Your 12 Month Wedding Planning Checklist

Use this checklist to keep you on track while you’re planning your wedding. Everything you need to think about starting a year up to the big day is listed here. You can even check off the items as you complete them!

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Wedding Checklist here!

12 (+) Months before the Wedding

You may choose to send out announcements in the mail, contact your local newspaper, or simply update your Facebook relationship status. It is completely up to you.

Start with the season. It could be your favorite time of year or the season that will best fit your budget (Winter will be less expensive than Summer or Fall). Next decide on a month. The exact date you choose will most likely depend on the availability of your venues.

Attending local bridal shows is an excellent way to kickstart your planning process. See what types of vendors are available in your area, speak with wedding experts (now is the time to look for planners and coordinators!), and get some pricing information to help you decide how you want to allocate your wedding budget. Plus, there are usually door prizes and chances to win free services and gift certificates. Yay freebies!

Helpful Hint: Looking at a vendor’s booth can help determine if they can provide the services you need. If you are planning a more formal event, you probably don’t need to stop at a booth decorated with paper streamers and balloons.

This is why Pinterest exists! Will your wedding be ultra-formal or casual and laid back? Indoors or outdoors? Which colors best represent you as a couple? Are there themes you would like to have tastefully woven throughout the event? It is easy to find quizzes online to help determine your wedding style. This may help you decide on which elements are most important and how many guests you should really invite. There is an abundance of wedding inspiration at your fingertips! You can also visit our Real Virginia Weddings for inspiration.

Pro Tip: Once you have some ideas of your wedding style, take time to create a Pinterest board to share with your planner to help them get a better idea of what the wedding of your dreams might look like.

Your budget will be the guideline for your entire planning process, so it is very important to plan where to use your funds at the very beginning. There are many great budgeting tools out there designed specifically for weddings.
Decide 3-4 areas that are top priorities for both of you and plan to spend more of your budget in these areas. If that designer gown is an absolute must for you, perhaps plan to spend a little less on your stationary or limit the number of guests. No matter what you decide, be prepared to spend approximately 50% of your budget on food and beverage. Visit our article on budgeting for helpful advice.

When preparing your budget, it is vital to know the actual funds you will have. Determine what you as a couple plan to contribute and what both sets of parents will contribute as well as anyone else who plans to help pay for your big day.
It is important to note that persons involved in the financial aspects of your wedding may want to, or expect to, be involved in the planning process. Gently and subtly make all parties aware that you should have the final say on planning decisions now to help prevent offended feelings further down the road.

Engagement parties are an excellent way to kick off all your wedding celebrations, though they are not necessary. Engagement parties are traditionally hosted by family or friends of the couple, but nowadays couples can choose to host their own. Visit our guide to engagement parties for tips.

Though your wedding is a celebration of your love and the life you will share with your partner, planning a wedding is time consuming and can be stressful. One of the first planning decisions you make should be whether you will hire a wedding planner. You can choose from a range of planning services from a full-service planner who will take care of all the planning and design elements of your big day from start to finish to a day of coordinator who will offer consultation and guidance throughout your planning process and takes charge of the rehearsal and wedding day operations to ensure a smooth event while you relax and enjoy your wedding. Remember, a planner or coordinator is an industry expert, so they are the strongest weapon in your planning arsenal.

The date you ultimately choose will be dependent on the availability of the venues you have in mind. Choosing the sites early on will help ensure availability, influence your wedding style, and determine the number of guests you can invite. Need help on where to start? Our article on Finding and Reserving Your Perfect Venue will set you on track.

Your wedding website or “wedsite” as it is commonly known, is the modern way or announcing your engagement. It is also a great tool to keep your guests informed about your wedding decisions as you make them. There are several options for free wedsites. Begin my adding your story of how you met and got engaged and be sure to include photos! As you move along in the planning process, add your site information, hotel information for out of town guests, and wedding transportation information. Minted offers free wedsites.

10-11 Months before the Wedding

This can literally be almost anyone you choose but remember this person will set the tone for your ceremony! Choose from religious, civil, or spiritual officiants, or have someone you love ordained as a minister.

Research caterers in your area: browse their websites, ask your venue which caterers have worked with them before, and reach out to their past clients for references. Find out if your top picks provide more than just the menu (do they bake cakes, provide alcohol, offer rental options for glassware and table settings?) to see if you will need to hire other vendors to cover all your dining needs. Confirm your event date and time in writing and sign a contract with your caterer (be prepared to pay a deposit at this time) and begin thinking of what you would like to include in your menu. Remember to translate your wedding style into you menu as well.

Just as when choosing your caterer, you will want to research your florist before booking. Search florist and wedding designer websites. Your planner may also cover design and florals. Consider asking your reception site and friends who have recently gotten married which florists they have used and would recommend. Make appointments to meet a few florists or floral designers In person, and come prepared to discuss budget, flowers you would like to incorporate, your wedding style, and be sure to ask which flowers will be in season for the date of your wedding. You may want to have your florist draw up a formal proposal before signing with their company.

Whether you want live music or a DJ, it is important to make sure this service is available far in advance. This gives you time to work out music selections and specific details later, but make sure you have a contract for your wedding date.

