(This is the latter part of Chapter 20 from my new book on weddings - telling of my earlier experience assisting a Mother of the bride put together her guest list which was extensive - to say the least.)
At one point, I had a separate list of names that had been pulled off the main list. This separate list included anyone on death's door, with a terminal disease, with marital problems, in the process of a divorce, or whose house was for sale. The Mother of the Bride was determined that the invitations would be addressed correctly. If parties were separated at the time the invitations were delivered, then they needed to be addressed accordingly. She would not have an invitation sent to someone who had already passed away. That would be most disrespectful to the family. And Lord help us if one was returned because it had been sent to someone's former address. So for six months I kept up with the obituaries, the MLS, and the local gossip to ensure that list was up-to-date.
And, the names - they had to be complete and correct. She insisted on this to the point that I had a copy of the style manual put together by the corresponding social secretary at the White House which contained the formal way to address everyone from a Four Star General to a Potentate to a Maharajah - should we have one on the list.
I remember one prominent business man always used his middle initial "M" and never his middle name. The Mother of the Bride had me call his office to obtain his middle name so his invitation would be correctly addressed. His assistant told me, as I expected, just to use the initial, that was his preference. The Mother of the Bride would have none of that and called him herself. After several minutes of polite but emphatic language on her part, the gentleman finally said,"What difference does it make? The invitation is coming to me. If I say 'M' is correct, then by God it's correct." She hung up in defeat.
"Have it his way. But it is not correct. You just cannot address a formal invitation without a full name."
Looking down the list, I cringed. There was the name of a doctor with an initial. I knew him and knew that the initial was not short for anything - it was just a "J". He did not even put a period after it. Amy Vanderbilt did not cover this one, nor did the White House. Before the Mother of the Bride made the call she commented, "You don't suppose he would consider changing it to 'John' would you? That certainly would make my life easier."