Monogramming Etiquette

Monogramming is becoming popular again (though in some circles it's never really gone away) - and with that newfound popularity comes confusion; it's pretty much inevitable when tradition meets the modern world. Don't worry if you have your heart set on monogramming but don't know where to start! Here are some basics:

Why Monogramming Matters

Monograms these days are a classic way to personalize your home and accessories. Your initials, or your initials entwined with your partner's. Simple! No one has someone else's initials on their stuff. How weird would that be? Actually, once upon a time, that was normal. No, more than normal, it was a sign of class. See, you would only have silver, crystal and linens to monogram if your family had money. You would have a monogram because you had a Name that socially-aware people would recognize. And of course the silver, etc., was quality stuff, so it would last a lifetime -- and beyond -- to be it would be passed down to the next generation, even bequeathed. Generation after generation. This proved your family not only had wealth, it also had history.

If your family had lots of wealth and lots of history, virtually everything you owned would be monogrammed with the initials of your illustrious ancestors. So now you know: Having monograms that are not your very own initials is not weird. It is a sign of social class, distinction, and history.

Where do the initials go in a 3-letter monogram?

Singles
If all initials are the same size, they go in this order: (Firstname) (Middlename) (Lastname). Sample: Florence Marie Lowell's monogram is FML

In a monogram with an oversized middle initial, the order is this: (First name) (Last name) (Middle name). Sample: Florence Marie Lowell's monogram is FLM

Married Women
If a woman changes her name upon marriage, she usually drops her middle name and uses her maiden name instead: (First name) (Maiden name) (Last name). Sample: If Florence Marie Lowell changes her last name to Jones her new monogram is FLJ or FJL

What if the bride isn't changing her name?
There are no set rules for this situation. Here are two options to consider:

  1. Use two matching separate monograms and unite them with a small symbol. Example: Florence Marie Lowell and George Adam Jones: FML • GAJ
  2. Use the initials from the bride's and groom's last names: Example: Florence Lowell marries George Jones: LJ

For married copule with hyphenated last name:

Wife's first name, hyphenated married name, husband's first name: Example: Jane and Steven Thomas-Nelson JT-NS (center initial larger)

Marriage Monograms
Believe it or not, the marriage monogram (where a couple combine their initials to create a joint monogram) is a relatively recent development - traditionally, the bride and groom each had their own distinct monogram (the groom's monogram went on the barware and the bride's monogram went on the linens and silver). Each had their own monogrammed stationery because while they could write on behalf of each other, only one could conceivably write the note at one time. Many modern couples create a joint monogram to symbolize their union. If you want to create a marriage monogram (and the bride is changing her name) the rule is that the groom's name goes on the left, the joint last name goes in the middle, and the bride's name is on the right. Traditionally, the male’s initial is listed first (left) to show ownership both over the last name and the wife.  It’s the same with all other formal titles of address for married couples.  For instance: Mr. and Mrs. John and Jane Smith.  It’s not Mrs. and Mr. Jane and John Smith.  Putting the wife’s initial first suggests the opposite.:
Sample: The monogram for Florence Lowell Jones and George Adam Jones is GJF

One additional source of confusion is that certain references have adopted the more egalitarian “ladies first” motto, whereby the place they bride’s initial before that of her groom in a concerted effort to show he does not own her.  But again, this is modern, not tradition. Now if we’re talking ULTRA-old school, traditionally, there was no joint monogram!  Men had theirs given from birth, and women got theirs upon marriage.  They stamped the various “his” and “hers” items in the house with their monogram or initial.