What does getting married have to do with Christmas cards?
December 19, 2013 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I got married a few months ago, and now we are receiving Christmas cards from people who had not sent us any before. Why?

We've been together for years, and have known these various card-senders for years (old college friend couple, or an aunt and uncle, for example). This season, we've for some reason gotten an influx of cards in the mail, most of them bafflingly impersonal -- my last name incorrectly changed to my partner's despite indications that I haven't changed it, no extra note on the card besides just signing their names, that sort of deal. Is this a normal thing that only I and extraterrestrials are unaware of?
posted by Pwoink to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
They got your address from the wedding invitation and put you on the Christmas mailing list.
posted by domnit at 11:03 AM on December 19, 2013 [83 favorites]

Did you send out a wedding announcement? People might have taken the opportunity to add your address to their Christmas card spreadsheets.

Don't read too much into the impersonalness of them -- they're likely sending upwards of 100 cards and just took it for granted that you'd change your name.
posted by Etrigan at 11:04 AM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think you got added to their "list" after your wedding, once they got your official married address (insert choir of angels here). It must be a weird psychological thing, it happened to us to, even though we were sending out cards together before we got married.

Every year I am tempted to return the ones which don't have my last name on them but then I decide it's more productive to just simmer in silence.
posted by lydhre at 11:05 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, when was the last time you sent them mail before your wedding invites? They probably copied down the address into their address book. And by inviting them to your wedding or sending them an announcement, you've indicated to them that you feel some kind of connection to them.

If they're not people who you invited/announced, I got nothing.
posted by mskyle at 11:08 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just be happy they care enough to actually physically sign the card and address the envelope. My wife and I get plenty of cards from people who outsource all that to some company that uses a faux-handwriting font to "sign" the card and print the address on the envelopes. This is better than not getting a card at all, but only just.
posted by kindall at 11:09 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, they consciously updated their rolodex listings for you because they were thinking about it. If you ever have babies, the same thing will happen.

People have trouble remembering whether last names changed or not and they just take a shot. Also a lot of people who KNOW my last name is still McGee and who call me that all the time still send Christmas cards to Mr. and Mrs. Smith (husband's name) because they have no idea how to make their computerized address book do two last names. If you make a thing about it most people will try to comply, but I suggest you just ignore it and don't take it as a slight; it's a combination of forgetfulness, rapidly changing social norms related to addressing married couples, technological incompetence, and not wanting to screw around with details while racing to get all the Christmas cards out.

When my best friend got married, a wedding at which I was the matron of honor, it took me SIX YEARS to get into my head what her new name was. I knew perfectly well what it was, but apparently my brain was on autopilot whenever I sent her mail, and worrying about finding her address -- they moved a lot for work at the time -- always managed to override my brain's ability to get her name right. It's truly neither personal nor a commentary most of the time.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:10 AM on December 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

They think you're grownups now. I don't think we got any from our relatives (just our peers) until we stopped living in syn and tied ourselves in knots.
posted by tilde at 11:12 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

For some people in modern American culture, getting married is a rite of passage that marks the transition from unattached life to full adulthood as part of a new nuclear family. (Even if you've been living together for some time, not everyone sees that as attachment in the way marriage creates one.) If they conceptualize their Christmas card list as primarily a way to maintain connections between families, it makes sense that they would now put you on the list. (They don't have to consciously think of the list that way; I think it's more of a cultural norm.)
posted by brianogilvie at 11:15 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I assume they're other couples who are sending you these cards? You've now joined a very exclusive club, worthy of getting a Christmas card. As a single person, there are lot of couples who don't give me the time of day because they can't relate to me, or something. When my mother became widowed, most of her coupled friends dropped her like a hot potato. Enjoy your new status.
posted by Melismata at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I'm invited to a couple's wedding I usually add them to my Christmas card list if they're not already on it, whether I go to the wedding or not. I don't write individual notes in my cards, I just sign my name. Most cards I receive are that way too; a few do the mass "annual letter" thing, but I don't recall ever receiving an individualized note in a Christmas card.

