Congratulations. You are engaged to the love of your life and ready to plan your future together!
Now it’s time to start planning your dream wedding. Here I’ve compiled a month-by-month guide to help you every step of the way.
BONUS: I’ve also included helpful tips from real brides-to-be and wives!
More than 12 months
Just getting started.
- Let everyone know you’re engaged!
- Insure your engagement ring, if it isn’t already.
- Consider if you want to have an engagement party.
- *IF* you’re choosing to start a new fitness plan, skin or hair care routine, then now is the time to start.
- Consider getting a wedding planning binder (or ask for one as an engagement present). Or use one of the many online planners (WeddingWire and bridebook are my favourites).
- Think about your wedding style. Are you going for rustic, modern, unusual, luxurious, casual, formal?
- Figure out your budget. Knowing what money your working with is going to make looking for vendors so much easier.
- TIP: Make sure every vendor you hire is within your budget. A little bit over here and there adds up fast!
- Have some ideas for wedding dates. You won’t know if your selected vendors are available if you don’t have some dates in mind.
- TIP: Be sure to check your potential dates with key family members and guests. It’s also not a bad idea to check your calendar for any holiday clashes.
- When deciding your date, consider costs for certain days and months. Usually, weddings on Saturdays in the summer months are far more expensive than those on weekdays in the cooler months. February and December can sometimes be more expensive due to St Valentine’s day and Christmas though. Check to see how your venue cost differs by choosing a less popular date.
- Start compiling your guest list. Just an estimate of numbers is good for now, it will help you decide on your venue and other vendors. This is a good time to discuss with your partner if you’re inviting children to your wedding.
- Arrange to visit some venues within your budget.
- TIP: Keep an eye out for packages. Some venues will have in-house caterers, a bridal suite and a bar, among other things. Which often makes them more cost effective than hiring separate vendors.
- Start looking for vendors. Some vendors, like photographers, caterers, hair and makeup artists, get booked up months or even a year in advance.
- Decide if you want to hire a wedding planner. This depends on whether your budget allows for a wedding planner, and if you feel like you need one.
- Start going to wedding fairs! Not only do you get free stuff, but it’s a great place to find all kinds of vendors and see their work in person. Not to mention all the dressed up venues you can check out at the same time!
This month is all about getting the most important or time-consuming tasks done.
- Look at your options for wedding insurance. It’s inexpensive and gives you peace of mind.
- Pick your date and book your venue/s. Book the bridal suite if applicable too.
- Book your officiant.
- TIP: Do this as soon as you know where and when you’re getting married. You can’t get married without one so you’ll want to make sure they’re booked as soon as possible.
- Think about your colour theme. Now that you’ve booked your venue you can get an idea of what colours suit it and the time of year you’ll be tying the knot.
- Choose your wedding party. Your nearest and dearest who will be a helping hand and an attentive ear throughout the planning process.
- Book your caterer (you shouldn’t need to decide on food just yet, you’re just booking them for your day).
- Book your photographer and videographer.
- TIP: Some people suggest doing this in a few months, but you’ll find many of them get booked up to a year in advance!
- TIP: If you can afford a videographer then get one! I’ve seen them consistently be one of the top 5 things newlyweds wish they’d had at their wedding.
- TIP: With photographers, choose someone who has worked a wedding before.
- If your budget allows, book an engagement shoot with your photographer. You get to know them, they get to know you as a couple, and you can begin to build a relationship.
- TIP: If you do have an engagement shoot and you’re going outdoors, make sure you bring walking shoes as well as “picture shoes”. Trust me on this, I was climbing rocks in heels because I forgot to pack trainers!
- Start thinking about your wedding dress. What style do you like, colour, length? Do you want a veil? What kind? Get some ideas together from magazines, Pinterest, and of course, good ol’ google.
- Arrange dress shopping with the special people you want to bring with you.
- TIP: Too many opinions can make knowing your own difficult. Try to bring no more than 4.
- TIP: Bear in mind that some dresses take 9 months to order in, so don’t procrastinate this part!
This month we’re booking the vendors who make your day run smoothly.
- Book time off work.
- If you’re not staying at your venue, book your wedding night accommodation.
- Decide where each of you are staying the night before, book if needed
- Book the entertainment (DJ, band, pianist, string quartet, singing waiters?)
