When you first get engaged, it seems to be proper for you to immediately start planning the wedding. But in my opinion, you’re missing out on an amazing part of your life together if you do that. Why not enjoy your engagement a little bit before you go bonkers and start stressing out? Why not celebrate the fact that you’re going to spend the rest of your lives together, instead of spending all of your time worrying about one day? Not to say that your wedding day isn’t a big day, it’s a huge day! But don’t let it get to you.
I’ve looked at a lot of timelines people suggest for when you get engaged, for when to start looking for a venue, when to order your cake, your invitations, etc. But they all seem to have items on their to-do lists that I just don’t think are necessary, or maybe just in the wrong place. Now, I will agree that a year is a good amount of time to be planning the wedding, not including your blissful, “We just got engaged!” phase together. The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you’ll be, and the more time you’ll have to save up some money.
So with that, here is my version of a To-Do List:
Oh but first here one more tip! Get your engagement photos taken during your blissful stage, before all the planning. This will produce some of the cutest pictures and you will have plenty of time to get them printed and back to you before you send save-the-dates and invites. Don’t have this feel like just another item on your checklist to get done. This is a sweet and wonderful time full of happiness, so take advantage of that!
12 Months Out:
*Get a wedding binder
This is for you to be able to keep track of everything you’ll be needing and going over; contracts, quotes, pictures, etc. Have this include a calendar of some sort so you can keep track of all your appointments. This is something you should be doing whether or not you have a coordinator.
*Work on your budget
This is very serious and very important. If you do not sit down with your significant other and decide on a budget, it could open up a whole new door of complications. Together, decide what you can afford and what some absolutely necessary items would be and what some things you can live without are. Without a budget, you’ll never know when to stop.
*Write down a preliminary guest list
You will, at least, need to have an idea of how many people you will be inviting because this has a lot to do with your budget. If you know how many people you’ll need to feed, you’ll know how much money that will cost; the more people, the more food cost.
*Choose a wedding date
This one may be a little obvious but sometimes you’ll need a couple of different dates. So sit down together and discuss at least 2 or 3 dates in case you find the perfect venue, and they don’t have your first choice. Sometimes even just a month and day of the week would be enough to give you the freedom for whatever venue you fall in love with.
*Start looking for ideas
Now you should have your budget, so you will know if you’re going to be making your decorations yourself or having someone else do them. Start browsing around the internet and see all the different ideas that are out there. Pinterest is a great place to start and we both know, a helpful wedding blog is always great!
*Start looking for your dress
At this point, we don’t expect you to find THE dress, but you should, at least, start to look at places that are affordable for you. There are hundreds of places to get a wedding dress and you don’t want to miss out on anything because you don’t have time to try all the places you’d like to.
*Pick your bridal party
If you want to do something cute to invite your friends to be in your bridal party, now is the time to do it. I’m sure a select few would know it’s coming, but it shows your appreciation if you go out of your way to ask. It is not a small commitment for your maid-of-honor and bridesmaids to say yes. The same goes for your sweetheart, make sure you both know how many you want in the party and that he asks as well!
*Pick your venue
You will need at least a month to shop around for venues, so start now and you’ll have a better chance of finding your date. Once you find the place you want to get married, DO NOT HESITATE! If you hesitate to book it, someone else will take it right out from under you.
9 Months Out:
*Save the Dates
Pick and send out your save the dates. I love the idea of a picture of the couple for save the dates but keep in mind the extra cost on the photos.
Go ahead and start registering. Sometimes this can take quite a while, so give yourself plenty of time and don’t feel rushed, but don’t overwhelm your guests either. Find a happy medium.
*Pick and order your dress
You may have already found the one by now, but in case you haven’t, it’s time to get crackin’! Every bride wants to look their best on their wedding day, but don’t go crazy. Make sure that once you have your fitting, you’re at a size you plan on being at, and maintain that. Be comfortable with yourself and don’t work out too much, but also, don’t go overboard at those cake tastings. Don’t try to make your body fit the dress; make the dress fit your body. You will look much more beautiful if your dress fits you perfectly!
*Block out rooms at a hotel
If you’re going to have a bunch of out of town guests, you’ll need to have a block of rooms at a hotel that is decently close to your venue. Hotels do not charge you for this and will give you a lower rate for the block. Try and find something that won’t be too expensive either, they are already spending money to fly or drive to your wedding destination. Also make sure your guests get the information for the hotel you have rooms at.
