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What Is Appropriate Envelope Etiquette?

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  • Written By: Emma G.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2014
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When sending formal correspondence like wedding invitations, birth announcements, or party invitations, certain rules of envelope etiquette can help the sender make a good impression. Some of these rules vary by location or culture, but most can be generalized. These include using formal modes of address and hand writing addresses on envelopes.

Many of the rules of envelope etiquette originated in Victorian times, when people were judged in society by how well they adhered to social norms. As a consequence, some of these may seem outdated to the modern person. Yet following these rules of envelope etiquette can add class and sophistication to announcements and invitations.

Formal invitations include an external envelope and an internal envelope. The addresses on both envelopes should be written out by hand. This shows guests that the sender has spent time on the invitations and granted each one personal attention. If the sender does not feel confident in his or her handwriting, it is acceptable to find a friend or family member who is willing to do the writing.

The outer envelope should be addressed to the adults in the household. Do not use first names. For example write, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, not John and Sally Smith. If the invitation does not include an inner envelope or if the envelope contains a birth announcement or other formal correspondence, all recipients, including children, should be listed on the outer envelope. Words like and and avenue should be spelled out.

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Envelope etiquette specifies that the return address should be written on the back flap of the envelope. This should follow the same rules as the front. Traditionally, wedding invitations should use the home of the bride's parents as the return address, though this practice is not always followed.

The inner envelope should not have an address. The purpose of the inner envelope is to specify whom the invitation is intended for. The top line should contain the names of the adults in the household. The second line should list the names of the children who are invited to attend. Any child older than 16 years old should receive his or her own invitation. Another function of the inner envelope is to let the person being invited know if he or she is allowed to bring a guest. If guests are invited, the sender should write the person's name and guest; for example, Mr. Smith and guest.

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