- TIP: Good entertainment makes for happy guests, which makes for a great wedding that everyone enjoys. Choose entertainers with good feedback, or come highly recommended.
- Book your florist
- TIP: Artificial flowers tend to be cheaper, can be kept/sold afterward and are lighter. Real flowers have the texture and scent that fake flowers can’t duplicate. Weigh up the pros and cons and choose what works best for you.
- Book a decorator
- TIP: Keep your venue in mind, if the location is already breath-taking, you really don’t need a lot of décor.
- Book any extra rentals not already covered (tablecloths, tables and chairs, photobooths, marquees)
- Think about enlisting help from people you know. You may know some talented people who could help you with your bridesmaid dresses, flowers, the cake, even decorating the venue.
- Shop for wedding dresses!
- TIP #1: Try on all the different styles, even if you *know* you do/don’t want a certain type. I was shocked to find I liked the way I looked in a dress style I didn’t like!)
- TIP #2: Walk, twirl and sit in the dress. If you can’t move comfortably then consider a different size or style.
- TIP #3: If you have your wedding shoes, bring them with you. If not, bring a pair of a similar height to the shoes you want.
- TIP #4: Do your hair and makeup, you’ll get a better idea of how you’ll look on your wedding day. Stores usually have a little net you put on your face so your makeup won’t get on the dresses.
- Start looking for somebody to alter your wedding dress.
- Finalise your guest list if you’re sending out save-the-dates.
- Send out your save-the-dates. This is by no means a necessity, however, if people need more time to book off work or travel to your venue then it’s just polite to send these out early.
- TIP: If you’re worried about people knowing they’ve been bumped from day to evening or vice versa, don’t send “save the day” and “save the evening” cards, just stick to “save the date”. That way you can shuffle people around without them being any the wiser.
- TIP: If your wedding isn’t during the busy period, and it isn’t difficult for some people to get to, then you can send save the dates in a few months, if at all.
- Prepare to give notice of your intent to marry (you can call up the local council or check their website to find out what documents you need to bring).
- Register for gifts, if you’re choosing to do so.
- Consider launching a wedding website (on WeddingWire you can do this and it will link to your planner. So if a guest RSVP’s via the website they are automatically ticked off on your guest list within WeddingWire.)
- Decide on “the one” dress and order it in!
- TIP #1: You don’t need a brand new dress. If you know what kind of dress you want, have a look at selling sites for a second-hand one for a fraction of the cost!
- Pick who will alter your dress, and arrange the necessary dress fittings.
- Now you have your dress you can look for matching accessories! Veil, headpiece, shoes, undergarments, jewellery)
- Research accommodation for out-of-towners (consider booking out some rooms if you’re confident they’ll be used by your guests).
- Order your wedding cake.
- TIP: Find out who will provide the cake cutting knife. The cake maker? Venue? Caterers? You?
- Book a tasting session with your caterers.
You’re a quarter of the way through wedding planning.
Take this opportunity to relax.
- Take a little break from wedding planning. The first few months can be quite hectic with all the venues visited, phone calls made and emails sent. So take some time away from wedding planning. It’s ok, really.
Time to book your honeymoon!
- Check your budget. Are you still on track? If not, think about what you could change to get you back to where you’re comfortable.
- Arrange your ceremony music if you haven’t done so already.
- Decide on ceremony details with your partner. Are you having readings? Are you writing your own vows? Do you want to incorporate any family traditions?
- Book your hair and makeup stylists. Also, book in your trials.
- TIP: You can find artists’ work at wedding fairs, on their website, and through their social media accounts. Choose one whose work you love.
- Order wedding party dresses, shoes, and jewellery. Or, encourage them to if they’re paying.
- TIP: If you have bridesmaids of different shapes and sizes, have a look at multi-way dresses (sometimes called Infinity). They can be worn in many different ways to suit all body types.
- Order wedding party suits, shoes, and ties. Or, encourage them to if they’re paying.
- TIP #1: Shop around, sometimes it’s cheaper to buy and other times cheaper to rent.
- TIP #2: The suit, shoes and tie/cravat don’t all have to come from the same store.
- Book your honeymoon! What do you fancy? Sun or snow, mountains or seaside?
