Ah, the monogram. It's one of the oldest forms of identification. Something that represents a person or a family, sewn into fabric or embossed onto furniture. It's also a beloved and practically mandatory tradition here in the South. Not to say monograms aren't tricky, though. If you've ever wondered what letters go where, how to monogram a two-word last name, or what in the world you would do for a same-sex couple, here's a quick guide on proper monogram etiquette.
What's "proper," of course, is never the only option. If you're monogramming your own gear, do what you like. And if you're gifting a personalized present, it's perfectly fine to ask your recipient(s) what they prefer. Or, you know, you can always do something totally off the wall (see "Have Fun With It!" below)
If you have a nickname or other name you prefer to your documented first name, by all means, use it! The point of a monogram is to have fun and make your mark on your home.
Individual Monograms for a Man or Woman
This one is relatively straightforward. For a single letter monogram, use your first or last initial–the former is more modern, the latter more traditional. Three letter monograms use your first, middle and last names. If the three letters are the same size, stick to a first-middle-last order. If the center initial appears larger, then the monogram should read first-last-middle, so that the last name initial is the biggest.
How to Create a Married Couple Monogram
A married couple who've chosen to share a last name have a bevy of options at their disposal. They can use their shared last initial for a single letter monogram, combine their two first initials into a dual-letter monogram (with or without a plus sign, bar or ampersand in between), or they can go for a three-letter mark. The formula for a three-letter married monogram is as follows: first-last-first. For a husband and wife, the wife's initial typically goes first.
Monograms for Same-Sex Couples (Or Couples Keeping Their Names)
For a same-sex couple who are sharing one last name (either of theirs, or maybe a new name entirely), all the rules of the married couple monogram above would apply. But when a couple have two different last names, it gets a little more tricky. The three-letter monogram is off the table, and etiquette says instead to choose a two-letter monogram that combines each of the couples' first or last initials.
If for some reason the couple has different last names starting with the same initial, however, I would say a three-letter monogram would work just fine with a first-last-first arrangement.
Monograms for Two-Word Last Names
Here's a speed bump: compound names. One-word names, like McAdams or O'Brien, simply use the first letter (M and O, in this case). Two-word names, however, are treated a bit differently. Someone with two surnames, like Von Trapp or García Marquez, can represent both names with a two-letter monogram. Or they can use both surnames with their first name in a three-letter monogram (first-last-last) as long as the letters are all the same size.
Wedding Monogram Ettiquette
Weddings and monograms go hand in hand, but there are a few extra concerns if you're thinking of gifting something monogramed before the big day. To many people, it's either bad luck or bad taste (or both) to use a couple's married monogram before they're actually married. Instead, opt for a combined monogram of both partners first name initials ("J&F"). And anything the bride is going to wear on the wedding day–like a dress patch or robe–should feature her maiden monogram, if she intends on changing her name.
Have Fun With It
Monogrammed gifts don't always have to be monogrammed, you know? Why not add "EAT" or "YUM" to napkins for a fun touch? Anything that's three letters or less–DAD, MOM, MR, MRS, HIS, WOW, YOU, ME–is ripe for the embroidering.