Planning a wedding is a time-consuming, expensive endeavor. But if you’re that person who loves details, it can be an enjoyable experience as well. That said, you’ll need to get organized early on and stay vigilant throughout the entire process.
Here’s my complete wedding planning checklist from start to finish:
Decide on a budget and stick to it
While it’s important to have a budget in mind before you start planning, don’t be afraid to spend money on what’s important to you. The bottom line is that you are the one paying for this wedding, so if there are certain things that are important to your guests, but not necessarily important enough for them to pay for themselves (like a signature drink or a special cocktail hour), then by all means go ahead and spend the money on those things.
The same goes for other aspects of the day: You get married once and only once—why not make sure it’s exactly how you want? If your dream wedding includes dancing with an elephant, or having fifty comedians perform at the reception hall instead of hiring an MC/DJ duo, then go ahead and give yourself permission! Don’t let anyone else tell you how much or how little something is worth.
Pick your date
The next step is to pick a date. If you have already set the date of your wedding and are planning on having it in September or October, you might want to consider changing it so that you can get married on a Saturday—that’s when most people actually tie the knot.
If possible, try picking a weeknight for your wedding. Weddings cost less than they did 10-15 years ago, but they’re still pretty expensive and booking venues at night can be more expensive than getting them during the day.
Book your wedding venue
The next step on your checklist is to book the venue you will be getting married in. The first thing to consider when booking a venue is the time of year, location, size of guest list and style/decor of the space. You’ll also want to make sure that they have availability on your wedding date!
You may be wondering what kind of food and beverage options are available at this particular venue? What would their rental costs be? These are all important questions that need answering before you commit yourself!
Reserve wedding ceremony site (if not held at the reception venue)
If you’re getting married at a venue that isn’t necessarily a church or synagogue, it’s time to think about reserving your ceremony site. The location of your wedding ceremony should have meaning for both you and your partner. This could mean something as simple as choosing a venue with an amazing view or something more emotional like choosing the place where you met.
Once you’ve decided on a location (or multiple locations), contact them and ask about their capacity. Is the space available? How many guests can they accommodate? If it looks like there’s not enough room for everyone who wants to attend, consider renting out another space nearby but still in close proximity so that guests can easily move between locations during cocktail hour before heading back for dinner or dancing later in the evening.
You’ll also want to decide whether or not having an indoor versus outdoor wedding is right for you. An outdoor wedding has its benefits—it feels more intimate than an indoor affair and offers more flexibility with respect to weather conditions—but if it’s raining on your big day there are few options besides holding the ceremony inside anyway!
Hire a photographer and videographer
The photographer and videographer are two of the most important professionals on your wedding planning checklist, so it’s important that you hire the right people for the job. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Make sure they’re experienced. You want someone who has shot weddings before and can handle any challenges that might come up during your big day. Don’t just look at their portfolio—ask other couples how they were treated by them and if they got what they wanted from their photos or videos.
- Make sure they’re well-recommended. If a potential photographer or videographer isn’t recommended by anyone else, then chances are good that he or she isn’t worth hiring either! Ask for references from past clients; check those references’ websites for samples of their work; and look through Instagram feeds with pictures tagged by those same clients if possible (or even better yet, ask them directly how happy they were with their service).
Book your florist and decor team
Next on your list to book is your florist and decor team. You should be able to find a company that specializes in weddings, but if you want to be extra cautious, it’s always good practice to ask for references and look at their previous work.
Don’t forget to consider transportation logistics! If you’re planning an outdoor wedding (or even an indoor one), flowers may need to be transported from the venue all the way back into town for storage overnight before being brought back out again for setup on wedding day. This can get expensive if you have a lot of flowers that need transporting every night—so make sure your budget allows for this expense.
Create your wedding website
In addition to the wedding invitation and save-the-date, your website is a great way to introduce yourself (and your wedding) to your guests. Your site should include information about your venue, food and drink options, entertainment choices and more.
A professional-looking site should be easy to navigate—think about how people will use it at their desktops or on mobile devices. There should be plenty of white space so that the text is easy to read; don’t forget any important contact forms!
Select your wedding attire and accessories
Your wedding attire and accessories are a fun opportunity to express your personality. Choose a style that fits your personal tastes and body type—and remember that it’s okay to mix things up! Maybe you’re going for something more traditional, or maybe you’re planning an avant-garde wedding. No matter what, keep in mind the general guidelines for colors and trends during your time period of choice. The weather can also factor into your decision; do you have any opportunities for outdoor shots? If so, avoid heavy fabrics like velvet or silk unless there is plenty of shade available at all times of day (and even then). Also consider transportation logistics; if it’s hot during the ceremony but cold at night, think about layering with a wrap over one shoulder instead of wearing sleeves throughout both events.
