What's the Difference Between Ms., Miss and Mrs.?

Consider this your cheat sheet for titles and honorifics.
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
by
Hannah Nowack
Hannah Nowack The Knot Senior Weddings Editor
Hannah Nowack
Senior Editor, Weddings
  • Hannah writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a focus on real wedding coverage.
  • Hannah has a passion for DE&I and plays an integral role in ensuring The Knot content highlights all voices and all love stories.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hannah was the Social Media Editor at Martha Stewart Weddings.
Updated Mar 03, 2022

Now that you're getting married, it's officially time to learn the difference between the prefixes Mrs., Ms. and Miss. Why? Because you're addressing wedding invitations—not to mention the fact that yours may be changing. To clear all confusion, we're explaining exactly when and how to use each title. "Addressing someone in the proper way is the utmost sign of respect and inversely, can be considered disrespectful if done incorrectly," notes Ohio-based wedding expert Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design. "When planning a wedding, it is helpful to be knowledgeable in the meaning of these different terms." Consider this the official guide to Ms. vs. Mrs. vs. Miss. so you never have to wonder what the proper honorific is anymore.

What's the difference between Mrs., Ms. and Miss?

Historically, "Miss" has been the formal title for an unmarried woman. "Mrs.," on the other hand, refers to a married woman. "Ms." is a little trickier: It's used by and for both unmarried and married women.

Mrs. meaning

Wondering what "Mrs." means? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Mrs.," the abbreviation of Missus, is a title used in the English language before a surname or full name to address or refer to a married woman. "Mrs." may also be used for someone who has been married (such as a widow). "Mrs>." is traditionally considered to be the female equivalent of "Mr." or mister.

Mrs. pronunciation: [ mis-iz, miz-iz ]

Mrs. plural: Mmes. or Mesdames

Ms. meaning

The title "Ms." is a form of address used both in British English and American English before the surname or full name of any woman regardless of her marital status (a neutral alternative to "Mrs." or "Miss"). "'Ms.' is kind of a catch all, and can be used interchangeably between situations," explains Falvey. "This would be acceptable for a married or unmarried woman and also for divorced women."

Ms. pronunciation: [ mizz ]

Ms. plural: Mss. or Mses

Miss meaning

"Miss" is a title generally used to address female children or young women under the age of 18 and unmarried women.

Miss pronunciation: [ mis ]

Miss plural: Misses

Will I be Ms. or Mrs. after I get married?

Ms. vs. Mrs.—which should you choose? In short, it depends. Typically, brides who change their name postwedding to their partner, wife or husband's name go by "Mrs." after marriage, since it usually indicates that they're sharing a surname with their spouse (as in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"). If you're keeping your maiden name, you can go by "Ms." instead, or stick with "Mrs." as in "Mr. Smith and Mrs. Brown." You can also go by "Ms." if you'd rather your title of respect not be associated with your marital status at all. Many women's personal preference is to use "Ms." in professional settings or formal settings where they don't want their marital status to be highlighted as a focal point.

Miss, Mrs. or Ms: Which should I write on wedding invitations?

"Traditionally, there are three different titles for women: Miss, Ms., and Mrs.," explains wedding expert Kathryn Johann of Parties By The Sea in Newport Beach, California." If you want to avoid social faux pas, it's important to know the differences between the three. In my opinion, unmarried women past a certain age and divorcées can be addressed as 'Ms'. The exception to the rule would be widowers, who can maintain the 'Mrs.' status out of respect for their deceased husband."

As a rule of thumb, if a guest is a child, feel free to use "Miss." If she's an unmarried adult, go with "Miss" or "Ms." (Note that "Ms." is often preferred to address women over 18-years-old). If she's married and you know her chosen title, write that. If you're unsure, "Ms." is a safe and appropriate choice. Check out our complete guide to addressing wedding invitations for even more specific scenarios.

If you're sending out a form to gather addresses ahead of mailing invitations, consider including a field where guests can include their chosen title—this will take all of the guesswork out and make things simpler for you.

Mrs. vs Ms.

Picture this: your mother has asked that you invite her friend that she plays mahjong with weekly to the wedding. You know Beatrice Johnson is married but she's over 50-years-old and you've never met her so you've never witnessed someone refer to her by an honorific. Asking your mother may be a great starting point, but when in doubt you can't go wrong is you use "Ms." to be safe.

Mrs. vs Miss.

Generally speaking, if the person is question is married you should go with "Mrs.," and if they're unmarried you can use "Miss." If you're gathering your guest list for your stationer ahead of sending out wedding invitations and you're uncertain how to address your dad's coworker who you've never met, figuring out their marital status is good first step in deciding which prefix to use.

Ms. vs Miss.

While both title work for unmarried women, age can be a helpful determining factor if you're stuck between the two. For young girls and people under 18, use "Miss" as your go-to title, meanwhile "Ms." works well for addressing an adult woman over 18.

Additional honorifics to consider

Dr.: "Dr." is the title that should be used to address anyone that has obtained a doctorate degree, either a medical degree such as an M.D. or a non-medical doctorate degree such as a Ph.D. "Remember, if a guest is a doctor, then use Dr. as her prefix and it comes before her spouse if they are not a doctor," advises wedding planner Stephanie Sadowski of SRS Events. If both members of a couple are doctors and share the same last name then you can address them as "The Doctors Doe."

Rev.: Reverend or "Rev." is the title used for ministers and members of the clergy within most Christian denominations. Given the many nuances of religious titles, it's important that you properly research how your officiant or any clergy attending the wedding should be addressed.

Your Honor: Your Honor is the special title used to address judges, justices and mayors when addressing a judge directly. However, when addressing a wedding invitation to a judge, it should be written as "The Honorable John Doe.

Military titles: There is a vast hierarchy of military titles, for both enlisted and officer members of the military across all branches of the military, and it's paramount that a given member of the military be addressed with their correct preferred title. For example, it would be a grave faux pas to address a Brigadier General as a Lieutenant Colonel since those are drastically different ranks.

Is there a gender-neutral honorific?

Mx. is a gender-neutral title that can be used for non-binary guests, for guests who use pronouns they/them, or for anyone who'd prefer to not have a gendered title connected to their names. "Mx. is the title someone can use when preferring not to be addressed by gender," notes Falvey. The title first came about in the 1970s and has continued to gain popularity as an alternative to traditional, gendered honorifics. Wedding officiant Allie Calzada of Allie the Wedding Officiant LLC goes on to note that "if you are addressing an individual who is non-binary, you would just write 'Mx. John/ Jane Doe' or just 'Mx. Doe.'"

How to pronounce Mx

Mx. is pronounced [MəKS], [mɪk] or [mʌks]—think: "mex" or "mux."

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