Miss, Mrs, Ms: What’s the Difference and When Should You Use Them?

It can be a little confusing, can’t it? Fear not! This guide tells you everything you need to know about when to use each of the three prefixes.

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Congrats! You’re getting married! We know you’ve already got a million and one things to get done before the big day, but there’s one other tiny detail we reckon you should add to the end of that to-do list.

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You need to learn the difference between Miss, Mrs. and Ms. – not only because it’s a good bit of general knowledge, but because your title might be changing! There’s also the small matter of what to write on your wedding invitations.

Men have it easy – it’s almost always Mr. regardless of their age or marital status. But for women? They’re typically adorned with one of three prefixes: Miss, Ms., and Mrs., and it can be hard to know the difference.

If you’re feeling a little confused about when to use Miss, Mrs. and Ms., keep reading our guide. It’s officially time to get clued up.

READ MORE: The Complete Guide to Changing Your Name after Marriage

What’s the Difference between Miss, Mrs. and Ms.?

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Image: Josie Hooper Photography

According to tradition, “Miss” is the formal way of referring to an unmarried woman. “Mrs.” refers to a married woman… and Ms.? Well that one’s a little bit trickier. It can be used to refer to either.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Giving a Bride Speech

When to Use Mrs.

Let’s start with the easiest prefix. “Mrs.” is the traditional and official title for a married woman. This is the case whether a woman chooses to change her name after marriage or not.

Remember, lots of women prefer to keep their title as “Mrs.” even after their spouse passes away or after divorce, but this often depends on age. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to ask.

When to Use Miss

“Miss” should be used when addressing a young, unmarried woman, whether they’re engaged or not.

The only danger with using “Miss” is that there does become a point in a woman’s life when it sounds quite young and immature. Older, unmarried women might prefer to be referred to as “Ms.”, and that’s where the difference comes in.

When to Use Ms.

“Ms.” has become a much more popular option over the last few years, but it doesn’t indicate marital status which means it’s both a safe bet and a bit vague.

Generally speaking, if you’re not sure of a woman’s title, then “Ms.” is often the safest option.

Go on a case-by-case basis, but younger unmarried women are likely to prefer “Miss” while older unmarried women might prefer “Ms.”. If the woman is married but you’re still unsure, it’s not rude to ask.

READ MORE: What Do All of the Most Popular Wedding Traditions Actually Mean?

Will I be Mrs. or Ms. after I Get Married?

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Image: Josie Hooper Photography

This totally depends on personal preference. Typically, women who have just got married will change their title to “Mrs.”. It indicates their new and exciting marital status, and also points toward the fact that they’ve taken their partner’s surname. This is also the case if you’re double-barreling your name after marriage.

If you are keeping your maiden name after marriage then you might like to go by “Ms.” instead, but you don’t have to. You could keep your own name but just change the prefix to “Mrs.”.

Similarly, regardless of whether you change your name, you can choose to switch to “Ms.” if you’d rather your title not be associated with your marital status at all. This might be the case for female teachers who don’t want their students to know they’re married. Basically, it’s totally up to you.

You can change your title (i.e. Miss, Mrs. or Ms.) at any time, and you don’t need a deed poll to do so. Of course, you have to be legally married to change your name to Mrs., but Miss and Ms. are interchangeable.

If you want to change your title, you simply need to inform organisations about your new title. This is because social titles like Mrs. and Ms. are not considered part of your name, nor are they used for identity purposes. The recognition of your title is just a courtesy.

READ MORE: The Ultimate Post Wedding To Do List

Do You Become a Mrs. in a Civil Partnership?

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Image: Dominika Miechowska

Most women in a same-sex relationship will want to change their title to either Ms. or Mrs.

Which one they choose to adopt is totally up to them, although Mrs. seems to be the most popular. That said, female civil partners (whose title was Miss prior to their civil partnership) who feel Mrs. is not appropriate for them usually change their title to Ms.

If you and your partner double-barrel your names, if you choose a new surname for both partners or if you make one person’s surname a middle name for both partners, you can include a change of title declaration on your Deed Poll document.

If one of you will be taking the other’s surname and you both wish to change your title to Ms. or Mrs., the partner who is changing her surname should send a copy of their civil partnership certificate with a covering letter to the authorities, stating that she is also changing her title in addition to taking her partner’s surname. The partner who is not changing her name simply needs to write to record holders advising them that following her civil partnership, her title will be different.

READ MORE: Outdated Traditions You Can Ditch at a Same-Sex Wedding

Additional Titles to Know About

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Image: Dominika Miechowska

Of course, Miss, Mrs. and Ms. aren’t the only titles that it’s useful to know about. There are a few additional titles for both men and women. Let’s give them a quick round-up…

  • Doctor – this term is used if the person you’re addressing is a doctor or has a PHD. Many women choose to continue to use “Doctor” instead of “Mrs.” after getting married.
  • Mr. – this term is used to address all men whether they are married or unmarried.
  • Master – Master is often used to address young boys, but once they’re a little older they’ll become Mr. regardless of their marital status.

READ MORE: Meet the Men Who Changed Their Names after Getting Married

Miss, Mrs. or Ms.: What Should I Write on Wedding Invitations?

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Image: Studio Sophie

Understanding the proper title etiquette is especially important when it comes to writing your wedding invitations. After all, you don’t want to offend anyone by not using their preferred title! If you’re unsure, follow these simple rules.

  • If she’s a child, use Miss.
  • If she’s a young, unmarried adult, go with Miss.
  • If she’s an unmarried woman over the age of 30, go with Ms.
  • If she’s a married woman and you know her chosen title is Mrs., write that.
  • If she’s a married woman and you’re unsure on her preferred title, Ms. is often safest.

READ MORE: 12 Helpful Wedding Invitation Wording Templates

So there we have it! A whistle-stop tour of the differences between Miss, Mrs. and Ms. Just remember, if you’re ever feeling confused, the best thing you can do is ask!

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Now you’re clued up on that, it’s time to write your invites. Fancy making your invitations yourself? Check out our ultimate guide to DIY wedding invites.