Where shall we tie the knot? How many bridesmaids can I get away with? And, how do we politely state that kids are not invited!?
The key to dealing with these tricky wedding day conundrums is by establishing a well-thought-out wedding timeline and a planning checklist that covers every step of the journey leading up to your big day.
The length of this schedule will, of course, depend on when you got engaged, and how far in advance your wedding date is.
To help you find your feet at this early stage of planning, we thought we’d stop your endless search for wedding itinerary templates and simply share our own!
So here is our wedding timeline checklist that’ll hopefully guide your planning over the next 12 months, and ensure no single detail gets forgotten!
12 Months to the Wedding
Unless you’re marrying into considerable wealth, or you are extraordinarily well-off. You will need to have a solid wedding budget in place before moving on to any further stage in the planning process.
Sit down together and talk openly, and frankly about your priorities for this momentous day, and how much you believe should be spent.
Now is the perfect time to start jotting down numbers on a spreadsheet, and calculating how much each of the key areas is going to cost. Of course, this means doing some research, and these days there are countless bridal blogs out there that will help you with real-world costs.
Retain all the info you gather on your spreadsheet and adjust the numbers as you progress.
No matter when, where, or how you’re getting married – the wedding venue will always be the first thing that needs to be booked.
The location you choose will affect every other subsequent decision you make, from the number of people you can invite, to the vendors you can select, to how your celebration will look!
Plus, your venue will probably be the most expensive item in your wedding budget. So, it’ll help to know how much you’ve got left to spend!
For many, the idea of a giant wedding is a dreamy prospect. Whereas for others, it couldn’t be further from their ideal. No matter which camp you fall into, decide together early on how many guests you want, and can feasibly invite.
Can you afford to feed and water 250 guests? Can your venue accommodate that many people?
If your family/families are contributing towards the wedding, then it’s also only fair that you involve them in the process at this point, and expect them to invite their own guests too.
11 Months to the Wedding
Now is the time to pick a theme for your big day, and stick to it by using an extensive Pinterest board, a physical mood board, or something more sophisticated.
Decide early how you want these celebrations to look, as the theme will affect your subsequent vendor choices.
Book the Photographer/Videographer
You’d be amazed at how far in advance a good wedding photographer will be booked up. Their weekend schedule could very easily be full for the next 24 months! So, decide as soon as possible on the style of wedding photography you want, and the budget you can afford to attribute towards it.
The same can be said for videographers, ceremony musicians, reception DJs, and bands. Along with the photographer, these guys either create the biggest moments or capture them.
So don’t miss out on the perfect vendor. Book the best, before the next couple comes along and snaps them up!
10 Months to the Wedding
Create a Wedding Website
These days it’s so easy and cheap to create a wedding website.
Not only are they an invaluable tool for keeping your loved ones up to date on proceedings, but they’re also the perfect place to showcase your engagement shoot pictures!
Plan an Engagement Shoot
If your budget can stretch to it, an engagement shoot is always a good idea. Most of us non-supermodels have had very little practice in front of a professional photographer which can result in incredibly uncomfortable-looking wedding photos!
An engagement session will give you some much-needed practice, and allow you both to feel more at ease with the photographer, which is vital if you want natural-looking shots.
Pro-tip: Book a hair and makeup trial for the morning of your engagement shoot. That way you’ll try out all the services in one day, and you’ll have a professional beauty look created for you!
Wedding Dress Research
Buying and finding your dream wedding dress is not like shopping at Zara. Apart from at the major bridal retailers, it’s very rare that gowns are bought off the rack.
Furthermore, most stores do not carry samples of every designer’s collection. So, if you have several gowns on your wishlist, you may need to travel to see each piece at different locations.
Start visiting bridal stores early, and don’t leave ordering your gown to the last minute. Ideally, order it between 8-9 months before your big day.
9 Months to the Wedding
You may think that Save-the-Date cards are an unnecessary expense, but we’re here to say they are totally necessary!
