Congratulations, you’re engaged! You are on cloud nine, can’t stop staring at that beautiful ring and you are so excited to tell everyone! Amidst all these happy emotions, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed thinking about the next steps. Wedding planning can be a very daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! With proper guidance, planning your special day can be super enjoyable.
Everyone’s engagement might look a little different. Whether it be a 6 month engagement, 12 month engagement or maybe even a couple of years, this guide will give you a general idea of when you should be checking things off your wedding planning list.
What is first on the ultimate 12-month wedding planning guide checklist? Well, to soak it all in of course! You may feel the urge to begin planning the day after the big question was popped (or maybe even that night because you just can’t sleep!), but be sure to stop and take it all in. Whether that be going out to a nice dinner together to celebrate or having an engagement party with loved ones, enjoy this new feeling before diving into full planning mode.
10-12 MONTHS OUT
Establish Your Priorities
It’s time to sit down with your partner and set your priorities together. What is most important on your wedding day and what is least important? If the visual aspect of your wedding is something you are looking forward to most, then great! You’ll probably pay more attention to things such as a florals, linens, and rental upgrades. If those things don’t interest you at all, that’s okay too! You may be a major foodie and all you can think about is what will be served. These are all things to be taken into consideration. Figure out where to splurge and where to save.
Set your Budget
Once you nailed down your priorities you can determine a budget. This may be the least thrilling part of the planning, but it is definitely necessary to set yourself up for success and avoid any mishaps along the way. To begin, come up with an overall budget. Essentially, this should include ALL wedding expenses. From there you can narrow down how much you would like to spend on each thing (this is where you look at your priority list). Be sure to keep track of spending along the way, that way you can make adjustments if needed. Excel spreadsheets will be your new best friend during this process!
Make a Guest List
Who you surround yourself with on your wedding day is very important! After all, this is one of the most important days of your lives. Are you going to have a big wedding with everyone and anyone? Or will this be an intimate affair with just closest family and friends? Take your budget into consideration when nailing down a guest list. Start out by listing people who you truly cannot imagine getting married without, then go from there. Don’t forget to decide whether or not you’ll be allowing those “plus ones” or kiddos!
Set a Date
Is there a special anniversary or occasion that you would like to say “I Do” on? Do you want to get married during a certain season? Or do you simply want to just wait a year out from your engagement? Whatever it may be, it is always a good idea to have a date or time frame in mind before you begin searching for a venue.
Select a Theme/Color Scheme
This is where the fun begins! Get on Pinterest, look through those bridal magazines, scroll through Instagram and start saving that inspiration. How do you picture your dream wedding? Decide on a general color scheme, setting and overall vibe for your big day.
Pick a Venue
Once you have a general idea of the type of wedding you want, start researching venues. This will be one of the most important decisions you make when wedding planning, as this place will be quite sentimental to you both in the future. It’s where you’ll be capturing all your beautiful wedding photos, celebrating with loved ones, and probably spending a good amount of your budget on. You’ll want to explore your options and pick a place that best reflects your style and accommodates your guest count. When you book those wedding venue tours, we recommend putting together a basic list of questions to ask while you’re there. Keep in mind your “must-haves” as well. Make a fun day out of it and go to brunch beforehand, or if you decide on the venue go out for celebratory drinks afterwards! We are a strong supporter of making all aspects of planning a special occasion.
Hire Your Dream Team
The big day can’t go on without a group of amazing vendors by your side! Start with a wedding planner then go from there. Your wedding planner can help with reaching out to vendors and get the ball rolling. It is recommended to book a caterer, photographer, videographer and DJ first, as these vendors can only do one wedding a day and typically book out far in advance. Next, think about florists, bakeries, and photobooths. Remember to keep your budget in mind when researching vendors as well.
Take Engagement Photos
If you plan on sending out save the date cards, plan ahead and take your photos now. This way you won’t be rushed when it’s time to start designing. Engagement photos are great practice for the wedding day, especially if you’ve never taken photos together as a couple. Make a whole day out of it and pamper yourself beforehand!
NINE MONTHS OUT
Say Yes to the Dress
Most of us can agree that wedding dress shopping is one of the most exciting steps in the planning process! Before you head out for a full day of appointments, gather inspiration for styles you like. This will help your bridal consultant better assist you. Once you found “the one”, schedule out your fittings & alterations accordingly. You’ll want plenty of time to make adjustments before your special day.
Hotel Room Blocks
If you have family and friends coming from out of town, block out rooms for them at nearby hotels. This is always a nice gesture that will make traveling for them that much easier. Another benefit, hotels often offer special discounts and rates for room blocks!
