How to address a widow

Cake values integrity and transparency. We follow a strict editorial process to provide you with the best content possible. We also may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more in our affiliate disclosure.

Whether you’re speaking to her in person or sending her an event invitation, it’s important to be respectful when you’re addressing a widow.

Jump ahead to these sections:

She might have lost her spouse recently, or it might have happened many years ago. Either way, she’ll appreciate that you thought about how she might want you to address her. And it’s always best to follow the proper etiquette when doing so.

So what’s the correct way to address a widow? Does it change based on the widow’s age or your relationship with her? We’ll go over the basics of addressing a woman whose spouse is no longer living, below.

Post-planning tip: If you or someone you love has been newly widowed, we know that handling a husband’s unfinished business can be overwhelming without a process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one’s family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.

Should You Use Mrs. Ms., or Miss to Address a Widow?

There are three basic prefixes you can use when addressing the women in your life: Mrs., Ms., and Miss. The prefix you choose when you’re speaking to a widow depends on several factors. Here are some of the scenarios and situations to consider.

Mrs. (most common)

Most of the time, you should use the honorific, “Mrs.” (missus), when you’re addressing a widow. Use the prefix “Mrs.” and the woman’s married name, if she changed her last name to her spouse’s.

Of course, use the woman’s maiden name if you know she’s changed her name back. Most often, however, you should go with the same name she went by when her spouse was alive.

Ms. (less common)

A widow might also go by “Ms.” if it’s been many years since her spouse passed away. If so, she might also change her last name back to her maiden name. However, as mentioned, “Mrs.” is much more common, and a widow normally keeps her married name. “Ms.” much more commonly refers to a woman who’s divorced, so a widow might find offense in it if you’re not careful.

If you’re not sure whether a widow wants to go by “Ms.” or “Mrs.,” it’s a safe bet to go with “Mrs.” You can also ask her what she goes by.

Miss (rare)

Few widows go by “Miss,” but it’s not unheard of. A very young widow (a woman in her 20s, for example) might choose to go by “Miss” and her married or maiden name, depending on how long she was married to the deceased.

The prefix “Miss” normally applies to women who have never been married, so again, it’s safer to go with “Mrs.” if you’re unsure.

Other Ways You Can Address a Widow If You’re Unsure

It’s usually safe to go with “Mrs.” when you’re addressing a widow, and you’re not sure what she prefers. But if you’d rather go with another prefix or address the widow in your life in another way, consider the options below.

1. First name

If you’re close to her, you can always address a widow by her first name. Alternatively, you can use her first and last name.

This is acceptable whether you’re addressing her in person, or writing her a card such as a sympathy card . And in this situation, continuing to address your friend or family member by her first name as you usually would is the best choice.

2. Title

If you’re addressing a widow in your work or professional life, you can use her professional title. You can even use a title if you’re addressing a more distant family member or family friend.

Examples of titles include Professor, Doctor, Sister, General, Director, and President. Pair her title with her married last name unless you’re 100% sure her last name has changed since the passing of her spouse.

3. Her spouse’s name

Some women use the old-fashioned convention of their husband’s first name and last name plus the prefix “Mrs.” For example, a woman might go by “Mrs. John Doe” rather than just “Mrs. Doe” or “Mrs. Jane Doe” (using her own first name).

If you’re aware that the woman used this convention, it’s appropriate to continue addressing her that way even after her husband passes away. However, it’s also appropriate to go with simply “Mrs. Doe,” if you’re unsure.

4. First name and maiden name

What about for a widow who never used her spouse’s last name? In this situation, you should continue to address the widow by the name she’s always used.

Use her first name and her maiden name plus either Ms. or Mrs., depending on which she prefers. As mentioned, it’s usually best to go with “Mrs.” if you’re not sure.

5. Spouse’s title

If the widow’s husband held an important title in the community, she might have used an address based on his position. For example, a president’s wife is known as the First Lady.