Plan to hire your DJ or band, or select music you want to play
Once you have your wedding reception venue and have chosen a time for it, you can turn to the next major part of planning: music.
Your choice of DJ or band will make a huge impact on your wedding day. The right tunes are key to setting the mood of your reception, so don’t skip over this step!
Make sure that whoever you choose has experience with weddings. They should be able to suggest certain songs for specific moments in the evening, such as when you’re cutting into your cake or when it’s time for everyone to get up on their feet and dance. It’s also important that they have good equipment that can provide clear sound throughout the room (and outside if possible). This will help ensure that guests can hear everything clearly without straining their ears or needing any special assistance from hearing devices. The last thing anyone wants at their wedding is bad acoustics!
Make arrangements for the rehearsal dinner and bridal shower
The rehearsal dinner is an important part of wedding planning that should be taken seriously. Often, it’s the first time that many guests will meet one another. This is also your chance to get to know all your family members and friends in one place before the big day arrives.
The bridal shower is held after the engagement announcement has been made, but before you get married. It’s usually thrown by your friends or family members who want to wish you well on this special occasion in life!
Choose caterer, cake baker and pastry chef (if applicable)
The next step is to find a caterer, cake baker and pastry chef (if applicable). It’s important to note that your wedding planner can help you with this process.
- For the caterer, ask for referrals and reviews from clients who have attended weddings similar in size to yours. Ask about their experience with the type of event you are planning and whether or not they have any specialties or unique menu items.
- When selecting a cake baker, make sure they have lots of variety in their offerings by checking out samples on display at their shop or online at sites like Cake Wrecks or CakeSpyTV on YouTube. You’ll want to find someone whose style matches yours so that your wedding cake will be something you can show off proudly!
Hire an officiant
- Look for someone who is personable, but still professional. You want to be sure that they’re someone that you can feel comfortable around and have a conversation with. They should also be able to help guide the rehearsal and ceremony processes, as well as making sure everything runs smoothly on your big day.
- When choosing someone to marry you and your spouse-to-be, look for someone who has experience performing weddings (and hopefully many). There’s nothing worse than having a person performing your vows who doesn’t know what they’re doing or how things will go down at all!
Book hair stylists, makeup artists and other beauty professionals if needed. Don’t forget to consider transportation logistics.
- Book hair stylists, makeup artists and other beauty professionals if needed. You can find the best deals by researching local vendors in your area.
- Don’t forget to consider transportation logistics. Do you need to go far? Are there multiple people involved? How much time do you have? These are all factors that will impact the type of car service or vehicle rental you opt for, so it’s important that these questions are answered as early as possible to avoid any last-minute headaches (and extra costs).
Send out save-the-date cards
- When to send out save-the-date cards: As early as possible. You should have a good idea of when your wedding will take place and who will be invited by the time you send out save-the-date cards.
- How to send out save-the-date cards: Send them via postal mail or email, depending on what works best for you and your family members.
- What to write in save-the-date cards: Include important information about your upcoming wedding, such as its date, location (including address), time of ceremony and reception, dress code if one applies, any other details that people might want to know about this day (e.g., food options), etc.
Make sure you stay organized throughout the whole process.
After you’ve decided on a date and venue, it’s time to get down to business. You’ll want to make sure that your wedding planning checklist is as thorough as possible, so that nothing gets forgotten. This will not only help ensure that your big day goes off without a hitch, but also save you from any last-minute stress when things start getting crazy.
Here are some tips for getting organized:
- Make sure you have a checklist of everything that needs to be done in order for the wedding plans to go smoothly. This way, all the people involved in planning can check off each item as they complete it.
- Create a calendar where important dates can be written down and shared with others involved in planning (like your mom!). If there’s something coming up at work or home life (a baby shower or birthday party), then this is where those dates should be recorded too! Just make sure no one else uses this calendar unless they know what they’re doing 😉
- Use Excel spreadsheets instead of pen & paper if possible because then everything will always be accurate without any mistakes being made along the way! You could even create separate sheets for budgeting expenses versus actual costs so there won’t ever be any confusion about how much money has been spent already during an eventful day like this one!
Wedding Checklists By Months:
12 Months Out
In the first few months of your engagement, you’ll want to get a head start on planning. Here are some things you can do now:
- Insure the Engagement Ring
- Determine Your Budget
- Make a Guest List
- Hire a Wedding Planner
- Decide Formality and Theme
- Select the Venue
- Buy Wedding Insurance
- Select the Caterer
You can do this with your partner or another person who is close to you. If you’re not sure what kind of wedding you want, ask yourself this: How important is the food? Is it more important than music? Or flowers? What about entertainment and decor? Once you’ve identified what’s most important, start looking at venues that cater to those things. For example, if it’s all about the food, then look for venues that specialize in high-end cuisine.
