You've found your person and you want to make it official. But before you can say “I do” there are plans to be made. Planning a wedding can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but having a wedding checklist before you get started can help keep you organized. Here's a look at some of the big planning items you need to get done and when you should do them.
How to get started
So, where do the wedding must-haves begin? There's the dress, the cake, the invitations, the venue ... and that's just to name a few. One way to organize your wedding checklist is to break it down by month, so you can see what you have to tackle first. The length of your engagement is a completely personal choice, but experts often recommend giving yourself at least a year to plan your wedding. With that in mind, the timeline below can be stretched out or compressed accordingly.
Wedding must-haves: A timeline
Get out your calendars and planners and start giving yourself deadlines for planning the big day.
2+ years until you say "I do"
Maybe this one goes without saying but find yourself a bride or a groom you can imagine living with for the rest of your life. Then, either find the perfect ring to pop the question, or prepare to be asked yourself. Once it happens, it's go time.
1 year until you say "I do"
When you're about a year out from tying the knot, there are two important things to tackle on your wedding checklist.
- Set your budget: Having parameters for pricing will make it much easier to narrow down the seemingly endless choices for all your wedding decisions. Some couple's families are willing to chip in, while others pay for it all on their own. Figure out what help you may be getting and how much you want to spend. Once you do that, you can figure out your priorities and wedding must-haves, as well as what you can forgo to save a few bucks.
- Choose a venue: The venue plays a large part in the wedding planning process and can be one of the biggest costs, so choosing it early may help everything else go more smoothly. Plus, once you book your venue, you'll know the exact date of your wedding – and that's exciting! You'll then be able to tick off other items on your wedding checklist, such as theme, formality, a caterer and the guest list.
Hiring a wedding planner at this stage can also be helpful, as they will be able to help during the planning process and on the big day You may also want to start a wedding website at this point, so guests will have a place to find all the details about the big day.
6-9 months until you say "I do"
At this point, planning is in full swing.
- Order your dress: If you're planning to wear a formal wedding dress, it's a good idea to order it by the nine-month mark to avoid any rush fees. Traditional wedding dresses take a long time to produce, and you'll need time for alterations when it comes in, too.
- Hire vendors: You'll want to hire the rest of your vendors, such as a DJ or band, photographer, florist, and baker, who will make your wedding cake. Yes, that means wedding cake tasting!
- Plan accommodation: It's a good idea to contact hotels that are local to your wedding and block out some rooms for your out-of-town guests to ensure there are places for them to stay. Once that's done, you can send out save the dates so people can put your big day on their calendar.
- Talk to your friends: It's time to start thinking about your wedding party. If you're the bride and are planning to have bridesmaids, you'll want to provide directions for their dresses in terms of length, color and style. Whether you want them all to match is up to you, but deciding how you want your bridal party to look is a wedding essential.
- Book rentals: This is a good time to ensure you've secured any rentals you might need, from linens and tents to a photobooth and a dance floor.
3-5 months until you say "I do"
The big day is creeping up!
- Get your ride: About five months out, you might want to start thinking about transportation. How will you be getting to the ceremony? How will you and your new spouse get to the reception? How will your wedding party travel? Do your guests need rides from the hotel to the venue? These details may not all be wedding essentials depending on the location — for instance, guests might be able to walk through a city — but it's helpful to consider them.
- Honeymooners: It's also time to start thinking about what comes after the wedding. That's right — the honeymoon. Sit down with your soon-to-be spouse and determine your budget, what kind of getaway you're looking for and where you might want to go.
- Tux time: If there's a groom and groomsmen, this is also the time to get fitted for those suits and tuxedos too. This doesn't take as long as wedding dresses to prepare. Make sure to keep in mind the color scheme and formality of the event when choosing what to wear.
- Wedding bands: It's also time to purchase your wedding bands, so you can really make this thing official. You can visit a jeweler or purchase them online. If you wear an engagement ring, make sure you keep that in mind and choose something to complement it.
- Beauty trials: Around the three-month mark is a suitable time to schedule a hair and makeup trial. There are endless resources on the internet to find someone whose style you like. You can also ask a friend or your wedding planner for recommendations. Be sure to go in with ideas and inspiration photos to help your stylist achieve exactly what you want. And don't be afraid to speak up if there are things you don't like.
- Invitations: This is also the time to send out the official invitations with all the information guests will need. Make sure to include a meal card if there will be food served, instead of a buffet. Also include details about the hotel transportation wedding registry and dress code, as well as the link to your wedding website if you have one.
1-2 months until you say "I do"
You're officially in the home stretch. Your wedding checklist is growing ever smaller, and you're down to the nitty gritty.
Make a vow: At this point, if you're writing your own vows, it's probably a good time to start working on them so you're not under too much of a time crunch. You may also want to meet the officiant who will be marrying you and your partner.
RSVP: Your invitations should be returned around this time, which will help you make any last-minute arrangements. If you choose, you can also send out separate rehearsal dinner invitations for your nearest and dearest.
Dress fitting: With two months to go, you should be meeting with your seamstress for your first dress fitting and meeting with your florist to go over final décor decisions. If you have any song requests (or any “do not play” songs — we all have them), now would be a good time to tell your DJ or band.
Final details: In the final month before the wedding, get together all the little things, like a wedding cake topper, welcome signs, a guest book, party favors, accessories for your ring bearer and flower girl, and gifts for your wedding party. Make sure your vendors are paid and make any last-minute adjustments to your seating chart. It's also a good time to do a final venue walk-through with your wedding planner and break in any shoes you'll be wearing on the big day.
1 week until you say "I do"
With one week to go, it's only the absolute wedding essentials left to do. Get your hair done and get whatever services help you feel your best. Wedding planners recommend not trying anything new and drastic to your hair. In addition, avoid trying new skincare or makeup products to prevent potential allergic reactions before the big day. You'll also want to pack your honeymoon suitcases, write out a day-of wedding checklist, practice your vows and go to your final dress fitting. Easy enough, right?
The day you say "I do"
It's here — the day you've been planning for the past year. Start your day off right by getting a good night's sleep, have a healthy breakfast in the morning, and drink plenty of water. Everything will be easier if you're feeling your best. It may also help you to stay relaxed if you keep off your feet as much as you can while getting ready.
Wedding essentials not to miss
Despite all the preparation that goes into wedding planning, there are a few items there are easy to miss but might just come in handy:
- Sewing kit
- First aid kit
- Extra earring backs
- Extra cufflinks
- Cash tips for vendors
- Stain remover
- Nail polish
- Bobby pins
- Safety pins
Planning a wedding is no small feat but knowing what you need to do and when can help make the process go more smoothly. Before you start planning, make sure you know your wedding must-haves — starting with your wedding checklist.