Now that you’ve enjoyed the beginning novelties of being a newly engaged couple (however long your engagement may be), and are ready to step into the planning phase, there’s an insurmountable to-do list that needs some checking-off. A lot can happen in one year’s time, so we’ve itemized a guideline for the 12 months leading up to wedding day. Get your planner and take some notes because this particular year goes by fast!
10-12 MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Talk about your budget with all parties involved in paying for and making decisions about your wedding experience. Be flexible by having some items that are must-haves and others that you’d be willing to give up. Think about your wedding as an experience, not just a day. Then, decide on a budget that is realistic and immovable, and stick to it.
- With the budget in mind, develop a working guest list. This will help as you decide on venues, as well as travel requirements for your guests.
- Set the date! Keep a few dates in mind, so if you fall in love with a venue that’s booked, you have options.
- Do you need a “full service” planner or a “day-of” planner? Full service planners will help you execute your vision, guest experience, and keep you on budget. Day-of planners are involved about a month before the big day and are there to make sure the day goes smoothly.
- Organize mailing addresses of those on the guest list. Postable.com is a fantastic resource for this.
- Research wedding websites and get yours live as soon as you can. This will be a great place for guests to get information about location, room blocks, the wedding itinerary, and any tips that could make their experience lovely.
- It’s never too early to start prepping the save the date cards. While your wedding look and feel isn’t totally decided upon yet, try to tie in the theme or your vision so it looks cohesive. If it’s a destination wedding, you may want to include additional information you wouldn’t typically see on save the dates.
- Mail out the save the dates. Your out-of-town guests should get priority notice before those who are in closer proximity.
- Select and contact your wedding photographer(s). As added incentive to book early, engagement sessions typically come complimentary with wedding packages.
- Locate and reserve the ceremony and reception venues.
- Protect your money! Look into wedding or event cancellation insurance policies, aimed at reimbursing for deposits in the event of an emergency.
- Develop a rain plan if the venue is outdoors.
6-8 MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Say "yes" to the dress, including shoes and any accessories.
- Decide on the bridal party and discuss dresses. Take your maid of honor (or someone close to you) to the shop and try on a few options, or let your bridesmaids pick their own dresses based on your preference of color, material, and length. Consider different body types when choosing dresses so everyone feels beautiful.
- Now is a great time to get going on the groom and groomsmen attire. Theblacktux.com is amazing for tuxedos and suits that are current, and the service is extremely easy to use. If your groom will be purchasing a suit or tuxedo, make an appointment at some of his favorite spots.
- Select a ceremony officiant. Choose someone who makes you and your partner feel comfortable. Make sure, if necessary, they go through the process to be ordained.
- Negotiate hotel rates for a room block and reserve at least two hotel locations for guests — one less expensive than the other to give options. Ask the hotel if they will match prices found online and what fees are incurred if all the rooms aren’t filled.
- Reserve music — not just the band and/or DJ for the reception. Check with your hotel or venue to determine if they need additional speakers or mics brought in by your vendors or if they will provide.
- Start picking your music. You should have songs selected for your wedding party, your family, and the bride and groom entrance. Select songs for after the ceremony, as well as songs for grand entrances, the first dance, father/daughter, mother/son, and end of the night.
- Select a videographer. Try searching #weddingvideographer on Instagram for inspiration!
- Decide if you’ll be utilizing the venue’s tables, chairs, linens, china, bars, and dance floor. It’s important to see what those items look like prior so there are no surprises and then determine if you have the budget or interest in upgrading.
- Determine whether you’ll need to hire additional companies, such as draping and lighting.
- Set up your registry. Zola.com is a wonderful option.
- Call florists to get quotes for anything you may need to style yourself or book your florist. For larger weddings, ask how many assistants you’ll need to hire for the day of and if that's included in the original estimate.
Remember, this is not simply about one day. While it can easily feel like an immensity to manage the many details, a memory is being created for you as a couple, your families, and your guests. Plan and create this day with that in mind, and pick trusted vendors to help you make the celebration everything you want to experience.
4-6 MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Time to choose your stationary, you don’t want your invitations to go out late! Remember, you’re telling the story of your event, so your invites should mirror what you want your day to feel like.
- Reserve any necessary guest transportation.
- Book a room for the day’s preparations and the wedding night.
- Reserve any rentals for the ceremony and/or reception, such as tables, chairs, and linens.
- Plan and create or order your favors. An alternative option is a donation to your favorite charities.
- Research your sweets. Will you be serving cake? Other desserts? Think about these details and start tasting!
- Hire a hair stylist and makeup artist and make trial appointments, or start practicing your look if you’re going to do it yourself. Decide whether or not you’ll be paying for your bridal party’s beauty.
- Book the rehearsal dinner. Remember that large parties require months of advance notice for seating at a restaurant.
- Book the honeymoon. Hello, vacay!
2-4 MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Review menu specifics with the venue or caterer.
- Finalize the dessert menu and/or cake by placing your order.
- Meet with the officiant to prepare the ceremony.
- Set the rehearsal time.
- Mail out your invitations. Guests need about 4 weeks to RSVP.
1-2 MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Obtain your marriage license.
- Prepare the necessary documents to change your last name, if you so choose.
- Do another dress fitting with the veil, shoes, and accessories.
- Discuss timelines. Make sure that the vendors are aware of the day’s timeline and the requirements needed from them.
- Create a shot list for your photographer and videographer. You want to make sure that all of those special and candid moments are captured. This includes the moments in which the bridal party is getting ready. If you hope to have your wedding published on a blog or in a magazine, you want all of the details captured.
- Sort out the seating plan, being thoughtful of seating those with similar interests together or whom you foresee enjoying the event together. Consider using a spreadsheet to make sure your seating chart is clear as you don’t want your guests wandering around.
- Confirm final guest count with vendors to keep everyone on the same page. We recommend a 10% sway on your numbers (if you’re expecting 100 people, you should have 110 chairs).
- Write any toasts for the rehearsal dinner and/or wedding reception.
- Establish speeches and wrap up the itinerary.
- Design wedding programs to be handed out to guests at the ceremony.
1 WEEK BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Check in with all transportation vendors to affirm schedules remain on plan.
- Confirm all items for the wedding are packed and ready for delivery. Make a packing list, which you can start from day one of wedding planning, then check items off the week of the wedding. Ensure you don’t forget anything like wedding bands, the marriage license, and keepsakes you want included.
- Decide where you’ll want your wedding party positioned during the ceremony, including order for the processional and recessional.
- The date is around the corner! Time for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
- Arrange tip and payment for officiant and vendors. Be sure to share emergency numbers with all vendors in case of last minute updates.