This wedding planning checklist is designed to help brides and grooms plan for their wedding in an orderly manner. If you have never been a major part of a wedding you may not be familiar with everything in this checklist. We have also prepared a print friendly PDF for you to download for your records.
9-12 Months Before The Wedding
1. Start A Wedding Binder
Begin by looking through wedding magazines, bridal websites and social media websites like Pinterest. Look for things that you like. At this point you’re just gathering ideas. Save everything in a binder or folder that you can reference later.
2. Create a Budget
Determine how much you have to spend. Be realistic and don’t stretch yourself too thin. This is a very important day in your life, but it’s not worth going bankrupt over. Be sure to include your families contributions if any.
3. Pick Your Wedding Party
As soon as you get engaged, your friends and family are going to start to wonder who made the cut. Remember that the bigger you go the more gifts you will have to buy for them. Also remember that asking someone to be a bridesmaid or a groomsman often means asking them to make a financial contribution in the form of purchasing their own dress/suit (unless you’re planning on paying for those).
4. Start The Guest List
The guest list will change. So don’t be too particular at this point. Add anyone who you want to have at your wedding. Be sure to include a +1 for anyone who might not know anyone at the wedding. It’s okay to not give +1’s for family and friends who are single and will know a lot of the other guests. It’s good to have a general head count so you know how to go about finding the right venue, caterer, etc.
5. Hire A Planner/Event Coordinator
At this point if your head isn’t spinning it might be on too tight. A wedding planner will help you take care of the rest of the plans making it a lot easier on you. A planner will also be able to be present the day of the wedding making sure everything goes smoothly.
6. Reserve The Date And Venues
Most venues require that you book about 9-12 months in advance. This is usually because the space will be booked solid if you wait longer. At this point you need to decide whether or not to have the ceremony and reception at different locations. You will have to start considering travel distance, traffic and the time between both locations if separate.
7. Research Photographers, Florists, DJ’s/Bands, and Caterers.
Start your research online. Google search for photographers, florists, etc. in your area and go deep into the 3rd, 4th and 5th pages. You should be able to find the perfect vendor, at a reasonable price if you do some research. Going with the first or most glamorous choice will often cost you a lot more in the long run and get you a comparable service/final product.
8. Book The Officiant
Like the venues, officiants are often booked well in advance. A common trend these days is to have someone who knows you perform the officiants role. This option can be hit or miss, so choose carefully.
9. Throw An Engagement Party
Make sure if you invite someone to the engagement party that they will also be invited to the wedding. The only exception to this is if someone you know will be out of town for the wedding but still wants to participate in the festivities.
8 Months Before The Wedding
1. Hire The Photographer
Once you have found the photographer that has the right stuff, book them. Make sure you look at a lot of their work so you know it’s the right choice. No need to talk specifics at this point unless it affects the price point. Feel free to mention any specific thing you MUST HAVE at this point just to be sure it’s not a deal breaker.
2. Meet With Catering Company
Most wedding venues offer in house catering. If you plan on using your own catering service separate from the venue, book it now. Event catering is often very good but make sure you read reviews on sites like Yelp about the quality of the food. Request a tasting if they offer anything like that. Many venues will provide monthly or quarterly tasting events for couples to attend.
3. Book The Entertainment
If you have an opportunity it’s best to see the entertainment live. Most bands will have videos on their website showcasing their work but if not, it’s strongly recommended to see it with your own eyes and hear it with your own ears. If you plan on doing something outside of the box (something other than a DJ/Band) make sure it’s really what you want at this point, because from here on out your budget decisions will be effected.
4. Purchase The Dress
You will need time to schedule several fittings. Getting the dress early on helps to ensure that it fits perfect for the big day. If you’re not able to get it just yet, getting started at this point in the timeline is best.
5. Contact A Hotel About Reserving Room For Guests
If needed contact several hotels in the area. They are often more than happy to reserve a few rooms for weddings because it’s guaranteed business. Choose three options in different price ranges to ensure that everyone has the right place to stay.
6. Register At The Right Stores
Sign up at a minimum of 3 stores and make sure they’re the right ones. You will want to choose at least one home store and one department store like Macy’s. You can also choose a store like REI, Columbia if you are into outdoors activities or your favorite store. It’s helpful to choose a few stores from different price ranges as well. Target, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue are a good example of low, medium and high.
7. Launch A Wedding Website
There are a lot of free wedding website services available such as wedbuddy.com and you can even use a free website builder normally used for business websites. Another simple option is WordPress. Things to include on the website: Date of the event, location of the event, registry information, color schemes and style choices (if it’s old timey, let em know).
