Knowing how much time in advance you need to plan a wedding and book vendors can be stressful. Today I wanted to provide you with the ultimate wedding planning checklist.
9 – 16 Months Before
- Set Your Budget: Decide how much you have to spend. This can be stressful but if you can sit down with your families to see how much they can contribute and how much you can, then you’ll be able to settle on a number.
- Create a Wedding Folder, Binder or Board: Start to gather inspiration from bridal, food and lifestyle magazines, as well as, wedding blogs and boards on Pinterest.
- Pick Your Wedding Date: Choosing your date and time will allow you to start booking all of the details for your wedding.
- Reserve Your Venues: Find the right place for both your ceremony and reception and book them now.
- Go Dress Shopping: Once you say “Yes to the dress”, you’ll need to be sized, have it ordered and schedule fittings. Bridal gowns take several months to arrive. Make this a priority so you have time to get in at least 2, if not 3, fittings before the big day.
- Book Your Officiant: If you’re able to, choose someone who knows you and/or fiancé. This will add a personal touch to your ceremony.
- Pick Your Wedding Party: When you get engaged, people start to wonder who you’ll have standing by your side on the big day! Once you have your wedding party set, choose a channel of communication to keep them updated through.
- Start Working on the Guest List: Take into account how many people can fit in your venue and into your budget. As you build your guest list, create a file or database to track emails, mailing addresses, RSVPs and gifts (to make it easier to send thank you’s afterwards).
- Hire a Wedding Planner (if desired): A wedding planner can assist in planning and organizing all of the details leading up to your big day, as well as, help everything run smoothly on the actual day.
- Research Vendors: Decide what style of photography, meal, music and flowers you want and then look for vendors who offer that style within your budget.
- Throw an Engagement Party (if desired): Whether or not you throw an engagement party is simply personal preference. If you need help deciding what to do, check out our Engagement Planning Checklist.
8 Months Before
- Hire your photographer and videographer: The most important thing is that you book the photographer you love! You don’t have to nail down specifics yet, but be sure you hire someone who will do the shots that you want and are free for your date. Then sign their contract and pay the deposit to save your date.
- Hire the Entertainment: Choosing your musicians for the ceremony and reception is a fun process! If you are have specific music you want performed, make sure the people you hire are willing to do that. Also check out DJs if you’re wanting to hire one for the reception.
- Meet with Caterers: If your wedding venue offers catering services, then set up a time to have a food tasting and to go over service and pricing options. If your venue doesn’t offer catering services, start looking at caterers local to your venue, get reviews, set up meetings with your favorite, then hire one to work your wedding.
- Reserve a Block of Hotel Rooms for Your Guests: If your reception is not held at a hotel, research different hotel options nearby where your guests can stay. Once you’ve chosen your hotel, call and reserve a block of rooms for your guests and see what rates they offer.
- Create a Wedding Website: Choose a provider to create your personal website through. Some great free or low-cost options for are The Knot, Zola, Joy or Wix. You’ll want to include the logistical details of your day (wedding date, location, travel information, registry, and accommodations), as well as, some personal details. Create an about us page to share about your dating and engagement journey. You can also create a page to highlight your wedding party.
- Register: Set aside some time to build a registry list and choose which retailers you want to use. I recommend choosing at least three. Ask your friends and family what their “must-have” registry items are.
6 – 7 Months Before
- Start Your Invitations: You may want to hire a designer, purchase a pre-set design or create the invites yourself. Also, choose what method you’ll use to collect RSVPs. If you’re going to mail out RSVP cards, make sure to design these with the invitation suite. If you’ll be collecting RSVPs online, then make sure your online RSVP is set up and tested before sending out invitations.
- Plan Your Honeymoon: Choose your destination, figure out how long you’re able to go for and book your trip! If you are wanting to fly out of the country, make sure your passports are up to date.
- Choose Your Bridesmaid Dresses: Make sure to allow at least six months for your bridesmaids to order their dresses and be sized.
- Choose Your Florist: Florists usually accommodate more than one wedding a day. By this point you should have your color palette set, so it’s a great time to book your florist. You can start discussing price, style, bouquet sizes and needs. Make sure to think of your ceremony needs, as well, as what you’ll need for the reception.
- Plan Your Ceremony: Plan a time to meet with your officiant to map out the order of your ceremony, making sure all elements such as music, readings, vows, etc., are included.
- Send Out Save the Dates: Create and send out Save the Date cards to your guests.
- Book Extra Amenities: If you need extra chairs, tablecloths, lighting components, outdoor restrooms (for outdoor venues) etc. book them at this time.
- Arrange transportation: If you need or want transportation for you and your wedding party, such as a limo, party bus etc., line it up now. You also will want to check to see what shuttle options are available if your guests are staying at a hotel near your venue
- Create Your Wedding Day Timeline: If you hired a wedding planner they can help you lay this out. Whether or not you have a wedding planner, you’ll want to talk to your photographer before you start setting a timeline. They will let you know how long each element of the day may take and help you set accurate times for each one (getting ready, first look, ceremony, etc.).
4 – 5 Months Before
- Book Your Rehearsal: Hold a rehearsal the day before the wedding to run through the ceremony with the officiant and wedding party. Book a spot to have the rehearsal and choose a venue to host a rehearsal dinner afterwards. It’s courteous to invite the officiant, musicians, wedding party and immediate family.