If her husband passes away, you should continue to address her as the First Lady. In addressing a letter or card, write, “First Lady (married last name). Of course, this is a very specific example, but many women use titles associated with their husbands’ positions. These include the spouses of elected officials, church officials, and some armed forces officials.

6. Nicknames and family names

Finally, in informal settings, you can address a widow by a nickname or family name you might have for her. For example, you might call your best friend by an affectionate nickname. And using terms of endearment can be a useful way to help a grieving friend . Of course, this wouldn’t be appropriate if you’re writing her name on an envelope, but you can still use it in a private message or in person.

And if you’re addressing a letter to a family member who’s a widow, you can use her family name in place of “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” or “Miss.” For example, if you’re sending an aunt a letter, you can address it to “Aunt Doe.” If you’re writing to a cousin whose spouse passed away, you can address it to “Cousin Doe.”

How to Address a Widow

Whether you’re addressing a widow in person or addressing a sympathy letter to say “ sorry for your loss ,” it’s important to address her properly. But luckily, most widows understand that doing this can be challenging. Chances are, they won’t hold it against you if you slip up.

And if you’re at a complete loss for how to address the widow in your life, your best choice might be to simply ask her. Especially if she’s your close friend or family member, it’s all right to let her know you’re unsure how to approach the situation. You can ask how she’d like to be addressed, or inquire about whether she’s changing her name or prefix in any way.

What is the correct way to address a sympathy card to a widow?

A sympathy card to a widow should be addressed to “Mrs. Robert Smith,” substituting Robert Smith with her deceased husband’s name, according to the Emily Post Institute on etiquette.

Do you address sympathy to husband and wife?

Answer: You are absolutely correct. The card and envelope should be addressed to both. However, it would be appropriate in your words of sympathy to address the person whose parent has passed away.

How do you address a condolence message?

Suggestions and Examples of Appropriate Phrases to Express your Sentiment:

  1. I am sorry for your loss.
  2. Our deepest sympathy to you and your family.
  3. (Name of deceased) will always be in our hearts.
  4. In loving memory of (Name of deceased)
  5. (Name of deceased’s) memory will forever be with us.

How do you comfort someone going through a tough time?

These are the most effective:

  • Ask them how they are feeling. Then, listen non-judgmentally to their response.
  • Show them that you want to understand and express sympathy.
  • Ask how you can support them and resist jumping in to problem-solve.
  • Check in to see if they are suicidal.
  • Reassure them, realistically.

How do you tell someone you’re thinking of them during a hard time?

Ideas to consider include:

  1. “Thank you for all you do for us, but now is a time to take care of yourself as well.”
  2. “I’m proud of you.”
  3. “I hate that you’re going through this, but I know that you’ve got this.”
  4. “Remember when you were there for me?
  5. “Here’s how we’re going to take care of your work while you’re away.”

How do you comfort someone in emotional pain?

10 tips for supporting someone through emotional pain and loss

  1. The Power Of Your Presence. Many people think they have to say something in order to be helpful.
  2. The Power Of Silence.
  3. Validation.
  4. Reframing.
  5. Use Yourself But Not The Moment.
  6. Avoid Giving Advice.
  7. Offer Concrete Help.
  8. Follow Up.

How do you cheer up someone who lost a game?

Offering a handshake, high five or simple congratulations to someone who beat you is an excellent show of sportsmanship and a positive step in processing a loss. If you can, ask them about what they did to win, or how they practice. This can help you become more competitive, or find a weak spot in their strategy.

Here are your options. You can read them all or just skip to #5.

—- #1 ) Mrs. John Doe is the traditional form for a widow. Just because her husband has died, a widow continues to be ‘Mrs. (Husband’s Name)’ … if she chooses to.
—- For example, my mother continued to use Mrs. Thomas Hickey after my father died. She had Margaret Hickey on her checks, but never Mrs. Margaret Hickey. She disliked Ms. but I think (in her case) it was a generational thing.