- Finalise your guest list if you haven’t already.
- Compile an information sheet to go with your invitations. You might include directions to the venue, your wedding website, local taxi firms, your wedding hashtag if you have one.
- Order your invitations.
- TIP: Be sure to have the RSVP date a couple of weeks before the first vendor needs final numbers, allowing you time to call anyone who hasn’t RSVP’d yet.
- Decide if you and your partner want extra celebrations, like a bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, brunch the day after.
- Begin planning your honeymoon. If you’re traveling, think about whether you need to update your passports and get any vaccinations.
You’re halfway there!
- Send out your invitations. Don’t forget to include your information sheet!
- TIP: Be sure to make yourselves very clear. If there are no children at your wedding, or you have a “no ring, no bring” policy, your guests need to know.
- Start planning the hen/stag do parties. Traditionally the bridesmaids/best man/ and your friends would do this, but recently many brides and grooms are opting to plan their own. For example, my Maid of Honour and I decided to plan our own hen parties so neither of us would be worried about the cost.
- Plan transportation. How are you, your partner, and the wedding party getting to the venue/s? If you’re not staying at the venue on your wedding night, think about post-reception transportation too.
- Purchase your wedding rings.
- TIP: Remember to get a wedding band in the same metal as your engagement ring, to prevent them from damaging each other.
- Buy/make/borrow a ring box or pillow for your rings
- Write down your order of service.
- TIP: Allow enough time for speeches, cake cutting, first dance, bouquet toss, and anything else you want to include on your big day. This will be especially helpful to your caterers, photographer, and day-of coordinator (if you have one).
- Check your budget!
What’s your first dance song?
- Consider buying/renting or even making some fun extras for entertainment, like games or a photo booth.
- If the budget is getting tight there are loads of DIY ideas on Pinterest!
- Decide on your first dance song!
- Talk about the first dance, choose a dance style that you and your partner are both comfortable doing.
- TIP: You don’t even need to do a first dance if you don’t want to!
- Send a “must play” and “don’t play” list to your DJ if you have one.
Get going on those DIY projects.
- Decide if you’re doing favours, and organise them.
- TIP: You can order cute favours online, or if you’re handy in the kitchen you could bake some treats or make some jam. You could even just give out scratchcards.
- TIP: You could even opt for no favours at all, a lot of the time they aren’t even missed.
- Get cracking on any DIY projects you still have going, it takes longer than you might think. Better to get them done early than tackling a glue gun the night before your wedding!
- Choose and buy/make your guest book and card box.
- If, after you’re married, you plan to exit and head off to your hotel or begin your honeymoon, decide how you want to leave. Bubbles, sparklers, fireworks, a special dance?
Meet with your officiant.
- Check you’re within your budget.
- Meet with your officiant. Finalise the details of your ceremony with them.
- Collect your rings if you haven’t already.
- TIP: Get them insured.
- Have your hair and makeup trials.
- TIP: Don’t be afraid to be honest if you’re not happy.
- Start working on your seating plan if you haven’t already.
- TIP: Bear in mind this can still change so use something editable, like a spreadsheet or WeddingWire.
- Think about how you will display your seating plan. Again, Pinterest!
- Finalise the menu and print menu cards (if applicable to you)
- If you’re writing your own vows, start working on them now.
“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her shoe.”
- Prepare documents if you plan to change your name.
- Apply for your marriage license if you haven’t already.
- Contact the appropriate people if you want your wedding to be announced in a newspaper or magazine.
- If you haven’t already, decide on your bridal extras. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her shoe.”
- Think about purchasing or making a wedding gift for your bride/groom. You could leave it where they’re staying or ask somebody to drop it off to them on the morning of your wedding!
- TIP: If somebody is delivering it to them, you can ask that they record your significant other’s reaction!
- Choose if you’re giving gifts to your wedding party and important family members. Start getting these together.
- If you want to, buy dressing robes, pajamas and slippers for your bridal party.
- Give your photographer a list of photos you want him/her to take.
- TIP: It takes about 3 minutes to get each group of people together for their pictures, so bear this in mind when making your list. (More people = more time, especially if some have snuck off to the bar or toilets!)
- Finalise the seating plan, after you’ve received your RSVP’s.
- Make or order your seating plan and display.
