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The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist: A Complete Timeline
Written by: Kimmy Foskett
Congrats! There’s a diamond on your finger. Your heart is bursting. You’ve posted an adorable photo to Instagram to announce the news. An added perk? You don’t have to answer the question “When are you getting engaged?” anymore. Winning! That is, until you start fielding a whole new set of questions — the “who, what, where, when, why” of getting married. (Well, hopefully no one is asking “Why?”) Let’s be real: getting married is a beautiful event, but planning a wedding is an arduous task. A wedding planning checklist is a nonnegotiable.
Think of your wedding-planning checklist as the extremely beautiful lifeguard to the person in the pool who didn’t wait 30-minutes after eating lunch to swim— it’s a lifesaver. The process of planning a wedding can be extremely overwhelming. (There’s a reason Bridezillas has aired for 11 seasons.) Remember that weddings should be fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Plan your wedding like you plan your grocery list for a recipe you’d like to make: take it step by step, and cross off each item as you go. (Ideally, you’re starting to plan 12 months ahead of the big day, but feel free adjust the items on the list accordingly.)
12 Months In Advance:
Establish Your Budget
While this is inarguably the least exciting part of wedding planning, you can’t decide anything about your wedding until you know what your upper limit is. Sit down with your partner and crunch the numbers. Hot tip: make a spreadsheet.
Organize Your Guest List
Having a number in mind from the get-go will help inform what kind of wedding you can afford. Decide on the people you must invite.
Decide What Type Of Event You Want To Have
Destination wedding? Religious ceremony? Black tie? Town Hall situation?
Choose Potential Dates
Beyond just choosing a time of year — have three dates in mind for your wedding before looking at venues.
Pick A Venue
Stay ahead of the game. A year in advance seems early, but venues book up quickly.
Begin Researching Vendors
Bands, DJs, caterers, and videographers all book up quickly, so start researching early!
11 Months In Advance:
Hire Those Vendors!
Remember that incredible band at your friend’s wedding? They’re probably about to be booked up. Get on this early!
Book Your Officiant
Don’t forget the ceremony! Whether you’re choosing your Rabbi or a mutual friend, ask your officiant about the date as soon as you can.
9 - 10 Months In Advance:
Choose Your Bridesmaids And/Or Groomsmen
If you’re going to have any at all.
Start Dress/Tux Shopping
You want to be able to take your time to find the perfect style.
Wedding guests need places to stay — book a block of hotel rooms before you send those save-the-dates.
Take Engagement Photos
If that’s your thing!
Set Up Your Wedding Website
Having a central, digital location for all of your wedding information is vital.
Begin Thinking About Wedding Invitations
Because you probably want your save-the-dates to match your invites.
Mail Your Save-The-Dates
Now no one will ask you, “When are you getting married?” anymore...
Send Invites To The Wedding Party
Whether you mail a sweet poem or a bottle of champagne, now is the time to ask your bridesmaids, groomsmen, bridesmen, and groomsmaids if they’re in.
Buy Your Wedding Attire
For peace of mind, make a final decision.
Decide On Attire For The Wedding Party
And maybe try not to pick super pricey options...
7- 8 Months In Advance:
Register For Gifts
Or don’t! Honeymoon funds can be set up online, too.
Decide On Flowers
Finding your florist in advance is important.
Confirm All Vendors
Because wedding season is busy for them, too!
Book The Rehearsal Dinner
And/or welcome drinks and any other weekend activities you’d like to plan.
Reserve All Your Rentals
Imagine a wedding without chairs and tables for dinner and dance breaks...
Meet With Your Officiant
Remember that this day is all about love. Discuss what you’re hoping for.
Hire Ceremony Musicians
Because you can’t walk down the aisle in silence.
5 - 6 Months In Advance:
Organize Wedding Transportation
Your guests will so appreciate this.
Choose Your Cake
The cake tasting is one of the best parts of wedding planning.
Purchase Your Wedding Bands
Because you’re about to put another ring on it.
3 - 4 Months In Advance:
Especially the final fitting, so that your gown or tux fits just right.
Do A Hair And Makeup Trial
And if you’re happy, book your stylist.
2 Months In Advance:
Mail Your Wedding Invitations
Send these out two months in advance.
Order Favors And Gifts
From welcome bags to gifts for your bridal party, now is the time to get personal.
Purchase A Guest Book
Handwritten well wishes are something you can hold onto forever.
Prepare A Do/Do Not Play List For The Band
Because no one wants their grandmother to suffer through “Hot in Herre” by Nelly.
And pick a signature cocktail!
Get Your Marriage License
Time to make things official.
Ideally six weeks in advance of the wedding.
1 Month In Advance:
Finalize All Wedding Seating
Make a seating chart, and be strategic. (Play matchmaker and sit your adorable single friends next to each other!)
Follow Up On RSVPs
Get a final headcount and share it with catering.
Order Your Place Cards
Or make them!
Communicate Your Vision To Photographer/Videographer
Make sure they know what’s important to capture before the big day.
Pay Your Vendors
Because that’s how hiring people works.
Write Your Vows (Or Your Partner A Letter)
Spoiler alert: there will be tears.
Pick Up The Rings
And marriage license!
The Week Of:
Do A Final Walk-Through Of The Space
Physically feeling the space will ease your mind.
Grab Cash For Tipping
Ideally ask a friend to help you tip the attendants.
Confirm Everything Is In Place
From gift bags to flowers to rings, double check all of the things.
Relax And Enjoy!
A wedding is about celebrating your love, and people have traveled from near and far to be there to witness that celebration. Don’t worry if a welcome bag goes undelivered. Try your best to relax, be present, thank your guests, and kiss your sweetie. Enjoy it.