—- #2) Mrs. Jane Doe is the traditional form of address for a divorced woman. Since she would no longer be Mrs. John Doe the divorced woman inserted her given name so everyone would be clear that she was not married anymore.
—- But many married women prefer Mrs. (Their Given Name)+(Family Name) because they want Mrs. (maybe they have children?) and want their given name used. Either they don’t know about the ‘traditional form for a divorcee’ or don’t care! What they prefer is what they prefer and that’s the end of the discussion.

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

—- #3) Ms. Jane Doe is the contemporary form which does not suggest a marital status. I note that more and more younger women use this form professionally and anytime they think their marital status is not pertinent to the communication/conversation.

—- #4) Simply Jane Doe – is a casual form. Not using any honorific is very informal.

—- #5) Ask the preference of the person you are addressing. She may prefer different forms of her name in different situations. For a wedding invitation from a bride who knew her husband she might prefer Mrs. John Doe. But from someone she knows professionally – who did not know her husband – she might prefer Ms. Jane Doe.

—- #6) For a spouse who never used the same surname, see the post below, “How to Address a Widow Who Never Used Her Husband’s Surname?”

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Widow Who Never Used Her Husband’s Surname?

How do you address a sympathy note’s envelope a new widow who kept her maiden name?
For example: Her name is Jane Smith and her husband’s name was John Taylor?
——————— – Sausalito, CA

Dear Sausalito:
A ddress her using the name she has always used:
—— —— Ms. Jane Smith
—— —— (Address)

Them not using the same surmame made them no less married. In the note include something like …. ‘the loss of your husband, John”

In much of the world it’s the norm for women to keep their maiden name. In Much of Asia, South America and the Middle East women typically keep their surname when they marry. It’s really just the European cultures – and places influenced by that style – where women change their surnames.

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Do Widows Prefer Mrs. or Ms.?

My aunt’s husband died several years ago and she has been seeing someone else for the past several years. They aren’t married but I am inviting him to the wedding too.
—- When addressing her invitation, I don’t know if I should still write Mrs. or if I should refer to her as Ms. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
—————— – Keri

Dear Keri:
Whether she prefers to be addressed as Mrs. (Name) or Ms. (Name) is her choice.

—- She may prefer Ms. (Her full name) since you are inviting her with her new beau.

—- She may prefer ‘Mrs. Richard Wilson’ (her deceased husband’s full name) since it is a family event. It’s no secret to her new friend that she was previously married.

The only solution is … call and ask. I’ve never encountered anyone who was offended when asked ‘what form of their name do you prefer’.

NOTE: It’s not a forms of address issue, there are a couple of ways to issue this sort of invitation.
—- #1)
Formally – adult guests who do not pressent them self as a “permanent couple” (whatever that is) are issued separate invitations. This includes roommates at the same address and ‘dating’ adults who are living at different addresses.
—- #2)
A bit less formally – the principal guest is sent an invitation and you tell them they are welcome to bring a guest. Not everything has to be formal, but I thought I would throw that in.

– Robert Hickey How to Address a Widow

Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.) The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—- #1) At right on desktops , at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones , is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—- #2) If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.) Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—- #3) If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question – but always change all the specifics.

It is hard to hear of the death of a family member, friend or acquaintance. You realize it is important to send your sympathy to the family, especially the widow. If you have little experience with this, you’ll need to know how to address the sympathy card when mailing one to the widow. It is important to acknowledge her correctly and observe proper etiquette. A widow is trying to deal with deep grief and accept the fact that her husband is truly gone. She is still very much his wife and will want to be addressed as such.

Explore this article

1 Address the envelope

Address the envelope to “Mrs. John Smith” or “Ms. Sarah Smith.” Sarah is the widow of John, so when using Mrs. you will use the deceased husband’s name.

2 Address the envelope-2

Address the envelope for a newly widowed doctor as Dr. Sarah Smith.

3 Address the envelope-3

Address the envelope to a newly widowed woman who is a minister as Reverend Sarah or Pastor Sarah Smith.

4 Write a personal note

Write a personal note inside of the card to a newly widowed woman that you are an acquaintance of by addressing her as Mrs., Dr. or Reverend Smith.

