What’s in a Name? Proper Monogram Etiquette

Monograming adds a personal and traditional detail to any project: piped icing on cake designsembroidered stitches on home decor, stamped initials on stationary, custom details on sewing projects…the list goes on! But, what is proper monogram etiquette exactly? Which initial goes first? How do different size letters effect the order of the initials? What is appropriate for same-sex couples? If you are confused by all of the possibilities, read on!

Discover the monograming rules for perfectly proper personalization!

Ellie Monogram

Photo and images via Debbie Henry

As the oldest form of identification in the world, monograms date back to Greek and Roman times. They served many roles, from indicating social status, to serving as a signature for royals and artists, to being a form of currency in the barter system. Perhaps most obvious, they identified property and were typically ornate, which makes them desirable when creating elegant gifts even today.

Single-letter monograms

Traditionally, single-letter monograms represent the surname (i.e., last name). That goes for both men and unmarried women. Often, modern single-letter monograms for young unmarried women will feature the first letter of their first names.

Single initial monogram

“H” for Janell Lee Haven               “S” for William Edward Smith

Rules for three-letter monograms

Traditional, three-letter Victorian monograms are the variety we use most often today. Letter arrangement depends on marital status and letter sizes within the monogram.

Same size letters

Single men and single women use the first letters of their first, middle and last name, in that order.

Three letters, same size monogram

“JLH” for Janell Lee Haven               “WES” William Edward Smith

Large surname letter in the middle

Single men and women would use the first letters of their first, last and middle names, in that order. The surname is always the centered, largest font.

Monogram with large center initial

“JHL” for Janell Lee Haven              “WSE” William Edward Smith

For married couples, there are two schools of thought. One is that the bride’s first initial is on the left of the surname initial and the groom’s first initial is on the right, as in ladies go first (below left). This style is often used on linens. The other, more traditional, view is that the groom’s first initial is first and the bride’s first initial is last, as in Mr. and Mrs. (below right). This style was traditionally used on glasses and tableware.

Married three initial monogram

Appropriate for linens: “JSW” for Janell and William Smith                 Appropriate for tableware: “WSJ” for William and Janell Smith

For married men and women, individually, it is tradition for the woman to use her maiden name initial as the middle initial in three-letter monograms. Otherwise, she would use her first name initial, married name initial, and middle name initial.

Married woman monograms

With maiden name: “JSH” for Janell Haven Smith                      With only husbands surname: “JSL” for Janell Lee Smith

For same-sex partners, both first initials of partners’ last names are used together as the surname. If JLH and WES were same-sex partners, their monograms would be either of the following:

Same sex partner monogram

Rules for creating monograms for children are the same as those for unmarried adults.

A note about font styles

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of font styles available for creating monograms. Block fonts are more modern and masculine while script fonts are more feminine and elegant. When choosing fonts for monograms, be aware of how they will be used.

Monograms in a highly decorative script

While a highly decorative script font may look just fine on it’s own, it could be extremely difficult to read when used in traditional three-letter monograms.

Also note that although these are the more “traditional monogram rules,” there are no right and wrong ways to create monograms. Most of the time, it depends on the person receiving the gift. Focus on fitting the design to their personality, and you won’t go wrong!

Learn how to add monograms to all your favorite projects! Monogram specialty fabrics for personalized home decor and accessories in Embroidering Luxury Fabrics by Machine. Try adding custom lettering to your cake designs in the cake decorating class Custom Lettering & Monogramming. Or, use techniques learned in Design It, Quilt It:Free-Form Techniques to stitch a monogram into a whole-cloth quilt!

What is your favorite font for monograms?



i just wanted to know that what is the initial monogram font size that generally brands uses..

plz let me know asap..

Debbie Henry

Akash, it depends on what you are monogramming. Make the monogram fit the area.


I assume that a married woman who never changed her name would use the same format as the same sex couple. Correct?

Debbie Henry

Correct, Marie. Fortunately, etiquette is not as stiff as it once was, so pretty much anything goes with a monogram if you like it!


What monogram or initial do you use when the Husband goes by his middle name and the wife goes by her first name. For example, the husband by birth is wRc, R being the last name and C being the name he has always been called although W is his first name along with all the men in the family. The wife is now dRc, R being hher married name and c being her middle inital. Together is it wcRd, wcRdc, cRd, wRd?

Ronell Burr-Dixon

How would you make a monogram for someone who has a surname like De Beer or Van Wyk? Or like with my surname Burr-Dixon?

thank you

Debbie Henry

Ronell, tradition says RDB for hyphenated married or BD instead of a single letter for your last name. With surnames for married couples, tradition says Debbie and Hugh DeBeer would be DBH (leave out the De). For a single last name monogram for the Debeers, it would be DB or simply B.

Debbie Henry

Joanne, traditionally, monograms are single letters or three letters but there really are no hard rules these days. If you want to use two letters, I say go ahead!


I need to engrrave the following JV III and JV iV on Yeti cups they want the III & the IV smaller would you put it in the middle or even at the top.


My husband and I have the same three initials EAA. I never know if we should go with EAA or EAE for our monogrammed items. Any thoughts?


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