Marriage Titles Revisited
Wednesday, July 21, 2004; Page C11
Dear Miss Manners:
Now that same-sex marriages are upon us, how does one address an invitation to a same-sex couple? Is it "Mr. and Mrs."? "Mr. and Mr."? "Ms. and Ms."? "Mrs. and Mrs."?
If one female partner prefers the "Ms." title while the other is more traditional, would it then be "Ms." and "Mrs."? How is one to know which partner is "Mr." and which is "Mrs." (or "Ms."), etc., etc.?
I can see that tracking these preferences will test the limits of my personal address-book software. And how should one inquire as to the same-sex couple's appellation preferences without seeming overly pedantic or perhaps even a bit satiric? I'm not sure the conventions to determine the answers to the above questions have been developed as yet; if not, surely they must be underway now.
So who is involved in this process? Is there an unofficial standards board responsible for couple titling? Are gays represented on this council? Are you?
At the Etiquette Mavens' High Council we do not discuss one another's personal lives. Other people's of course, since they so often call upon us to arbitrate, but not our own.
Speaking of which, Miss Manners is afraid that you need basic instruction on matters related to gender, as well as some new software.
The act of marriage does not change people's genders, and it may or may not change their names. Two gentlemen who marry would therefore each be addressed by his full name with the appropriate honorific (Mr., Dr., Colonel) unless they take the same surname, in which case they would be addressed jointly as, for example, "The Messrs. William and Harry Fitzgibbon."
Similarly, two ladies would be addressed as "Mesdames Emily and Lucia March," but if they had different surnames they would be addressed individually with the title each holds or prefers, if you know it, and "Ms." if you don't. Miss Manners may not be in the technical support department, but she knows that the simplest programs are equipped to register any title you type in.
Dear Miss Manners:
It's coming time to send out invitations for our daughter's bat mitzvah, and we're wishing for a way to make clear that these are not solicitations for checks. Our daughter agrees with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and even intends to donate what monetary gifts do arrive to charity.
Our concern centers on friends for whom we know money is tight. I wish invitations of this sort did not come with the implied obligation of a gift. But they seem to have evolved into that. Am I being overly concerned?
Not overly, but unnecessarily. That is to say, yes, people take it as such -- cynical as it is to imagine that the only reason people would want their friends at their ceremonial occasions is the hope of profiting from them -- but it is unnecessary because there is nothing you can do about it. You are sending the invitations with good faith, and can only hope that they are received in that spirit.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
© 2004, Judith Martin
© 2004 The Washington Post Company