A Wedding Timeline for Planning Your Perfect Day

When it comes to planning your perfect day, one of the questions we get asked by clients is “How soon do you start planning?” While there is no concrete answer, we’ve come across some helpful planning guidelines to abide by. Here are a few of them followed by a few added tips based on our experiences.

12 Months Out: These tips are mainly for a larger events of over 100 guests, at multiple locations, that last most of the day and have many out of town guests. Weddings don’t just happen. Pulling all of the details together, setting a budget and booking larger venues takes time and planning. For smaller events you may be able to do it all in shorter period of time.

  1. Assess Your Budget: How much are you willing to spend on the ceremony and the festivities? Do you have any flexibility within that budget? Having these numbers in place at least twelve months out with help to avoid unnecessary headaches and scrambles as you get closer to the big day.
  2. Make your guest list: There are probably many, many people that you would like to have at your wedding ceremony. The reality is that, in most cases, you cannot. 
  3. Venue Selection: There is some debate about how soon this aspect of the wedding should be secured. Some argue that one year might not be enough, but the consensus is that you need at least that time frame. If you have more time and can book further in advance, that will work to your advantage.
  4. Hire a wedding planner and set on a theme: If you are planning to hire a wedding planner, this is the time to do so. Planning a wedding must be a consensus decision between you and your significant other. This is the time to sit down and lay the framework for your wedding theme. 

9 to 12 Months Out: Again, when planning a larger event, you’ll need this extra time to find your professionals, have your gown made, register for gifts, and let people know to save the date. What’s nice about starting early is not only that you find available venues and other wedding pros, but you’ll have to the time to enjoy the process. In my years I’ve worked with many brides who were planning their weddings while working or finishing college. The ones who built in enough planing time always felt more sane and relaxed, enjoyed the process more, and more fully enjoyed their wedding.

  1. Select your wedding dress and look at bridesmaid dresses: While it might seem VERY premature to be wedding dress shopping nearly a year in advance, you will want to allow for any alterations that may need to take place. During this time, you will also want to be making decisions on what you want for bridesmaid dresses as they may also need alterations.
  2. Open gift registries and create a wedding website: When it comes to your wedding website, you’ll be adding details as you get closer to the day but you want to get the basic information out to friends and family. The website will help with that. When it comes to gift registries, it is recommended to start selecting items in advance. Guests often like to shop ahead when it comes to weddings so giving them the additional time will be appreciated.
  3. Hire wedding professionals: This includes any photography and videography services that you plan to use. When a last-minute request comes in, we will do our best to accommodate but it is not always possible. That is why we encourage clients to book early. That is not limited to photography services. This also includes caterers, DJs, florists, bakers, and any other vendors you plan to include in your special day.
  4. Engagement Photos: You’ll need some great photos for your website. We’ll help you create them, but we recommend booking in the 9-12 month time frame, especially if you are planning to use them on Save the Dates mailings too.

6 to 9 Months Out: When you start early, this is a time when you can relax a bit. There’s still a lot of little things to do, but the big items are booked and now you’re working with your wedding pros to put together your perfect day. No if you’re planning a smaller event, an event at a single location, or a more local event, this is often enough time to pull it all together, provided you can find open dates with your favorite professionals.

  1. Schedule wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner: Make sure to make everyone who is attending aware of this schedule. For people who are traveling, arriving a day early may involve missing a day or two of work so they need to be able to plan ahead. 
  2. Groom’s attire: While the bridal dress needs to be selected sooner than this time, a plan should be in place for rental or purchasing individual pieces.
  3. Choose your reception menu and drink plan: This is the time to put together your reception dinner and decide how you plan to do drinks at the event. Will you have a cash bar? Specific offerings? These are the decisions to make now.

3 to 6 Months Out: Here’s when you need to start going over all of the details and even get those invitations out for out of town guests. With everyone booked, lean on your pros for help and suggestions to ensure everything will happen as you expect.

  1. Address and send Save the Date notices: We recommend sending save the dates closer to six months out or even earlier if you are able, if not sooner.
  2. Finalize the wedding service order: Are you planning to have musicians, special readings, or any other elements? Make sure that you have them in place at this point.
  3. If your honeymoon will include international travel, make sure that you have either applied for a new passport or renewed your current one if that applies to you.

1 to 3 Months Out: Here’s where everything comes together. Your wedding is getting closer, but no need to stress. If you’ve been sticking to this calendar and keep in touch with your vendors, everything should be in place to have your wedding go on without a hitch. Now, we’ve had couples put together beautiful weddings in about a month. But these events are typically smaller, are attended by local guests, are at one location, and are done by pulling together available vendors with last minute openings. It can work beautifully but you do need to be more flexible.

  1. Notify banks, credit card companies, and the post office of address and name changes: We recommend planning sooner for these changes sooner than later as it will take a few weeks for the changes to fully take place.
  2. Send out wedding invitations: It is recommended to send these out 6-8 weeks before your big day, more if you have out of town guests. Make sure to plan ahead because you will be getting busier and busier in the final weeks before your wedding.
  3. Final Dress fittings: In the final weeks, you will find that there are a number of little tasks that need to be accomplished. Make sure to schedule this fitting well enough in advance to allow for any minor changes that may still need to take place.

The Weeks Before Your Wedding: All of the planning should be done. Now it’s time to check in to confirm things with vendors, then relax and enjoy, if you’ve done your homework, everything will fall in place.

  1. Attend the pre-wedding festivities: Whether it is a bridal shower, bachelorette party, or special luncheon, it’s time to relax and celebrate. Enjoy these events- friends and family are celebrating with you and your upcoming nuptials.
  2. Finalize seating arrangements: Take time to make sure that your ceremony and wedding reception charts are finalized. 
  3. Make any final arrangements for you and your attendants the day of: This may also include re-confirming any appointments (such as hair or make-up) that have already been made. 
  4. RELAX: This can be one of the most difficult items to accomplish, especially as you get closer to the big day but this is necessary. Take time in each day to focus on yourself, whether it is a little self-pampering or reading a good book before bed. Those moments are more important than ever.

This is just an overview of wedding planning based on the trends that we have seen over the years. We’ve also found a great list from our friends at Emily Post. We hope that this post gives you a helpful overview and we look forward to working with you soon!