As for not realizing you've kept your last name, although it's less common than it once was, I think it's still the predominant practice in the US for the woman to take her husband's last name upon marriage, so it's not a terrible assumption to make. Don't assume malice where mere carelessness suffices as an explanation. Don't take it as a snide comment that you should have taken your husband's last name; it's unlikely that it was meant that way.

So: Is this a normal thing that only I and extraterrestrials are unaware of?

If "this" = starting to get Christmas cards after you've married from people you didn't get them from before, yes, that's normal.

If "this" = just signing their name, and nothing more, yes, that's normal.

If "this" = not realizing you kept your last name, no, not normal, but at least somewhat understandable (which is not the same as excusable).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:18 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd guess a combination of: 1) your address got filed away during the wedding invitation/thank you note/announcement paper shuffle, and 2) you are a Real Grownup Family Unit to them now. I got married over the summer and haven't noticed an uptick in cards (probably because usually I am the sender who initiates card-guilt, and I've been unusually slow this year in getting mine out), and the ones I have received have largely inaccurately dubbed us "The Hislastnames" despite me not changing my name even a little bit.

Fun times!
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2013

Nthing you recently sent these folks some mail and so they now have your current address fresh on their minds and lists. Congratulations on your marriage.

We've gotten many more cards this year as well, but unlike you, we've had no real news to share. The economy is doing a bit better than it has been over the last 6 Christmases, and it seems like it is both easier and cheaper than ever to have personalized holiday cards made. Holiday cards are not just for the upper and middle classes anymore - and the old rules are changing. So expect a few etiquette "lapses," depending on your circle, and try to accept the cards you do get graciously.
posted by hush at 11:20 AM on December 19, 2013

yep. Singles don't get cards. Especially single men. Married with a Kid? we've got half our living room covered in them.

Of course this also means you are now expected to reciprocate.

And yeah - most of our wall is just unsigned customized cards with their kids looking as preppy as possible. (not that we aren't equally guilty of that.)
posted by JPD at 11:20 AM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

my last name incorrectly changed to my partner's despite indications that I haven't changed it

With the caveat that some people just never get it (or purposely refuse to call you by your actual name), sending Christmas cards back with very clearly written/typed return address labels showing "Julie Smith & Mark Spencer" or whatever often prompts people to update their address books for the correct names. Also, when people send out their requests for address updates in November-ish, make sure you write your whole address block (including names). Then they can just cut and paste it correctly.

In the age of Facebook, it's really not acceptable to get peoples' names wrong anymore (Relatives who are 70+ get a pass). If someone isn't sure if a newly-married couple has changed their last names, they should just leave last names off the address block ("Julie & Mark").

The husbandlastname thing really grinds my gears....
posted by melissasaurus at 11:31 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a single woman and get more cards every year as my friends get married and have kids.

In my social circle, none of the singles seem to send cards, but the second someone ties the knot or has a child, I start getting the (yes, impersonal, but I don't mind) photo card from tinyprints or wherever.

I think this is partially because they want to show off (and I don't mean that in a bad way) their new marriage/kid/adultness, and partially because I'm in their address book after sending me an invitation or a thank you note for a gift.
posted by lalex at 11:32 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get used to having your last name changed to your husband's. At this point, I only correct people when it's a legal/financial issue because trying to constantly remind his family and mine that my last name is EXACTLY the same has it has been my entire life is a futile task.

Last year, my aunt sent us a card address to Mr. and Mrs. HusbandLastname, and wrote in the card how hard it is for her to remember my new last name and how she just wanted to use my maiden name but didn't want to offend my husband.

I sent her Christmas card from Teleri MyLastname and Husband HisLastName in response.

Just yesterday, I got her card for this year: "Mr. and Mrs. HusbandLastName."
posted by teleri025 at 11:33 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's that marriage somehow makes people magically more grown-up (any more than parenthood does, for that matter). I don't have a lot of single people on my Christmas mailing list because they tend to be younger (college or graduate-school age) and are moving around a lot--subletting, housesitting, traveling, or living with parents--so their addresses are often in flux. Those I do have are often widowed, divorced, or around my age (thirty- or forty-ish) and have resided at the same address for at least a few years.