*Shop for bridesmaids dresses
This is something that can get very stressful, if you let it. Decide if you want matching dresses, just matching colors or just a matching color scheme. It is good to have your bridesmaids go with you, so you can see what style dress looks good on them. But if you’re doing all one dress style and color, don’t let them sway your decision completely and stress you out. Try to keep the cost down on these dresses as well. If you do the dress shopping far out enough in advance, your friends may have more time to save up for the dress, but it is still something they will probably only wear to your wedding. In the end, you probably won’t be able to make everyone happy, but try your best.
*Book your honeymoon
Take some time and look into different airfares and hotels. Be sure to make this fun and exciting! Don’t stress out over it. Go somewhere that you’ll both enjoy and can afford. Also, don’t forget about a hotel the night of your wedding if you are leaving in the morning.
*Shop for and purchase your wedding rings
If your engagement ring was bought as a set, it will probably be easiest to go back to the same place, but you don’t necessarily have to, and you don’t need to get his there either. Look around at what other places have to offer. Make sure it’s something you love, because you’ll be wearing it for the rest of your life!
*Book your DJ, Photographer, Florist, Cake, etc.
This is probably the part that will take the biggest hit to your pocket. Now is the time you’ll need to start putting down deposits to book your musicians, photographers and videographers, day of coordinator, etc. Make sure you have done plenty of research on someone before you give them your money. Look into their past events, make sure it’s something you want and make sure you have good chemistry with your vendors. Don’t book someone that you don’t really get along with. If you are doing your decorations yourself, start buying all of your products to make them, and start working on them. Give yourself enough time just in case an idea doesn’t work, or you end up needing more of something. Making the decorations can be extremely stressful, so don’t procrastinate it and feel free to recruit some free help. When it comes to your cake, please, please, please try many different bakeries and their cakes, check into many different prices, and look at past cakes they’ve done. It is a horrible experience to have your cake be dropped off hours before your wedding and it be wrong (Yes, I have witnessed this happen. It was able to be fixed up a bit, but the couple was still unhappy with the situation and it really stressed them out, that’s not something you need).
6 Months Out:
*Book the rehearsal dinner
Make sure you get your guest list for the dinner and everyone gets an invite. Don’t forget to invite them to the ceremony rehearsal as well.
*Look for and rent Groom and Groomsmen’s tuxes
This is not nearly as painful of a process as finding the bridesmaids dresses, but it is just as important. Make sure to give yourself enough time for it.
*Order the rest of your bridal accessories
Now is when you should be getting your cute extras. Order your veil, gloves if needed, undergarments for the dress and don’t forget your shoes (or to break in your shoes if you already have them).
*Finalize your guest list
Sit down with your honey and make some more cuts, if necessary, or add a few more people you hadn’t thought of. Try to get a good idea of how many invitations you’ll need before you order them.
*Select and order your invitations
Invitations are very important, so make sure you order plenty of them and with enough time to get them sent out and get your RSVP’s back. Sending out the invitations can be very time consuming because you’ll probably have to address every one of them. And again, some free help is always appreciated here if you can find it!
2 Months Out:
This is the time for you to start to finalize everything. You’re now in the home stretch! So make sure everyone is on the same page and everything is being paid for!
*Order your cake
This is something you are allowed to be picky about. Don’t be afraid to express exactly what you want and make sure there is no confusion and no questions when you leave.
*Check in with your wedding party
Give them a little nudge and make sure they have everything that they need, just don’t forget to be nice!
*Get your marriage license
Find out what requirements there are for obtaining your marriage license and make sure you get it done, and don’t forget to pick it up once it’s ready.
*Send out thank you cards for the engagement party
You should have already ordered your invitation set, and hopefully your thank you cards as well. Make sure you order a few extra to send for the gifts you received at your engagement party/bridal party/etc.
*Finalize day of transportation and jobs
You can easily get caught up in all of the fun details like decorations, dresses, makeup, and invitations, but it would be quite embarrassing if you had forgotten about how you’ll get to your ceremony or how you’ll be sent off as the newlyweds. Some venues have rooms for you to get ready in the day of, so it takes a little stress off of you. You won’t have to worry about getting in the car with your dress or having your makeup sweat off, but what about the send-off? Do you want to drive off into the night in an old classic car that says just married? Don’t forget about the transportation! Also, finalize what everyone will be responsible for. Whether someone is in charge of making sure you don’t forget a shoe, or that all of the party favors get to the venue. Make sure someone has a job for the clean-up. A lot of places won’t clean your decorations for you, so delegate someone to take them home, or make sure your decorator knows when to pick them up.
