If you don’t want to be a bridezilla, then you better take note of this practical and easy-to-follow wedding planning checklist. It’s the most comprehensive step-by-step guide to having the wedding of your dreams!
Wedding Planning Checklist | Wedding Prep Made Easy
Nothing will ever prepare you for what will happen on your wedding day, but then again, it pays to be ready. This wedding planning checklist is all you ever need to come up with a wedding that fits your budget and doesn’t result in pulling your hair because of frustration. This wedding planning guide is also flexible and helpful when working with an events coordinator as it ensures you’re always on the same page.
Just to give you an overview of your list of to-dos, here’s an infographic from Pen Oaks Westchester showing the month-to-month (and week-to-week) wedding planning tasks:
16 To 14 Months In Advance
Although there’s no rule as to how long you should plan your wedding, on the average, couples take as long as 16 months. This way, you can definitely tick off all your tasks in your wedding planning checklist. But what can you when the actual ceremony is still far off?
1. Determine your budget
When it comes to wedding budget, many couples work the opposite way – that is, find their venue, list all their guests, shop for a wedding dress, etc., before they come up with the budget. This can be problematic when you cannot afford them. Just imagine the amount of time and effort you waste. The easiest way, therefore, is to start with a budget. Besides, this will give you enough time to build your wedding fund or gain more control over your expenses. To help you save money, learn from the top DIY wedding blogs out there.
2. Begin your guest list
The number of people coming to your wedding will influence basically all your expenses, especially accommodation, catering, and venue. Now here’s the question: who should you invite to the wedding? Use this as a guide. To get your wedding right too, avoid these other blunders.
13 To 9 Months In Advance
Three months down, 13 months to go! It’s time to get busier as you focus on the nitty-gritty details of your wedding. Add these to your wedding planning checklist:
1. Select a venue
Why should you book your venue so early? Simple! There are other couples out there who might want it. This will also give you enough time to look for other possible venues in case your first choices are not available. I know you want to save money, so start with these amazing outdoor wedding venues in America. Another tip is to have the wedding and the reception in the same place.
2. Set a date
There are a lot of ways on how to pick a date. Would you like an outdoor wedding? Summer and spring are perfect! How about a fall wedding? Is there a family reunion this year? Try a date where most of your friends and family are around the area. Either way, picking a date as early as 13 months in advance will ensure your preferred guests can come and book your vendors, accommodation, and venue accordingly.
3. Choose your wedding vendors
Calling your vendors way ahead of time guarantee they can be at your wedding. After all, when it comes to your big day, you better leave it to people you are comfortable with. A lot of these vendors are professional, so they know how to manage your wedding, but don’t forget you have control on what you want to happen. For a sample wedding planning checklist, here are the must-haves for a boho chic or a perfect beach wedding.
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IMPORTANT! Pick a wedding vendor who doesn’t take many clients on the same day. If you don’t have suppliers for other items on your wedding like catering or photography, get recommendations from wedding vendors. In the meantime, if you want to save on costs, check out wedding packages they offer.
4. Have an engagement party
One of the first parties on your wedding planning checklist is the engagement party. This is important as this is usually the first time your guests can come together, meet, and get more comfortable with one another. You can also already discuss essential wedding information like your venue and date. Around this time, you should also get on with the engagement photo session. Don’t know what to wear? Here are some gorgeous engagement outfits to try.
5. Make hotel arrangements
If you have out-of-state guests or thinking of a destination wedding, then it’s your job to make sure they have a place to stay. If there’s a large group, reserving hotel rooms at least 13 months before you walk down the aisle is a must. Having them in the same accommodation will save you from hellish logistics problem.
IMPORTANT! Hotels, no matter how “budget friendly” they sound, are not cheap when you have to billet several groups. If you want to cut back on accommodation costs, you can (1) consider renting a self-catering apartment, (2) book online as hotels often give discounts when you do, (3) let in-state relatives reserve their guest bedrooms for them. If you are great friends or family with your guests, and they know you’re trying to scrimp, you can let them shoulder a part of the costs. Don’t forget to teach them how to pack light.
8 To 6 Months In Advance
Wow, we’re almost halfway with our wedding preparation! How time quickly flies. You have already picked your venue, date, and guest list. Now it’s time to pay more attention to details that relate to the ceremony.
1. Book an officiant
While you can always have a symbolic ceremony for your wedding, to make it legal, you need an officiant, who can be a religious leader, friend, a captain of the cruise ship, or a family member. It will be his or her responsibility to guide the couple in the declaration of intent part of the wedding (e.g., Will you take [partner’s name] as your wedded husband/wife?) and sign and mail the marriage license. Note, though, officiant requirements can differ among states and countries (in case you want a destination wedding). Always check the credentials of your officiant, even if he or she is a friend or family member, to avoid having your marriage declared null and void. On the other hand, if your selected officiant doesn’t have a license yet, he or she can always apply, and some like Universal Life Church can process your license online.
