Smith and Ms. Jane Doe)?
Post # 3
@missjo117: I put the person I was friends with first as well. I went with my own comfort level when addressing.
Post # 4
I also put the person who I know first, didn’t use Mr or Mrs at all.
Post # 5
I am in this situation. I live with my fiance, and we have received two wedding invitations since we started living together. They were both from his friends and both listed his name first.
Post # 6
I’m going to put the women’s names first for my invitations, even if the man is the closer friend. I’m a little old fashioned and like the ladies first chivalry. Truthfully, I highly doubt most guys will notice the address at all and just be happy to be invited.
Just do what feels best to you. Anything goes.
Post # 7
@Sweet2Bee: You can, of course, totally ignore me on the grounds that where you are “a little” old fashioned, I am downright Jurassic; however, the old-fashioned chivalry is a bit more complicated than “ladies first”:
In public situations, someone “goes ahead” of the lady to clear a safe path for her. Thus, in a crowded restaurant or bar if there is a maitre d’ or hostess, the lady follows the maitre d’ and her escort follows her; if there is no maitre d’ or hostess, the gentleman goes first.
On the outside of an envelope, the man’s name goes first in the same way, as a sort of metaphorical protection for her good name. Thus, the envelope is correctly addressed to “Mr John Smith and Ms Nancy White”. The informal social note inside that envelope would be addressed to “Dear Nancy and John” because the names are in a safe, private place. If the note is formal, then — because formality is consistent with a degree of social distance; that is to say, with a lack of intimacy — the inside note is to “Mr Smith and Ms White”, using only the surnames but still letting the gentleman’s name go first.
Post # 8
@aspasia475: Thanks for the explanation. It’s interesting to learn the reason behind etiquette. I looked this up on many different sources. There seems to be several schools of thought with an unmarried couple living together: the one you presented, the woman’s name first, the person you’re more familiar with first, and listing the names alphabetically. However, everyone I checked with regarding formal address agrees that on the outer envelope the names go on separate lines and there is no “and” linking them. What is your source? My parents love Miss Manners, so this would be fun to share with them.
Overall, I think it’s great to have etiquette to rely on if we want, but I agree with the other Bees that people should do what’s comfortable for them.
Post # 9
Obviously, traditional etiquette doesn’t deal with how to issue invitations from or to an unmarried couple who are living together, because it never came up. No-one of any social consequence would invite “that sort” of woman to a social event on pain of losing all their social consequence!
There was a long-standing rule that “two names do not appear together unless they are married”.That’s the rule that you’ve seen adapted to dealing with unmarried couples, but it is something of a misapplication. The rule actually applied to the very narrow circumstances of a women’s Society or Club holding social events. The names of the hospitality committee could appear on the invitation, but each one on her own line, as:
“On behalf of the Ottawa branch of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire
request the pleasure of the company of …&tc
Of course, the parallel problem of married couples with different last names didn’t come up either, because even if a lady did keep her own name for business purposes (and go by “Miss”, by the way, when using it!) she inevitably went by her husband’s name socially. The only time you saw a lady with a noticeably different name from her husband’s was in the case of noble ladies who married commoners and retained their titles by courtesy. Their name appears on the same line as their husband’s, joined with “and”. That’s the form that has been adapted for couples with different surnames.
Perhaps it is because I live in Canada, where common-law marriages are recognized, or perhaps because I recognize the historicity of “just living together” as a valid equivalent to marriage, or perhaps it is just because I refuse to yield to the state any right to be involved in the bedrooms of the nation; but I find it rather prurient to make distinctions between one sexually-fulfilled cohabiting socially-acknowledged couple and another, based on whether or not I presume that the state has issued them a permit. I think it is more gracious simply to assume that all overtly cohabiting couples are married to one degree or another, and treat them all equally.