1. On the first line, print the names of the people who are hosting (read: paying for) the wedding. Depending on the level of formality, it can read: “Jane and John Doe” or “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe.” If the bride and groom are hosting use Ms. (her first name and maiden name) and Mr. (his first and last name), or “Together with their families, (her first name and maiden name) and (his first and last name).”
2. On the second line, ask the recipient to attend the event. If the ceremony is in a church, use “request the honor of your presence.” If it’s not in a place of worship, use “invite you to celebrate the wedding of their daughter” (or son, if the host is the groom’s parents). If the couple is hosting, the second line should read in the first person, such as: “invite you to join us in the celebration of our marriage.”
3. For a formal affair, when listing the couple’s names, use “[her first and middle name] to [Mr. his first and last name].” The contemporary alternative is to use the bride’s first and last name, and the groom’s first and last name, both without titles. Replacing the “to” with an “and” is common.
4. Spell out the numerals, when listing the date and time: “Saturday, the eleventh of October, two thousand and eight, at ten o’clock in the morning.”
5. Don’t include the ceremony’s address if the location is recognizable. Include one for private residences and lesser-known venues.
6. Keep reception details on the invitation brief, such as “Reception to follow at the Rainbow Room,” but be clear if you’re not serving dinner. If that’s the case do something like, “Cocktails and dancing to follow.” If the ceremony and reception are in different locations or don’t immediately follow each other, use a separate reception card that includes the time and address for the latter.
7. Include a separate reply card. Send a blank card to encourage guests to write a note—the throwback to old times is becoming more popular now, so don’t assume all your guests will be perplexed by it.
8. Don’t over-write. Keep the invitation pretty clean. Forgo poetic excerpts, gift preferences, menu options, etc.
9. But do mention dress code. The invitation foreshadows the type of event you’re going to host. Sometimes the use of color, pictorial elements, or a conversational tone will tell your guests that it’s okay to show up in khakis and mandals. But if you want people to dress up, be explicit. “Black-tie optional” is not clear enough. It either is black-tie or it isn’t.