Who's name goes first: the bride or groom? Do we mention our gift registry on our invitation? Do we invite someone we know for sure is not coming? Is it considered rude to write "black tie" on the wedding invitations? We have a large family and do not want to invite all of them, how do we keep it a secret to those we are not inviting?
Oh the decisions! These are all questions couples face as they sit down to decide on their wedding invitations. First of all, you'll want to choose a company to work with that specializes in wedding invitations. That way you'll have all your questions answered as you work your way through the process of design.
You'll probably already have a look in mind that you want for your invites. If not, the company you go with should have samples of them for you to look at or pre-designed ones for you to add your own wording to. Of course if you're having a formal wedding you'll want a more formal invitation. Some couples often ask if it's rude to write "black tie" on the wedding invitations. Consider this: there are going to be some of your guests who don't own a tux and don't have the money or just prefer not to wear one. So it might be better to write "black tie optional". This way your male guests who won't be wearing tuxs know at least to wear a nice dark suit and this gives women and idea for what to wear as well.
Another decision you'll have to make is how many invitations you'll need to order. If you decide to have a smaller wedding and only want to invite certain family members that's your prerogative. If you're sending out save-the-date cards or invitations you may want to call those family members that you are inviting and let them know the situation hoping they won't pass on the word. On the other hand if you know someone is not coming go ahead and send them and invitation anyways - it's the thought that counts.
As far as the wording, the bride's name always goes first. Whether or not you put parent's names on there normally depends on who is footing the cost, but this is not always the case so don't assume.
Consider adding separate pieces inside the envelope such as a map to the event, an rsvp card or a gift registry card since this is considered bad etiquette to put on your invitation.
It's best to mail out your invitations 6-8 weeks before your wedding date to give your guests plenty of time to make arrangements. If you are planning way ahead of that you may want to send out a Save the Date card to let people know of the upcoming event.
When designing for a client, I ask for two weeks for custom invitations to be designed plus printing time. When ordering pre-designed invitation allow at least up to one week. However, if you need them any sooner I can always make arrangements for you. There are plenty of decisions to be made and more time allows more attention to your invitations to make it another perfect part of your wedding.