Order Save the Dates
Once you get back those beautiful engagement photos from your photographer, start designing and ordering! It is also a good idea to begin collecting addresses from your guests. This will make the process much more seamless when it’s time to send them out.
Who will be standing up at the altar as you say “I Do”? This special group of people will be your support system throughout the day (and even leading up to it), so take care in your selection! We love when couples’ ask their friends in a special & creative way.
6-8 MONTHS OUT
Send Save the Dates
Now that you have a date and venue, tell your guests! Be sure to give ample time to make travel arrangements if needed, and request time off work.
Finish Booking Vendors
If you don’t have your team all booked, now is the time to finish up this task. You’ll want to start meeting with your florist to discuss design, and your DJ/Entertainment to go over music options. Start thinking about who you would like to officiate your ceremony as well. If it is going to be a family member or friend, give them a heads up now so they can get ordained.
Register for Gifts
This is something you and your significant other will want to do together. Think about what you need as you begin this new chapter of life! Are you already living together and have all the home essentials? You may choose to register for fun experiences instead such as couples massages, cooking classes, horseback riding, etc. Are you going all out for the honeymoon? Think about starting a honeymoon fund in place of a traditional registry. Are you buying your first home together? We recommend registering for great staple items such as a pots & pan set, dinnerware set, towels, linens, storage, and cleaning supplies.
Bridal Party Attire
Once your dress is picked out and you have an overall idea of the wedding theme, you can begin shopping around for bridesmaid dresses. If you plan on going to a bridal shop, schedule a time with your girls to go in for fittings. If buying online, send everyone the link so they can have ample time to order and get alterations if needed. We love when bridesmaids wear different styles and colors too! This is a great option because they can choose a dress they feel most comfortable and confident in.
Create A Wedding Website
Oh how we love modern technology! No more lengthy and wordy invitations or RSVP cards. Wedding websites are a fantastic and personal way to keep guests updated on everything they need to know about your special day.
Along with the actual wedding day, there are many other festivities to celebrate your love including the rehearsal dinner. Think about what kind of event you want this to be, whether it be a casual catered meal, or a nice sit down dinner. If you are having it at a restaurant, begin reaching out to see if they can accommodate or allow reservations.
Now is the time to go back and look at that wedding budget and priority list! Are there upgraded linens that would match your color palette perfectly? Do you want lounge furniture for your guests to gather around during the reception? What about specialty signage or tableware? Do you want a sparkler machine to go off during your first dance? The great news is that your wedding planner can assist with ordering these items and checking them on your wedding day!
Decide whether you want to buy or rent this special outfit. We personally love when a groom purchases his suit and gets something special embroidered on the inside. Fit and cut are very important when it comes to the perfect suit. A certified stylist can help ensure you look dapper, yet comfortable on the big day.
3-5 MONTHS OUT
Go over your honeymoon budget together, then decide on what type of trip you want. Whether that be a month-long expedition across Europe, a week-long stay in a tropical oasis, or a weekend staycation, this should be something that you both are giddy about! Once flights and hotels are booked, it can be beneficial to start creating an itinerary or list of “must do’s” while at your destination.
Are your guests going to need transportation to and from the venue? Think about parking and what would be most time efficient for everyone. If you have hotel room blocks, a shuttle bus may be a great option. In addition to your guests, think about how you are getting to the venue, or whether you both would like a getaway car at the end of the evening. You can get creative with this, ride away in style as newlyweds!
As the big day approaches, begin designing your wedding invitations. There are endless options when it comes to styles. Your invitations should go along with the overall vibe of your wedding day. Be sure to go over the wording very carefully, and have someone else proofread before you hit submit! If you are hiring a calligrapher, provide them with inspiration of colors and fonts you are drawn to. Order some extra for your photographer to use for flat lay shots, and so that you can have one as a keepsake.
Trying to get all the groomsmen in order and scheduled for the fittings and pickups may seem like a daunting task. Make sure you stress the importance of this to them!
Another joyful part about wedding planning is all the delicious food and drink you get to taste beforehand! It’s time to get in touch with your finalized baker and try your flavor options. Don’t be surprised if you have family or friends wanting to tag along to this outing! Remember, this is YOUR cake. Don’t stress about trying to please all your guests. You can take them into account when it comes to your menu tasting with the caterer. If you want specialty cocktails served behind the bar, you’ll want to try those as well. Your wedding planner is a great third party for these tastings, and would be happy to give an outside opinion and suggestions.
Purchase Wedding Bands
Picking out a wedding band is a very important moment for the both of you. These pieces are going to represent your bond as a couple, and will most likely be worn at all times. Don’t be afraid to stop in at multiple stores, try them on, and even browse online. Think about budget, carat size and shape.
