Wedding Planning Guide

what's the difference between
miss vs. ms. vs mrs.?

We explain how to address your wedding guests correctly.

Men have it easy. It’s always “Mr.”, whether married, unmarried, older, or younger. This makes adding titles to your save the date envelopes, wedding invitation addresses, and reception escort and place cards a cinch. Women, however, are typically adorned with one of three titles: Ms., Mrs. and Miss. So, what’s the difference? And how do you know which is the correct one to use? We'll explain everything below—plus, we'll also go over some other tricky titles and etiquette rules that might trip you up. This way, you will be able to address your wedding invitations perfectly.

Envelope with caligraphy

Addressing Your Wedding Invitations: Miss vs. Ms. vs Mrs. vs Mx.


Mrs.

Let’s start with the easy one: Mrs. “Mrs.” is the proper title for a married woman (whether she has taken her spouse’s last name or not). If you know the woman is married and you want to use a title, “Mrs.” is the way to go.


Miss

Second-easiest is Miss. You can comfortably refer to an unmarried woman as “Miss,” from little girls to adult women (engaged or not). There does become a point in a woman’s life where “Miss” can start to feel a little young, and that’s where the difference between Miss and Ms. comes in.


Ms.

“Ms.” doesn’t indicate marital status either way, which makes it both a safe bet and a bit vague. Though some people think "Ms." is a shortening of the word "mistress," it is actually a made-up title (that dates all the way back to 1901) to address an adult woman without commenting on her marital status.

These days, some women prefer to use “Ms.” when they don’t want to disclose their marital status, such as female teachers with their students. It’s also appropriate to use with unmarried women of a certain age—and that age transition from “Miss” to “Ms.” is not clearly defined, much to the woes of engaged couples and calligraphers everywhere. We say it’s best to go on a case-by-case basis. If you have a fun-loving, youthful, unmarried aunt who’s 38, she may not love being designated as a “Ms.” vs “Miss”. “That’s how people refer to my mother!” you can imagine your aunt saying. However, a more conservative woman only a few years older may find “Miss” to be ill-suited and even immature.


Mx.

To address a wedding guest who is gender non-identifying, use the title "Mx." However, note that "Mx." is a universal title that can be used by anyone. For example, if someone identifies with a specific gender, you may still use "Mx." And you might see "Mx." used in situations where the sender is unaware of the recipient's preferred title.

CHEAT SHEET: WHEN TO USE MISS vs. MS. vs. MRS.

WHEN TO USE:

MISS

MS.

MRS.

Married



Unmarried


Separated, not divorced*


Divorced**


Widow***



Marital status unknown



Younger


Older



*Separated, not divorced

If a guest is separated but not divorced, then she is likely still using her married last name. If this is the case, then you can either use "Mrs." or "Ms." to address the guest and use her first name. As always, though, it is best to find out what she prefers to go by.

  • Mrs. Alejandra Ramirez
  • Ms. Alejandra Ramirez

**Divorced

After a divorce, a woman might keep her married name. If this is the case, then you can either use "Mrs." or "Ms." to address the guest and use her first name. If she is using her maiden name, then use "Ms." along with her first name and maiden name. Again, it's best to find out what she prefers to go by.

  • Mrs. Allison Chan
  • Ms. Allison Chan
  • Ms. Allison Lee (maiden name)

***Widow

Traditionally, a widow retains her husband's name until she remarries. When addressing an invitation to her, you can use her husband's full name ("Mrs. John Stanley") for formal situations, or her own first name and married last name (Mrs. Elizabeth Stanley). In this instance, though, it's best to ask what she prefers.

  • Mrs. John Stanley (formal)
  • Mrs. Elizabeth Stanley

Addressing Your Wedding Invitations: Other Special Titles

When it comes to addressing your wedding invites, you'll want to be sure to use the correct titles for your guests on the envelopes. Besides the Mr. and Miss vs. Ms. vs. Mrs. vs. Mx. differences described above, there are some additional special titles that you will need to use correctly.


Judges:

If you are mailing a wedding invitation to a guest who is a judge, use the title “The Honorable” and list him or her first, followed by the name of their partner.

  • The Honorable Sonya Patel and Mr. Niven Patel

Doctors:

If a guest is a doctor, it is appropriate to address the envelope using the title "Doctor" fully spelled out. This applies to any guest who has received a doctoral degree, including medical doctors, dentists, and guests who have earned a Ph.D. or any other academic, non-medical doctoral degree.

  • Husband is a doctor, wife is not: Doctor Mike and Mrs. Sabrina Lee
  • Wife is a doctor, husband is not (her name should be listed first): Doctor Sharon and Mr. Erik Sheffield
  • Both partners are doctors: The Doctors Alfonso or Drs. Sonia and Carlos Alfonso

Military Personnel

For guests with military titles, spell out the titles in full. If both guests have military titles, then list the guest with the higher rank first. When addressing the wedding invitation envelope, if both titles don't fit on one line, indent the second line.

  • Captain Sarah Chao and Mr. Jason Chao
  • Colonels Joanna and Marcus Gallary

Lawyers

If you are inviting a guest who is an attorney, you do not need to use "Esquire" or "Esq." when addressing their wedding invitation. Use "Mr." or "Ms." or "Mrs." without the professional designation.

  • Mr. Noah Kennel
  • Ms. Megan Audap
  • Mrs. Patricia Cameron

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be "Ms." or "Mrs." after I get married?

It depends on your preference. Typically, brides who change their last name after the wedding go by "Mrs." since it indicates they share the same last name as their husband (i.e. "Mr. and Mrs. Wong"). If you're keeping your maiden name, you have options: You can go by "Ms." or use "Mrs." as in "Mr. Wong and Mrs. Woodbury." You can also go by "Ms." if you'd prefer your title not to be associated with your marital status.


How do I address the envelope to two women who are married to each other?

When each member of the couple uses a different last name, use "Ms." as their titles and list each name in alphabetical order by last name, as in "Ms. Kristin Hampton and Ms. Sarah Lee." However, if you know the couple prefers "Mrs.," then certainly use that title instead.

If both partners in the same-sex couple use the same last name, use "Ms." as their titles and list each name in alphabetical order by first name, as in "Ms. Christine Azoveda and Ms. Stacey Azoveda." Again, if you know the couple prefers "Mrs.," then use that title instead.


When addressing envelopes, whose name should go first?

Traditionally, a woman’s name preceded a man’s on an envelope address, and his first and surname were not separated (Jane and John Kelly). Nowadays, the order of the names—whether his name or hers comes first—does not matter and either way is acceptable. The exception is when one member of the couple ‘outranks’ the other. The one with the higher rank is always listed first.

For more examples and guidance on correctly addressing your envelopes, visit our guide to Address Your Wedding Invitations. We also have some other popular posts on invitation wording etiquette, how to assemble wedding invitation envelopes, and the most popular wedding etiquette questions answered that you might find helpful!