Between creating a guest list, researching vendors, and organizing seating charts, planning a wedding is no easy feat. Surprisingly, half the battle is figuring out when you’re supposed to cross all these tasks off your wedding to-do list. If the phrase “stress-free wedding planning” is starting to sound like an oxymoron, then you’ve come to the right place.
Our wedding checklist maps out a detailed 12-month plan, so you don’t need to worry about logistics like when you need to buy your wedding attire, order your invitations, and book your honeymoon. Basically, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to focus on the fun parts of your wedding planning (think cake tastings and wedding attire shopping). We’re like Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner, minus the stopping-the-wedding thing.
Ahead, we break down the most important wedding day tasks, complete with a month-by-month timeline, to help keep you on track. Let the countdown to “I do” begin!
You might be tempted to start planning right away, but resist the urge to open up a Google spreadsheet. Revel in the bliss of introducing your significant other as your fiancée/fiancé, and as cheesy as it sounds, live in the moment. Trust us—you’ll be glad you did as soon as you start seriously planning. That said, here are a few things you should have on your radar as soon as you get engaged.
❑ Pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate.
❑ Share the exciting news with your friends and family.
❑ Discuss wedding expectations. Being on the same page with your partner now will make the entire planning process so much easier.
❑ Throw an engagement party (or an informal get-together, if that’s more your style) to celebrate with loved ones. Traditionally, everyone who’s invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding, so keep that in mind as you plan your guest list.
9 to 12 Months Before
At this stage, there are a lot of nitty-gritty details to figure out—budgets, guest lists, and vendors (oh my). Brace yourself, as you’re about to create many, many spreadsheets. Luckily, you’ve got a great partner by your side who will help make the whole process bearable and, dare we say, fun.
❑ Collect wedding inspiration. We suggest creating a Pinterest board devoted to all things wedding.
❑ Set your budget. Reference the expectations you and your partner talked about back when you were newly engaged to ensure your wedding budget is allocated accordingly.
❑ Select your wedding party. Pick your bridal party now so they can start budgeting ASAP.
❑ Draft your guest list. Finalizing your guest list is arguably the hardest part of this whole process, especially because one of the best ways to keep costs low is to limit your headcount, so start thinking about it sooner rather than later.
❑ Make your life easier and hire a wedding planner. If your budget allows for one, of course.
❑ Pick your ceremony and reception venues. While you’re touring your top choices, keep a few dates in mind in case your first choice isn’t available. Here is some celebrity wedding venue inspiration.
❑ Set your date. Now you have an answer to the number one question everyone’s been asking you.
❑ Start researching local vendors. Think caterers, florists, bands, deejays, photographers, and videographers.
❑ Choose the person who’s going to make it official (aka your officiant). Whether you’re going with a priest, a rabbi, a minister, or a justice of the peace, book your officiant early. If you’re having a loved one officiate, make sure they’ve started the ordainment process.
8 Months Before
Now that you’ve crunched the numbers and compiled your research, it’s time to enjoy some of the fun aspects of wedding planning. This month, you can look forward to wedding attire, tasting menus, and gift registries.
❑ Pick your photographer and videographer. Set up a shoot with your photographer now if you want to include engagement photos with your save-the-dates.
❑ Book your entertainment. When you’ve narrowed your search to your favorite bands and deejays, try to see them perform live before you make your final decision. It will help you get a sense of what they’ll sound like on your big day.
❑ Choose your caterer. After a tasting, of course.
❑ Buy your wedding attire. Timing is everything, and the hunt for the perfect dress or suit might not happen overnight. You could avoid the stress of buying a ready-to-wear ensemble by allowing enough time for a bridal shop to custom-order what you really want. Remember you’ll need to schedule fittings, too, so eight months really isn’t that far out.
❑ Start researching accommodation options for your out-of-town guests. To make things even easier on your guests, compile a list of local hotels at varying prices points and post your findings on your wedding website.
❑ Start adding items to your registry. In lieu of traditional retailers, consider newer registry options like Honeyfund, and register for your honeymoon. This is a great option for couples who live together and don’t necessarily need a toaster, blender, or salad spinner.
6 to 7 Months Before
All those hours you spent browsing Pinterest for wedding inspiration are finally going to be put to good use. At this milestone, we highly recommend downloading the Pinterest app to your phone. Trust us when we say you’re going to want to have easy access to all your wedding inspiration as you shop for bridesmaid dresses, discuss flowers with your florist, and tackle these other wedding tasks.
❑ Place the order for your invitations. After double-checking that everything is spelled correctly, of course.