2. Find a rehearsal venue
To be clear, it’s not mandatory to have a wedding rehearsal especially if it’s just a small wedding. However, in case you need or want one, you can have the rehearsal party (usually dinner) in a smaller room within the wedding or reception venue or even in your backyard. If you want to do the latter, you can keep meals light, fresh, and easy with these scrumptious recipes.
3. Send out save-the-date reminders
Help your guests plan well their upcoming trips or attendance to your wedding by sending save-the-date cards. These are simple containing only the names of the couple, date, the location of the wedding, and a note telling them to wait for the invite.
Be Creative! Save-the-date cards can be fun. Just check out this scratch card as an example. If you have a bigger budget, you can make a video. Don’t have much money? Couples are now using Facebook. 🙂
4. Buy a wedding dress
My favorite part! Isn’t shopping for your wedding dress so exciting? But it’s best to do it while you’re still about eight months away particularly if you want something custom or bespoke. This will also give you the opportunity to shop around for something cheap but nice. Need some inspiration? Learn the latest bridal trends.
5. Register as couple
It still surprises me how couples can still be silent about the kinds of presents they want to get. I believe it’s better to let them know what you really want than to get dozens of silverware and three kinds of toasters. To give them an idea what you like, sign up for a wedding registry as early as possible to prevent them from buying needless items. Don’t worry, you need only to sign up once, and many shops these days already have an online platform such as Amazon registry and Target registry where you can keep track of bought presents.
IMPORTANT! If you don’t want things, just ask for cash. Don’t forget to let them know about your plan, though, during the engagement party and include such note in the invitations.
6. Choose bridesmaid dresses
Besides your wedding dress, you need to take care of your bridesmaid dresses, especially if you have a large entourage. The style should fit your wedding theme while you can ask them about their preferred style. It’s common for stylish bridesmaid dresses these days to feature different cuts.
7. Arrange wedding day transportation
Unless your ceremony and reception venues are just a block away or within the same place, you need a car to get you from point A to point B. Although limos are still popular, know you can have other cars and even a van, in case you want to take the whole entourage with you.
IMPORTANT! Aside from your car, start booking for transport for your guests. Although coaches are expensive, they give the best value for money if you have many guests. You can also save moolah when you carpool. Using your car? Here are practical maintenance tips.
5 To 6 Months In Advance
Can you hear the wedding bells ringing? I can! Yes, girl, we’re extremely close to your I dos, but before you do, see to it you can complete these tasks on your wedding planning checklist.
1. Set the menu
You already have a caterer, but you need to finalize your menu. You can do that at least six months far from your wedding. During this time, you should already be checking out their wedding packages (if they have one) and attending food tasting, the cost of which already forms part of the catering service.
IMPORTANT! When planning your menu, consider the food preferences and restrictions of your guests. So the more varied the menu, the better. With regard to cost, think about staffing, which you need to pay by the hour.
2. Send out invitations
It’s time for your guests to RSVP so you can have a more accurate headcount and adjust your budget accordingly. In your invitation, don’t include to add any instructions for plus ones, how to RSVP, and even a map to your venue.
3. Order the groom’s suit
Making a bespoke groom’s suit takes time since it may require two to three visits, with around two weeks in between. You can help your fiance, though, by giving him some ideas on what to wear.
4. Plan the honeymoon
I know you’re super busy planning your wedding, but don’t forget the honeymoon! If you have a passport that’s about to expire, taking care of it this early is necessary. You can also take enough time to plan it well such as what other documents you need, where to stay, and, of course, how much you need. If you’re working, you have to file for leave for both the wedding and the honeymoon around this time. Just in case your boss says no to the latter, you can take up plan B.
5. Order a wedding cake
Why should you plan your wedding cake this early? One, because of the complexity and the huge expectations that go with these kinds of cakes, shops often limit the number of cakes they make every weekend or month. This is especially true during wedding months such as June and December. Second, you need to meet up with them to discuss the cake design and flavor. Scheduling an appointment may not be that easy.
IMPORTANT! Make your cake stand out with these dainty and whimsical toppers.
3 To 2 Months In Advance
I can already sense the excitement in the air! Oh boy, are we that close already? But hold on for a bit as these things on your wedding planning checklist need your attention.
1. Schedule dress fittings
After few months, at least the outline of your wedding dress is complete, so you can already have your first fitting. When you fit, pretend as if it’s your wedding day. Tag along your veil or headdress, bridal shoes, accessories, and undergarments so you can have a complete picture of how you look. Check out the fit and length. It should have sufficient seam allowance in case your weight changes in the next few weeks.
2. Get a marriage license
Marriage licenses requirements and timelines can vary by state and country. Some of the states can issue them on the same day of your application while others may require five days to a week. When it comes to validity of your license, usually, it’s 60 days from the date of application.
3. Buy the wedding rings
You need to be happy with your wedding band or ring, which you may end up wearing for the rest of your married life, so the earliest you can check them out the better. Now who buys the ring? These days, it’s a team effort, including what to engrave (if you want that). Don’t be afraid to pick unique wedding rings.