*Start to pay off your vendors
The sooner you can start to get some things paid off, the more it takes off your mind and the less you have to do closer to the big day.
*Pick your hair and make-up stylists
Don’t go into this blindly. Look around at different stylists, or maybe you have a friend that can do it. Either way, make sure you have a trial run! This way, you can discuss everything in much more detail when it’s actually being done. If something doesn’t work out, you know not to do it again.
*Mail out your invites
You could do this earlier, just be sure and give your guests plenty of time to clear their schedules and ask that the RSVP’s are back 3-4 weeks prior to the wedding.
1 Month Out:
*Finalize vendors and pay them
Some vendors don’t require final payment until a couple of weeks out, but the sooner you get it done, the more stress it removes from you.
*Pick up your rings
Make sure they are correct, whether there is an engraving, or the size is right, etc.
*Write your speeches and vows
Make sure anything you want to say at the rehearsal or the wedding, is down on paper somewhere. It helps to write it down and get it out, that way you can tweak it if you want. And if you lose it, it will probably be easier to remake. Have someone read it too, or read it to them, and see if they have any suggestions. The vows are very important and should be taken seriously. You are making one of the biggest commitments you will ever make in your life. Don’t go into it lightly.
*Something old, new, borrowed, and blue
If you’re going the traditional route, make sure that you have your something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, and be sure and keep track of them!
*Purchase guest book, cake cutting set, champagne flutes, etc.
Go ahead and get your small items like this. This gives you enough time to look around for the cutest sign-in book and cake cutter.
*Check in with those that haven’t RSVP’d
This is not going to be fun, but you need to start hunting down those, hopefully only a few, people that still haven’t RSVP’d. You have to know a final guest count for your caterer and so that your venue knows how many to seat for.
*Schedule a final dress fitting
It’s crunch time! Make sure it fits!
*Put together a timeline for the night
Your vendors will need a timeline so they know when to set up and be ready and when to come back and pick everything up. If you have a coordinator, she may do this, but do it with her and make sure you’re both on the same page.
1 Week Out:
*Finalize any due balances
Make sure everything is paid for and there are no loose ends!
*Pick up your dress
Yay! It’s time to go get your dress! This should be a simple enough exchange, just make sure you keep the dress clean!
*Confirm any last minute details
If you have a limo, make sure it is confirmed. Confirm drop off and pick up times for your vendors. Confirm reservations. Any small detail that could go wrong, make sure it’s going to go right!
Put together an emergency kit for yourself and your bridal party. Extra bobby pins, safety pins, sewing kit (if you’ve got someone who can sew), hair bands, tissues, band-aids, anything you can possibly think of that you might need. If you think about it and decide against it, you know you’ll need it, so just put it in the kit anyway!
*Go get pampered
Treat yourself to a mani/pedi, or a facial, or go full out and have a spa day. After how stressed you’ve been, it’ll be nice to just relax right before your big day.
1 Day Before:
*Pack all necessary day of items
Make sure you don’t forget anything. If you need to make a list to help you remember everything, do it. Especially don’t forget the rings, license, or the cake cutting set!
*Attend rehearsal dinner
Now would be a good time to test out your new waterproof makeup. If you plan on giving out any gifts, now is also the time to do it. But most importantly, have fun! Enjoy some good food and good company before the big day.
*Go to bed early
You may not be able to fall asleep for a while, so make sure you get in bed early. If you can manage to fall asleep right away, even better, then you’ll just be extra rested for your wedding.
The Day Of:
*Eat a healthy breakfast
Eat something that will give you energy without making you shaky; something that has lots of fiber and antioxidants. Get your day started right, and the rest of day will go smoothly!
Double check everything you’ve packed up, including your honeymoon luggage and necessary items (passport, tickets, etc.). Double check that everyone knows what they’re responsibilities for the day are. Double check and make sure you grabbed that amazing waterproof mascara. Double check anything and everything that could possibly cause you more stress if it went wrong. Take the time to do it in advance, and you’ll be glad you did.
And have fun doing it! It’s a celebration of a huge step forward in your life with the one person you love the most.
So there it is, that’s all I’ve got for you. Just remember, keep your stress as low as possible, it’s not healthy to be stressed. Don’t procrastinate because you think you have all the time in the world, it’ll be here before you know it! And love, love so unconditionally it hurts. If you do this, you and your special somebody will have an amazing life together. Happy Wedding Planning!