5 Write a personal note-2

Write a personal note to a family member or friend and address her as you normally would, Aunt Sarah or Sarah. The outer envelope still must read Mrs. John or Ms. Sarah Smith.

About the Author

Suzie Faloon is a freelance writer who has written online content for various websites. As a professional crafter and floral designer, Faloon owned a florist business for nearly 25 years. She completed the Institute of Children's Literature course in 1988.

How To Address Save The Dates To A Widow. (if you’re looking for help coping with the day, we have some posts for you right here.) with this hallmark holiday upon us, we’re going to address a topic that we have yet to tackle in the over 500 articles we have here on wyg. 28 dec 2020 by no comments dec 2020 by no comments

How to address a widowSource :

A widow is traditionally addressed as mrs. Address his save the date as.

Table of Contents

19 Most Unique Save The Dates For NonBoring Couples

Address the guests with “mr.,” “mrs.,” or “ms.”. As such, the way to address a save the date card is exactly as you would the outer envelope of the wedding invitation itself, with formal names and titles.

Address label wrap printable address label template. (if you’re looking for help coping with the day, we have some posts for you right here.) with this hallmark holiday upon.

Addressing wedding invitation envelopes wonderful snail. 28 dec 2020 by no comments dec 2020 by no comments

Charming script save the date cards save the date. A widow is traditionally addressed as mrs.

Create a sophisticated hand addressed envelope hand. Address his save the date as.

Custom calligraphy wedding invitations envelope save the. Address the guests with “mr.,” “mrs.,” or “ms.”.

Diy old hollywood movie ticket save the date card etsy. As such, the way to address a save the date card is exactly as you would the outer envelope of the wedding invitation itself,.

Diy save the date concert tickets wedding diy. As the title of this post suggests, we’re referring to topics related to dating after the death of a spouse or partner.

Diy postcard save the date back printable postcards. At this point you may not have all the specifics, and that’s okay.

Elegant calligraphy printable envelope address template. But to focus on generalities of “selfishness” and ascribe them to an entire group does a disservice to all of the mature.

Envelope address template formal elegant 100 editable. Either “save the date” or some other phrase that lets the receiver know there is an upcoming wedding.

Found on share your inspiration today. Follow your save the dates with your formal invitations about 8 weeks before the wedding.

Glitter save the date post card save the. Followed by the husband’s full name, unless the widow has indicated another preference.

Congrats on the engagement! Wedding planning is an exciting time and sending invitations is one of the steps to take before the whole wedding event begins. There are many proper etiquettes to follow for wedding invitations and understanding how to properly address a person’s title or name is important, but addressing a wedding invitation to a widow can be quite challenging. Although there are no correct or legal ways to address a widow, it is best to try to figure out what’s the proper title and name to use respectfully while not offending her or triggering sadness. For more ideas on planning a wedding or staying organized, check out our wedding expense sheet and task list.

How to address a widow

Writing a Wedding Invitation to a Widow

Consider the following suggestions before writing a wedding invitation to a widow:

1. Ask the Widow

If you are close to the widow, don’t be afraid to call and ask the widow over the phone to see which title and name to use. This is the best way to find out directly from the person you plan on inviting with respect. If anything, she’d appreciate that you asked and that you’re considering inviting her over to your wedding! Her title can be a sensitive topic, but you are helping her be more comfortable at your wedding.

Keep in mind that calling to ask has to be the right timing and it may not be a good idea to ask right away if her husband recently died. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the widow about this or aren’t close to her, think about why you are deciding to invite her and why you plan to include her as one of your guests.

2. Use the Widow’s Full Name

It never hurts to use the widow’s full name and title as “Mrs.” before her husband was deceased if you are unsure. It’s always a safe bet to use her entire name as to how it was before, as it shows respect to her and her late husband. Another option is to use “Ms.” and write the widow’s entire full name with her first and last name.

