Ultimate Wedding Planning Timeline
The average US engagement is 12 – 18 months! There are so many elements to think about from big ticket items like your reception venue to the small details like how you want your guests dinner napkins folded! (Yes, that’s a thing!) So to help keep you on track, we’ve broken down the tasks in an easy to use wedding planning timeline.
16 – 12 Months Before
- Get Inspired. Start thinking of how you want your wedding day to look and feel. Visit Pinterest for inspiration, start clipping images and articles and bookmark your favorite blogs.
- Decide your organization system. Don’t try to reinvent your organization system. Are you a digital person? Make use of planning apps. Like the security of a hard copy? Start a planning binder. Whatever works for you, pick a system and stick to it.
- Have a family meeting. Have a discussion with each family to determine their level of involvement and budget contributions.
- Decide budget. After talking to your family, begin building your wedding budget. Click here to learn how to Set a budget and Stick to it!
- Ask your bridal party. Decide with your fiancé who you would like to invite to be part of your bridal party. While you don’t have to have equal numbers on each side, it is most common to do so.
- Begin guest list plan. You don’t have to finalize your guest list yet, but creating a preliminary one will help you to decide if your budget is on track and will help you as you look at potential wedding reception venues.
- Finalize a date. Before you begin meeting with wedding vendors, you need to have a wedding date decided! Availability and contract price will be determined by your wedding date.
- Hire a wedding planner. If you are considering a wedding planner or day of coordinator, consider doing so early. A wedding planner can help you with vendor selection, planning and ideas and often have negotiated discounts for their clients from select vendors.
- Select your venue. Once you have decided on a wedding date, selecting your ceremony venue and wedding reception venues is typically the next stop. Location and time of service will often dictate availability from other vendors.
9 to 10 Months Before
- Book your wedding DJ. Popular wedding dates close out early! Make sure that you have contracted your wedding DJ so that your guests can enjoy your party!
- Hire your wedding photographer and videographer. The most creative and talented wedding photographers and videographers are often booked early in the wedding planning timeline. To make sure you can capture all your wedding memories, book these two important services early.
- Begin shopping for dresses. If you are having a custom designed or imported gown, you’ll need extra time for its arrival. Begin looking for styles you like in magazines and then schedule time to view offerings.
8 Months Before
- Hire your wedding officiant. If you are not planning for a church wedding, it may be necessary to hire a wedding officiant.
- Meet caterers. If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, you’ll need to secure one early. Ask your venue for recommendations and then meet to discuss availability, pricing and menu ideas.
- Schedule your engagement session. If you will use your engagement session images to create guest books, signature mattes, or save the date cards, schedule your engagement session at least six months in advance of your wedding day.
- Purchase a dress. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to order a gown! You’ll likely need 2-3 fittings (budget for those too!) so give yourself time. It’s a good idea to purchase your wedding accessories from the same shoppe so that you can match to your gown.
6 to 7 Months Before
- Purchase invitations. Once your venue and times are set, begin ordering your wedding stationery. You’ll need to allow time for printing, addressing your invitations and response so order early.
- Start planning a honeymoon. If you are traveling out of the country for your honeymoon, make sure your passport is current. Check to see if immunizations are recommended and the schedule you need to follow.
- Shop for bridesmaids dresses / groomsmen. Bridesmaids dresses need to be ordered in time for their arrival and alterations. Decide what look and level of coordination you would like for their dresses. Be mindful of everyone’s budget when selecting a dress.
- Schedule premarital classes and counseling. This will vary by religion so be sure to have a conversation with the officiant and schedule any sessions necessary.
- Finalize guest list. Not everyone that you invite will be able to attend, but you should expect 80% to do so. You may also want to keep a second list that can be invited as you receive regrets.
- Send save-the-date cards. Include the date and ceremony/reception cities so that guests that need to make travel arrangements can do so.
- Block hotel rooms. Look for venues close to your wedding reception venue for out of town guests. Hotels may offer a discount for a block of rooms. Consider those that offer a shuttle service to keep guests safe.
- Book a florist. Plan on meeting with a few florist to discuss your vision and budget. Check out the latest floral trends for 2018 to help with inspiration!
