When Should You Start Planning a Wedding?
I’ve been working weddings long enough to know that planning a wedding takes some time and a lot of people aren’t sure when to start planning.
So how soon should you start planning your wedding? The first thing you and your fiancé need to do is decide if you want a long engagement or a short engagement. There are pros and cons to both and completely depends on the couple. The length of your engagement determines how much time you’ll have to plan.
Short Engagements 8 months or less
Get married sooner than later
Less time to stress and obsess over small details
Sick relatives will have a better chance of being at the wedding
The vendors you want might already be booked
Might not have enough time to do all the projects you want
Out of town guests might not be able to come due to shorter notice
Long Engagements Over 12 months
Time to save more money
More likely to get the venue and vendors you want
More time for DIY projects
Too much time to make decisions and change your mind
Could take on too many projects
Your family and friends could make you crazy
For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you got engaged on New Year's Eve and you’ve decided to have a 9-month engagement, so you’ll be getting married the following September. Here is your wedding planning timeline.
Immediately Following the Engagement
Decide on a budget for the wedding. Getting your finances in order ahead of time will make things less stressful later on.
Who is going to help you plan? If you’re already certain who you maid of honor is going to be, ask her for help, or determine if you want your mom and/or future mother-in-law to help with the planning process. If it's in your budget, you may always want to consider hiring a wedding planner.
9 to 6 months to go
Nail down your guest list, as you need to have an idea of how big the venue should be. Start looking at wedding venues and choose one that is available on or around your ideal wedding date. Since we’re “planning” a late summer, early fall wedding, make sure to look at pictures of the venue from that time of year. This will help you see what the place looks like in season. Be mindful of your wedding colours, and bring color swatches so that you can see what they will look like in the venues you visit. Hire your vendors. You’ll need to hire a variety of people to make your wedding day memorable. Here is a list of vendors you need to book first:
Photographer and videographer
Caterer (if not already offered by the venue)
Rental company (for tents, tables, chairs, etc.)
Ask your closest friends and family to be in your wedding party. Don’t rush this, you have plenty of time to make a decision and it should be done with much thought and surety. Don’t ask anyone out of obligation or that you don’t expect to be there for you.
6 to 4 months to go
Decided on your menu for the reception. Your caterer can help you determine meal options. Choose something the matches the theme and feel of your wedding, and of course your budget.
Get your group together for some dress shopping and place orders. Start with visiting a few bridal shops and looking for wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses. Don’t leave out the small local wedding boutiques and vendor as they’ll often have some great options for cheaper prices. Don't forget to also rent or buy suits and tuxes for the guys!
Set up your cake tasting and hire a baker. You’ll want to interview and do cake tastings with a few different local bakers. Schedule your cake tasting and choose a style that you would like.
Write down all your wedding day details. Plan out the order of events for your wedding day. When the bride and bridesmaids should arrive. What time everyone is getting hair and makeup done. When will wedding pictures take place. Will you have a “first look” moment before the wedding? You get the idea.
Start planning your honeymoon. If you plan on taking off right after your wedding. Start booking your flight, hotel, and any activities you plan on doing.
4 to 2 months to go
Have your dress fitting. Be sure to have all of your accessories, this way you’ll be able to see exactly how the dress will fit with everything on. If for some reason your dress is too small, don’t worry. There are options for letting out the dress too.
Plan wedding day transportation. Whether you’re hiring a limo or party bus or asking someone to drive you, figure out who will be helping with getting the wedding party from the ceremony to the reception. You may need to do this further in advance if you want specialized transportation.
Get your marriage license. Be sure to call your City Hall find out how much it costs and how far in advance you need to have it.
Buy the wedding rings. There are a lot of different styles and options for men’s and women’s wedding rings. Have an idea of what you’re looking for before heading to the jeweler.
Renew or order passports. If you are planning on leaving the country for your honeymoon, be sure to have up to date passports.
Design and order all printed materials. This includes invitations, programs, place settings, banners, artwork, etc. You can work with your own local printer to create your materials.
