Congratulations!! One of the most special days of your life just happened. He got down on one knee. The ring is on your finger. You are finally engaged to the love of your life.
Planning for your special day can seem daunting. Where do you begin? With this wedding planning guide, you’ll have all the details you could need to plan your wedding and create the perfect wedding day timeline so everything can run smoothly.
About 12 months out is usually the perfect time frame to plan your wedding.
12 Months Out
– Select a Date
– Create a Guest List
– Select a Venue
– Determine if You’ll Be Working With a Planner
First and foremost, your very first step is selecting a date, creating a *tentative* guest list, and deciding on a budget.
Next, you will select a venue and decide if you will be working with a planner. Now that you have a *tentative* guest list, you can search for a venue that will accommodate all of your guests. Working with a planner has so many benefits, I highly recommend it. They not only make your entire wedding planning process and wedding day run smoother. They make things smoother for us vendors too.
There are 3 main types of planners.
Full Service: they will help you plan everything from selecting a venue to a photographer to a florist to any vendor you could possibly need and coordinate with each vendor. All you have to do is sit back and tell them your vision for your day so they can bring the aesthetic life.
Month of Coordination: they will help you with all of the last-minute details and fine-tuning to make sure your wedding day runs smoothly. They’ll coordinate with vendors to help create the most efficient timeline for your wedding day.
Day of Coordination: they will show up on your wedding day and ensure that things are running smoothly from deliveries, staying on time, to making sure Aunt Susie and Uncle Tom are ready for family portraits.
11 Months Out
– Create Your Wedding Aesthetic
– Determine Which Aspects of the Day You Want to Splurge On
– Select a Photographer & Videographer
– Select a Caterer
Before you can seriously begin planning, you need to determine your aesthetic. What is the vision you imagine for your wedding day? This (and your budget!) is going to guide every single decision you make from now on. Which aspects of your wedding day are most important to you? Is a live band a priority or do you prefer a DJ? Do you want custom centerpieces for each table or just the head table? Determining which aspects of the day are a priority will help you focus on the most important aspects of your special day. Pinterest and Instagram and great sources of inspiration. You can create boards and save images that inspire you. Some of my favorite wedding blogs to follow are Style Me Pretty, Magnolia Rouge, and Wedding Sparrow.
Selecting a photographer is such an intimate decision. Above all, you need to select someone who’s work that you are in love with and fits your aesthetic. You also need to select someone who you click with. Your photographer will be with you all day. Your initial consult / FaceTime is the perfect time for guys to feel each other out and ensure you’re a perfect fit.
Does your venue provide an in house caterer or can you select a caterer of your choice? If your venue doesn’t provide an in house caterer they should have a list of preferred caterers who they have worked with in the past (and love!).
10 Months Out
– Start Shopping For Your Wedding Dress
– Create Your Wedding Website & Registry
– Gather Ideas For Your Invitations
– Choose Your Wedding Party
Finding the perfect dress takes lots of trial and error. This is the perfect time to start shopping and feeling out gowns. This time period is also a wonderful time to create your wedding website with an online save the date and any key info your guest may need for the wedding day. Create your wedding registry at this time too so you can link it to your website and guests can start shopping for gifts.
What type of invitation suite are you drawn to? Do you want a multiple piece calligraphy invitation or would you like a simple set up. Do you want your writing to be in text or hand-lettered on each envelope? Start to gather ideas and this will help you determine if you need to hire a calligrapher or a graphic design artist.
Finally, now is the time to select who will be in your wedding party. Choosing how many people to cap your party at can be one of the most difficult decisions of the entire wedding planning process. In the end, you want to surround yourself only with those who love and support you and won’t be a headache to have in the party. As a photographer I find 4 or 6 bridesmaids & groomsmen to be the perfect bridal party size. Even numbers work best so that whenever we take portraits of the bride and her bridal party, she is always the center with either 2 or 3 bridesmaids on either side of her.
9 Months Out
– Say Yes to the Dress
– Select Your Hair & Makeup Team
– Select a Florist
After a little over a month of planning, now is the time to Say Yes to the Dress. You want to ensure that you order your wedding dress 8 – 9 months before your special day to avoid any rush fees and ensure you have little wiggle room for any unforeseen alterations!
Now, that your dress has been ordered and one more thing is checked off your to-do list, you can begin to search for your HMUA team & select a florist. Waiting to decide on your hair & makeup until after you’ve selected your dress ensures that whichever style you choose complements your wedding dress. The same goes for florals and your bouquet.
8 Months Out
– Select Your Bridesmaids Dresses
– Take Your Engagement Portraits
– Send Out Save the Dates
Now, that you’ve chosen THE dress, you can start to put out feelers for your bridesmaid’s dresses. Do you want them all in matching or mismatching gowns, similar or matching colors, will you select the dresses or will you give your girls free rein to select their own dresses? There’s so much to consider.
With your HMUA team picked out, your engagement session is the perfect time for a hair and/or makeup trial! You can try out a new hairstyle or makeup look without any pressure and see how the look lasts over the course of the session. While not necessary, an engagement session is a perfect time to connect with your wedding photographer before your wedding. Not to mention, you can use the portraits from your engagement session for your Save the Dates!
6 Months Out
– Select Your Musician
– Select Your Officiant
– Select Your Rehearsal Dinner Venue
– Hotel Room Blocks for Guests
– Order All Rentals
Music is a big part of your day. It can set the ambiance for whichever event is occurring at that moment. Do you want a string quartet to serenade you as you walk down the aisle or will a piano player suffice? Do you want a live band for your reception or would you prefer a DJ?
