You’ve got the ring and now it’s time to start planning the Wedding Day of your dreams and tackle the tasks on the Wedding Planning Checklist! The Wedding Planning Checklist can be overwhelming and can make it hard to know where to start! Most lists are divided by what to do 12 months before your wedding, then 11 months, etc., etc., etc. To help make the list less daunting, we suggest dividing the tasks among the number of weeks in the month. So instead of having a dozen things staring you in the face at one time, you can tackle a few each week which makes the list more manageable and less overwhelming! We also suggest putting the big things like guest list, venue, catering and other important vendors on your calendar to make sure you secure them in a timely manner.
As a retired wedding planner, I would suggest tackling your guest list first as it will determine what size of venue you will need, catering and rental costs, centerpieces, amount of cake, etc. Then set your budget. If you plan to hire a wedding planner, put that as your next big task to check off. By hiring the planner first, he or she can help you select a venue and other vendors that fit both your style and your budget. If a wedding planner is not in your budget, we would highly recommend a day of coordinator. Next, choose the venue and so on and so on until you have secured all the vendors necessary. To help you stay organized, we have put together a wedding planning checklist along with our ideas and tips to help make the process a little less stressful.
12 Months Out
Announce engagement to friends and family
Be sure to announce your engagement to your VIP’s (Parents, besties) before announcing on Facebook & Instagram!
Make a guest list
Wouldn’t it be great if you could invite everyone you want? Chances are, you can’t so you will need to put a cap on how many guests you can invite. The guest list affects your budget, the size of venue, how many tables and chairs you will need, etc., etc.
Who gets to decide who’s on the list? Traditionally, no matter who’s paying for your event, you should split your wedding guest list into three parts: one-third are guests of the bride’s parents, one-third are guests of the groom’s, and the rest are guests of the couple. If you are trying to or need to stay at a certain number due to your budget or venue size, you will have to start cutting, negotiating, and cutting some more until you reach a final number.
Determine your budget
Before you can start anything, you have to figure out who’s paying for what and determine your wedding budget. Then determine what’s a priority? We suggest each of you prioritize what’s important to you individually and then sort accordingly. Then look at the lists together and prioritize what’s important to you as a couple and start allocating the funds. Since these numbers will change as you plan, start a detailed spreadsheet to help you keep track of your spending and make it easy to adjust the numbers as you go.
Set your wedding date
It’s important to set your date before talking with vendors and doing venue tours so they can check their calendar for availability. If you have your heart set on a particular venue or vendor, you may need to be flexible in your date. It is still good to have a few dates in mind to keep the stress down when trying to figure out a date when meeting with them
Hire a wedding planner
If you plan to hire a wedding planner, put that as your next big task to check off. By hiring the planner first, he or she can help you select a venue and other vendors that fit both your style and your budget. If a wedding planner is not in your budget, we would highly recommend a day of coordinator. This person will be your right-hand woman (or man!) and will guide you in all decisions, from selecting a venue to tracking your budget and handling all the logistics so be sure to feel comfortable with them!
Choose color theme and start thinking of overall style and design
This is where your Pinterest boards come in handy! It’s time to select a color palette, style and create a mood board. The mood board will help your planner, florist, rental company understand your vision and help create the day of your dreams. If you are struggling for inspo, look around your world at things like how you’ve decorated your home, what’s your personal style, what you like on Instagram and Pinterest and draw inspiration from those. Still need some help, check out our Inspiration boards from local Nashville vendors.
Select the venue
Choosing the venue is one of the most important decisions you’ll make right now. The venue sets the tone for your event. Because the location affects almost everything else, from how many people you invite to what kind of flowers go on the table. Chances are, it’s also the biggest chunk of change you’ve put down, like ever. That’s why you want to explore your options, visit your top choices, and ultimately select a place that fits your guest count, style, and budget. But when push comes to shove: Throw out that pros and cons list and trust your gut. Just like when you found the “dress”, you will know when it’s the right place!
11 Months Out
Plan your engagement party if having one
Start shopping for your wedding dress
Many bridal boutiques/salons are by appointment only so contact the ones you would like to visit and get on their calendar. Then grab your Mom and your best friend and enjoy the experience! When you find the right one, you will know!