If the widow never changed her last name to her spouse’s last name before and kept her maiden name, you can address the widow with the name she has always been using. If this is the case, address her by her first name and maiden name with either the title “Mrs.” or “Ms.”, for whichever she prefers you to use, or go with “Mrs.” to be safe if you have any uncertainty.

3. When in Doubt – Use “Mrs.”

Traditionally, “Mrs.” is the most preferred way to address a widow. It is also more common to go with “Mrs.,” since a woman is more likely to keep her married name when she becomes a widow. A woman becomes a widow when her husband passes away, but she is still referred to as “Mrs.,” with her husband’s last name. Although a widow may have lost her husband, that doesn’t mean she loses her title or drops her husband’s last name completely. Depending on if the widow has been remarried or other circumstances, it’s ultimately up to the widow what she decides to do, so make sure to check in and see what she prefers.

4. Consider Using “Ms.”

Addressing the title with “Ms.” can be used as an alternative for a widow. It could be a long time since she lost her spouse and might have decided to change her last name to her maiden name instead. Since you are not sure of the widow’s marital status, “Ms.” is a neutral title to use for any woman. However, “Ms.” could also be referred to as a woman who is divorced, which may not be appropriate for a widow. Do avoid using “Miss” as that is a title that is not as appropriate for someone who is older than 30 and has been married before.

5. Depends on Who’s Sending the Mail

The widow may have a preference on her title and name, but that may depend on who this invitation is coming from and your relationship with the widow. If this wedding invitation is coming from someone who knew the widow’s husband, the widow could prefer to use Mrs., but otherwise, if you don’t know the widow’s husband, her preference could be Ms. instead. This all depends on the widow’s preference and you might not know until you ask!

6. If the Widow Has Children

If you plan on inviting a widow and her children, be sure to address the widow as her with Mrs. and her husband’s last name, or the same name she had when she before she became a widow after she became married. This is if her children do not have two last names and only take their last name as the widow’s husband’s last name.

7. Writing Informally

On the envelope or the wedding invitation, if you do not need to address the widow by using a prefix, you can avoid doing so with informal writing instead. Her name and title could also depend on whether or not she is currently dating. It is possible to just use her first and last name, without having to figure out the prefix.

8. Use your best judgment

Lastly, use your best judgment to the best of your ability when you think through this on how to address a widow in your wedding invitation. Think over what you choose to do before you send that invitation and keep in mind if you were in the widow’s shoes, what would you prefer?


When writing out a wedding invitation to a widow, don’t assume what the widow wants to be called or addressed. Whether you’re sending out a wedding invitation, a sympathy card, or helping a grieving person, it is important to address a widow properly. Just like each person may have a name preference, widows may have a preference as well. If you are unsure, directly ask the widow to find out how they want to be addressed.

They will be understanding that it is difficult to address a widow and will appreciate you taking the time to address her properly. Some widows may prefer to be addressed with the title Ms. or Miss instead of Mrs., but if anything, use your best judgment and think before you send over a wedding invitation.

Q. My co-worker’s husband just died, and I’m at a loss for what to write in a sympathy note. She and I are friendly – occasionally we have lunch together with a group of other associates – but we’re not close friends. What should I say?

The death of a spouse (or life partner) is an extraordinarily complicated loss that turns a widow’s life upside down. She loses a companion, friend, lover, lifestyle and more. For that reason it’s best to keep your note short and simple if you are only a casual friend – as in, “Dear —, I’m so sorry to hear of Tim’s death. Although I never met him, I recall you speaking of him often. I send my deepest condolences.” Or you can add something such as, “It was only last month that you talked about the vacation you were planning for your anniversary.”

Another possibility when you know nothing about the deceased is: “Sally has told me about your husband’s death. I just want you to know you’re in my thoughts and prayers. With sincere sympathy.”

In the case of a sudden and unexpected death (such as a hit-and-run while crossing the street), you might begin, “I was shocked to learn about Bill’s death. I don’t know what to say to you. This shouldn’t have happened. Please accept my condolences at this terrible time.”

