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Proper Ways to Address and Send Greeting Cards

It is often difficult to navigate thru the many customs and traditions of greeting card etiquette, especially in today's fast-changing society. Here are a few guidelines to help you find your way.

Signing Greeting Cards

  • Traditionally, when signing a card from you and your spouse, the woman's name would appear first and then her husband's. This also applies if the couple is unmarried or the wife retains her maiden name.
  • When signing Christmas cards or other greeting cards from the entire family, the father's name should appear first, followed by the mother's and then the children's. The children's names should be in order from oldest to youngest. It is also acceptable to use "John and Mary Smith and Family" or "The Smith Family." However, it is acceptable today to also have the mother's name first in family signatures such as "Mary, John, Matthew and Susan Smith." If there are two different last names and the couple has children, then it would be proper to sign the card as "Mary Jones, John Smith and Family."

Addressing the Envelopes

  • Always use proper titles such as Mr., Mrs. and Dr.
  • The man's name always appears first when addressing an envelope to a married couple.
  • If a married couple has different last names, the envelope should be addressed to "Mr. Tom Rogers and Ms. Sally James". If the couple is not married, the names should be listed on separate lines in alphabetical order without the use of the word "and" such as:

    Ms. Sally James
    Mr. Tom Rogers

  • The use of different ranks of honorifics is somewhat more challenging. Tradition suggests that the person with the higher rank always goes first. For example, "Dr. and Mrs. William Stewart" is suitable. However, if the wife has the title, her name should go first such as "Dr. and Mr. William Stewart." An alternative to this approach or if the couple has different last names would be to list both names on separate lines with the wife's name appearing first such as:

    Dr. Jane Stewart
    Mr. William Stewart

  • Traditional etiquette calls for addresses to be handwritten on the envelopes; however, especially for larger mailings, it is acceptable and more efficient to run the envelopes through a printer using a classy, scripted font.

Other Things to Keep in Mind when Sending Greeting Cards

  • It is preferable to use stamps rather than run envelopes through a postage meter.
  • Cards should be inserted into the back of the envelope face up so that when the recipient opens the envelope the face of the card is in front of them.
  • Buy the best quality cards that you can afford.