Google+ Southern Etiquette :: Monograms + Middle Names - Southern Weddings

Southern Weddings

Hey y’all!  First, of course, I must address this column’s new name and look.  I’m sure many of you can guess what necessitated the change, and, in deference to our topic (good manners, in case you forgot), I will leave it at that!

Moving on!  I have a very, very Southern etiquette puzzle for you today.  Cameron, a loyal reader, asked me a few questions regarding monograms.  She writes:

 “I love love love monogrammed things; therefore, most of the items on my registry will be monogrammed.  Before registering I read online (but not from credible sources) that the traditional way to monogram items as a couple is to never separate the groom’s first name from his last name. So our married couple monogram as Tom and Cameron Littlehale would be TLC.  Since all of the monogrammed items, like bed linens, bath linens, barware, and even our fine china on our registry are for the both of us, I used our ‘TLC’ monogram.   

I was under the assumption that I should use our monogram until I read the “10 Ways to get Southern Style” in the September 2010 Southern Living. The article states:

‘The most important piece of advice here?  “Always use the woman’s monogram,” sayd Phoebe.  “Period.  End of story.  People ask me about this all the time, and I don’t think it’s proper to combine monograms or to use the husband’s monogram.  Think of it this way: Everything in the house belongs to her, and that’s all there is to it,” she says with a laugh.  “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine.”‘

Luckily, my wedding isn’t until next May so I can still edit my registry, but 60% of it is monogrammed and I don’t want to use the wrong monogram on all of those items!  I had never heard of this before, and I don’t want to have the wrong monogram on all of my wedding gifts, but I also don’t want to change it because of what one woman said in her interview with Southern Living (although Southern Living is the gospel).  I’m so torn, and to make matters worse, Emily Post has nothing to say on monograms. Ahhh!!! What do you think?
 
This leads me to my next question.  Do I drop my middle name or my maiden name?  Right now I’m Cameron Baxter Morehouse, but after I marry Tom will I be Cameron Baxter Morehouse or Cameron Morehouse Littlehale? Which do I use as my monogram?”

All lovely examples of monogrammed registry options, courtesy of Pottery Barn

I apologize for the length, but I just couldn’t cut any of that out, now could I?  Cameron had me stumped a bit, as well, so I turned to my right-hand lady and expert on all things tradition, Miss Katharine Waterman.  Take it away, KTW…

“Thank you, thank you very much.  Here are my professional opinions:

Right vs. Wrong: There is no “right” or “wrong” way to monogram.  Brides changing their names typically DO use the joint monogram.  (And for the record, I am a firm believer that the groom’s initial should come first in a shared monogram; after all, it IS his last name.)  It is easier to share a single monogram, plus I actually don’t like the idea “what’s mine is mine, and everything in the house is mine.”  Is that really how anyone would want to start her marriage?

Female vs. Male Territory: Now, where Southern Living seems to get confused is traditionally female vs. male territory.  As you and I have discussed (Editor’s note: I, Emily, asked her this in an email, so she’s referring to previous office conversations we shared!), linens, china, etc. are typically regarded as the property of the wife.  The catch?   She would typically use her GIVEN initials, as though this were part of her dowry.  Barware, glasses, silver, etc. is the man’s property.  Figures he would get the nice stuff!  In Cameron’s case, I would recommend using the joint monogram, since she is taking his name.  Plus, it’s more egalitarian and not staking out “what’s mine is mine” turf.

Middle vs. Maiden Name:  There is no right answer here, either.  Traditionally, a woman was not given a middle name with the expectation that her maiden name would, by default, become her middle name once she married.  Personally, I would identify most strongly with my surname, but as we’ve also discussed, some people like their middle names more and so that carries more weight.  (You, for instance, like Armstrong!)  So this is just a personal choice.  Which name does she identify with more?  What sounds better with her new last name?  If she is a traditionalist, she should use her maiden name as her middle name.

The end.”

Thank you, Katharine!  Now tell me: what do you think about monograms?  Middle names?  Who’s right?  Phoebe?  Katharine?  Someone else?

EDITOR’S UPDATE: We thought we’d clear up a few points that have popped up in the comment section. The tradition is “do not separate a man’s given initial from his last initial,” not “do not separate a man’s first name from his last name” as if you were reading the monogram aloud.  (Clearly, by virtue of the awkward and counterintuitive first, middle, and last placement of initials, monograms are not intended to be read aloud.)  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.

