Your Go-To Primer in Couples Monograms

Here's how to properly join together in monogram matrimony.
Monogram example design and items
Illustration: Tiana Crispino
cathryn haight the knot
Cathryn Haight
  • Cathryn is an editor at The Knot, where she focuses on all things planning—from inspiration and design, to traditions, to invitations.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Cathryn spent years as a food editor
  • Cathryn holds a bachelor's degree from Trinity College and a certificate in publishing from Columbia University
Updated Dec 07, 2023

A tried-and-true technique for ages: The best way to make something—whether it's a fashion accessory or home decor piece—feel special is to adorn it with your initials. (Shout-out to that swirly monogram bumper sticker that plagued your 2013 high school parking lot.) The same goes for a couples monogram. A custom "crest" of sorts that combines a pair of partners' initials is a sweet (and super official) method of adding an extra kiss of personalization to everything from wedding stationery and decor to wedding gifts and registry goodies. Before you start considering colors, styles and fonts, it's smart to brush up on some couple-specific monogram etiquette.

If you're reading this with the love of your life (and your wedding-planning partner) by your side, you should make sure you chat about your surname preferences before you get monogramming. The good news: There are no right or wrong solutions when it comes to who keeps, changes or hyphenates their name. And we support you with whatever choice you make. If you're a guest that's scooping up a monogrammed wedding gift for the couple or are just looking to give them an extra-special personalized present, PLEASE, before you get into the merits of embossing vs. debossing, triple check with the couple that you're using their preferred monogram. Most personalized items can't be returned, so it's essential you get it right or risk committing a monogramming faux paus—the horror!

In this article:

What's the definition of a couples monogram?

A couples monogram is simply one that represents both halves of a pair. As can be expected, monograms built for two are a little more nuanced than a typical personal monogram, but still come in many of the same styles and designs, just with a few additional considerations. Details like letter order and which letters should be included or left out will come into play. While personal monograms might pop up mostly on things like jewelry, small leather goods or elementary school L.L.Bean backpacks, couples monograms often bedeck barware, couples stationery, linens and—our favorites—wedding decor or personalized anniversary gifts.

How many letters does a joint monogram have?

Married monograms come in all shapes, sizes and orientations (just like the amazing couples they represent). They can include anywhere from one to four letters, depending on the style and the format of the couples last name(s). Let's get into it:

A single initial monogram typically features the first letter of the couple's mutual last name, if one member of the couple takes the last name of the other or if the couple settles on a new shared surname sans hyphen (Schwartzburg from Scwartzman + Goldberg). If the couple shares a hyphenated last name or has chosen to keep their original, separate surnames, their single initial monogram will actually include two letters. If the last name is hyphenated, then the first letters of both halves of the name are also connected by a hyphen (Schwartzman-Goldberg = S-G) in the monogram. If they kept their respective surnames, these initials would traditionally be connected by an asterisk instead (S*G).

A full or three-letter couples monogram is formatted as such: The first letter of the pair's last name would be in the center, showcased in a slightly larger font, bracketed by each of their first initials. If they are hyphenating or have different last names, then both of those first initials would be displayed larger in the center (with or without hyphens or asterisks, depending on their preference).

If you're wondering when to use which, single initial monograms come in handy for smaller home goods, like napkins or flatware, while full three-letter monograms work well on more elegant wares, like shared stationery or fancy serving pieces. Also, 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 wedding programs, but feel free to include it on dinner menus (assuming the meal is served post "I do").

How do you order the initials in a shared monogram?

couples monogram letter order
Design: Tiana Crispino

The order of the initials in a shared monogram mostly depends on which monogram format you choose: a monogram where letters are all the same size or a monogram where the center initial is larger. Though, the larger-center-initial style is almost always used for joint or couple monograms. If the members of the couple are a man and a woman, tradition dictates that the woman's first initial would come first in the "sandwich" of the last name initial. Otherwise, feel free to order the first initials alphabetically or in whichever orientation feels right.