Select the caterer
Your wedding will probably be the largest dinner party of your life and you want it to be Amazing! So, how do you feed 150 of your closest friends and family? Hire a professional caterer you can trust to deliver, whether that’s the venue’s in-house caterer, a preferred caterer recommended by your planner, or even your favorite taco truck. This is your party so don’t be afraid to get creative with your menu! Your guests will enjoy tasting your favorite cocktail as much as they will your grandma’s chocolate pie.
Hire vendors who book up quickly, including your photographer, band, DJ, videographer and hair and make-up artists.
These are the people who will make your day great! Do your research before you hire and ask all the right questions. We will be doing a series every Thursday on questions to ask your vendors.
10 Months Out
Research marriage license requirements
Every state has different marriage laws and requirements, so Google yours so that you can get the correct documents you will need. If you’re having a destination wedding, whether domestic or international, you’ll need to research those paperwork requirements as well. A destination wedding specialist can help with this. Be sure you have all the documents you will need.
Select members of your bridal party
Now’s the time to gather your besties and ask them if they will stand by your side! There are so many creative ways to ask from cookies to bottles of bourbon. Have fun letting them know they are the ones you want to be with you on your special day!
Start thinking about bridal party attire, including flower girl/ring bearer
Book hotel-room blocks for guests
Booking room blocks for your out of town guests is very thoughtful. Be sure to get room blocks in a couple of price points and areas of town. Be sure your contract with the hotel doesn’t have an attrition rate or you will be responsible for paying a percentage of the rooms not booked by your guests.
Reserve a hotel room for the wedding night
Start thinking about honeymoon destinations
Create your wedding website
Having a wedding website gives your guests a place to find important information for your big day! And add the URL to your Save-the-Dates so they know where to look!.
Take engagement photos
Engagement photos are fun and are a great time to get comfortable in front of the camera and to get to know your photographer better!
Start looking at invitations
Your wedding invitation is a guest’s first impression of your big day! So be sure to choose one that reflects you and your fiancé as well as the style of your wedding. If you’re going custom, start working with a graphic designer or stationer now to create your invitations suite. If you are not interested in custom, you can wait until the six-month mark to order. Regardless of which you choose, remember to mark your calendar to send them out six to eight weeks prior to the big day.
Finalize guest list and mailing addresses
9 Months Out
Buy your wedding dress
It’s time to say yes to the dress if you want to avoid rush fees.
Order and Mail Save-the-Dates
Save-the-Dates are a great way to let everyone know when and where you’re making it official. And remember: Everyone who gets a save-the-date gets a wedding invite. No exceptions.
8 Months Out
Select the bridesmaids’ dresses and schedule fittings
After choosing your color palette and a few styles you have in mind, ask your bridesmaids to come shopping with you. It will be helpful for you to see them in the dresses and see how they feel in the styles you are considering. Remember they will be wearing it in front of a crowd of hundreds and you want them to be comfortable. That said, we love the trend of selecting a color palette and letting them choose the style they want to wear.
Much like hiring your other vendors, you want to be comfortable with your florist and that they understand your vision. We suggest asking friends and your planner for recommendations and then check out their Instagram. Finding someone who understands your vision and can work with your budget is very important!
Contact lighting and tent rental companies if needed
Update passports if you’re considering traveling abroad
7 Months Out
Book the rehearsal-dinner venue
Traditionally, the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner and often even plans where to go. This is a great time to include MIL in some of the planning. So make a date with her to chat about the rehearsal dinner to make sure you are all on the same page.
Hire an officiant
An officiant is the most important vendor you will hire because you can’t make it official without them. Be sure to check the laws in the county/city your nuptials will take place to be sure who can legally sign your marriage certificate.
Whether you want live musicians or plan to have a DJ for your ceremony music now is the time to hire them. Check out these amazing vendors for ceremony and reception music. They can also help you with song choices if needed.
Order rental items
Don’t wait to reserve your rental items such as tables, chairs, linens, dance floor, draping, etc. These items are the bones of your wedding day décor and can book up quickly!
6 Months Out
Choose your cake and the baker
First sit down with your partner and decide what look and flavors you both love. Do you want a cake, cupcakes, pies, etc. Starting a Pinterest board with photos of what you love will help your baker know what you are wanting. Need some inspiration check out our Pinterest boards with gorgeous photos of amazing cakes and other delicious desserts.