It’s only recently that people have informally adopted the new arrangement, but for our generation it is the norm.

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.  (For instance, my great-grandmother, KTW I, was not given a middle name, so stamped all the silver with her birth initial “T” for Tillinghast after marriage.

And a last point: it now has become a matter of personal preference, so perhaps saying who is right and wrong is wrong in and of itself, as there are plenty of references for both sides!

Our friends at Aisle Dash also do an excellent job of differentiating between modern and traditional monograms here.

All header images c/o Millie Holloman

Written with love by Southern Weddings
29 Comments
  1. avatar Chelsea reply

    Ok so I have another curve ball to throw in to the mix. When I get married my husband and I's initials will be the exact same, CAD, so technically our single monograms would be the same. But our joint monogram would then be CDC. Can we technically use our CDA monogram and it just stand for both of us or is that too confusing and go with the joint monogram? I always thought it would be cute that we had the same initials but now it just confuses things! Oh and our initials will be the same since I plan on keeping my given middle name since my maiden last name, Smith, is so darn boring. I'm not too worried about dropping it. (No offense Dad!)

  2. avatar Rachel reply

    I'm inclined to disagree with the new Mrs. Waterman. I'm a Southern gal, with a Southern mom who has a little business making personalized purses, linens, and other fun items that are monogrammed. Her standard with the married monogram is bride's initial on the left, groom's on the right. I do agree with Katherine, though, that most things in the home should have a shared monogram.I guess, though, it could really come down to what the couple likes best. I'm afraid of marrying a man where our combined monogram would spell something undesirable. In that case, I would definitely break any and all the "rules" of monogramming!

  3. avatar Lisa reply

    I agree with Rachel. I have always been taught that the man's first name should not be seperated from his last name. So the monogram for Emily and John Smith would be ESJ.

  4. avatar Elizabeth reply

    As a girl from an old Virginny family, I have seen my share of monograms! I have always been taught that the woman's monogram is on the china, and from there there is more leeway – so using the couple's monogram is fine. I was taught that the couple monogram should be wife on the left, husband on the right "just like they stand at the altar" – I mean, it's now is now both your names, right? so someone's would be separated – plus, I say ladies first. And as far as the maiden name goes, I have not known many southern girls to not keep their maiden name as their new middle ("so you know who your people are" as my grandmother might say…). Then again, I agree that everything can go out the window if there is an undesirable new monogram!

  5. avatar Stephanie reply

    I agree that the bride's initial should come first. Like when you write a couple's names out, you would write the bride's name first. I think that personal choice is what's most important when deciding what your new name should be. I personally relate to my maiden name more than my middle and intend to make it my middle name when getting married.@Chelsea: I would probably use CDC, but that's just my opinion!

  6. avatar Lindsey reply

    I also agree the the bride's initial comes first. I work in a store in Columbia, South Carolina that has TONS of monogrammable (made up word?) items and that is how we recommend brides format their married monogram. I just got married last month myself and the hubs and I used LBJ on pretty much anything that could be monogrammed. Also, I am using my maiden name as my middle name and, like Elizabeth, I don't know anyone who has kept their original middle name. I guess that's more of a personal choice, but I don't like the idea of losing that connection with my family – to me, getting married was about two families becoming one and I like that my name is now a reflection of that.

  7. avatar Amy reply

    I also agree…the bride's name comes first in a couples monogram. This is how I registered for all of my linens and other things. Funny thing is….our new couples monogram is the same as my NEW monogram. I guess in our house it really is whats mine is mine and what is ours is mine (at least thats the way it looks!)

  8. avatar kathleen reply

    I'm no monogram expert, but like most of the commenters above, I think in a joint monogram the lady is on the left. Anybody know what to do with a 4-initial monogram? I couldn't part with either my middle or my maiden name, so now I've legally got four names. I love my middle name and I definitely want people who see my family name to "know who my people are," so that seemed to be the easiest solution. I also figured it would give me leeway to use the names however I saw fit (as in, I'm still using my maiden name at work — didn't want the IT hassle since I don't see it as a long-term gig). Also, my maiden name makes a terrible middle name for me!