If you're wondering about the order of initials in what is technically a single letter monogram, but represents a couple with two different last names, the same etiquette as above applies.

As aforementioned, the center letter being a little larger in a three-letter couples monogram is the most common format, but there are still a few different design styles you can choose and aesthetic decisions that you can make within this general shape.

For example, selecting a serif, sans serif or script font will change the mood of the monogram, making it feel more traditional, modern or elaborate, respectively. Exaggerating the center letter's scale will additionally make a greater impact than a more subtle size difference.

Monograms can also fit into geometric shapes for a more logo-like look. One of the most popular iterations is the diamond-shaped monogram, where the letters are squished into a diamond silhouette and often bordered on either side by a little triangle to complete the shape. A more modern take on this is a circle monogram, which follows the same design principles (smooshing the monogram's letters into the appropriate shape) but relies on rounding the edges on the letters instead of adding extras to further the form.

On a more elaborate note, 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 couple. These works of art look more like family crests than snippets of the alphabet.

Where do you put a couples monogram?

Couples can add their initials to just about anything, from robes and jewelry to doormats. But that doesn't mean they should adorn everything. Take a dining room table for example: Monogrammed wine glasses, china, flatware and linens are all pretty—but having all of those initials competing for attention with your Thanksgiving turkey might be a little much. To the couples building their registry, opt for one or two personalized items per room and make sure one can be easily swapped out. For example, if you have a monogrammed champagne bucket you can't think of hosting a fancy dinner party without, maybe exchange your monogrammed napkins for a lovely patterned set during those occasions. Keep this in mind when you're registering for gifts—strive for small touches of personalization throughout your home. This same rule applies to wedding decor. You do not need a monogrammed cake topper, dinner menus, ice sculpture and wedding favors—choose one or two elements to let them shine. Also, if you want something monogrammed, let your guests know. Most items with personalization available (like beer steins or bath towels) can be added to your registry with your chosen initials. Including your monogram on an item before putting it on your wish list will clue guests in to your desire for personalized glasses, and it'll take the guesswork out of the order of initials.

If you're a guest gifting a monogrammed item, always check the couple's registry for their preferred initials before you hit "buy." And if you're a guest giving a gift that's not on a couple's registry, it's best to touch base with them before adding personalization, since once something is personalized, it generally can't be returned. Our vote? Play it extra safe and include a note with the present, promising to personalize it postwedding if the couple would like. Depending on where the gift is purchased, some stores can add a "monogramming credit" for you along with the gift receipt.

Now that you've read through our written "TED Talk," so to speak, on what to monogram and how to gift monogrammed items, use our tips below to figure out which monogram style to choose for some of the most popular options.

  • Stationery: If your hope is that the couple will use the paper for joint correspondence, opt for their shared monogram. A single last/married name initial, hyphenated initials or double last name initials are used.
  • Linens: Many couples prefer the single last name initial for towels, napkins or other linens. Towels are generally marked at the center of one end, so the monogram is visible when it's hanging on a rack. If you're monogramming sheets and pillowcases, again a single initial is generally preferred. Only the top sheet is monogrammed, and done so that when the sheet is folded down, the letter can be read by someone standing at the foot of the bed. Pillowcases are usually monogrammed in the center, close to the hem. Tablecloths are monogrammed at the center of each long side. If the cloth is a square, it's monogrammed at one corner; circle tablecloths generally have a centered monogram close to the hem. Napkins are marked diagonally at one corner. (Whew, that's a lot of fabric.)
  • Flatware: The type of monogram used is often determined by the shape and size of the flatware handle. The last initial is used most often, as it takes up the least amount of space. In some cases, a couple will stack their initials in an inverted triangle shape with their first initials on top and their last initial below.
  • China: A few china patterns can be monogrammed. Most often, these are plain plates or plates with a simple banded design that lends itself to a monogram. In most cases, especially for wedding china, a joint monogram or single last initial is used. Oftentimes, an accent plate or charger is monogrammed instead of every piece of china.
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