They allow everyone ample time to book a slot out of their busy schedule to attend your big day, and they serve as an easy reminder of when the festivities will be.
Plus, you can share the link to your wedding website, and/or social media accounts for your wedding on them.
8 Months to the Wedding
Order Bridesmaids Dresses
Before this point, you should have “proposed” to your bridesmaids, and hopefully brought them into the wedding planning process. Maybe, you’ve even had some early bachelorette parties! Why Not! Assuming that you have your squad sorted, now is the time to get them styled for the big day.
Bridesmaid dresses don’t take as long as bridal gowns to order, but they can be harder to decide upon.
Often it’s only half the battle to get each member of the group to say “yes” to their dress. The real difficulty comes when attempting to get everyone together at the same time to try gowns on in the first place, or to have fittings.
Try to do as much online research as possible, and limit the number of times all of your gang needs to come together at once, by being selective with your shopping trips.
Get Recommendations for Wedding Vendors
The wedding party is typically an invaluable source of recommendations for vendors. Their advice and guidance will always come from an honest and loving place, so be sure to cast out the proverbial endorsement net while planning your big day.
Be sure to also seek advice from vendors you’ve already booked. Does your venue recommend a photographer? Can the photographer suggest a videographer? If these guys are putting someone forward, it’s usually because they’re great, and they’re easy to work with.
6-7 Months to the Wedding
Select a Rehearsal Dinner Venue
Whether you want low-key and local, or something more sophisticated, it’s good to get the date in the diary early.
Order Reception Furniture & Rented Decoration Items
If your venue doesn’t provide reception furniture and decoration, you’ll need to select and source everything well before the big day.
Your reception chairs, linens, dance floor, and extra furniture for moments away from the meal table, must be chosen as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Book Your Officiant
If you’re not having a religious ceremony, you will have to hire someone to make your moment official.
Much like any other vendor, the best officiants fill their diary rapidly, and with good reason. A talented, experienced officiant can take your wedding ceremony to the next level, and provide that experience you’ve been dreaming of.
A professional officiant is not however the only option, you could also consider having a close friend or member of the family conduct proceedings.
This certainly offers a more intimate feel but does also place a lot of pressure on the individual. So think carefully before you decide.
5 Months to the Wedding
After spending every spare moment planning the wedding of a lifetime over the last 12 months, you both deserve to have your dream honeymoon awaiting! This trip could be the biggest you’ve taken together so far, and as such, it demands careful thought.
If you’re planning the honeymoon together, try to get everything wrapped up around the 5-month mark. Hotels, flights, and trips should all be booked. This should mean you get the best prices and give you peace of mind that everything is all in hand.
Organize the Suit for the Groom and Groomsmen
Keep in mind that buying a tailor-made or bespoke suit will take considerably longer to prepare than a rented one.
Either way, selecting and ordering 5 months before the big day should allow enough time for production, and for getting everyone together for fittings.
4 Months to the Wedding
Select the Wedding Cake
Modern wedding cakes are works of art, and the cake-cutting moment is often one of the highlights at a reception. So, it’s worthwhile taking the time to select the right cake for your collective palette and find a designer who can create something that accurately fits your theme.
Book multiple cake-tasting sessions and get reliable recommendations before putting down a deposit.
The delivery of the cake is normally done on the day, which leaves very little margin for error. Therefore, you need to book someone you can trust.
Final Tastings With Caterer
Couples are now beginning to demand higher levels of service, and restaurant-quality food at their reception, while also choosing to customize as many aspects as possible.
With the above in mind, your caterer needs to know as early as possible your demands for the food, and the type of service you require.
Last-minute adjustments should be made during the final tastings and not in the weeks leading up to the event!
3 Months to the Wedding
Order Wedding Invitations
The theme of your invites and all the wedding stationery needs to match the vibe of your celebrations and express you as a couple.
Overall, your designs should serve as a preview to the big day, getting your guests excited about the event, while also informing them about all the vital details. Location, timings, attire, RSVP details, a map or directions, and theme should all be on there.