  9. avatar Anna Louise reply

    And yet I have another curve ball. What about girls with double names? My full name is Anna Louise Dixon, but I have been called Anna Louise my entire life. What would my new monogram be when I marry? A C D (C is just a made up letter) or A C L. I love by my double name, but also my last name, too. Would it be appropriate to legally drop my middle name but still have things monogrammed with my double name, since people would still call me by that? I think I have seen older friends do that.

  10. avatar Sara reply

    I love monogram stuff…hey we're from the South, right?! When reading this post, I was hoping you would answer the monogram question "man v women' what/how do you monogram. It was an interesting education to find that you do indeed just put the womens monogram on the china…I think it's a beautiful idea and a special touch, just a little odd…since it's both of yours. Also, I find it strange sometimes to walk into someones den/tv room and they have monogram pillows with just the womens monogram, it's a shared space, right. When do the rules apply? I love monogramming…and would monogram EVERYTHING…if my husband would let me…thanks for the education!

  11. avatar Leigh Ellen reply

    Anna Louise, I am with you girl! My future mother in law just asked me this question yesterday…I feel like I will end up going with dropping my "middle" name on the monogram, if only for symmetry's sake (my first name and my maiden name are both L, so I will be LGL). But I feel like I am abandoning my double name-ness:) Anyone have any advice for us on monograms??

  12. avatar Sarah Kate reply

    To Anna Louise and Leigh Ellen: I am also a double-name gal and following my wedding last March I dropped my maiden name in order to keep both my first names. I felt that it was enough work to explain two first names to everyone without having to explain two last names as well. My biggest considerations for this decision were two-fold: I want to have the same surname that my children will have thus I did not want to keep my maiden name as my last name, and I am still relatively young in my career which made the transition a smooth one from a professional point of view. In accordance with tradition my husband and I have established our household items with either my monogram or his, and any casual items that we both use (ie: towels in the master bath) have only our shared last initial.

  13. avatar Stephanie reply

    Have any of you registered for monogrammed china? Have you done it through a local shop or are there any department stores that sell monogrammed china? Thanks!

  14. avatar Southern Weddings reply

    Hi Stephanie! One of my favorite patterns of monogrammed china is Pickard's Signature line, sold through independent retailers. Classic and beautiful, though pricey! Here's the link: http://www.pickardchina.com/info.cfm?action=monogrammed_chinaEmily @ SW

  15. avatar Cameron reply

    I am registered for Pickard's Signature Collection with the gold rim through Williams-Sonoma. Williams-Sonoma seems to be the best option when registering for the china because they have so many stores and they offer an online registry too!

  16. avatar Emily reply

    i was always taught the "ladies first" style, which i love now, as our monogram is also MY new monogram, leading me to want to monogram everything in our home! and since i spent my life up until marriage with a hyphenated last name, making monogramming almost impossible except from specialty shops, i'm loving having only 3 initials!

  17. avatar Bethany reply

    In my family it's traditional to keep all your names… perhaps not legally but in documents your whole birth name plus your married name is used. My great grandmother had a tradition of giving sterling silver to my aunt with her maiden name monogram during her childhood. So her silver reads gSl instead of bMg or gMs.

  18. avatar Layla Mayville {Simply Savannah Events} reply

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this information, so helpful. My mom actually never had a middle name and when she was married she took her maiden name as her middle. I always wondered why she never had a middle name, but I guess it’s a very old tradition. As for myself, I kept my middle name since I really like the sound of it and it sounded weird with my maiden. Layla Michelle Mayville is what it is but if I had taken my maiden it would be Layla Cady Mayville. Here is another side note, I have heard of a lot of people now giving their children’s 1st name as what their maiden name was. In this case, I had thought about if we had a girl I would name her Cady. I do have a brother so the Cady name will continue though.

  19. avatar Sandra reply

    what would Ernest M. Van Derhaff”s monogram be?

  20. avatar Norah reply

    I know this is an older article, but I’ll be in the same position as commenter Kathleen and am curious how to handle 4-initial monograms when the maiden name and married name aren’t hyphenated. I plan to keep my maiden name and add on his last name (like Mary Higgins Clark, for example). I have no problem omitting my middle initial for my own monogram and using my maiden in its place, but it’s the couple’s monogram that’s tripping me up. If my name is Norah E(middle) C(maiden) H(his last name) and his is Robbie L(middle) H(his last name), then what I’ve seen for women keeping their maiden (nCHr) isn’t appropriate because I would also have his initial. But simply nHr isn’t quite right either. Thoughts?

