The good news is that there really IS a proper, etiquette-approved solution to all of this that should make MOST (but not all) people happy, inlcuding brides who 1) want to keep their individual identities, 2) those who are thrilled at the thought of becoming Mrs. John Smith, and 3) everyone in between — as well as all of the etiquette experts in your life.
It’s important to keep in mind that there is a difference between someone’s name and his or her formal, social title. Although a woman’s formal, social title does, indeed, depend upon her legal name, her name does not, however, depend upon her formal social title. Her name is what appears on her driver’s license, social security card, credit cards, and bank accounts, etc. (As in the example of one pp above, the woman who came into the bank should not have been giving her name as Mrs. John Smith to the teller. That is the woman’s formal social title, but her legal name is Jane Smith.)
Example 1: Jane Doe marries John Smith, but keeps her maiden name.
In this example, Jane would NEVER properly be referred to as either Mrs. Smith or Mrs. John Smith, because she is not, even though she is married to Mr. John Smith. Her name remains exactly as it was prior to her marriage, and her formal, social title, also remains (or becomes, if she previously used the honorific, Miss) Ms. Jane Doe. In this example, a couple would not properly be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Smith (with or without Mr. Smith’s first name.) In this example, the couple could properly be introduced at their wedding as “… husband and wife, John and Jane.” Of course, there is nothing to prevent Jane from using her legal name on all documents and at work, while also allowing others to call her Mrs. Smith, if she WANTS that. However, neither Mrs. John Smith, nor Mrs. Smith would be her formal, social title. That would be Ms. Jane Doe or Ms. Doe.
A wedding invitation sent to John and Jane in this example would properly be sent to:
Ms. Jane Doe
and Mr. John Smith
12345 Elm Street
Anytown, Anystate ZIP
NOTE: If a woman chooses to hyphenate her name after marriage, the above also would apply to her, except that she would have a name change due to marriage. Her name would become Jane Doe-Smith, but her formal social title would remain or become Ms. not Mrs. In this scenario, Jane would only properly be referred to as Ms. Jane Doe-Smith or Ms. Doe-Smith, NOT Mrs. Doe-Smith or Mrs. Smith
Example 2: Jane Doe marries John Smith, and changes her name to Jane Smith.
In this example, following a legal name change due to marriage, Jane’s NAME becomes Jane Smith. Proper, etiquette-approved, formal, social titles for Jane in this example would be any or all of the following, depending upon her choice and the context of where her name is appearing:
* Mrs. Smith
* Ms. Smith
* Ms. Jane Smith
* Mrs. John Smith
Any, or all of the above would be formal, approved, social titles for Jane in this example. The neighborhood children and her doctor likely will simply call her Mrs. Smith. A new sales rep meeting with Jane at work may call her Ms. Smith, since he would not necessarily know if she is single or married. An internal newsletter at work may refer to Jane as Ms. Jane Smith. However, Jane’s Aunt Mildred may wish to send correspondence to the new bride addressed to Mrs. John Smith (even if Jane strongly dislikes this), because that technically IS her new, formal, social title, even if she does not wish to use it.
At the wedding of this couple, the DJ could introduce the new bride and groom as “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith,” OR “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, John and Jane,” or simply, “John and Jane Smith.”
Someone referring to this couple properly would have a choice of using:
*Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
*Jane and John Smith (with the woman’s name first)
HOWEVER, (and this is the part that will not make everyone happy, as many of you have been hearing from older relatives, etc.,) what is NOT ever considered to be a proper social title for a married woman is the use of the honorific “Mrs.” in front of a woman’s own first name. (This format traditionally has been reserved for a divorced woman who has kept her married name. If she becomes divorced, Jane has the option of going by Mrs. Jane Smith or Ms. Jane Smith. She would no longer be able to use the formal, social title of Mrs. John Smith once she is divorced.)
So, technically, it would not be considered proper to address an invitation or other correspondence to a married couple as Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Smith or Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Smith.
Finally, regarding the example above from a pp about a scenario where the wife of a couple is a doctor (but the husband, apparently, is not), an invitaiton to that couple could be addressed properly in one of two ways (assuming that the wife has taken her husband’s last name):
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith (where the title of doctor is not used)
Doctor Jane Smith
and Mr. John Smith
(on two lines, joined by an “and” on the second line, with the woman’s name first)
If the doctor-wife has kept her maiden name, the invitation would properly be addressed to:
Doctor Jane Doe
and Mr. John Smith
I hope some of this helps! 🙂