Getting everything for the wedding done on time and within budget is one of the biggest dilemmas for those planning their own weddings. Once the date is set and vendors are in place, there’s no turning back. And everyone’s wedding planning window is different. So, there is no universal wedding planning timeline.
We’ve got you covered. Use the simple wedding planning guide below with the complete wedding checklist here.
The guide is an overview to help you navigate through the process. The checklist provides detail. Together, they will help you easily move along the path from engagement to wedding day. And stressing less is always a good thing!
Tip: Be sure to read the linked to articles for more lists and details about different planning topics.
The Wedding Planning Guide
Think of the time leading up to your wedding in three stages with three steps each:
First Stage: Create a solid base.
Wedding planning, like a relationship, requires a strong base to function well. These three steps provide that foundation:
Step 1. Enjoy your engagement!
You know what to do. Spread the word and flash that ring!
Step 2. Build your budget.
Knowing how much you can spend is half the battle when shopping for wedding products and services. Decide, with your partner and families, who is paying for what and complete the wedding budget planner here.
Step 3. Pick the place and people.
Venues often book well in advance, popular ones, as much as a year or more. Make setting the date and visiting potential locations a priority.
The most fun part is asking the wedding party. Bridesmaid proposal ideas are here, as well as activity ideas.
Second Stage: The Journey.
Now that you’ve assembled a strong base, it is time to start building on it. Stage two is where you will spend the bulk of your time. The larger projects and detailed decisions fall here, as does the majority of the work time.
Although these are “steps,” you will find yourself jumping among the three as you make decisions and complete tasks.
Step 4. Vet your vendors.
Like venues, the calendars for in-demand entertainers, caterers, and popular service providers fill up early.
First, decide which of these you will need. Then, contact and visit the contenders with your partner. Finish this step by developing a timeline for deposits and decisions about details. Read “13 Questions You Must Ask the Venue Before Signing a Contract” for guidance on the information to request when meeting with venues.
Potential vendors: day-of coordinator or another type of planner; officiant; caterer; bartender; baker; photographer; videographer; florist; band, DJ, or other entertainment; hair stylist; make-up artist; transportation, equipment, or decor rentals
Also, if your wedding gown will be a defining feature of the wedding, treat choosing and ordering it as you would a vendor. Start early. Some manufacturers have longer lead times than you’d expect. Even when ordering a value-priced dress online, it may take a while to receive it. In any case, you will want to have plenty of time for alterations.
Step 5. Decide on DIY.
When you were considering vendors, there were pieces you thought you might do yourself. List them and make decisions based on your and your friends’ time, resources, and skills.
Potential DIY: food, cake, drinks, video, flowers, centerpieces & decorations, music and other entertainment, hair, make-up, favors
When you are on a budget, the costs are always a consideration. But keep in mind other factors as well when deciding whether to DIY. Sometimes a DIY project can be stressful. And completing many tasks yourself can take time away from other important projects. A blend of the two may be your best route. Give the vendors a chance to make a case for themselves in the areas where you are unsure. For some ideas go to “Buy or DIY? Wedding Planning Ideas you MUST Consider When Hiring Vendors.”
Step 6. SHOP ’till you drop!
It’s time to dig in and make progress on those projects you’ve been planning. Your theme or color scheme will dictate many choices, so first spend some time thinking about those aspects. See “5 Ways to Make an Inexpensive Wedding Look Posh” for ideas about how to incorporate color and theme, among other tricks, to help your wedding look more expensive.
Here’s a general category list (for a laundry list of everything you may need, see “Where Does the Money Go?”): wedding bands, invitations and other printed items, wedding party attire and accessories (buy or give directions for the bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl, and ring bearer), DIY supplies, ceremony supplies and decorations, reception supplies and decorations.
Note: Purchase invitations early enough to send out six to eight weeks before the wedding.
Third Stage: The Home Stretch
You’ve made it to the final month before the wedding, and things are coming together. It’s time to ensure the wedding day will be as memorable as you hope.
Step 7. Four-week finalize.
Go back to the checklist, and put the finishing touches on all projects. After the RSVP date passes, follow up with those who did not respond. Then, create a seating chart. Tie up loose ends or confusion with any part of the wedding.
Step 8. Week-before wake up.
Lock down the details. Circle back, and make sure the vendors and helpers have everything they need from you and will be on time the day of the wedding. Assure everyone is clear on details. Touch base with each person in the wedding party. Gather things together for the ceremony and reception.
Step 9. Day-before details.
Walk through the wedding day in your head. Make sure all is as it should be (lead attendants have wedding bands, helpers know what they are doing, etc). Ensure you all have your last-minute beauty treatments. Attend the rehearsal and dinner. And don’t forget to give those in the wedding party their gifts.
Go to bed early so you can enjoy your big day!