  21. avatar Afton reply

    I’m late to this discussion as well but I have a conundrum that’s not officially been answered yet. I go by my middle name (Afton) and therefore don’t know what to do for a 3 letter monogram upon getting married next year.
    I legally don’t want or plan on dropping my first name (Natalie) but don’t know what is actually appropriate. I also don’t want to have 4 names to monogram! My new last name will start with an S so I could be aSb or nSa. Help is appreciated!

  22. avatar Mary Catherine reply

    What are y’all’s thoughts on the whopping four name monograms. I am a Mary Catherine, but I was worried about which name to use. I don’t want to go by Mary + Maiden + Married names and I didn’t want to do Mary Catherine N______ J______. MCNJ?

    Help! Folks are asking what monogram to use for gifts. I was thinking about either using his as ours: AJM (Which unfortunately our married monogram is the same as His name + Last Name + My First Name!) <<This is such a mess, I know.

    Thoughts? (Frankly, I love my double name, but I also don't want to lose my maiden name.)

  23. avatar Pamela Fraites reply

    Is it appropriate for a widow to have items monogrammed with her husband’s initials or does she now use her own? I have been widowed four years; I have no intention of remarrying. The linens I currently have display only my husband’s initials with the surname in the middle in a larger letter than those flanking it. (rFe) Should I continue to use this form?

    The middle initial I use is from my maiden name. Should I now put my current surname in the middle with my first and middle initials on either side? (pFm)

    A very trivial question in such an unhappy world, but monogramming is a special luxury I, and my widowed friends, enjoy.

    Thank you. Pamela M. Fraites

  24. avatar Kristin reply

    I was very interested in the different thoughts on monograms. My newly engaged daughter and I have been wondering about timing? When is it appropriate to give a “bride to be” a gift with her married monogram? (engagement, shower or wait until the wedding) Is it bad luck to give a monogramed item too early? Can the future bride and groom use their married monogram on save the dates and invitations?? So many questions…
    Please help!

  25. avatar Sue Anne Conley reply

    I became a widow three years ago, I am 55. Most of my monogrammed item are a combination of mine using my maiden name as the middle initial since I technically have no “real” middle name. My full first name is Sue Anne(two words, one name), talk to my parents about that issue.
    My concern is as I purchase items to be monogrammed and my husband is deceased, do I just revert to the initials I used prior to marriage?
    My main question is about a serving tray that has only one initial that I plan to place on a ottoman and use for coasters, tv remote and magazines. Do I purchase the one with the initial of my first name or my last name which is my married initial; even though I am not married, but widowed.

  26. avatar Paige Cambell reply

    Thank you so much for all the advice! For my new monogram I’m not sure what to put for my husbands name? His first and middle name of Charles Hinter but he goes by hunter. Do I put in a C or an H for his initial? Thank you!

  27. avatar Brooke reply

    I’ve got a big monogramming question for you – I’m marrying a man with a hyphenated last name. I’m a North Carolina girl and love to monogram everything, but how does my monogram work?

    My current full name: Brooke Elizabeth Kavit
    My future hubby’s name: Samuel Bust-Webber

    I will be legally changing my name to Brooke Bust-Webber.

    I’m totally stumped though, please help me!

  28. avatar Lin reply

    well, throughout my home i have monogram items used both ways! and why not! it seems nothing is either ‘right’ OR “wrong” any longer and that’s generally ok in my opinion. I guess it depends on your personal preference and/or if you tend toward the modern, or more formal traditions. If you want to mix it up you could monogram linens with brides initials first and glasses/silverware with grooms first (which is based on the very old tradition of what types of possessions are either ‘his’ or ‘hers’. I personally would not do silverware with three initials but only one (the last name obviously) but that’s just me. Things like ice buckets, barware could certainly have the grooms first initial first, so maybe base on what it is you’re putting the monogram on. I say anything goes! just my two cents!!

  29. avatar Michelle Bostick reply

    You never separate the mans name from his last name. Therefore, the woman’s initial has to be first.

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to:
close
Top