Hair & Makeup Trial
Prior to your trial, you’ll want to gather inspiration for different makeup palettes and hairstyles. This will help your stylist best come up with a look suited to you. You can even go on your hair stylists or makeup artists Instagram pages to look at their past work you like. Be specific and don’t be afraid to express what you dislike! This is a day that will be captured on photo and video, so you want to feel like the very best version of yourself. If you want to use special makeup products or hair accessories, bring those along to the trials.
TWO MONTHS OUT
Send Out Invites
You can almost hear the wedding bells! It’s time to send out those invites. You’ll want to get all the RSVP’s in a month beforehand.
Confirm Vendors & Rentals
Reach out to your vendors and confirm their time of arrivals, go over any additional details, and schedule final payments. If you have a wedding planner then the great news is that they will take care of this part for you. Double check all your rental and linen orders have been placed as well.
Write Your Vows
If you are writing your own vows, grab that pen and start pouring out your heart! We suggest looking up vows online to get an idea. Reach out to your officiant and get together to discuss details. They are setting the tone for the entire ceremony, so make sure you are all on the same page. They may want to ask you some questions about your relationship to include in the ceremony such as how you met, what you love most about each other, etc. Make sure you express how you want them to speak and present you both as a couple.
If you haven’t had one already, your first dress fitting should be sometime this month.
Obtain Marriage License
Research the marriage license requirements for your area and take a trip to the county clerk office. Depending on where you live the costs, paperwork, and regulations may vary so be sure to arrive prepared.
Make sure your DJ has all of your song selections for the ceremony processional, recessional, grand entrance, first dance, parents dances, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss, grand exit, and any other formalities. They should also have a playlist for cocktail hour and reception. Don’t forget to give them that “do not play” list!
Purchase Gifts & Thank You Cards
Show the people who will be standing by your side just how much you appreciate them! Start putting together gifts for your bridal party. How much you choose to spend is completely up to you, but we always love a personalized item! Giving gifts to family members who helped out with the wedding is always a thoughtful gesture as well. You may have some wedding gifts arriving already, so it is a good idea to have thank you cards on hand. Be sure to track who sent what.
Purchase The Little Things
These items can include your cake topper, cake cutting set, toasting glasses, guest book, table numbers, card box, signage, fans for a hot day, bridal accessories, etc.
ONE MONTH OUT
At this point, you should have all your RSVPs in. It’s inevitable that you will have those last minute stragglers, so track them down and get their reply. You’ll need this final number for your seating chart, place cards or escort cards, and to give to the venue or catering company.
Create Seating Chart
Another tough task when it comes to wedding planning – the dreaded seating chart. Grab a cup of coffee because you’ll need all the energy you can get for this! There are a few things to keep in mind when creating your reception seating chart. Will you have a head table? How many people can fit at each table? Are there any concerning family or friend dynamics? Who do you want seated closest to you? If you are having assigned seats as well as tables, then be sure to make/order place cards or let your calligrapher know.
This is another task that your wedding planner will take care of, but it’s a good idea to go over and finalize it with them.
Venue Walk Through
Around this time, the venue will typically reach out for one last meeting or final walk through. This is a very exciting outing that is sure to get you excited all over again! Bring a list of any last minute questions, comments or concerns you may have.
Pay Vendors & Assemble Tip Envelopes
All vendors should be paid in full by this time. Ask your planner or the venue for appropriate tip amounts. Take out cash in advance and assemble envelopes to distribute to your lovely vendors on your wedding day. Delegate a reliable family member or friend to hand out these envelopes for you at the end of the night.
One final dress fitting before you wear it down the aisle! Bring along a bridesmaid or trusted family member so they can learn how to bustle the dress. We recommend trying it on with your wedding day shoes (plus you’ll want to break them in anyways). We want to avoid blisters at all costs!
ONE WEEK OUT
It’s the final stretch! This week’s to do list may look a little something like this:
Pack for Honeymoon
You’re probably feeling a whirl of emotions! All the hard work and planning will finally pay off. Today’s to do list may look a little something like this:
Pack Wedding Day items such as Dress, Shoes, & Accessories
Bridal Party Gifts
Put suitcases for honeymoon in car if needed
Delegate someone to gather up personal items at the end of the night for you
Attend rehearsal dinner
Practice your vows
Get a good night’s sleep
You’ve made it! It’s finally here! Your wedding day morning will look a little something like this:
Eat a nutritious breakfast
Steam wedding dress & lay out all accessories
Give photographer items for flat lay photos (invitation, rings, shoes, perfume, etc.)
Hair & Makeup
Give bridal party their gifts
Take it all in
& finally, GET MARRIED!