4. Make the wedding day schedule
Around this time, you should also have a final plan for the flow of the event, from start to finish. Usually, couples are given a free rein, but many don’t have a realistic timeline. So when planning the ceremony and reception, work closely with your vendors.
IMPORTANT! I highly recommended getting an on-day coordinator who sees to it the activities follow the agreed schedule.
1 Month Advance
Can I get a woot-woot! If you’ve been following this wedding planning checklist, then I can assume you’re all chill, happy, and worry free. Let me make things even better for you by telling you what to do a month before your wedding.
1. Make a seating chart
As much as I’d love my guests to mingle, it really does feel awkward to be seated beside people you hardly know or for exes to stay close together. To avoid potential conflicts that can dampen the joyous mood, make a seating chart besides planning your table setting. Give your seating chart to your coordinator and caterer a few days before the wedding so they can design the perfect setup.
2. Schedule a final dress fitting
With all the stress and food tasting, future brides can experience weight changes during the wedding prep, which will then have a huge impact on the dress’s fit. That’s why you need to have another round a month before your wedding.
IMPORTANT! Bring your sewing kit including pins on the day of the wedding as a precaution against wedding dress disasters like zippers not closing.
3. Make sure hair and make-up personnel are confirmed
I couldn’t stress enough the importance of having great wedding makeup. It is vastly different from a regular one. First, your makeup should not become cakey throughout the affair. Second, it should enhance your look in your photos and videos. Third, your wedding makeup changes depending on the time of the day and the theme of the wedding. Book your makeup artists and hairstylists a month before the wedding. Wait, see the plural? I am talking about a team since your entourage need their services too.
IMPORTANT! Don’t skip the look or makeup test. It’s a good time to plan your look, get to know more about the makeup artist and hairstylist and establish rapport with them, and pick products that are good for your skin.
4. Have a bachelorette party
A bachelor/bachelorette party, as well as a bridal shower, is optional, but it’s a great way to say bye-bye to singlehood and give yourself a moment to breathe and have fun. Usually, it’s the maid of honor and the bridesmaids that plan for both parties, but lately, brides are taking charge of the bachelorette parties. As to who foots the bill, it’s the host of the bridal shower (or the bridal party minus the bride) and can be everyone for the bachelorette.
5. Write your vows
If you’re a great writer, or you’re a person of few words, you can skip this one and write it a week before the wedding. But if you’re one of those that have to lay out words carefully, writing your vows a month before the wedding is ideal. Does your groom need help in both the vow and speech? Let him see this!
2 Weeks To 1 In Advance
Home stretch! Just a few more items on your wedding planning checklist to complete, and you can just wait for your wedding day.
1. Get a haircut
Whether you’re getting a trim (to get rid of the split ends) or having a complete hair makeover, do these at least two weeks before the wedding to give your hair enough time to settle. If something bad happens, a.k.a. perming gone wrong, you and your hairstylist can still find a remedy.
2. Inform the wedding party of the schedule
Of all the members of your entourage, your maid of honor (or matron of honor if she’s already married) and best man have the biggest responsibilities as they act like your respective shadows during the big day. They take care of your needs and work closely with the vendors, especially the wedding coordinator, so you are basically stress-free. To have the best maid of honor, help her out by letting her know about your decisions and wedding schedule.
3. Send a final guest list to the caterer
You need to give your final guest list to the caterer since they normally don’t allow you to make any more changes a few days before the wedding. It’s understandable since they have to plan their staffing, budget, and logistics too.
IMPORTANT! It’s customary among caterers to add fifty more people to the headcount to make sure everyone is fed well and because, well, unexpected things (hint: guests who “forgot” to RSVP) happen.
4. Pack for your honeymoon
Heading to your honeymoon right after the wedding? Pack your things at least a week before. Trust me, weddings can drain you, and you won’t have the remaining energy to want to prep your luggage. Here are cool honeymoon outfits to include in your bag.
5. Take a deep breath
Congratulations! You ticked off everything on your wedding planning checklist. Now it’s to take a breather. Relax, sip some wine, and pat each other’s backs for a job well done. What an awesome pair you two are. 🙂
Keep track of your wedding planning checklist! Learn how to make a binder where you place all your schedules, notes, etc., pertaining to your wedding. Makes a great keepsake too.
Planning a wedding, no matter how small, isn’t easy, but it should not also be frustrating and incredibly stressful. This wedding planning checklist is what you need to make sure you don’t forget the essentials of a beautiful successful wedding. There may be a few kinks (and let me tell you, they DO happen), but they become manageable once you learned to plan ahead and properly. In the meantime, let me say congratulations and I wish you a happy, fruitful married life. 🙂
Did we miss something on our wedding planning checklist? Give us a heads-up in the comments section below! Here are more tips on how to be a stress-free bride.
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on June 2016 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.