Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Ettiquette on monument


QUESTION: Good Day Nancy,

I am helping make funeral/cemetary arrangements for my grandmother so that when she passes we have everything taken care of.

The situation is that she divorced many years ago, but never changed her name back to her maiden name, then about 8 years ago she remarried and took her new husband's name. But for a good 30+ years she was known by her ex-husband's last name. She is being buried in a family plot where her parents and sister are buried in her birth state.

Now, for her headstone we are wondering what proper ettiquette is on how to list her name? My contention is that it would be appropriate to list her first middle and hyphenate the two married names with the 1st husband's name first in place of her maiden name.

Thank you so much for your time and assistance with this matter.



ANSWER: Dear Crystal:

Thank you for sharing your question with me.

You have an advantage that many family members don't have when designing the headstone of a  loved one, and that is that the loved one is living and can weigh in.

I recommend that you ask your grandmother what she prefers regarding her name for perpetuity. She may want to be remembered as Mrs. Husband 1 or Mrs. Husband 2, depending on the relationship that she had with each individual, and her preference will dictate the last name on her headstone. I would advise against using both married names separated by a hyphen.

Do try to steer your grandmother toward including her maiden name on her headstone out of respect for her lineage and for purposes of genealogy research.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Nancy,

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I realized in rereading my question I neglected to mention that my grandmother is in final stages of Alzheimer's and is unable to communicate her wishes on this matter. My concern is that if we list her as Mrs. Husband 2 our family will not recognize who she is since she went by Husband 1's last name for so many years. Our family within that state that we are not as in touch with may not even know her current last name.

Dear Crystal:

With this additional information, I do see a need for you to include both of your grandmother's married names on the headstone, for family and historical purposes.

In women's obituaries, I often see that two or even three married names are included (in the order of the marriages), so this is similar to what you are envisioning for your grandmother's headstone. However, I don't recommend that you hyphenate the two last names because she did not use them together in her lifetime. A hyphen would indicate that she did so.

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Nancy Mitchell


Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette


Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations.

Protocol and Diplomacy - International Protocol Association

Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

B.S., University of Utah, 1969

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