Whatever you do, resist making (and mentioning) any assumptions about how the bereaved feels. That’s dangerous territory because there is no one way to feel when you lose your mate. A widow who spent many years caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, may feel relief after the death, as well as guilt for that feeling. Don’t assume anything about the person’s marriage either, whether you think it was strong and loving – or stormy. Only someone extremely close can know what is really going on in another person’s marriage. So don’t go there.

Be very careful about saying anything of a religious nature, as well, unless you know for a fact that the bereaved is devout. You don’t want the person to feel uncomfortable, especially at a time such as this. And do not offer advice, no matter how helpful it may seem to you. Even such a statement as, “You’re going to get through this,” coming from a casual acquaintance, can make the bereaved angry.

Becoming a widow was the most terrible thing that ever happened to me. Besides being heartbroken, I also had no idea what to expect or how to deal with certain problems that arose. Looking back, these are some things that I learned along the way. I would like to pass them on in the hopes of helping someone else.

1. It sucks. I’m not going to try to make it sound better than that. I can’t. It just sucks. Not only do you lose the person you love and your partner in life, but your children also lose their father. You must deal with all of this by yourself because the one person who is supposed to help you during hard times is gone.

2. You become “that person” people stare at in the supermarket. For months after my husband died, I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like the whole world was watching me. It’s as if what happened to you is what everyone else is afraid of, so they just stare and pray they won’t become you one day.

3. People do and say the dumbest things around you. Some people seem to feel awkward and just don’t know how to handle the situation. That is their problem, not yours. I was once standing outside my hair salon when a woman I knew walked out. I noticed that she saw me. She immediately stuck her head in her handbag and pretended to be frantically looking for something. Then she ran back into the salon. I guess she didn’t know what to say to me but “Hello” or “How are you?” would have been fine.

4. Friends and family may not always understand that you don’t have time. Everyone means well with phone calls, emails and texts, but it is impossible to give everyone a response in a timely manner. You are adjusting to a new and scary life, and so are your children. I know I did not have the time or energy to focus on anything but that. There are those who might not understand this and might get insulted. That can be upsetting at a time when you do not need extra stress. But sometimes people will surprise you with understanding. My aunt once called to check on me, and I never returned her call. When I saw her a month or so later at a holiday dinner, I immediately apologized to her. Her response was, “You don’t ever have to apologize to me, I totally understand. You are going through enough.” I appreciated those words more than you can imagine.

5. Accept help when it is offered. I was lucky enough to have friends and family who were always trying to do whatever they could for me. At first, I resisted. I felt like this was my problem and I had to do it all for myself, and my children. But I realized quickly that doing everything is hard. Little by little, I began to let others do for me when I felt that they genuinely wanted to. It did make life just a little easier.

6. Those who have never experienced a tragedy such as this will not understand what you are going through. They will think that they do, or will try to, but they don’t. They can’t. Everyone means well. They will tell you to get out more, or go out less, or stop doing so much for your kids, or do more for your kids. You just need to do things your own way. You will, of course, make mistakes and ask for advice when needed. But go with your gut, and do things the best way you know how.

7. Do not do what you do not want to do. It may take a long time to feel comfortable going to events alone. This was one of the most difficult things for me. I learned the hard way. I felt obligated, and worse, I let others make me feel obligated to attend weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, parties and other functions before I was ready. I would go to these events and spend a large part of the evening with a big fake smile on my face, trying not to cry. Slowly, I started to decline the invitations that I knew would be too difficult for me. I was sorry if people were upset with me, but I came to realize that you need to do what is best for you or you will never recover.

8. You will never be the same person you were before. This is not to say that you will never be happy again — you will. But it is a different kind of happy. You cannot possibly be the same after going through a tragedy like this. Losing my husband has become a part of me. It no longer controls my every thought, but I now look at life in a new way. Not necessarily bad or good, just different. For so long, I only wanted my old life back. I now understand that this is never going to happen. It was very hard to accept, but now that I have, I am able move on to a new chapter.

