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Monogram Etiquette

What is a monogram anyway?

A monogram is a design used to display the initials of a person or a couple—usually a first, middle, and last name. The letters are often intertwined or in a script font, but blocky or bold letters are becoming more common. Monograms make recognizable logos for some well-known fashion brands, while personal monograms can add a decorative touch or declare ownership. Traditional monogrammed gifts include stationery, cufflinks, towels, or bedding, but monograms are becoming increasingly popular, popping up on everything from phone cases to coffee mugs.

A monogram is typically a design consisting of two or more combined or interlaced initials – usually a first, middle, and last name. Adding a monogram is the perfect way to make something more special, thoughtful and unique. This simple guide features real-life examples for all the most common monogramming questions, so you can learn how to create the perfect monogram!

What is the history of the monogram?

Originally, the monogram was a symbol made with overlapping letters in a scrolling font. As early as 350BCE, coins in Greece were stamped with the originating city’s first two letters to denote where the coins were produced.

 In the Middle Ages, artisans began to use their monogram initials to personalize their work. And later in the Victorian era, monograms became a symbol of aristocracy. The monogram was a royal signature or seal and currency, initials carved on coins to mark the reign of a particular Roman and Greek ruler. 

European royalty adopted monograms known as ‘royal cyphers,’ often with overlapping or intertwined letters. Modern versions are now presented with or without the interconnected letters.

Perhaps the most famous monogram of all, Louis Vuitton's son Georges was the monogram creator of the now-famous "LV" logo, developed as a way to prevent counterfeiting of the Parisian company's designer luggage.  And two interlocking "C's" helped transform the legendary Coco Chanel into an international symbol of elegance and wealth.

What order should the letters be in a monogram?

Monogram order can be confusing since the letters can appear to be out of order. The type of monogram you choose will determine what order you should use. Pagoda Lane offers five monogramming styles: 1 initial, 2 initial, 3 initials, 4 initials and full name or word. 

While monograms are rooted in tradition, the rules for creating one have become more flexible over the years. These guidelines can help you out, but remember they are guidelines, not steadfast rules—the beauty of the modern monogram is that it reflects your personal style.

To help you in creating both individual and couple’s monograms, let’s use the fictional couple of Lily Elaine Brody and James Charles Smith. FYI, the couple’s guidelines apply for same-sex couples as well—but which person’s initials come first is a matter of preference.

One-Letter Monogram Rules
When monogramming a single letter onto a gift, you would most likely use the first letter for their first or last name. It’s most common to use the surname, regardless of whether the person is married or not, however using the first letter of the first name is becoming popular so consider the person you are gifting when deciding which initial to use.

Two-Letter Monogram Rules
A versatile two-letter monogram may represent a first and last name, two first names, a hyphenated last name, or two last names. A two-letter format could represent Lily Brody as LB, James Smith as JS, and BS for Brody Smith or Brody-Smith.

Three-Letter Monogram Rules
Things get a little more complicated when you choose a three-letter monogram, especially when considering monograms for married couples. Traditionally, the first letters of the first, last and middle name are used in that order. For couples who share a surname, the last name remains in the middle with the initials of their first names on the left and right sides.

 Four -Letter Monogram Rules 

These are used to support two-part last names or people with two first or middle names. They would be (First Initial, Middle Initial, Middle Initial, Last Initial) or (First Initial, First Initial, Middle Initial, Last Initial) or (First Initial, Middle Initial, Last Initial, Last Initial}.

What is correct monogram etiquette?

Traditional monogram etiquette dictates that the woman’s name is represented first in the couple’s monogram, followed by the shared surname, then the man’s name. While this is the typical way, it is not the only way—and it won’t work for all couples. However, some typical guidelines are still recommended.

A couple’s monogram is reserved for use after the wedding, not before. If you’d like to include your new monogram on your wedding day, skip putting it on programs or invitations, but reception stationery such as the menu or favor tags are fair game.

A woman’s maiden initials can still be used on personalized items, even after marriage—but a monogram with the married name is more common.

Consider nicknames when adding a monogram to a gift: Perhaps William goes by Bill or Liam, or James Charles prefers to use his middle name. Traditionally, the legal name is used in a monogram, but you can ask the recipient’s preference.

Generally, monograms follow the ‘First Last Middle’ order for young children, but it is common to switch to a block (same size) style ‘First Middle Last’ monogram for boys.

Where does personalization appear on products?

The placement depends on the product that is being personalized.

  • Towels – bottom center of the towel.
  • Robes, Pajamas and Nightshirts– left chest (adjacent to the robe’s lapel).
  • Totes – Center in width, slightly above the center in height.
  • Baseball Caps – Centered on front, side, or back.
  • Bucket Hats – Centered on top, brim or rise.
  • Spa Wraps – Top or Bottom corner.
  • Wine Totes - Center in width, slightly above the center in height.
  • Cosmetic Bags - center in width, slightly above the center in height.
  • Blankets/Throws – bottom left corner on a diagonal or straight across the bottom
  • Duvet covers – Center in width, slightly above the center in height.
  • Sheets (flat sheet only) – bottom center, within the band.
  • Shams – Center with large font, top-center with smaller font.
  • Pillowcases – center of band on open side

 Please keep in mind that the above guidelines are just a suggestion- monogramming should be fun and unique; so break the rules, think creatively, and express yourself through your personalization! Below are some other ideas to get you thinking about new ways of customizing your items!

One word. (First name) or (Last name).
One word. Use a vacation destination, a nickname, an activity, or a boat name.
Numbers. Use for an area code, a zip code, a home address, lucky number(s), the age of the recipient, or tail number of a plane.
Texting Lingo – Laugh Out Loud (LOL), I Love You (ILY), Oh My God (OMG), Hugs and Kisses (XOXO), Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF), etc.