Now it’s time to find the right baker to create this sweet goodness! Ask to see their portfolio and read reviews to make sure they are able to create what you are looking for.
Schedule makeup and hair trial
Choosing a hairstylist and makeup artist is very important. Know who you want for your day of beauty, book them early!
Schedule beauty appointments for yourself and bridal party for the wedding day
Book early! Especially if you have a large wedding party!
Request time off from work for your honeymoon
Be sure to request time off from work for your honeymoon before you book your hotel and airline reservations.
Book the honeymoon
Traditionally, wedding etiquette states the groom plans a surprise honeymoon for the bride. But, if you two prefer planning it together, start figuring out where, when, budget, travel arrangements and a semblance of an itinerary. It’s not necessary to plan every minute but discuss the important things and activities you each want from this trip. A professional travel agent is a great resource to help with these details.
Book the day of transportation for the bridal party and your exit.
Want your bridal party to ride in style, now is the time to book a limo or party bus.
Book the bride and groom’s transportation (limo, specialty car, etc.)
Time to think about you two! Whether you’re into getting in a stretch limo or love the look of a vintage car, choose transportation that fits you style and budget.
Register for gifts
Make it a date and have fun picking out gifts! Register for staples like towels, sheets and pots and pans but don’t hesitate to add things you really want. Consider what you enjoy doing together and tailor your registry to your soon-to-be-married lifestyle.
If you are planning to DIY items, start now. DIY items can take more time than you think so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get them completed. We suggest having a goal of finishing them at least 1 month before your wedding date.
5 Months Out
Buy or rent the groom’s tuxedo
Choosing your groom’s attire is just as important as choosing your dress. First decide whether you want a tux or suit and based on the style and formality of your wedding. Then decide whether to buy or rent. Regardless of what you choose, focus on fit and function. Remember you want him to look great but also want him to be comfortable.
When ordering your wedding invitations, be sure to order enough to account for some mistakes, make sure they will arrive in time, set up a system for recording RSVP replies, and confirm all addresses and spelling. As far as design and working, the option are endless. Be sure the theme of your invites reflects the theme of you wedding and expresses you as a couple. But when it comes to design and wording, the options are endless. Need a little advice to rein it all in? Keep reminding yourself that the theme of your invites should match the vibe of your wedding and express you as a couple. If you want to have calligraphy, be sure your calligrapher knows it and can prove it before
Book transportation for guests
Booking transportation for your guests is great if you are having a destination wedding. Your out of town guests who do not know the area will appreciate having a shuttle or bus pick them up at the hotel you have reserved a hotel and taking them to the ceremony and reception. Also consider a shuttle or bus if parking at your venue is limited or more than $20 to park.
Begin premarital counseling
Whether you do premarital counseling or not, is completely up to the two of you. Keeip in mind, some states like Tennessee offer a discount on your marriage license if you undergo counseling.
Provide bridal shower guest list to maid-of-honor
Hire a Bartending Service and Research signature drink options
Signature drinks are a fun way to express who you are as a couple and depending on what you decide to serve, can help keep the liquor budget in check. A professional Bartending Service can help you choose something and some can even create the perfect signature drink.
4 Months Out
Have your final tasting with the caterer and finalize menu
You’ve chosen your caterer and discussed a tentative menu. Now it’s time to taste and decide what you want to serve your guests. This is a good meeting to invite your planner to as they will know what questions to ask when finalizing the final menu and can be of help in making sure to be within your budget
Buy wedding bands
Do you or your fiancé know the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding band? Although there are a few things that make them different, the biggest difference is that the engagement ring is given during the proposal and the wedding band is given during the ceremony and is worn from that day forward. Whether you choose to wear bands or not, is a personal decision. However, if you decide to, you will want to have them purchased at least 2 months before your nuptials.
Select groomsmen’s attire and schedule fittings within the month
You’ve chosen what your groom will wear. Now it’s time to decide what his guys will be sporting. Talk with your groom about whether you want the groomsmen to match him or if he should have a stand-alone look. Once you have decided on the look and where you are shopping, give the groomsmen the info and the date they need to be fitted by. If they live in different parts of the world, it is often best to choose a national brand store to ensure they are getting the exact same look. Worried they won’t get fitted in time? This is an area to get your groom involved. It will make him feel a part of the planning process and they’re his guys so he may be able to easily pull rank and get his men in line and a very well dressed one, at that!