- Arrange transportation. If you are planning a peak date for your wedding, be sure to lock in transportation early.
5 to 4 Months Before
- Register for shower gifts. Choose at least one national retailer for out of town guests. Register for a variety of items and multiple price points so guests can gift individually or as a group.
- Schedule your rehearsal. Your ceremony venue may offer rehearsals on a particular evening each week. Be sure to lock in the rehearsal date.
- Book rehearsal dinner. It is customary to host a dinner after the rehearsal. While it can range from casual to extravagant, it’s time to decide on a location and make sure the budget is covered.
- Order the cake. If your wedding reception venue does not include cake service in the contract, it’s time to select a design and baker. Click here for some sweet inspiration.
- Create a shower guest list. Provide the host of your bridal shower with a list of suggested invitees.
- Purchase wedding shoes. You’ll need to bring your wedding shoes with you for your alterations. It’s good to begin wearing them in the house to gently break them in.
- Schedule hair and makeup stylists. If you will hire professional hair and makeup stylists, schedule a trial run to make sure you like the look before the big day.
3 Months Before
- Finalize the menu and flowers. Wait until your guest list is finalized before ordering food and decor. The number of guests you anticipate will determine what is needed for both.
- Order guest favors. If you will give guests a thank you gift or welcome basket, order the items now.
- Purchase your undergarments. And schedule your second fitting.
- Order wedding rings. Some metals can not be sized and will need to be ordered. If you are engraving your wedding rings, do so now.
- Write your vows. If you have decided to write your own vows, do so now so that you may share them with your officiant, if needed.
- Finalize ceremony details. Decide with your officiant the order of the ceremony, special readings and any personal requests you will make.
- Order wedding menus and programs. Once the menu and ceremony details have been confirmed, order these items if you choose to include them.
2 Months Before
- Send out the invitations. Send invitations 8 weeks before the wedding to allow time for RSVPs. Consider setting the deadline early so that you may add guests if space allows. For tips on adding guests before the ceremony, click here.
- Schedule your last fitting appointment. This final appointment should be all you need. Be sure to bring your shoes and wedding day undergarments!
1 Month Before
- Track RSVPs. Ask your maid of honor or parents to contact those who have not responded.
- Get your marriage license. Check with your licensing authority for exact
- Make final payments. All contracts are different, but most wedding payments are due one month prior to the date.
- Decide seating. Consider working on a digital seating arrangements or with removable labels so that you can get the perfect layout.
- Plan for photography. Discuss your wedding photography likes and dislikes, requested shots and ideas for your day with your wedding photographer. Click here for the Ultimate Must Have Wedding Photo Guide!
- Begin thinking about music. You’ll need music for your wedding ceremony and some key moments at the reception. Begin thinking about your must-play, try-to-play and do-not-play lists.
- Finalize timeline. Create a final timeline that includes arrival and departures, supply arrivals and location changes.
- Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties. Decide as a couple if you will have separate or combined last night out parties. And be sure to discuss what each of you is and isn’t comfortable with.
- Give final count. Provide final count to the caterer for your reception dinner.
Week of Your Wedding
- Confirm vendor times. Make sure that anyone that is part of your wedding day understands the plan.
- Review the playlist with your wedding DJ. While it’s not a good idea to pick every song of the night, let your DJ know your must-play, try-to-play and do-not-play lists. Use his expert advice to help you create a timeline and avoid making these 7 music mistakes!
- Ask Someone To Collect Gifts. This is a job that you can give to your most trusted friend. At the conclusion of the reception, someone should be tasked with collecting the boxes, bags and envelope holder. Decide in advance who this person will be and where they will place the items.
- Dress Cleaning and Preservation. If you will be leaving for your honeymoon after your wedding, ask someone to take your wedding dress to the cleaners for you. You have a better chance of removing spots and stains, if they occur, by doing this as soon as possible.
- Arrange Additional Transportation. Even if you will have a limo to take you to the church and reception, you will need to make arrangements to get yourselves and bridal party to the starting pick up location and arrange for transportation after the reception.
- Relax. You’ve planned your wedding for a long time, now it’s time to relax and get ready for your big day!