How to address sympathy card to married couple?

Lets start with giving this couple fictional names to protect the innocent and the guilty:

Husband = John Smith, Wife = Jane Smith
They are a traditional couple (Not offended by Mr & Mrs John Smith titles and the like)

OK here’s the situation.

I work with John Smith
Jane Smiths Mother died recently (I have never met her mother). I have only seen Jane maybe 2 times, perhaps 3.

How should I address the card (the name(s) on the envelope) and the name(s) in the card.


The envelope:

Mr and Mrs John Smith -or- John and Jane Smith

The card:

Dear John and Jane,

I was so sorry to hear about Jane’s mother …

If you know that they’re not offended by Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, it’s okay to go with that, but as a rule I use John and Jane Smith, or *John Smith and Jane Doe * if she’s kept her name.

That’s basically all there is to it. I would go with John and Jane.

Thirding delphica’s response. Nice and neat, and correct to boot.


And for God’s sake, don’t try to force a two-surname couple into Mr./Mrs. format. We get mail like this all the time, with abominations similar to this:

John and Jane Smith/Doe
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith/Doe

We each have a name. They are John Smith and Jane Doe. Please don’t conflate them. And if I’m not using his name, I’m not Mrs. Anybody. (I’ll SOMETIMES tolerate “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith,” if I’m in a really who-cares mood that day, but “Mrs. Jane Doe” (Jane Doe being the name I was born with) is just horridly wrong.) The solution is oh-so-simple:

John Smith and Jane Doe

or (if you want to be super-formal)

Mr. John Smith
Ms. Jane Doe


Hmm. My rule of thumb is to send the sympathy card to the one who suffered the loss.

Therefore, I would address the card to Jane Smith (or perhaps Mrs. John Smith). Somewhere in the note I’d find a place to say “you and John.”

Your sympathy may vary.

Thank heavens for the path the OP took.
Based on the thread title alone, I was going to offer:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith:
Please accept my heartfelt condolences on learning of your recent nuptials…

Certainly the advice given so far is valid for the circumstances. Let me point out that in instances where children (in later childhood or adolescence) old enough to understand death and grieve are involved, it is absolutely incumbent to include them in the sympathy note to someone known socially who has suffered a death in the family. This is something commonly skipped, and the inference is that their grief is somehow not valid or important because they’re too young. Certainly a card to a business acquaintance would not call for this, but if you’ve met the family, you should include them.

Not at all traditional but very effective in instances of non-traditional families and households is to address the card to “The Family of Winston Newlydead” – thus including Winston’s daughter, her live-in fiancé, the young woman who officially boards with them and everyone suspects is lover to one or both, or perhaps to Winston before he took sick, the fiancé’s mother and her adolescent son who also live in the same household… It’s not your business what their relationship was to each other or to Winston, or how much each is grieving over Winston’s death. Using that modern style allows them to decide who in the household constitutes Winston’s “family” – as it should be.



It’s just a flesh wound.