If you haven’t started already, now is a good time to begin crafting any elements you want to create yourself for the reception. Be it wedding favors, table decoration, or general decor. Just please, don’t leave any of the DIY elements to the last minute.
The last thing you want is to be up late every night the week before your wedding, tying ribbons, painting signs, or whatever else seemed like a good idea 8 months ago…
Make time, ahead of time, and enjoy the process of making stuff for your wedding. Why not gather your bridal party and create a night out of it!?
2 Months to the Wedding
Send Out Wedding & Rehearsal Dinner Invitations
Once you’ve got the invitations back from the printer, and you’re happy with them, send them!
Two months before the big day is a perfect point in the wedding schedule to post them, as it should give everyone time to prepare themselves.
If you’re having a rehearsal dinner, and you’re handling the planning of it, send those invites out now too.
Obtain Your Marriage License
Depending on where you live, and where you’re marrying, the rules for marriage licenses will be different. Each state has its own legislation, cost, and timings.
So, do your research before this point in the wedding schedule, in case you need a certain document (such as proof of divorce), and said document needs to be ordered, or obtained somehow.
If you’re marrying abroad, you’ll have to check the specific marriage license requirements for that country. Unless you are choosing to legally marry in the US, before flying out for your destination wedding. Which, in our opinion, is the most sensible choice.
Prepare All the Little Details & Gifts
You know all those cute little wedding day items you see time and again on Pinterest and Instagram; the wedding welcome sign, personalized hangers with names on them, cake toppers, and guest books? Well, all that stuff comes together to create your theme.
It’s a good idea to purchase all of these items before you head into the month before your nuptials. This way, you won’t suffer the stress of possible postal delays or problems with returning items that aren’t quite right.
Ideally, make a list of things you need as soon as you know your theme, and order each item as you go through the planning process. Give yourself plenty of time and avoid any unnecessary anxiety.
1 Month to the Wedding
Create Your Seating Chart
Hopefully, you got all the RSVPs back nice and promptly and you know exactly how many guests are coming to your wedding. Now comes the really difficult bit, seating them all somewhere!
Be sure to get a definitive floor plan from your wedding venue, as well as the dimensions of your room and tables before plotting where to seat anyone.
There are lots of digital seating chart websites available you can use, which should help to place people without as much fuss.
Once you have made your definitive decision, order, or make your place cards. These are pretty vital if you want your guests to find their place quickly and easily.
Pay Vendors and Organize Cash Payments & Tips
There are some wedding vendors you will need to pay on the day of your wedding, while others you’ll be able to finalize things with weeks before.
Be sure to keep a detailed spreadsheet listing each vendor, and your payment situation with them, and whenever possible, pay each one as soon as you get the chance. The last thing you want is to be called up on your honeymoon by the florist because you forgot to pay their invoice!
As mentioned, it’s a good idea to select a reliable person, be it a bridesmaid or groomsman, to be responsible for payments on the day. Get together with them during the planning process, and divide up the payments, and tips into labeled envelopes.
1 Week to the Wedding
At this stage of the wedding timeline, you should have things pretty much sewn up. Of course, there will always be elements that didn’t quite come together as quickly as you’d have liked.
Maybe you still need to chase up some RSVPs, finish off some DIY detailing, or rearrange a vendor that has canceled last minute. These things happen. But because you’ve been meticulous with your wedding timeline template, and got everything else done way ahead of time, you should be able to deal with any minor crises.
Aside from any issues, the week before your wedding day should be a relaxing experience. It’s a time for manicures, pedicures, facials, hair appointments, waxing, and trimming! Not to mention it’s time to pick your dress!
If you’re having your final bridal fitting the week before your wedding, be sure to bring along whoever will be helping you on the day with your dress. Just in case they need to learn how to lace up the back or deal with a bustle.
There are also many little items that should be included in your wedding day schedule, so we have created a separate post explaining everything in detail. This includes what to put in your wedding day emergency kit and what to do on the morning of your nuptials. Check it out here.