If you need suggestions for music, talk with the professionals you hired. This is their jam and they can help you pick the perfect songs!
Hair and makeup trial
Go prepared! Take photos of styles you like! Also bring photos of your wedding dress so your stylist can see your whole vision. This is not a day to settle so make sure to communicate with the stylist so you get what you are wanting. But also be realistic some styles don’t work with all hair.
Schedule dance lessons
Nervous about your First Dance as Mr. & Mrs., hire a professional to help you learn some dance moves!
Check invitation proof
Proofing the invitation is very important. Be sure all info is correct (i.e. date, time, place, etc.). Have several people look it over to be sure. If you approve the invitation with a mistake, you are responsible for paying to have them reprinted.
3 Months Out
First dress fitting
Your first dress fitting should be anywhere between two to three months after ordering, and your second one around the six-week mark. If you have questions, check with yoru bridal boutique and alterations person.
Brainstorm guest favors and gift bags
Favors or gift bags for your guests are a nice gesture but definitely not expected. If you decide to do them, we suggest keeping the personalization to a sweet note attached the gift versus engraving your name and wedding date on it. By doing this, it makes the gift more reusable and can often be easier on the budget. We love small edible gifts like boxed chocolate or almonds. If you want to give something that can last, small potted succulents or plants make a great gift.
Book a photo-booth rental
Photo booths are a ton of fun and have become a must have at receptions! If you plan to have a photo booth now’s the time to reserve it!
Write your vows
If the two of you have decided to write your own vows, start putting your thoughts on paper.
Meet with the officiant to finalize your ceremony
Now is a good time to meet with your officiant to finalize the details of your ceremony. Let him or her know if there are any particular versus you want included. Also be sure to invite him or her to the rehearsal dinner
2 Months Out
Send the wedding invitations (with RSVPs due one month before the wedding)
Send the wedding invitations with stamped RSVPs eight weeks before your wedding date. RSVPs should be due four weeks before your wedding so you have time to follow up with those guests who haven’t sent it in yet.
Send out rehearsal-dinner invitations (these can be included with the wedding invitations if you like)
The rehearsal dinner is often handled by your partner and his or her family. Be sure to give them a guest list with accurate mailing addresses. Discuss with your partner what you want the overall look and feel to be for your rehearsal dinner.
Buy gifts for wedding-party and parents
Wedding party gifts are a great way to say thank you for being by my side. Remember they don’t have to be expensive to be thoughtful.
Attend your bridal shower (have fun!)
Write and mail shower thank-you notes
Buy all small items and pack them up
If you haven’t already, buy the small things. Off the top of our heads, those items could include table numbers, toasting flutes, cake topper, cake stand, cake knife, guest book, card box, ring-bearer accessories, flower-girl accessories, a cute hanger for your dress, and a garter. IF you plan to purchase items for guests like flip-flops or sunglasses, do that now too. Don’t forget signs for your guest book, welcome table, etc. After you have purchased these items, pack them in boxes according to where they will be needed and mark them so your wedding planner or person putting them out can easily place them in the correct spot.
1 Month Out
Pick up your marriage license
In the state of Tennessee, the marriage license is valid for thirty (30) days from issuance and is good for ceremonies performed anywhere in Tennessee. If your wedding ceremony is not taking place in Tennessee be sure to check with the state’s marriage laws where the ceremony will take place.
Update caterer with final guest count and meals
After you received all of your RSVPs, let you caterer know your final guest count. If your guests had menu choices, be sure the caterer has those numbers as well. Also don’t forget to include your vendors in your count. Many vendors require you provide them a meal.
Finalize florals with your florist
Your RSVPs should be in so now’s the time to finalize your floral list with your florists. Confirm the number of bouquets, boutonnières and centerpieces needed.
Assemble gift bags
Get your girls together and assemble the gift bags for your out of town guests.