❑ Start thinking about your honeymoon. If you’re leaving the country, find your passport and make sure it’s valid. If you need to get any travel vaccines, now is a good time to schedule a doctor’s appointment, too. But you don’t have to travel far for a great honeymoon, here are the best honeymoon destinations in the U.S. for inspiration.
❑ Shop for bridesmaid outfits. Six or seven months will give everyone plenty of time to have dress or suit alterations made if needed.
❑ Discuss bouquets, boutonnieres, and floral arrangements with your florist.
❑ Finalize your guest list and mail out your save-the-dates. Make it easy on yourself and use a website like Minted to design them online.
❑ Make any necessary transportation arrangements. Reserve a car, limo, bus, or trolley to get you and your wedding party to and from the ceremony and reception venues.
4 to 5 Months Before
These months are mainly dedicated to ensuring you look and feel your best on your wedding day. Want to look extra sharp as you walk down the aisle? Rent a custom-tailored suit. Want your makeup to look flawless in your wedding photos? Go ahead and book a professional makeup artist.
❑ Start planning your wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. This includes booking venues, thinking about menu options, and ordering invitations.
❑ Rent suits or tuxedos. Five months will ensure everyone’s attire is altered with plenty of time to spare.
❑ Schedule fittings for any clothing alterations. Pro tip: Bring your shoes and undergarments to your fittings so you can get a true sense of the final look.
❑ Make appointments with your hair and makeup artists. You’ll want to do a few test runs before finalizing your look.
❑ Start selecting your music. Pick the song for your first dance, for your reception entrance, and, most importantly, for getting the party started.
❑ Schedule a meeting with your baker, and order your cake.
3 Months Before
Up until now, the bulk of this checklist has focused on making sure both you and your venue look great on your wedding day—now it’s time to start thinking about the substance of your ceremony. Here’s everything you need to cross off your to-do list now that you’re only three months away from saying “I do.”
❑ Decide the final menu with your caterer.
❑ Meet with your florist to finalize your flowers. This may depend on what’s in season.
❑ Buy your rings. Three months will give you plenty of time to have them engraved if you’d like.
❑ Write the script for your ceremony. Choose the readings, poems, or songs you want to include.
❑ Choose and purchase favors. If you’re having trouble thinking of the perfect gifts for your guests, here are some unique wedding favor ideas.
2 Months Before
By this point, you have pretty much everything covered. Venue? Check. Photographer? Check. Flowers? Check. Menu? Check. Music? Check. All that’s left to do is invite some people and firm up the details.
❑ Mail your invitations. As a general rule, invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks ahead of time. If you’re planning a destination wedding, send out your invitations three months in advance.
❑ Reach out to all your vendors to confirm details, including day-of-wedding arrival times and deliveries.
❑ Create a shot list for your photographer. Look around at some of our favorite wedding sites for inspiration and suggestions to send along to your photographer. We love The Knot, Carats & Cake, Martha Stewart Weddings, 100 Layer Cake, and The Lane. (The MyDomaine Pinterest board is also a great resource.)
❑ Share your song choices with your band or deejay.
1 Month Before
After months of staring at spreadsheets, revising guest lists, and scheduling appointments, your wedding day is within sight (literally, if you happen to be looking at a calendar). With the exception of a few important logistical tasks, like getting your marriage license and planning seating arrangements, you’re pretty much out of the woods.
❑ Keep track of RSVPs. Typically, guests should respond within three weeks of receiving an invite.
❑ Send out your rehearsal-dinner invitations.
❑ Get your marriage license. In most states, this should take less than a week. However, some state marriage licenses will expire within a certain timeframe, so check to make sure your ceremony is within that.
❑ Write your vows. Practice reading your vows aloud. You’ll feel more comfortable when reciting them in front of your family and friends.
❑ Schedule your final fitting. If needed, you can arrange an additional fitting the week before your wedding.
❑ Organize your seating chart. This will take some finessing, so give yourself plenty of time to arrange and rearrange your chart.
1 Week Before
You’ve planned your heart out, so you shouldn’t have any major tasks to take care of this week (aside from picking up your wedding attire). You’ll be walking down the aisle before you know it!
❑ Check in with your vendors to confirm arrival times (and any other last-minute details).
❑ Give a copy of your guest list to your venue(s) and caterer.
❑ Send your shot list to your photographer.
❑ Pick up (and try on!) your wedding outfit. Make sure everything fits exactly the way you want it to.
❑ Make sure your bridal party knows what time to arrive at the venue. Email everyone a detailed timeline.
❑ Pack for your honeymoon or, if you’re not jetting off right away, pack an overnight bag for the day after your wedding.
Be Your Own Planner
What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most on your wedding day? Tell us in the comments below!