If it can be stenciled, stitched, or stamped, there is a dang good chance of a southern girl putting a monogram on it. So, it comes in handy to know the traditional rules of monogramming. Then you can decide when to break them.
Keep in mind that regional and personal preferences come into play with monogramming standards. I'm not about to argue with what your Nanna says is the right way!
But, if you are new to monograms, here are few suggestions to get you started...
Monograms for Southern Belles (or Beaus)
You might be thinking that monograms are only of interest to brides-to-be. But, I promise you, you can enjoy making your mark without a bit of tulle in sight.
Single Letter Monograms
For individuals, the most straightforward option is a single-letter monogram. And that initial can represent your first or last name. Or, if you go by a nickname, you can opt for that initial instead. Monograms don't have to be formal and stuffy!
Three Letter Monograms
Three letter monograms are made up of your first, last, and middle (or maiden) initials. Traditionally, men's monograms keep all three letters in order and the same size, block style. Styling the last initial in the middle with the first initial to the left and the middle initial to the right is common for women. But you should pick whatever style suits your taste, regardless of gender.
Monograms for Hyphenated & Two Word Last Names
Have a compound last name?
- Consider a two letter monogram with both last initials.
- Or leave out your middle name initial to accommodate your full surname.
Couple Monograms with Southern Style
Couples have plenty of options when it comes to creating a joint monogram. And they might even choose to have multiple monograms created in the same style for different purposes.
Single Letter Monograms
For pairs who share a last name, that initial makes for a simple, stylish monogram.
Two Letter Monograms (Duograms)
Couples with a different last name can create two-letter monograms, either from their first or last initials. Consider opting for a plus sign, ampersand, or bar between the initials to indicate that the mark represents a couple.
Three Letter Joint Monograms
A couple's single letter monogram can be worked into a three letter monogram by placing each person's first initial to either side of the last initial at a smaller size. For husband and wife pairs, the woman's initial traditionally goes on the left.
Monogram Etiquette & Tips
- Choose a font that suits you and the way you want to use your monogram. If you have a complicated monogram, consider a more simple font. If you mix fonts max out at two.
- Traditionally, a monogram is not used until it's official. If a woman takes her husband's last name, her new monogram nor their joint monogram should be used prior to the wedding. So, putting a married monogram on wedding invitations will cause some pearl clutching. But, displaying it at the reception is just fine. (Duograms created from engaged couples' first initials have become popular in recent years for just this reason.)
- When it comes to gift giving, don't hesitate to ask the gift recipient their preference. That will make your present even more special.
- When it comes to heirlooms, it's appropriate to use items with a monogram that isn't your own. If (lucky you) you inherited your grandmother's monogrammed china or linens, enjoy them. Not only will you be reminded of your loved ones, but you will also have great conversation starters.
- And don't be squeamish about estate sale finds. Beautiful, well-loved things deserve a second life.
Get Creative with Your Monogram
Monograms tell your story. They reveal how you define yourself, your relationships, and your family. What could be more personal? Do what makes sense to you and gives you joy when you see it.
Hire a Professional to Create Your Monogram
Enlist a professional for some help. There are illustrators, designers, and calligraphers who specialize in creating personalized monograms. Working with a pro will help you create something truly unique and lovely.
A paper and gift shop, such as Trisha Logan's Shindig Paparie in Fayetteville, Arkansas can connect you with a professional and put your monogram into action on a beautiful suite of personal stationery.
As Natalie O’Dell, the owner and artist at Chez La Mariée in Lexington, Virginia, told me, "A monogram can serve as a logo that unifies an entire event or as a timeless and elegant graphic identity for personal correspondence and homeware."
Natalie also let me virtually peek over her shoulder as she drafted and painted this bespoke watercolor duogram. I assure you, this southern girl's heart went pitter-pat.
Tips for working with a monogram artist:
- Take a look at an artist's portfolio of work before you sign on. Even the best illustrators may not appeal to you personally. And that's fine. Find someone whose work speaks to you and you are excited to collaborate with.
- Make sure you discuss exactly what you want to do with your monogram. Do you want personalized stationery? Or, do you want a digital file that can be used for machine embroidery? Those specifics should be listed in your contract.
- Depending on the artist you've chosen and the scope of the project, turn around time and cost for custom monograms will vary. Plan a minimum of two months to have the work in hand and pricing that starts at a few hundred dollars.
Where to Use You Monogram
Not so many years ago monograms were mostly seen on stationary and on bath, dining, and bed linens. All of which are a lovely way to use your mark.
And in recent years, you will see everything from phone cases to coolers sporting the owner's initials. With a little help from our friends Renee and Amy at Julep Belle Designs in Chesterfield, Virginia, you can even add your monogram to a sweet, lady-like clutch. (And it would be a perfect gift, right?)
Again, it's up to you. Do you want to reserve your monogram for items that are destined to be heirlooms, or does it make you happy to see it on everything you own?
If this all still feels just a bit too traditional, a tongue-in-cheek approach to monogramming might suit you better.
Rather than your initials, why not have pillow shams stitched with "ZZZ" or napkins that declare "YUM"? Just remember, you are usually limited to three letters, four tops.
When it comes to making your mark with monograms, is there any situation that is has you stumped? What's your favorite monogrammed item? Holler at me in the comments, because I could talk about this all day long, y'all!