11 Months Out
- Finalize Your Date and Venue
Your venue can be the most expensive part of your wedding, so it’s important to lock down this decision early. If you’re looking for a venue that requires extensive renovations or has limited availability, now is the time to book it. Once you have locked in this decision, start researching potential dates at that venue.
You will also want to start solidifying a date as soon as possible if you’re planning an elopement or destination wedding because these kinds of weddings are often booked up years in advance!
If you’re having a larger wedding, it’s also important to start researching potential dates for your venue. You will want to be sure you can get the date that works best for your guests and other vendors before locking down any decisions.
- Choose a Color Theme and Start Thinking of Overall Design
- Hire Vendors Who Book Up Quickly, Including Your Photographer, Band, DJ, and Videographer
- Finalize Your Guest List
10 Months Out
- Start looking for a wedding dress
You’ll want to get this out of the way early so you don’t have to stress about it later.
- Book Hotel Room Blocks and Transportation for the wedding
By booking these early, you’ll ensure that everything goes smoothly on your big day without having to worry about transportation or where you’re going to stay that night.
- Take Engagement Photos
Get some stunning photos while saving money by taking them yourself!
- Start Looking at Invitations
Look into different styles and find one that matches your personality and theme (especially if it’s custom).
9 Months Out
- Buy Your Wedding Dress
- Send Save-the-Dates
- Plan Your Entertainment
- Begin Booking Rental Equipment
8 Months Out
- Make Your Registry and Wedding Website.
You’ve probably been dreaming of your wedding since you were a little girl, so now it’s time to start planning it! The first step is making a list of everything you want for your big day. This includes everything from the food, favors and guest accommodations to your venue, cake and band (or DJ). Once you have your list in order, head over to Pinterest or another site that has great ideas for registry registries. You’ll also want to select a wedding website where people can register – we recommend getting married without an expensive wedding planner? As an alternative option, one option is using Evite!
- Select the Bridesmaid Dresses and Bridal Party Accessories
It’s important that everyone look their best on this special occasion; therefore make sure everyone fits into their dresses before they’re purchased or made! If someone doesn’t fit into their dress after purchasing it then she should try on other styles until she finds one that flatters her figure best—no matter how much time passes between ordering the dress(es) initially and putting them on for fittings later down the road (upcoming activities include: measurements taken by seamstress/tailor)!
- Meet With Potential Florists
Meeting with potential florists are going to help you decide what kind of flowers your wedding should have. If you want something more traditional then you might want to consider lilies or roses for example, but if you’re looking for a more modern look then try out different types of succulents or even air plants! You can also try asking around on social media (Facebook groups like DIY Weddings and Pinterest boards).
- Daydream About Your Honeymoon
7 Months Out
- Book the Rehearsal Dinner venue
- Hire the Ceremony Musicians
- Order Rental Items, such as Specialty Chairs, Linens and Draping, Lounge Furniture, Dance Floor etc.
- Shop for Wedding Party Attire
- Finalize All Vendor Hires including photographers, videographers and DJs. Decide on a caterer (if you haven’t already)
6 Months Out
- Hire a Lighting Technician
- Attend Premarital Counseling
- Shop for Wedding Bands
- Renew Your Passports
- Secure Your Hair and Makeup Team
5 Months Out
- Buy or Rent the Groom’s Tuxedo
You can buy your tuxedo at any men’s clothing store, but if you don’t have time for that, consider renting yours online from Rent the Runway. This way you won’t have to worry about trying on suits and picking out everything else that goes with it!
- Order Formal Invitations
There are plenty of ways to get custom invitations made—but if you don’t have time or patience (or money!), there are also many easy options available online that will save you time and money.
- Order Your Wedding Rings
You can order your wedding rings from any jeweler, but if you’re looking for something that’s unique and special, consider making them yourself! We’ve seen plenty of couples who have made their own rings—with just a few basic tools and some patience (and maybe a little help from friends), you can create something beautiful together.
- Plan Your Menu
- Buy Additional Prewedding Outfits
- Book and Finalize Honeymoon Plans
- Book a Ceremony Officiant
- Begin Wedding Beauty Upkeep
4 Months Out
- Send Shower Invites
- Have Your Final Tasting With the Caterer
- Choose Your Cake
- Finalize Your Ceremony Program
- Create a Music Wishlist
- Plan Personalized Details
- Hair and Makeup Trial
3 Months Out
- Attend Your Wedding Shower
- Order the Invitations and Hire a Calligrapher
- Brainstorm Guest Favors and Gift Bags
- Book a Photo-Booth Rental
- Write Your Vows
- Select Readings
Select Readings for the Ceremony (possibly) if you’re having one read by someone else, or have your officiant choose them (potentially) if they’ll be reading them. If they aren’t chosen in this 3 month period, it is likely that they will be picked up last minute before the ceremony. This is also where you should consider whether or not to have readings. If so, start looking for poems/songs/quotes that reflect what is important to you both! Also, if there are any religious readings involved here’s where those should go as well. If possible pick out some options for these now rather than at the last minute!
