It’s finally happened– an engagement! Congratulations!
With all the love and excitement in the air, it’s easy to forget that you have a wedding to plan! Sure, it’s no easy feat, but you’ll find that, beyond the sheer size of the checklist, it is a transformative process that is well worth it at the end.
Let’s go through a tentative wedding planning timeline if you’re going all out for your traditional big wedding!
12 Months Away
The “ideal” engagement length is said to be approximately 12 to 14 months. This gives enough time to get things like venues, caterers, outfits, and post wedding activities sorted. If you don’t have that much time, no worries! Your special day will be fabulous regardless of timing.
Here are some things to do first in planning your special day.
Set a Budget
Coming up with the financial figures isn’t the sexiest of activities, but if you start thinking about a prenup, talking about financial future can jumpstart this conversation. Take a look at your current income and savings, factor in what your families may contribute, and lock in a tentative figure.
Using a spreadsheet can be helpful and including line items for your venue, vendors, and other expenditures you expect to have. As the numbers add up, you’ll get a better feel for the price range and see if you need to make any general additions or subtractions!
Make Guest List
Thank God for social media! Scrolling our friends list gives us quick insight on who we want to and have to invite to the wedding.
Remember– costs are going to add up fast, and each person costs you the price of a plate and maybe even more depending on your venue.
Consider a Wedding Planner
If it seems like too much to handle on your own that’s no problem at all, wedding planners do this for a living. They’ve had a lot of practice, know when to do what, and know what things generally cost so you know when you’re getting a sweet deal and when you’re getting taken for a ride.
Plus, they have contacts in the industry which could mean the difference between scrambling to find the best vendors and having them already through your planner. Your planner’s vendors may come with a discount too!
Pick a Venue
Easier said than done. Venues now are still working through an immense backlog from rescheduled 2020 and 2021 weddings, approximately 2.5 million. As if finding the perfect venue wasn’t already tough enough.
Finding a venue is an important early step for two big reasons. For one, where you get married and hold the ceremony is the literal backdrop for everything that’s to come. Are there great spots for photo ops? How spacious are the reception areas? Is the bridal suite decadent? Can you take things outside if the weather’s good? Make sure to check that the venue can accommodate your needs before you commit!
Choose a Caterer
To compliment your fabulous venue, you’ll want to start identifying potential caterers whether that be from contracts within the venue or outside.
At this time you can explore different dining options and what other trends you can include, such as an inclusive vegan meal!
10 Months Away
Even if you have time after locking down the venue, don’t let it slip out of your hands! Try completing these steps when you’re 10 months away to keep on top of things.
Hire Your Vendors
The venue is the backdrop, but the vendors are the backbone. Every hired hand contributes to the event’s overall success, and the best ones book fast.
Time to lock in the following:
- DJ or Band for Reception
- Musicians for Ceremony and/or Cocktail Hour
Some vendors offer multiple services. Your photographer may also provide a videographer. The DJ may include an MC, lighting technician, photo booth attendant, and musicians for the ceremony and/or cocktail hour.
When in doubt, ask your wedding planner or venue to stay on track!
Buy Your Wedding Attire
Choosing between a formal wedding dress or a jumpsuit? If you’re opting for the classic white dress look, now’s the perfect time to find an excellent bridal salon and make a day of trying on different dresses over champagne with your squad!
Think about getting the bridesmaids dresses and fittings scheduled now as well. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can roll this into the same day, but as long as you get it within the next 1-2 months then you should be fine.
Secure Hotel/AirBnB Options for Traveling Guests
Even if your venue is a stone’s throw from home, many of your traveling guests will need a place to stay. One idea is to band together for a shared AirBnB to keep the festivities together.
Make a Wedding Site and Gift Registry
The internet is a great resource nowadays where there are complete wedding sites available to customize your wedding from saving the dates to linking a gift registry. It’s now time to take a look at what that might look like for you as a couple.
6 Months Away
Half a year gone and half a year to go. Many of the most important line items are probably checked off by now, but there’s work to do yet!
Invitations and Save-the-Dates
Sitting down with some stationary while picking save-the-dates will also give you a chance to look at invitations too. This can also be a stress reliever to see that it’s all finally coming together!
Virtual save-the-dates work too, and you can put together something classy from the comfort of your couch. If you’d rather forgo the in-person visit or simply weren’t satisfied with the local offerings, try taking it to the interwebs instead.
Are you going to provide shuttle service to and from your wedding venue from the hotel, or is everyone left to their own devices? What about you and your fiance?
There’s no right or wrong answers here, but now’s a good time to think about it. Maybe a simple shuttle service is sufficient, or maybe you want all the style and fanfare of a party bus for your guests to dance and drink their way to the wedding.
For your ride, limos are always a great touch. A high-end luxury vehicle like a Rolls Royce works well too for decadence and great photo ops too!
Get the Groom and Groomsmen Attire
Gentlemen generally have it easier when picking out threads for the special day. It’s often as simple as grabbing a great tuxedo from a rental shop, taking measurements, and wrangling up the groomsmen to do the same. That last part is for you, best man!
Many couples undergo premarital counseling to identify and address possible issues prior to the marriage. By working with a licensed marriage and family therapist or religious official, couples help build the foundation for a strong marriage. With this can come the opportunity to bring up a prenup, check out how it works.
Select an Officiant
Religious couples likely had this sorted from the jump. However, modern couples are having nonsecular ceremonies more often than ever and asking loved ones to officiate instead.
If you want a friend or family member to officiate, ask them now and make sure they are ready to become ordained in time for the special day.
3 Months Away
The day draws nearer and you can hardly contain your excitement. There are still a few things to get sorted, but you’re almost at the finish line!
Choose a Cake
Everyone loves cake tasting!
If your caterer will make the cake, now’s a great time to have that tasting to make sure you’re sold on the flavors. Some couples prefer to involve a specialty bakery in town instead. You’ll want to set up a tasting, pick your flavors, talk about the size and style, and lock in a contract.
Don’t forget to be clear about how the cake is getting to the venue! You don’t want to find out that morning that you didn’t specify for it to be delivered!
Do a Hair and Makeup Trial
It’s time to assemble your personal beautification team for a dry run. Get your hair and makeup done to make sure you’re sold on the look. If you’re not totally smitten, now’s the time to make some changes.
Send Out Invitations
If you didn’t pick out the perfect stationary back when you sent out save-the-dates, it’s time to take another crack at it. Invitations go out no later than 2 months before the wedding with RSVPs required approximately 1 month in advance.
Pick Up Marriage License
Check out more on the process here.
1 Month Away
So close, you can taste it! Stay strong! You’re almost there!
Create the Seating Chart
If you thought it was tough coming up with a guest list, wait until you make the seating chart.
It won’t be long before you wind up with a handful of people that couldn’t fit where you originally wanted them. We recommend using a dry erase whiteboard so you can erase and rewrite as often as you need.
Pay the Vendors
You likely made numerous deposits, but it’s finally time to pony up the rest. Make your final payments to the vendors and get cash tip envelopes ready for the event day staff.
Now’s a good time to check back at the budget spreadsheet.
How did you do? That bad, huh?
Final Week Before the Wedding
We all love good a spa day so here’s some final things you can indulge in before your big day arrives:
- Recolor or touch up hair
- Get eyebrows done
- Get mani/pedi
- Practice your vows
It’s been a long time coming, but you finally made it to the end. Savor each special moment of your wedding day. We wish you all the best in health and happiness! Congratulations!
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