The monogram has always been associated with royalty, sophistication, aristocracy, deep symbolic significance, and high-end class. For a while, the monogram faded from our collective attention as a raconteur and a discrete conveyor of style . While not completely forgotten, it was somehow put on hold, labeled as old-fashioned. But the monogram is a timeless statement of grace and we witness today its long overdue revival.
Either you consider it a luxury, or you believe in its power to tell a story, the monogram is back. Today we will talk about the complete monogram etiquette guide, so you can make the perfect choice when you offer other people monogrammed gifts.
What do We Monogram?
Major brands in the fashion and accessories industry would not even dream to skip the monogram on some very special items. Nevertheless, beyond the realm of fashion branding, the personal, individual monogram offers a flair of aristocratic class to bedding, linens, silverware, stationery, and loungewear (think about luxury bathrobes and elegant bath towels for instance), handmade jewelry, and so on.
What’s in a Name?
A monogram represents a letter in the strictest definition of the word. Back in the day, people would overlap their name’s initials in order to create a specific symbol. Today, in a larger view, we consider a monogram the letters of a person’s name put together without them necessarily overlapping. Things look simple at a first glance, but the beauty and art of monograms is a little more complicated. If you want to make a monogrammed gift to somebody, you need to follow the proper monogram etiquette.
Monogram Etiquette: The Basics
Whether you want to monogram a special item for yourself or you are preparing an exquisite gift for somebody else, here are the basics of monogram etiquette:
Single Woman and Single Man – Name and Surname
Let us consider buying a gift for Ashley White or, respectively, for Richard Sawyer. There are two ways of monogramming a gift for them:
- Single Letter: Usually, when you choose a single-letter monogram, you should use the single letter of the last name: W or S. For a more casual gift, you can use her/his first name as well.
- Two Letters: If you want to monogram the full name, you can choose to use the initials together: AW or RS. You can either overlap them in a refined unique symbol, or put the same-size letters together next to each other.
Single Woman and Single Man – Name, Middle Name and Surname
When it comes with people also having a middle name, things can get even more creative. Let us talks about Joan Lilly Hyde and William Edward Swanson. This situation offers you three distinct opportunities:
- Single Letter: Use the initial of the person’s last name: H and S. For casual gifts, you can use their first name as well.
- Three Letters: Use the three initials in the same size: JLH and WES.
- Three Letters: Use the three initials in order, but the initial of the middle name gets larger in size. JLH and WES.
Offering monogrammed gifts to a married couple or newlyweds is a thing of taste and beauty. But how do you monogram now that there are so many names involved? Let us talk about Mrs. Joan Lilly Swanson and Mr. William Edward Swanson. The same rules apply also for same-sex couples.
- Married Woman Single Letter: The easiest way to monogram something for Joan is to use her new married name’s initial (if the lady took the husband’s name): S.
- Married Woman Two Letters: If Joan Hanson had only these names and she would marry William, you could monogram her present with her first name initial and her married name initial: JS
- Married Woman Three Letters: Use her first and middle names’ initials next to her married name initial in a same size letter design – JLS – or following the next sequence of initials: wife first name, married name, and husband’s first name – JSW – enlarging the married name initial.
- Married Woman Keeps Maiden Name – Here things get a bit complicated. Joan becomes Joan Lilly Hyde Swanson. You can use the single letter of her husband’s name for a monogram, you can use her first, maiden, and last initials – JHS in the same size letters or her first, married, and maiden names’ initials (with a larger center initial if you want) – JSH.
- Married Man Single Letter: You can offer William a gift with the simple monogram S.
- Married Man Two Letters: There are no changes here, so you can make a simple two-letters monogram – WS – if William was not called also Edward.
- Married Man Three Letters: You can monogram WES or WES as you think looks better.
- Married Couple, One Last Name: You also have some options here: use both of them first names’ initials: JW (or J+W for a more casual flair) or both their last names’ initials: HS. Usually, for married couples, the etiquette says you should put her first initial first, followed by their last initial (larger) in the center, followed by his first initial.
- Married Couple, Two Hyphenated Last Names: To please everybody and make sure the monogram does not become some endless strings of letters, the etiquette in this case says you should monogram both their last married hyphenated names. For Mr. and Mrs. Hyde-Swanson, the monogram should be H-S.
Monogram Etiquette: Challenges
If you followed the rules up until now, you may consider that there is nothing truly complicated with monogramming gifts. But monogramming comes with its fair share of challenges. We will discuss the three most common ones:
Complicated Last Names
Of course, you know people named O’Hara, von Miller, du Lac, McDougal and so on and so forth. The easiest way to handle things is to use the first two letters of the last name. Make sure you know exactly what capitalized letters to use: OH, vM, dL, MD.
However, if you speak about Anne von Hassel and Leopold von Hassel, you can think about the following possible monograms:
- Last Name Letters: VH (or vH, or V | H, depending on how they capitalize the name);
- Wife’s First-Husband’s Last (without article)-Husband’s First: AHC or AHC.
If we talk about Anne O’Neill and Patrick O’Neill (it goes for Lily and Tom McDonald or Ashley and John MacPherson), you can monogram a gift for them using the following rules:
- One Letter/Group of Letters: O, McD, or MacP.
- Three Letters: Wife's first, husband's last (no preposition), husband's first – AOP or AOP
Two Middle Names
The more names a person has, the bulkier the monogram becomes. It is not custom to monogram four letters in a name. If two people with two middle names decide to marry and even hyphenate both their last names, the monogram would become a senseless string of letters. In this case, the etiquette says you should pick one single middle name for each person and follow the rules above, for both individuals and married couples.
Monogram Etiquette: Fitting
The rule of thumb in using monograms is to take into consideration the size and shape of the item. Even if you monogram a house robe, a bridal handkerchief, a bedding set, or matching hand towels, the monogram should be visible, yet discrete. Sometimes you can use all initials if the space allows, but it is better to stick to the simple beauty that is a monogram and use no more than three letters. For couples’ gifts, the three initials with the last married name larger in the middle is the most preferred choice.
Monogram Etiquette in the Internet Era
Before we depart, we have to mention that many modern monograms include more than just peoples’ name initials. If you want the monogram to convey a message, you can get your inspiration from social media texting. LOML (Love Of My Life) works great for custom made and monogrammed jewelry, while GNSD (Good Night Sweet Dreams) is popular for monogrammed bed sets.
If you have more questions on monogram etiquette or you want to know more about monogramming bathrobes and luxury towels, feel free to contact us any time!