9. Life moves on for your friends. You are no longer part of a couple. While your couple friends may still include you, you may not always feel comfortable being the “fifth wheel.” Their social lives will go on without you, too. This is understandable, but it can be difficult and sad to see others moving on while you may not yet be able to do so.

10. It gets better. You see your kids happy again, and that makes you happy. You are with friends one day, and you find yourself smiling and laughing. You feel comfortable going to a party, and you actually have fun. You may see the possibility of finding love again. The sadness and anger lessen, and you try to look at life in a positive way. You will never forget losing the person you love. It is not easy, but at some point, you will find a way to create a new life for yourself.

Form SSA-10 | Information You Need to Apply for Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Divorced Spouse’s Benefits

You can apply for benefits by calling our national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visiting your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to apply.

You can help by being ready to:

  • Provide any needed documents; and
  • Answer the questions listed below.

Documents you may need to provide

We may ask you to provide documents to show that you are eligible, such as:

  • Proof of the worker’s death;
  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [More Info];
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968;
  • For disability benefits, the two forms (SSA-3368 and SSA-827) that describe your medical condition and authorize disclosure of information to us;
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year;
  • Final divorce decree, if applying as a surviving divorced spouse; and
  • Marriage certificate


We accept photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns or medical documents, but we must see the original of most other documents, such as your birth certificate. (We will return them to you.)

Do not delay filing your claim just because you do not have all the documents. We will help you get them.

What we will ask you

  • Your name and Social Security number;
  • Your name at birth (if different);
  • The worker’s name, gender, social security number, date of birth, date of death, and place of death;
  • Your date of birth and place of birth (State or foreign country);
  • Whether a public or religious record was made of your birth before age 5;
  • Your citizenship status;
  • Whether you have used any other Social Security number;
  • The State or foreign country of the worker’s fixed permanent residence at the time of death;
  • Whether you or anyone else has ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income on your behalf. (If so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied.);
  • Whether the worker ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income. (If so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied.);
  • Whether you became unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time within the past 14 months. (If "Yes," we will also ask you the date you became unable to work);
  • Whether the worker was unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time during the 14 months before his or her death. (If "Yes," we will also ask you the date he or she became unable to work.);
  • Whether you or the worker were ever in the active military service before 1968 and, if so, the dates of service and whether you receive or are eligible to receive a pension from a military or Federal civilian agency;
  • Whether you or the worker worked for the railroad industry;
  • Whether you or the worker ever earned social security credits under another country’s social security system;
  • Whether you qualified for or expect to receive a pension or annuity based on your own employment with the Federal government of the United States or one of its States or local subdivisions;
  • The names, dates of birth (or age) and Social Security numbers (if known) of your or the worker’s former spouses;
  • The dates and locations of your marriages, and for marriages that have ended, how, when, and where they ended;
  • The dates and locations of the worker’s marriages, and for marriages that have ended, how, when, and where they ended;
  • The amount of the worker’s earnings in the year of death and the preceding year;
  • Whether the worker had earnings in all years since 1978;
  • The amount of your earnings for this year, last year and next year;
  • Whether the worker had a parent who was dependent on the worker for ½ of his or her support at the time of the worker’s death or at the time the worker became disabled;
  • Whether you were living with the worker at the time of death;
  • The month you want your benefits to begin; and
  • If you are within 3 months of age 65, whether you want to enroll in Medical Insurance (Part B of Medicare).

Depending on the information you provide, we may need to ask other questions.


You also should bring along your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.

Addressing wedding invitations with the right etiquette can sometimes be tricky. The outer envelope should be more formal than the inner, with full names and titles, leaving the inner more informal. For couples yet to get the hang of how to address wedding invitations, we have created a full length article on addressing wedding invitations to the various attendees at your wedding, below.

How to Address Wedding Invitations without Inner Envelope

If you are wondering how to address wedding invitations to married couple or even how to address formal wedding invitations without an inner envelope, here is your fix. Ensure to write the full names of the invitees on the outer envelope.