- Order place/escort cards
- Attend your final dress and suit fittings.
- TIP: Try to have your “helpers” there with you if you want them to practise putting on your veil, doing up your dress or bustling it.
- TIP: Move and walk around, make sure you’ll be comfortable.
- Check the wedding party is ready. Do they have their outfits? Are they fully paid for? Do they have all their accessories?
- Confirm final guest count with vendors, also confirm any other details like timings.
- Ensure all payments are up-to-date or fully paid.
- Hit the shops and look for your perfect wedding day perfume.
- Survive your hen/stag parties!
- Finalise a schedule and send it out to everyone who needs it.
- TIP: Look at your list of vendors and wedding party members to determine who needs one.
- Prepare for weather, especially if your wedding is outside.
- TIP: People tend to own umbrellas. You don’t need to buy a box of 100 umbrellas!
- Treat yourself to a day or two of pampering and relaxation.
Think about set-up and tear-down.
- Don’t forget to wear your wedding shoes around a bit so they’re more comfortable.
- If applicable, give your table extras to the caterers. Place names (in envelopes for each table), table numbers/cards, menus, favours.
- Make sure your toasts and vows are all written up.
- TIP: Print them! Sounds silly but you may not be able to read your own hand-writing with all the emotions and champagne.
- Get your engagement ring cleaned so it shines next to your new wedding band.
- Know the set-up and tear-down procedures. Who is bringing what? Where is it going and who is setting it up? When are they setting it up? Who’s taking it down and when? Where does it go after that and who is taking it there?
- TIP: Print out a spreadsheet and have copies.
- Arrange who will return rentals after the big day.
- Have your beauty treatments. Eyebrow threading, getting your nails done, have a facial.
- TIP: Just don’t try anything new on your skin in case you have a bad reaction.
- Put together a bridal emergency kit. Things like: needle and thread, breath mints, baby wipes, hair clips, makeup, tissues.
- Print out an important contacts list and a timeline of the day. Hand these to the Maid of Honour/bridesmaids and best man/ushers.
- TIP: Put a spare in your bridal emergency kit, just in case.
- Finish wrapping any gifts you’ve bought.
- Pack and prepare for your honeymoon if you’re leaving straight after getting married.
- Concentrate on getting as much beauty sleep as possible.
- TIP: Check out my post on Tips for Better Sleep.
Last few days
Get some sleep!
- Pick up any remaining items: suits, dresses, flowers, decor.
- Ensure all items are packed, labeled and ready to be delivered to the venue.
- TIP: Label boxes and bags 1 of #, 2 of #, etc.
- TIP: Write the amount of each item: 5 buttonholes, 6 tablecloths, 100 favours.
- Pack your overnight bag/s.
- Consider drinks and snacks for your wedding party in the morning.
- Arrange for gifts to be taken to the venue.
- Arrange for any tips for your suppliers to be handed out on the day.
- Give the wedding rings to whoever needs them.
IT’S THE BIG DAY!
- Stay hydrated and eat breakfast. You may be full of butterflies right now, but in a few hours when you’re walking down the aisle you don’t want to be uncomfortably hungry.
- Relax while you get your hair and makeup done.
- Introduce key wedding party members, like your best man and Maid of Honour, to your day of coordinator and photographer. So they can ask them any questions they might have.
- Get married, the moment is finally here!
- Take it all in. Try to focus on the sights and sounds around you, it goes by so fast!
- Greet your guests. Some people have a receiving line, some go around the tables before dessert, some just catch-up when they can, but try to thank your guests for coming.
When you’re married
- Enjoy your honeymoon!
- Take your dress/suit to the cleaners as soon as possible for better preservation.
- Start the paperwork for your change of name.
- Write and send thank you notes to guests and helpful vendors.
- Leave honest reviews for your vendors.
- Collect and store your marriage certificate.
- Post some pictures of your wedding!
- Back-up your photos and videos onto an external hard drive or internet storage. Better safe than sorry!
- Get a wedding photo album to cherish all your memories. Set up one on facebook, if you use it, to collect all your guests’ images.
- Soak up all the joys of married life!
I hope you and your partner enjoy the next steps in your journey as a married couple.
If you enjoyed this guide, click here for more wedding planning tips and advice.