- Meet With the Officiant and Invite Them to the Rehearsal Dinner
2 Months Out
- Enjoy your bach party.
- Send the wedding invitations.
- First dress fitting.
- Purchase wedding dress undergarments.
- Pick up your marriage license
(In order to pick it up, you need a copy of your birth certificate and passport). To get this, go in person to a clerk’s office in the county where you were born and request a certified copy of your birth certificate ($25-$35 depending on where you live). Once you have it, head on over to the courthouse where you filed for your marriage license, then give them both copies of said documents so that they can write down some information about who issued these things and when they were issued in order for them not get lost/destroyed later when we’re all dead from nuclear war or whatever else happens during our lifetime! It should take about two weeks before one week before their wedding day until then; if anything goes wrong during this process (like if something gets lost) always call them immediately so that everything gets resolved quickly before crisis hits! This is really important because otherwise there’s no going back once it happens – especially since most vendors require contracts signed by both parties within 72 hours after signing which means one could lose out financially if not careful enough.
- Buy Wedding Party Gifts
- Do a Floral Mock-Up With Your Florist
- Give the Song Selections to Your Band or DJ
- Give the Song Selections to Ceremony Musicians
- Buy All Small Items
8 Weeks Out
- Assemble Gift Bags
If you’re having a bridal shower or other gift opening event, assemble the gift bags and place them in your guest’s hotel rooms before they arrive. You can also do this with individual gifts if you’re going all out with your wedding planning and are hoping to avoid a cloak room of coats!
- Pay Vendors in Full
Once you have the contracts signed, make sure that the vendor has received their required deposit (if applicable). This will help ensure that everyone shows up on time and does their job well—definitely worth keeping an eye on!
- Create a Seating Chart
Creating an accurate seating chart will ensure that everyone gets seated at their appropriate table without any confusion or awkwardness later on during dinner service. It’s best to create one as soon as possible so guests don’t get confused about where they should be sitting when they arrive at the reception venue!
- Order or Make Escort Cards and Place Cards
- Have a Final Venue Walk-Through
- Put Cash in Tip Envelopes for Your Planner/Delegate to Distribute
- Break In Your Wedding Shoes
6 Weeks Out
At this point, you should have all of your wedding invitations sent out and be waiting for RSVPs to come back in. Your wedding dress, suit, shoes and everything else you will be wearing on the big day should be ready to go!
Your honeymoon should also be booked within the next 6 weeks so that you don’t have to worry about organizing it while you’re busy with other wedding details. And finally, if there is any place where you are holding an event in the future (like a reception hall), make sure that is reserved now as well!
2 Weeks Out
Here are some things to check off your list:
- Confirm all vendor contracts and finalize any details with your planner or day-of coordinator.
- Ensure that the entire bridal party is ready for the big day, including their attire, jewelry, makeup and so on.
- Make sure you have a plan for the morning of your wedding (you might decide to have a “bridal room” where all of the bridesmaids can get ready together before the ceremony). If you don’t want to go down this route, that’s fine too! But make sure everyone has their own ride to get there safely—and whether they’re going to need help putting on their dress or not!
The last week of the wedding planning process is a good time to do a few more things:
- Refresh your hair color
If you haven’t gotten it done in the past few months, now’s the time. And if you typically get highlights or lowlights, make an appointment for that as well.
- Getting your eyebrows done
Get your eyebrows waxed/threaded and have them shaped into a flattering shape for your face type (this can also be done during any other visit to the salon).
Have manicure/pedicure appointments booked—the final week of wedding planning is often busy, so getting these appointments scheduled ahead of time will help ensure that you won’t have to reschedule at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances!
- Having a massage
Treat yourself and partner (or future partner) by booking massages—you deserve it! Having this experience together can be wonderful bonding time for couples who know each other well enough yet are still getting used to being in each other’s company 24/7 as they plan their nuptials together!
- Pack your bags for the honeymoon
(don’t forget your passport if leaving the country), and confirm travel arrangements
- Clean your ring (head to your jeweler to get your engagement ring professionally cleaned so it’s extra sparkly on the wedding day)
- Clear your work to-do list so you can only focus on wedding festivities and take it all in.
Last Minute Preparations
- Make sure you have all of the supplies you need.
- Make sure you have all the information you need.
- Plan out your day, night and honeymoon.
Getting married is a huge undertaking and you want to make sure that everything goes smoothly. To do that, you need to keep your wedding planning checklist organized and up-to-date. You can also use this checklist as a guide when filling out other forms required by the various vendors involved in your wedding day so they know exactly what they need from you or anyone else who’s helping out with all the details!