No one really knows if the chicken came first or the egg, but when it comes to wedding invitations, the bride always comes before the groom. There's no guesswork involved in addressing the rest of the invitation and envelopes, either. Fortunately for couples planning a wedding, there are etiquette rules in place to determine name order on wedding invitations.

On the Invitation

Traditional wedding invitations always begin with the bride's parents' names written in full. The formal style only includes the father's name: "Mr. and Mrs. John Allen Smith request the honor of your presence ..." Professional titles such as doctor or judge are spelled out. If the groom's parents are also hosting, their names follow those of the bride's parents. Less formally, parents' first and last names can be used, as in "Lance and Amy Johnson," or simply the last names, such as "The Gerhard and Myers Families" -- always starting with the bride's family. If the bride and groom are also hosting, their names can be listed after a simple statement such as "Together with their families." If the bride and groom alone are hosting, they of course can leave out the statement about their families.

On the Envelope

The first guest listed on the outer envelope is the one with the highest professional title. This means that if the husband or wife is a doctor or judge, he or she should be listed first. The other spouse is listed second, with the word "and" connecting the names. If both members of the invited couple are doctors, they can be addressed as "The Doctors Smith." Otherwise, the husband is usually listed first. Same-sex couples can be listed alphabetically. Single guests are listed alone on the outer envelope, but the words "and Guest" are usually written after the person's name on the inner envelope. Children are also listed on the inner envelope after their parents' names, if they are invited.