ANATOMY OF AN INVITATION
A typical invitation includes certain customary elements: the host line, request line, bride and groom line, date and time lines, location line, and reception and R.S.V.P. lines. Although every invitation should have all these lines, they can be worded and arranged in countless ways to reflect the style of the occasion and the changing times. "The trend is that you do whatever makes good etiquette sense and makes you feel good," says Jerome Brownstein, engraving consultant at Ross-Cook Engraving in New York City. "People are trying to stay socially correct, and at the same time they want to be comfortable."
THE HOST LINE
Start with the names of those issuing the invitation, traditionally the bride's parents. Evolving family structures and financial dynamics often make this the trickiest part of the process, so follow the format that best fits your situation.
THE BRIDE'S PARENTS ARE HOSTING
Most married couples follow the standard format (below); if they have different surnames, an "and" joins them.
Mr. and Mrs. John Michael Williams
Ms. Jane Marie Parks and Mr. John Michael Williams
THE GROOM'S PARENTS ARE HOSTING
If you'd like to mention them, do so after the groom's name. If they are cohosting the wedding, add them after the bride's parents' names.
Mr. Douglas Arthur Sawyer
the son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dean Sawyer
THE COUPLE IS HOSTING
The below format works well for delicate situations. If the couple is hosting on their own, omit the first line.
Together with their families
Miss Elizabeth Marie Williams
Mr. Douglas Arthur Sawyer
Names are listed on separate lines without an "and" between them, and remember that Mom always comes first.
If mom is remarried, use her married name; the oldest etiquette omits all stepparents, though you can add them if you like. If a remarried parent has a different surname from his or her spouse, put the birth parent first. If you must break the line, do it before the "and."
PARENT HAS PASSED AWAY
It's not traditional to include a deceased parent, but many people feel strongly about doing so. This wording should make it clear that the deceased parent is not issuing the invitation. (Courtesy titles would be awkward and are omitted.)
The pleasure of your company is requested
at the marriage of
Elizabeth Marie Williams
daughter of John Williams and the late Jane Williams
Douglas Arthur Sawyer
You don't have to use courtesy titles (Mr., Mrs., etc.) and middle names, but it's most traditional and formal. When titles other than Mr. and Mrs. are used, spell them out. The parent who has such a title is listed first: Doctor and Mrs., or Doctor Jane Marie Williams and Mr. John Michael Williams.
If you're looking for a little less formality -- and a chance to list the first name of a married woman -- omit courtesy titles entirely. In some instances, as with the example for a deceased parent, using this format will avoid some grammatical awkwardness; if you choose this option, it's best to omit middle names too.
Read more at Marthastewartweddings.com: Wedding Invitation Etiquette -- Martha Stewart Weddings