6 Months Before The Wedding
1. Purchase Invitations
You have a lot of options here. You can go cheap, and save some money or go over the top and really wow your guests. Consider hiring a calligrapher to create a custom invitation that screams sophistication. Keep in mind your budget.
2. Start Planning Honey Moon
Update your passports if needed and schedule doctors appointments for any shots that you might need if visiting a third world country. Select a honeymoon that is relaxing and fun. After the stress of a wedding you will want as much down time and fun time as you can get. Of course if you hire a wedding planner/event coordinator you won’t have nearly as much stress to get rid of.
3. Shop For Bridesmaids’ Dresses
Doing this six months before the wedding will allow for proper fittings and alterations. Wait too long and you have a potential disaster on your hands. Don’t wait.
4. Meet With Officiant
Figure out how long the ceremony should take, it will be important in your timeline later. Confirm that you have all the official documents necessary for the legal side of things.
5. Start Creating A Timeline
Write out a schedule of the wedding and events leading up to the wedding. Include all of the events within the reception including the cake cutting and first dance. Be sure to include any before wedding events like a spa treatment or hair/makeup so you don’t run out of time on the wedding day.
6. Send Save-The-Date Cards
This can be done earlier in the timeline (7-8 months before) but typically 6 months is long enough for everyone who will be invited to clear their schedules.
7. Square Away Rentals
Some venues won’t have the basics available. You may need to rent things like tents, portable toilets, extra chairs, lighting components, etc.
8. Book A Florist
This is the perfect time to book a florist. You won’t want to wait much longer but there shouldn’t be any reason to get it done more than six months before the wedding. Unless you are really picky, 4-5 months before the wedding is an appropriate time to find and book a florist for the big day.
9. Arrange Transportation
Whether you’re having friends drive or renting a limousine, start to make arrangements now. Five months is plenty of time for booking a limousine and there should be more than enough companies in your area to provide even if one is already booked up.
4 Months Before The Wedding
1. Book The Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner Venues
Negotiate on price and menu options. If you’re planning on hosting a brunch the day after the wedding book that location as well.
2. Check On The Wedding Invitations
If you’re doing them yourself, make sure you’re on track to having them done. If you’re hiring someone else to make them, check in with them and ask for samples in case you need to make revisions.
3. Send Your Guest List To The Host of The Wedding Shower
Sending the list to the wedding shower host will allow for enough time to plan accordingly.
4. Purchase Shoes and Get Dress Fitted
Make sure you bring your shoes to the first fitting so the tailor can adjust the length of your gown appropriately.
5. Schedule Hair and Makeup
Make a few appointments with local makeup artists and hair stylists to test them out. Take photos and compare before choosing the stylist you will be using for the big day.
6. Choose Your Music
Plan the music based on your timeline. What will be playing when you walk down the aisle? What will play during dinner? What about dancing? You get the picture.
7. Order The Cake
Some bakers will require a lot of time for prep. Looking into and booking a baker at this point in time is safe. Better safe than sorry. Attend several tastings before committing to one or the other.
3 Months Before The Wedding
1. Finalize The Menu and Flowers
At this point on the wedding planning checklist you should be ready to finalize the menu and your flower arrangements. Some food options are affected by seasonal conditions and with only three months to go before the wedding, you should know what will or won’t be available.
2. Order Wedding Favors
If you are giving out any favors to guests this would be the time to purchase them. Some unique ideas include treats like cookies or chocolates, engraved trinkets, or little gift baskets. Larger gift baskets or care packages are sometimes given to out of town guests. If you plan on doing anything like that, purchase it now. Gifts for the bridal party should also be purchased by now.
3. Finalize The Readings
Figure out all of the readings for your ceremony. Whom will be performing the readings? Ask them now and plan accordingly.
4. Make A List Of Toasters
Who from your friends and family will be giving a toast at your reception? Ask them if they will do it at this point in the wedding planning checklist. Include these in the timeline accordingly. It’s often a good idea to leave a little bit of extra time in case someone goes long or in case someone who is not on the list decides to make a toast.
5. Finalize The Timeline
By this point you should have the entire timeline planned out. It’s okay to be flexible and have some wiggle room here and there, but for the most part it should be finalized at this point in the wedding planning checklist.
6. Print Menu Cards, Programs, etc.
Print them at home, or if it’s in your budget, have them printed professionally. Either way, get it done now.
7. Purchase The Rings
You may already have your engagement ring and need to purchase wedding bands. At this point in time you can also have your rings engraved if you so choose.
8. Send the Schedule To Vendors
Send your vendors your “finalized” timeline. So they will be able to offer feedback and you can make any tweaks necessary to make everything work.
