Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

May 2, 2011

Miss Manners on poly invitation protocol

Distributed to more than 200 newspapers

Another mainstream advice columnist fields another poly etiquette inquiry. This is what your relatives may be reading today in the hometown paper.

Addressing invitations when there's more than one partner

Miss Manners by Judith Martin
United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

I have several friends who are in open or polyamorous relationships. Because I'm happy for their happiness together, I would like to make sure that I'm not excluding or slighting any of the partners.

If I am sending them an invitation to a gathering, how on earth do I address it? "Mr. and Mrs. Jane Doe and Ms. Lily Smith"? "The Doe and Smith Family"? "John and Jane Doe and Lily Smith"?

I don't want to draw overmuch attention to the fact that one couple is legally married and the other is "just" secondary. (This is insulting in polyamorous circles.) Also, am I correct in assuming that if the third partner has taken the legally married couple's name as part of a long-term arrangement, the correct address is "John, Jane, and Lily Doe" or "The Doe Family"? It seems silly to use "Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. Doe," and "Mr. and Mrs. and Ms. Doe" opens all sorts of other concerns.

Also, how do I introduce a polyamorous group socially? Do legally married partners have status over second partners, meriting first introduction, or do I simply say, "Ms. Jones, these are my friends, the Does" and leave Ms. Jones to establish how they interrelate?

I have asked friends in the poly community how they handle this, and they say, "Just call them up and invite them!" which is not, perhaps, the most helpful of answers, though it is well-meaning.

GENTLE READER: Your busy friends have a point: Etiquette does not attempt to pinpoint what goes on in a household when company is not expected.

Miss Manners hopes this does not disappoint you.

It does provide you with a simple solution, however. Adults in the same household, whatever their relationship, are addressed by their names. Thus the envelopes could be addressed (on separate lines) to "Ms. Lily Smith/Mr. and Mrs. John Doe" or Ms. Lily Smith/Ms. Jane Doe/Mr. John Doe."

People do not generally send out invitations with the purpose of insulting their prospective guests, a fact of which those who are touchy about Ms. or Mrs. should take notice.

But judging from your friends' suggestion, they do not seem to be as fragile as you think.

And yes, you can let Ms. Jones discover the relationship for herself. Isn't that what parties are for?

Here's an original.




Blogger Full Marriage Equality said...

It is a good sign that more people are becoming aware and accepting.

May 03, 2011 7:53 AM  
Blogger Bitsy said...

I'm really surprised that the writer has encountered this naming configuration. I would expect Ms. Lily Smith/Ms. Jane Williams/Mr. John Doe or Ms. Lily Doe/Ms. Jane Doe/Mr. John Doe to be much more common. The former I would address as is, and the latter I'd consider the informal The Doe Family. The informal Lily + Jane + John would also be quite lovely.

(As an aside, I got my college reunion to list myself and my two partners in line as they do for couples. So, most people with a partner are listed as Jane Williams and John Doe, and we are listed as Jane Williams and John Doe and James Smith. I'm quite delighted. It is the little things...)

May 03, 2011 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Really? I would think this is extremely common. A legally married couple where they've chosen to share the same last name, and a third (whether a triad or a v that happens to be living together) who is not legally married to either and has had no reason to change their name to match that of the couple.

May 03, 2011 9:22 AM  
Blogger alumiere said...

It is probably quite common in poly groups. But the invites seem to be coming from someone who's not poly, and the conventions for formal (ie: wedding, graduation, etc) invitations are not something people learn anymore. I had to learn this crap in school (yeah cotillion) and I probably still would have inquired to make sure the form was handled correctly as they were always Mr & Mrs X (and family) or Miss/Mr Y.

May 03, 2011 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just so surprised that people would agonize so much about what is put on an envelope! I would hope and pray that what is in the envelope is far more important. Just my idealism (or laziness) I guess...

May 03, 2011 4:02 PM  
Blogger kendermouse said...

I'm just pleased to see that Miss Manners handled this so well, personally...

May 04, 2011 5:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss Manners has always been on the very cool side of things. Once upon a very long ago a frantic reader wrote to her upset at the idea that she, the reader, would be introduced to a gay couple and she, the reader, had no idea what to say when introduced to a pair of such men. Miss Manner's response?

"Say 'How do you do?' and 'How do you do?'"

I adore Miss Manners.

May 04, 2011 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Joreth said...

Funny, Miss Poly Manners covered that same topic with much the same response: http://sites.google.com/site/misspolymanners/questions-forum

May 05, 2011 6:10 PM  

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