Dr. TM and I moved around quite a bit throughout grad school and a couple of postdocs, but I think there's less location flux even for married grad students. Marriage or longtime coupledom tends to create some inertia, especially if the couple buys a house together. An exception to that rule would be military couples and families, if Dr. TM's childhood experiences were any indication.
posted by tully_monster at 11:47 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I get more Christmas cards if I move and send out postcards to tell people my new address. I think it's just because they know for sure where you live now, even if they're not entirely clear on your actual name.
posted by mgar at 11:47 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

They know where you live now, is all. My husband's family addresses the cards to Mr & Mr HisName, but we don't care. The fact that some of them still can't get the correct spelling of our kids' names (one kid is 24, the other is 13), well, that one ticks me off a little. But really, we just let it go. It's Christmas.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:58 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

before i got married some of my extended family sent mail/cards/newsletters just to me. after i got married that mail got addressed to both of us. some of the years before marriage i didn't get those cards. it seems like it was related to the fact that i had 3 boyfriends of about 3 years a piece and i moved every 18 months or so. once i was in the same place for a handful of years and married to that third boyfriend, they felt more sure about my circumstances.

...now, the women who instantly started addressing my cards as mr&mrs lastname - that's very much about them seeing me as part of the club. it's a note of respect from them, but i still sort of raise an eyebrow when i see it.
posted by nadawi at 12:18 PM on December 19, 2013

Get used to having your last name changed to your husband's.

You are still Mrs. Hislastname even if you didn't change your surname. A card addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname" is addressed to your husband, and to his wife; Mrs. Hislastname is an indirect reference to you ("the woman married to Mr. Hislastname"). Being addressed that way does not mean the sender has "changed your name."

Mrs. Yourlastname would be your mother, or your brother's wife assuming he has the same surname as you, but in any case certainly not you, because you are not married to a man named Yourlastname.

Not that it's any less archaic or sexist knowing how it works, but... that's how it works.

Now, "Dick and Jane Hislastname" is wrong, as is "Mrs. Jane Hislastname." These are direct references to you and the names should be correct. That's why people use the indirect construction to begin with, though: to avoid such faux pas.
posted by kindall at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

You are your own family now, and thus your family gets a card. (Yes, it's ridiculous.) A quite-high percentage of the people who follow this dictate will address them to Mr. and Mrs. Lastname. (No, you can't stop them.)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:31 PM on December 19, 2013

Could you send them e.g., New Year cards signed Mary Maiden Name and John His Name? Suspect that after your wedding most of your respondents took the classic way of figuring you took your husband's name in place of your dad's name.
posted by Cranberry at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2013

I'm house-sitting for some friends of mine (married with child) and while collecting their mail I saw a Christmas card to them from a mutual very close friend who is also married with child. I have never once received a Christmas card from this friend. Why? Because I'm single? And old as fuck?*

OK, yeah, sure, I would never ever ever ever never send anyone a Christmas card 'cause that's just lame or something, but why doesn't anyone ever send me one?

I hate all my friends. Especially the married ones. They're all married.

* 44 years -- yikes!
posted by bfootdav at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

The older relatives on my husband's side do the Mr. and Mrs. Husband Husband's-lastname thing. I just shrug it off as a quaint custom they're too old to put away as times change.

As a family joke, my side of the family addresses our Christmas cards to Dr. and Mr. Tech, though, which balances it all out. :)
posted by BrashTech at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2013

I think it's kind of special to be part of newlyweds' lives – e.g. support, camaraderie, basking in glow, etc. – especially in the first year of their marriage, so I always make sure to send couples holidays cards if I've been invited to their weddings. Likewise, inviting a newly married couple over for dinner always feels like a treat.
posted by suprenant at 8:46 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

> They think you're grownups now. I don't think we got any from our relatives (just our peers) until we stopped living in syn and tied ourselves in knots.

This. It's not just that they now have your address -- there are ways of finding your address that they could easily have accessed. After my (same-sex) partner and I got married, we suddenly were recognized and valued more. It was like we had been invisible before and now could be seen in ways that het family and friends could comprehend.

Not a good thing, but very real, and my comments above are based not in assumptions about others' thought processes, but on actual statements, actions, etc. all remarkably different from how they had been in the past.

This makes the case both for and against gay marriage, I would think.
posted by ravioli at 6:41 AM on December 20, 2013

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