2 Months Before
1. Touch Base With Vendors
Reconnect with all of your vendors to ensure that everything is on pace and that the timeline is spot on.
2. Meet With The Photographer
Meet with your choice for photographer and discuss specific photos you want taken. Discuss the location, timeline, etc.
3. Review The Playlist With DJ or Band
Most bands/dj’s won’t be able to provide for every single song request. It’s best to give them a picture of what the music you want looks like and make a few specific requests.
4. Submit Announcement To Newspaper
If you plan on submitting a wedding announcement in a newspaper or on your local news website, submit it now.
5. Send Out Invitations
Generally we recommend sending out invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding. This allows for enough time to collect RSVP’s which should be in by three weeks after you mailed them.
6. Have A Bachelorette Party
Lets be honest ladies, this wedding planning checklist is for you. Have fun!
1 Month Before The Wedding
1. Record RSVP’s
Enter your RSVP’s into your spreadsheet, database or however you’re organizing them. Call anyone who hasn’t yet responded.
2. Get Marriage License
The process can take a little bit of time so schedule a few hours to get it. Depending on where you live and how busy they are it may take up to 6-7 days for them to mail it out. If you’re changing names, get several copies.
3. Mail Out The Rehearsal Dinner Invitations
If there is anyone that must make it, touch base with them a week or two before the rehearsal.
4. Final Dress Fitting
We sometimes recommend scheduling two fittings. One for about a month before the big day and another the week of. It all depends on how the first couple fittings went.
5. Stock The Bar
Now that you know your head count this would be a good time to order booze for this shindig.
6. Pay The Bills
Send out as many payments as you can. Dealing with these bills the week of the wedding is super stressful.
7. Confirm Timeline With All Vendors
One last confirmation of the timeline with all vendors is a nice safety measure at this point in the wedding planning checklist.
8. E-Mail and Print Directions for Drivers of Transportation Vehicles
If you’re hiring a limo providing directions might not be required as most of them have GPS these days.
9. Assign Seating
If you’re assigning seating, create a diagram or drawing of the floor plan for choosing seating. Draw out the shapes and positions of the tables in the layout of the room on a piece of paper. Write the names of female guests on pink sticky notes, and the names of males on blue sticky notes. Move the sticky notes around until you have a good seating plan. Add stars to the sticky notes that are important or that you want sitting close to you at the wedding. Keep in mind couples and consider adding another color or sticker to identify couples so they don’t get separated.
10. Purchase Bridesmaids’ Gifts
These are best to be presented at the rehearsal dinner but can also be given in more intimate settings if the gifts are very personal.
11. Write Vows
If you plan on saying your own vows, write them now. You should already have a good idea of what you want to say. Finalize them now.
12. Hair Cut & Colored
Have your hair cut and colored if needed and get ready… only a few weeks left!
Week Of The Wedding
1. Reconfirm Timeline With All Vendors
One last confirmation with all vendors before the big day.
2. Delegate Wedding Day Tasks
There will be little odds and ends that you will have to delegate to friends and family for the day of. Choose point people to deal with all of the vendors. If you hired a wedding planner/coordinator, discuss these with them at this point in time.
3. Send Timeline To The Bridal Party
Include contact information for everyone in the bridal party with the timeline so that in case of emergency they can all reach one another. Include contact information for the point people chosen to deal with vendors in case an emergency arises.
4. Check In One Last Time With Photographer
Go over any shots you must have if you haven’t already talked about them. Reconfirm the timeline.
5. Pick Up Your Dress
Pick up the dress or make arrangements for delivery. Keep it safe, no hotdogs with mustard now.
6. Write Checks for Vendors
Pay up. Deal with this earlier in the week if possible.
7. Book A Spa Treatment
If you want to sit back and relax to let off some of that stress, go for it.
8. Send Final Guest List to the Caterer, Venue and any related vendors
Some companies require a deadline for changes and you may need to send this earlier. Some caterers allow for changes in head count up to 72 hours before the day of the event.
9. Break In Your Shoes
Seriously. Wear them around a little but don’t be too rough. If you plan on dancing in those puppies they will need to be broken in though unless you want painful blisters on your wedding day.
10. Assemble Welcome Gifts/Favors
If you’re giving something out delegate this responsibility or participate in the creation of these gifts.
11. Pack For Your Honeymoon.
It’s gonna be a fun ride. Enjoy.
Day Of The Wedding
1. Have Fun
We hope you found this wedding planning checklist helpful. If you use it please send us some feedback. If you would like a print friendly version of the wedding planning checklist, download it here.