- Finalize Your Menu: Schedule another meeting with your caterers to finalize your menu and how you’ll serve the meal. Also, choose the meal for your rehearsal dinner
- Finalize Wedding Invitations: If you had a calligrapher or designer create your invitations, follow up with them to see the design and finalize the invitation suite. Once finalized, order them for printing.
- Order Your Cake: Choose your top choices for a baker and schedule a few cake tastings. Depending on the size and intricacy of your cake, your baker may need longer lead time.
- Create a Bridal Shower Guest List: If you’re having a bridal shower, send the guest list with addresses and your registry information to the host.
- Schedule Your First Dress Fitting & Purchase Accessories: If you haven’t already, now is the time to purchase your shoes, veil, undergarments, jewelry and any other accessories you’ll need for your dress. Bring your shoes to your first dress fitting so that the gown can be altered to the correct length.
- Schedule Your Hair & Makeup Appointments: Schedule a trial appointment with a couple local hair and makeup artists to try them out. Take a photo after each trial to see which one you liked the most.
- Choose Your Music: Finalize what songs you want during the ceremony, as well as, during the prelude and postlude. Think through what music you need for the grand entrance, dinner and dance portions of your reception and create a playlist. If you have musicians and/or a DJ, share the music and playlist with them.
3 Months Before
- Schedule Your Second Dress Fitting: Make sure to bring your shoes to this fitting as well.
- Purchase Your Rings: Make sure you give yourself enough ordering time for sizing and having them engraved.
- Finalize the Ceremony & Reception Order: Layout your ceremony and reception schedules in a document that is easy to share with your family and wedding party.
- Print Programs and Menu Cards: Now that your ceremony order is finalized, as well as, your menu, you can create and print your programs and menu cards.
- Finalize Your Florals: Meet with your florist to finalize details for your order. Make sure to coordinate how and when they will be delivered to your ceremony and reception venues.
- Send Your Wedding Schedule to Your Vendors: Sharing your day of schedule with your officiant, photographer, caterer, DJ, etc. will allow them to plan accordingly. You can still make changes, but giving them a general idea of your timeline will be very helpful.
- Reception Toasts: Decide who you’d like to speak at your reception and ask them.
- Ceremony Readings: Choose what quotes or scripture you want to read in your ceremony. Decide who you would like to do the readings and ask them.
- Order Favors (if desired): Favors aren’t a necessity. If you decide to do favors, something as simple as a tin of mints would do.
2 Months Before
- Send Out Invitations: It’s common etiquette to allow guests four weeks to reply to a Wedding RSVP. Since you usually have to give a headcount for food and chairs 2 – 3 weeks before your wedding, sending out invitations 2 months before is the perfect time.
- Meet with Your Photographer: Confirm what hours they’ll be shooting for. Work together to come up with a list of specific photos that you want and confirm all locations you’ll be taking photos at.
- Finalize Details with Vendors: Reach out to all of your vendors to make sure they don’t have any standing questions or missing details.
- Have a Bachelorette Party: Usually the maid of honor or bridesmaids will plan a fun night to celebrate you together. If someone is planning the party, make sure to tell them who you’d like invited.
1 Month Before
- Schedule Your Final Dress Fitting: Bring all of your accessories to your final fitting so you can make sure it all works together.
- Apply for You Marriage License: You’ll have to wait 3-7 days (depending on which state you live in) for your Marriage License to be processed before you can receive it.
- Finalize or Write Your Vows: Whether you are writing your own or using traditional vows, finalize what they will be, save them and send them to your officiant if necessary.
- Confirm Your Hair & Makeup Appointments: Make sure your appointment times still work with your final schedule.
- Send Out Rehearsal Dinner Information: Notify your rehearsal dinner guests about where it is, what time and what they can expect.
- Record RSVPs: If you mailed out RSVPs, make sure you have a system to record them. Once you are a week or two away from your headcount deadline, reach out to any unanswered RSVPs.
- Create a Seating Chart: As RSVPs come in, start to layout your reception seating.
- Send Out Payments to Vendors: Take care of any payments that need to be made before the wedding date.
- Purchase Wedding Party Gifts: Decide how you want to thank your wedding party for standing by your side and order their gifts.
Week of the Wedding
- Pick Up Your Dress: Store it with your shoes, undergarments, and jewelry. It’s also a good idea to break in your shoes.
- Give Final Head Count to Caterer and Venues: Usually caterers require 4-7 days notice for the final headcount.
- Send a Schedule to Your Wedding Party & Immediate Family: Create a document with all of your day-of details, including times, locations and contact information for your point people.
- Delegate Wedding Day Tasks: If you don’t have a wedding planner or personal attendant, then have someone be in charge of bringing food for the wedding party to eat while getting ready, someone to set out favors at the reception, someone to connect with your vendors as they arrive, etc.
- Assemble Party Favors: Store these in a labeled bag or bin that is easy to transport to the reception.
- Connect with Your Photographer: Verify that they know where and when to arrive and that they have your shot-list.
- Confirm Arrival Time with Vendors: Confirm that they know when and where to arrive.
- Make Payment & Tip Envelopes for Vendors: Put tips and payments for your vendors in separate labeled envelopes so they are easy to hand out.
- Schedule a Nail Appointment: Set up a time to get a manicure and pedicure
- Pack for Your Honeymoon: You’ll be so busy with your wedding details, but don’t forget to prep and pack for your Honeymoon too!