A personalized gift is extra-special
It was made just for you, after all. There are dozens of ways to leave a mark, from wedding dates to meaningful quotes, but a classic monogram wins as the most popular way to personalize a wedding gift. Before you set out adding initials to towels and beer steins alike, it's important to know the “rules." Most personalized items can't be returned, so it's essential you order the initials properly or risk committing a monogramming faux paus—the horror!
A personal monogram consists of three initials (first, middle and last names). If someone doesn't have a middle name, they often use a dual initial monogram or opt to use their last name initial only.
A man's initials usually don't change—the exception is if he and his spouse use a hyphenated last name after they're married. A woman's initials, however, are more likely to change once she's tied the knot. Traditionally, women shift their maiden or given last name to the middle name slot (dropping their given middle name) and take their husband's last name in place of their own. As a result, their personal monogram changes by two letters.
But tradition isn't the only way. Some couples are using both last names (with a hyphen) and some women are keeping their maiden names professionally but not socially. Needless to say, monograms can be a bit more complicated. Decide on what works best for you as an individual and as a couple—in other words, there's no right or wrong way.
Many couples choose to monogram items using both of their initials. This is especially popular for barware, stationery or linens.
If the bride takes the groom's last name, joint monograms are pretty straightforward. In most cases, the woman's first name initial comes first, followed by the shared last name initial, and finally the man's first initial. Elizabeth Brown Smith and Charles William Smith would use ESC as their joint monogram, with the center initial being slightly larger than the other two.
If the bride and groom decide to share a hyphenated last name, a hyphen is also used in the monogram. Elizabeth Grace Brown and Charles William Smith would be the Brown-Smith family and use E B-S C as their joint monogram.
If the bride decides to keep her given name, the couple's monogram would be dual initials only; the two last name initials are separated by a dot, a diamond or some other design element. This distinguishes the monogram from a hyphenated last name monogram. For example, Elizabeth Grace Brown and Charles William Smith would use B*S as their joint monogram.
Per tradition, a joint or married monogram should only be used after the couple is official. In other words, don't use a shared monogram on your wedding programs, but feel free to include it on your dinner menus (assuming the meal is served post "I do").
Types of Monograms
Most monograms can be divided into two main categories: monograms where letters are all the same size and monograms where the center initial is larger.
If all the letters are the same size (also known as block), initials are ordered like your name: first, middle and last.
If the monogram features a larger center initial, the ordering is always first name, last name, and middle name. So Elizabeth's monogram would be ESB and Charles's monogram would be CSW. This style monogram is often used for personalizing women's items—most men prefer the more straightforward block style. But the larger center initial style is almost always used for joint or couple monograms.
Simple monograms have made way for more elaborate designs—hand-lettering and illustration can breathe life into any set of letters. Custom monograms are usually drawn by a letterer or illustrator and often include linking characters with scrolls or other designs. Some modern monograms even feature small pictures or graphics of things that represent the person or couple. These works of art look more like family crests than snippets of the alphabet.