Send out all wedding invitations. Invitations should be sent about 2 months prior to the wedding date. Make sure to include your RSVP information, date/time/location information, etc. And don’t forget to include your engagement photo. People love seeing pictures of the happy couple!
1 month to go
Personal priming and grooming. The final weeks before the wedding should be reserved for personal grooming. Hair cuts for the guys. Color and cuts for the girls. Waxing, tanning, everything. Talk to your salon about your wedding day hair and make-up and get an idea of what you’d like.
Answer last minute questions from vendors. Make sure everything is on track and lined up. Be sure to answer any last minute questions or concerns that vendors may have.
Work on writing your vows. Now that the planning is all done, you can sit down and really focus on the day and your future spouse. If you plan on writing your own vows, here are a few tips that might help.
Purchase gifts. You will want to get a gift for your parents, wedding party, and your future spouse. For you fiance, you may also want to write and letter that will accompany the gift and be given the morning of the wedding. Each gift should be something thoughtful and meaningful for the intended person to let them know how thankful and grateful you are for their help and support.
Have your final wedding dress fitting. You may have changed a little since your last fitting so do this as close to the wedding date as possible. Bring your maid of honor and/or bridesmaids along so that they can learn how the bustle works. Also, be sure that you are comfortable with the way everything fits and that you can move freely. (Don’t be alarmed if it’s a little tight, the dress will stretch out the longer you wear it and you won’t even notice it.) Have the dress pressed and bring it home for the big day!
Review your RSVP list and contact any guests who have not responded to find out if their are coming or not. You don’t want any surprises and end up running out of space or food.
Give your must-have list to your photographer. Prepare and send a list of photos that you must have to your photographer. This includes family, wedding party, and bride/groom pictures. Also, don’t forget reception pictures and send of pictures.
1 week to go
Schedule the fun stuff. Get your girls together and get your manicures, pedicures and massages done.
Check in with vendors one last time. Make sure everything is still going as planned so there won’t be any surprises on your wedding day.
Wear your shoes around the house as much as possible to wear them in a little. There would be nothing worse than blisters and foot pain on your wedding day because of the shoes. Although, it might be a good idea to bring different shoes for the reception so you can be comfortable.
Attend your bachelorette/bachelor party. Enjoy a fun night with your favorite ladies before the wedding. Think of it as a celebration that all the planning is over and the fun is about to begin!
Make sure everyone has their attire. Make sure that your bridesmaids and groomsmen have everything they need (dresses, shoes, ties, jackets, etc). Don’t forget the parents of the bride and groom as well. You may want the dads to match the groomsmen. Pick up any last minuted things if needed.
1 day to go
It’s rehearsal time! Get your family, wedding party, and officiant to the ceremony venue to practice the processional and recessional. Go through the entire ceremony with music to plan out how everyone should walk in, where they should stand, what are their cues, etc. Be sure to give your officiant the marriage license.
Bring any decor items you need. Aisle runner, unity candle, flowers, and other decor items should be brought to your ceremony venue (if they allow it the day before) and placed where you would like them.
Attend your rehearsal dinner. This is one last dinner for the family and wedding party to celebrate your upcoming marriage. Use this time to present your wedding party with the gifts you purchased for them.
Day of the Wedding
Give your parents their gifts. The bride should give her parents their gifts and the groom should give his parents their gifts. Use this time to show your appreciation for everything they’ve done for you throughout the years and for their support.
Give your soon-to-be spouse their gift. If you’re not going to see each other until the ceremony, have one of your bridesmaids and groomsmen in charge of getting the gifts to each other. Do this as each is preparing for the day. Coordinate with your photographer so they can be sure to get pictures of the special moment.
Hand over the rings. The maid of honor should hold the groom’s ring and the best man should hold the bride’s ring. Make sure they are given to the appropriate person prior to the wedding. Also, make sure that the best man has the check to pay the officiant after the ceremony.
Make introductions. Introduce your reception site manager to your day-of coordinator or maid of honor as the point of contact for any questions or concerns. You’ll also want to appoint someone to be a contact for the photographer so that he/she can ask about who certain people are to get the right pictures.