Your officiant is a very special part of the ceremony. Will you be married by a priest or have you chosen someone close to you to officiate the ceremony?
Your rehearsal dinner is a wonderful moment to get everyone who is involved with the wedding day all in one location for a practice run. Most wedding venues will allow you to rent out the venue for an evening leading up to your wedding day. If yours does not have this option, a local restaurant is another great option.
Will many of your guests be traveling to the wedding? Now is the time to put a block at a local hotel. A hotel block will lock in a discounted rate for all of your guests and give them the option to stay at a centralized location with other guests. This makes things super easy when it comes time to decide on transportation for your guests.
5 Months Out
– Select the Groom’s Attire
– Begin Planning the Honeymoon
– Determine Wedding Day Transportation
What kind of look is your groom going to debut on the wedding day? Will he don a white jacket or wear a classic suit? Just like a wedding dress, there are so many styles and color options for the groom’s attire.
Now is the time to start thinking about after the wedding. Where do you newlyweds want to jet off too? You can never go wrong with a resort in Hawaii or maybe you want to take a trip to the islands of Turks & Caicos or off to Bali. Wherever you choose, start making plans now so you can lock in your reservations.
Will your wedding be held at multiple locations? Does your venue have enough parking for all of your guests? These are things to take into consideration when it comes to transportation. If your ceremony and reception are not held at the same location a vintage car or limousine is a great way to move in style from one location to the other. Are many of your guests staying at the same hotel? If so, a shuttle bus is a great amenity to provide transportation for them.
4 Months Out
– Final Taste Testings
– Finalize Invitations
– Select Your Wedding Bands
What kind of food and appetizers will be served on your wedding day? Schedule your final taste testings with the caterer to finalize your appetizer and dinner menus. Also, don’t forget to schedule a taste testing with your baker to fine-tune the flavor of your cake and any desserts you’ve chosen for your wedding day.
Now is the time to make any final edits to your invitations so they can be sent to production. You want to give your calligrapher or graphic design artist ample time to complete each invite, especially if yours involves any form of hand lettering or wax seals that will be completed by hand.
3 Months Out
– Send Out Wedding Invitations
– Begin Writing Your Vows
– Finalize the Honeymoon
– Final Hair & Makeup Trials
– Dress Fittings
– Meet with the Officiant
With your special day approaching in just a few short months, you want to send out your invitations 8 – 10 weeks before your day. When sending out your invitations make sure you have enough postage for each invite. Check with 2 – 3 local post offices and go with the higher postage quote! You want to ensure your invites don’t get turned back along the way because one post office thinks you don’t have enough postage. When dropping your invitations off at the post office, also be sure to ask them to hand cancel your invitations. This ensures that each invite does not go through any machines and is checked by hand so that any delicate pieces of your invites are not ruined.
Things are getting down to the wire, now is the time to finalize any major decisions that haven’t been made yet! Book your honeymoon flights & hotel stays. Schedule your final dress fittings and hair/makeup trials. Now is a great time to meet with your officiant to decide details about your ceremony. Will anyone give a speech? Do you want a sermon to be read? And most importantly, now is the time to begin writing your vows.
2 Months Out
– Finalize a Day of Timeline
– Create Your Family Shot List for the Photographer
– Select Songs for the Wedding
– Final Dress Fitting
– Pick Up Your Marriage License
At this point, either your photographer or planner will be reaching out to you regarding creating the day of timeline for your wedding. Chat with your photographer and ensure that enough time is allotted throughout the day to photograph each event. Every photographer is different and needs a different amount of time for events. For example, I prefer to have 60 – 90 minutes before the hair and makeup is finished for detail shots and getting ready portraits. Details are very important to me and one of my favorite parts of the day. While any photographer can toss up a flat lay in 20 minutes, if you want to have multiple unique combinations that are carefully arranged they will need more time to get creative.
Your photographer will also need a formal list of all the family groupings you would like photographed during family portraits. This way you’re not thinking of groupings in the moment day of and you can relax while the planner or photographer’s assistant calls out groupings during portraits.
This is also the time to select all of the key songs for your wedding day. Which song do you want to enter the reception to? Which songs do you and your future hubby want to dance the night away to?
Don’t forget to pick up your marriage license! If you are traveling for your wedding, make sure to check local laws to see when and how far in advance you can obtain your license by.
1 Month Out
– Break-in Your Wedding Shoes
– Final Payments to Vendors
– Final Venue Walk Through
– Create Seating Charts
Things are getting down to the nitty-gritty. At this point, all final payments to your vendors should be submitted. Make sure to check your contracts for payment dates to avoid any late fees!
Schedule a walkthrough with vendors like your florist and rental company at your venue if you are going to have any installations to finalize the layout of your special day. After this, you can begin to create the seating charts for the reception.
Now is also the time to start breaking in your wedding shoes. Wear them around the house or out to run a few errands!
1 – 2 Weeks Out
– Drink LOTS of Water & Get Plenty of Sleep
– Begin Packing for Honeymoon
– Practice Your Vows
– Final Check-Ins
– Get a Massage
At this point, everything should be checked off your list so all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the next few days. This is truly a very special moment that you will cherish for a lifetime.
Hopefully, this wedding planning guide covered all of your wedding planning related questions. Click here to check out all my other Wedding Planning Tips!