Mrs. and Mr.

We recently got a letter in the mail addressed in the form of:
“Mrs. and Mr. Jane Smith.”
I really got a kick out of that.

Ever since we’ve been married and especially after we changed our surname, we have had an assortment of permutations of our names.  Most often, we have received mail addressed in the way of  “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.”  It always confused me when this archaic form of address was used.  It’s an old-fashioned tradition originating from times when women had no name and no clout — no presence in the world.  It was an honor to be a Mrs. John Smith, because that meant that she was rescued from the looming life of a spinster, where she would not have any money, children or place in society.   In addition, it was important for a woman to take on her husband’s name, so that people would know who she was.  For example, Mrs. Benjamin Franklin.  For everyone knows who Ben Franklin is, but a reference to Mrs. Deborah Read Franklin would draw a blank for most.  During those days, it made sense to identify yourself by your husband’s name.  In these present times, however, it makes less sense.  For example, the public already knew who Courteney Cox was.  She didn’t have to become Mrs. David Arquette to be somebody.

It’s a different era.  So why do companies, organizations and engaged couples persist to address a couple by the man’s name?  Why is this still considered a formal way of address?  Perhaps it is time to make a new tradition popular.  Some senders have chosen to use both first names.  Others find this option too lengthy, so why not drop first names altogether?  Or why not drop Mr. and Mrs.?  Or if a first name must be included, why not address it to the one who is responsible for those bills or who is the primary in that relationship?  For example, if I have been longtime friends with Kate, and she was getting married, why not address it to Mrs. and Mr. Katie  Smith?  On the same token, if a Christmas card was being sent by my husband’s college friends, then it makes sense for it to be addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.  Seems logical, right?  By putting this form into use, we can change the default.  Try it next time you send some mail.  You’ll raise some eyebrows and participate in the revolution.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Corrie on January 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I used to get mail addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Corrie Surname when I bought a house with my sister. The advertisers just assumed we were a married couple, and I had to laugh–but at the same time it did seem weird that they would make that assumption in this day & age.

    You might find the updated Emily Post suggestions for formal address interesting: It’s funny that in our modern attempts to be formal (especially for weddings) we revert to archaic vows and address. (When I was helping my sister look for wedding vow samples online, I saw some of the worst vows imaginable–maybe you could write some new ones and publish them to your blog so couples who are doing online searches will find better options!)


    • Yeah, it’s weird how ppl revert back to archaic ways. That WOULD be fun to write up new vows. Also, thanks for pointing out Emily Post updates — kinda interesting how they talk about ‘rank’ — which seems to be defined by education. Thanks for commenting, Corrie. 🙂


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