Pay your vendors in full
Most vendors require payment in full 30 days before your wedding date. We suggest keeping a spreadsheet of all of your vendor payments so you can easily know how much those final payments will be. For those vendors who need to be paid day or if you are distributing tips, give your wedding planner or most trusted bridesmaid a heads-up that you’ll need their help in handing out the labeled envelopes.
Create a seating chart
If you are planning to have a seating chart, now’s the time to tackle it. Figuring out who’s sitting where can be as difficult as the guest list. We suggest starting with whether you and your partner will sit together at a sweetheart table to with your wedding party at a head table. Then determine where each of your parents will sit and with whom. As far as the rest of your guests, enlist your partner and both sets of parents to help with the balancing act of relationships, egos, potential, and crisis-management.
Order or make your escort cards and place cards
First, you should know the difference. While both place cards and escort cards designate where each guest will be seated at a wedding, place cards are more specific—and also more formal—than escort cards. A place card not only directs guests to the table where each will sit during the reception, but also points each guest to his or her particular seat at the table. Place cards are usually necessary for a plated dinner when there are menu choiess.as they help the catering staff correctly distribute the meals to each guest. Whichever you choose, you’ll want your cards to complement the overall theme of your wedding.
Have a final venue walk-through
Make a list of questions and bring your planner or maid of honor or family member to bring up anything you forget. If the venue sets up your tables and chairs, now is the time to finalize the layout.
Final dress fitting
Have a friend or bridesmaid go with you so she can learn how to bustle if your dress requires it.
Break in your wedding shoes
Put on your wedding shoes and walk around your house and dance in your kitchen! Do everything in your power to break in your wedding shoes to avoid painful blisters on your wedding night.
Take care of things like:
Refreshing your hair color
Getting your eyebrows done
Pack your bags for the honeymoon (don’t forget your passport if you’re leaving the country!), and confirm your travel arrangements
Clean your ring (head to your jeweler to get your engagement ring professionally clean so it’s extra sparkly on your wedding day.)
Clear your work to-do list so you can only focus on wedding festivities and take it all in!
Practice your vows out loud
Write your partner a note
Put any final vendor payments and cash in tip envelopes for your planner/delegate to distribute
Pack final items for the ceremony and reception and mark them clearly
Arrange for someone to return groomsmen attire
Assign day-of responsibilities to attendants
Confirm wedding day beauty appointments
Confirm wedding day details with all vendors
Pick up your wedding rings and make sure they fit
Send day-of timeline and contact list to vendors
Send final seating chart and vendor contact sheet to reception site manager
Organize tipping envelopes
Pack personal items needed for your wedding day (Wedding dress, garter, shoes, etc.)
Deliver decorations, programs and favors to wedding and reception venue
Attend rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
Give attendants and parents thank you gifts
Get a manicure and pedicure
Put any boxes, suitcases, bags, and survival kits to bring to the ceremony or reception in the car. (You’ll thank us tomorrow!)
Get a good night’s sleep
Day of the Wedding
Congratulations! The big day is finally here! Relax and take in every moment!
Be sure to eat breakfast and drink lots of water. Double check that you have:
Wedding dress, veil and headpiece
Shoes, hosiery and undergarments
Something old, new, borrowed and blue
Wedding bands and ring bearer pillow
Suitcase, airline tickets and passports if traveling
Copy of your wedding vows, if you’re writing your own
Copy of your wedding toast, if you’re planning on speaking
Envelopes with tips for vendors
After The Wedding
Mail thank you cards to guests within 8 weeks of returning from your honeymoon
Send thank you notes to your vendors
The best thank you is a review on Google or Happily Connected.
Send change-of-address form to post office,
Change your last name on necessary forms
For Brides With Less Time to Plan
Although 12 to 14 months is the ideal length for an engagement and time to plan a wedding, every couple’s engagement time is different. If your engagement length is shorter, no worries. We suggest if you’re getting married in six months or less, try to complete all the wedding-planning checklist tasks designated for month 12 to 6 in the very first month, and then you’ll be right on schedule with everything else.
Regardless of how much time you have, relax and enjoy the process. Always remember to disconnect from wedding planning and enjoy each other. Cuz isn’t that the reason you’re planning in the first place!
Click here for the free wedding planning checklist you can check off. We suggest downloading it to your Google Drive and share it with anyone who will be helping you check off your wedding planning list!