Wedding Planning Checklist
Did you know the average engagement in the US lasts 15 months? Some engagements last longer and others are shorter. Some weddings take place in locales that require bookings more than a year in advance, and other areas are more laid-back. Our wedding planning checklist is organized not by months but by priority. Use this handy tool to keep you on track regardless of how long you have until you say “I Do!”.
As soon as possible after engagement:
*Let your closest friends and family members in on the joyful news. Consider a party during which you announce the big news to everyone’s delight. Check your local newspaper for their policy on printing engagement announcements and while you’re at it, gather the same information for your wedding announcement since you’ll need it later.
*Determine the season and locale for your nuptials. Have you always imagined an Autumn Wedding? Or perhaps you’d love to be married on the beach. Before you do anything else in terms of planning your wedding, you’ll need to discuss your wishes with your intended and agree upon the most basic details.
*Discuss your wedding budget with your fiancé/fiancée and parents or any other parties that will want to help you with the special day. Resist the urge to move forward with making any choices prior to taking this step.
*Determine which is more important – the location or the date. If you’ve chosen an exact date with sentimental meaning, you’ll need to accept the location (and for that matter, the officiant, caterer, cake bakery and florist) that is available for your chosen wedding day. If you’re more flexible about the date, you’ll be more likely to be able to book the venue of your dreams and everything else will likely fall into place. Only you and your partner can decide which is a higher priority for you.
*If the date is of highest importance, you’ll need to get to work right away finding a suitable venue that is available.
Alternatively, if you’ve got your heart set on a specific location for the ceremony and reception, start making calls to find out which dates both are available.
*Discuss with your fiancé/fiancée and family which is your higher priority – inviting everyone on your list, or having a high-end wedding in terms of venue, décor, and catering. Once you’ve determined the wedding budget, this is what you have to work with and you can only stick to it if you are willing to make some sacrifices. Now is the time to agree on what those will be.
*Talk with your bride/groom about the style of the wedding. Will it be Casual? Elegant? Rustic? Or reflective of your heritage? Make this decision now as it will inform all future choices.
*While you’re discussing these topics with your future spouse, it’s a good time to also make decisions about who will make decisions...about the wedding, that is. Many brides express frustration that their grooms do not take a more active role in the wedding planning, but secretly rejoice in the fact that they get to make decisions without having to negotiate every detail. However, it’s best not to assume your partner’s role in the planning and doing. Talk now about what’s important to each of you and what you’d each be perfectly happy letting the other coordinate.
Once you have tackled the above, you’re ready for some nitty-gritty:
*Set up your organizational system. In the past, this may have meant buying a special binder and divider pages. These days, it’s just as likely you’ll be looking for an easy-to-navigate planning website such as Pinterest, if not an app for your smart phone! What works for you?
*This is a good time to start thinking about your attendants. Who and how many? Your attendants take on a special role, not just on your wedding day, but good friends will help you get through the planning with humor.
*Will you hire a wedding coordinator? Now is the time to begin interviewing planners and choosing the one you feel understands and will best work with your wedding point of view.
*Book your venue(s), if you haven’t already done so. Keep in mind the number of guests you think you’ll want to host when choosing your location. Remember that you don’t really have a set wedding date until you have a place to have the wedding. Unless you’re absolutely certain you’ll be able to have any date you want (i.e. the wedding is held in your aunt’s back yard), you really should not move forward on booking any other services until this is done and confirmed.
*Once you’ve determined the maximum number of guests you’ll invite, ask your parents and future in-laws for their lists. To avoid misunderstandings, give them the number of guests they can invite so they can prioritize who is on their list.
And now the down and dirty:
*Look into setting up a wedding website to keep your guests in the loop.
*If your wedding date is at least six months away, purchase and send Save The Date Cards to everyone on your guest list. List your wedding web page address on your Save The Dates so your guests can follow along with the details and planning.
*If your officiant is not pre-booked with the ceremony venue, make arrangements now.
*Begin the process of dress shopping. You’ll need to allow time for the dress to be chosen, ordered, delivered and fitted.
*Select the groom’s wedding attire.
*Interview caterers, DJs/Bands and photographers at this time. Don’t forget the musicians for the ceremony. Book as soon as you’ve made a decision so you can reserve your spot with these busy professionals.
*Meet with your attendants and choose their attire for the wedding.
*Talk with your fiancé/fiancée about honeymoon options and who will make the arrangements.
*If you’ll be setting up a gift registry, now would be a good time to arrange a date with your future spouse to go “shopping”.
*Book your florist and choose your flowers.
*Research your options for day-of transportation and make arrangements.
*Begin shopping for wedding invitations. Make sure to order proofs of the invitations so you can make any adjustments needed before they’re printed. Set your respond-by date 2-3 weeks ahead of the wedding day so you have ample time to follow-up with any stragglers, give a final count to your caterer and make sure you have plenty of programs and favors.
*Book a block of rooms for your out-of-town guests. You’ll want to include this information with your invitations.
*Select a bakery for your wedding cake. Ask for tasting appointments and references as well as reviewing their portfolio of past work before making a decision.
*Decide on the rehearsal dinner location and make arrangements.
*Shop for wedding rings.
Entering the Home Stretch:
*Choose your readings for the ceremony and ask the honored participants if they’ll perform this special duty for you.
*Select your wedding shoes and underpinnings. Make sure to take them with you when you attend your dress fittings.
*Consult with hair and make-up artists and decide on your look for the big day. Book their services now.
*Finalize the details with your officiant, musicians, florist and caterer.
*Order wedding favors and determine who will handle their distribution on the wedding day.
*Mail your invitations 6-8 weeks ahead of your wedding day.
*Organize the timeline for your ceremony and reception. Confirm the amount of time needed for your wedding photos.
*Begin outlining the layout of your wedding programs .
*Research the procedure for applying for your marriage license and make a date with your future spouse to do so.
*Go over your vows (or write your own!) with your intended.
*Enjoy a party or two in your honor.
*Log your RSVPs in your planning software or spreadsheet as they come in. Enlist help from your attendants and family members to contact stragglers via phone or email.
*Begin organizing your seating plan, if you’ll be assigning seating at the reception.
*Purchase gifts for your attendants. These will be presented at the Rehearsal Dinner.
The Final Countdown:
*Submit your wedding announcement to the newspaper.
*Confirm your vendors and make arrangements for final payments to be made. Give a final count to the reception venue and caterer.
*Delegate wedding day tasks such as who will hand out the ceremony programs, keep an eye on gifts and distribute tips to your vendors.
*Type up your wedding day timeline and distribute a copy to each of your attendants, as well as your musicians/DJ, drivers, etc.
*Pack your bags for your honeymoon
*Organize your wedding day emergency kit
*Pick up wedding dress and formalwear
*Arrange for your manicure/pedicure and any other spa treatments you’d love to help you relax before your big day.
*Plan to have all final details taken care of two days before the wedding so you can get a good night’s rest the night before the wedding.
*Enjoy your day!
By Joyce Buczek
Joyce Buczek was the founder and original owner of Invitations4Less.com in 1999. She continues working with Invitations4Less.com as a consultant and guest blogger. In her spare time, Joyce enjoys traveling, cooking and spending time with her family, including 2 spoiled cats.