Mr. Lenny and Mrs. MaryGraff, or Mr. and Mrs. Lenny Graff.

How to Address Wedding Invitations to a Married Couple

When addressing wedding invitations to a married couple, use their full names on the outer envelope. On the inner envelope you can use just their last name or first names, depending on your relationship with them.

On the outer envelope:

Mr. Jake and Mrs. Holy Holder, or Mr. and Mrs. Jake Holder.

On the inner envelope:

Mr. and Mrs. Holder, or Jake and Holly

How to Address Wedding Invitations to an Unmarried Couple

Addressing wedding invitations to an unmarried couple isn’t much different from that of a married couple. The main difference being that it’s common practice to address the man before the woman; also you need to invite both individually by name.

On the outer envelope:

Mr. Zachary Lee and Ms. Linda Lewis

On the inner envelope:

How To Address Wedding Invitations To A Family With Distinguished Titles

Some guests have a title in their name, which should be written correctly on the invitation. On this note you might be wondering how to address wedding invitations to doctors or how to address retired military wedding invitations; below are some examples.

Same title, different last names:

Doctor Luke Hobbs and Doctor Alona Kadir

Same title, same last name:

Doctors Luke and Alona Hobbs

Different titles, same last names:

Captain Luke Hobbs and Doctor Alona Hobbs

Different titles, different last names:

Captain Luke Hobbs and Doctor Alona Kadir

How to Address Invitations to Children

In addressing wedding invitations to include children, for kids under 18 you can add their names on the inner envelope with the rest of their family. Children over 18 as well as any child who is a special guest at the wedding, should get their individual invitations.

On the outer envelope:

Mr. Manuel and Mrs. Anna Edwards, and Family

On the inner envelope:

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, Sylvia, Timothy, and Louisa

How to Address Wedding Invitations to a Single Female

A single female might be reluctant to attend a wedding unaccompanied; therefore it is a good gesture to extend the invite to her guest also. If you are wondering how to address wedding invitations with a plus one, below are examples.

On the outer envelope:

On the inner envelope:

How to Address Wedding Invitations to a Single Male

Addressing wedding invitations to a single male is quite similar to that of a single female. The rule is to allow him a plus one, especially for single males who have been in a relationship up to six months.

On the outer envelope:

On the inner envelope:

How to Address Wedding Invitations to a Same-Sex Couple

Same as the rules for any other married or unmarried couple. If the couple is married, then the names should be listed on the same line.

On the outer envelope:

Ms. Moriah Jackson and Ms. Anna Packwell, or Moriah Jackson and Anna Packwell

On the inner envelope:

Ms. Jackson and Ms. Packwell, or Moriah and Anna

How to Address Wedding Invitations to a Widow

It is customary to use the first and last name of the deceased husband. However, on such a touchy subject, her preference matters, and if unsure, just simply ask her.

On the outer envelope:

Mrs. Jeremiah Willow, or Ms. Allison Willow

On the inner envelope:

How to Address Wedding Invitations to a Divorced Female

Just like with the invitation to a widow, it is customary to use Mrs. or Ms. Also, use her maiden name if she has dropped her husband’s name.

On the outer envelope:

Mrs. Brenda Mathers, or Ms. Brenda Mathers

On the inner envelope:

How to Address Wedding Invitations with a Plus One

On how to address wedding invitations with guest, this follows the same rules as addressing a wedding invitation to a single male or female. As they are usually the ones who need an accompanying plus one.

On the outer envelope:

On the inner envelope:

Save How To Address Wedding Invitations To Your Pinterest Board!

Wedding invitations alone can seem like such a burden that you might find yourself even wondering how to address an envelope. Not to worry, this part of your wedding planning is not as difficult as it may seem. Whether you’re trying to decipher how to address wedding invitations to a family or even how to ask for address for wedding invitations, we’ve got your back. What we have detailed here is the right wedding invitation address etiquette to help our readers on their journey to a fabulous wedding. In addition to the names and location information, you can include wedding quotes for good measure.