Thanks to the influence of social media and the internet, it is easier than ever to view photographer portfolios. Research their work, determine the style of photos you would like, and which events you would like covered (rehearsal dinner, engagement photos, wedding day, post wedding brunch, etc.). Arrange for an in-person interview and come prepared with questions. Make sure they are available for your wedding day and any other events you want covered, their fee is within your budget, and that the services they offer cover all your photography needs. Book with a contract (don’t forget about a deposit!) and start considering the shots you would like to have taken. The process will be very similar for your videographer if you choose to hire one or your photographer’s company does not provide this service. Pro Tip: never book without having viewed a portfolio in person.

Now is the time to begin thinking about who you would like to invite to your special day. Remember, you do not need to invite every single person you have ever known but focus on who is important now and who the day would not be complete without. You will have time to finalize your guest list later, but here are some things to consider to get you started. First and foremost, consider your budget. The more people you invite, the more mouths to feed, the higher the bar tab, and the larger your venue will have to be. If location matters most to you, use the guest capacity specified by your venue to determine the size of your guest list and work from there. Other things to consider include: will you invite coworkers? Are “plus one” or “and guest” invitations going to be extended? What is the cap on extended family? Do you want to invite children? Now is the time to set guidelines for the guest list to help prevent hurt feelings and to be able to give a rationale for why some were not invited.

Asking those closest to you to have a special role in your wedding day will not only give them time to prepare, but it also will get everyone excited to celebrate with you! You may want to consider designating a small portion of your budget to gifts for asking someone to participate in the wedding. Top shelf liquor and cigars are popular “proposal” gifts for groomsmen and gifts for bridesmaids can include personalized drinkware and jewelry to pretty much anything you can think of.

8-9 Months before the Wedding

You will want to do this early so out of town guests can make travel arrangements. You can choose whether you want your save the dates to coordinate with the rest of your stationary.

Make appointments at two or three bridal salons and come prepared. Research styles of gowns that will not only flatter your body type, but also your wedding style and venues. Bring pictures of the gowns you love to help your consultant understand what you are looking for and be firm with your budget (yes, those consultants will probably be pushy, but never feel pressured to settle or let someone else make the choice for you). Bring your maid of honor, your mother, and maybe one more friend who will be honest, but limit the number of people in your party. Order your gown and accessories when you find what you truly love. If you are shopping off the rack, you will have more time to make final decisions.

If you are selecting your bridesmaid dresses, order them now. If you are letting your bridesmaids choose their own dresses, provide them with color swatches and guidelines of what you would approve. This gives your bridesmaids time to find their dresses, have them approved by you, and still have time for alterations if necessary.

You will need to work with your caterer to determine your menu. Whether you have an hors d’oeuvres reception, a buffet, or a seated formal dinner reception is up to you and your budget. Will you serve dessert or have a dessert table for guest to help themselves? You should provide your caterer with a floor plan if they have not worked with your reception venue before, so they can help determine the best place to set up food service tables and the flow of traffic as your guests receive their dinner. Remember if you choose to have a formal dinner, you will need to be prepared to spend a larger portion of your budget as you will need to account for servers. Pro Tip: Consider giving your caterer a family recipe to interpret for your reception for an extra personal touch.

Your ceremony site may provide a pianist or organist or have a list of preferred musicians to help you choose who will perform at your ceremony. You should always hear your musician(s) in person before booking if possible. Make sure you have a contract or an agreement in writing for your wedding date and pay a deposit or upfront whichever is necessary.

Research popular wedding songs for both the ceremony and reception. There are great resources online for music that will get your guests on the dance floor! Choose the songs that are most important (first dance, father daughter dance, etc.) to ensure your musicians can accommodate your special requests. Remember, your song choices should reflect you as a couple, but make sure to include some fun dance numbers as well. It is a party after all!

Find out whether your reception site allows outside bakers. If they do, be prepared to pay a cutting fee (a small fee, usually $1 per slice, for reception staff to cut and serve your cake to guests). Your options for outside bakers may include your caterer, a cake designer, or a bakery. Research websites and get references for cake bakers you like. Set up meetings with two or three of your top favorites. Come prepared to your meeting with some ideas that will fit your wedding style and your tastes. You should sample cakes before booking your baker! Set up a contract with your baker that includes a sketch of your cake and be prepared to pay a deposit of half or the total cake cost upfront.

6-7 Months before the Wedding

Consider how many people will need transportation. Will you provide shuttles for your guests from the hotel to the ceremony site? From the ceremony site to the reception and back to the hotel? Will you provide special transportation for the wedding party and the parents or just the two of you? Consider your transportation style, is it limousines, classic cars, or fairytale carriages? When you have found transportation companies that will cater to your style, it is important to ask for minimum price, time requirements, what comes with the rental, and the cancellation policies. It is important to find reliable transportation that is familiar with the area and can accommodate your needs.

There are so many options for gift registries now. You can choose to have everything done online or you can still go into a store to choose your registry items in person. Be sure to link your registries to your wedsite so your guests can easily access it. Consider a variety of budgets when choosing what you want. If you find that you do not need physical gifts, you can always set up for donations instead.

If you will have many out of town guests, consider blocking off a group of rooms at a nice hotel in the area for your guests to book. This makes choosing where to stay easier for them, and your guests can all be together for the celebrations. This will also be easier on you if you plan on having transportation arranged for your guest to get to the ceremony and reception sites. Pro Tip: If you are having an out of town wedding and will need accommodations for yourself, may hotels will offer perks or discounts on the bridal suite as a thank you for filling the rest of their rooms with your guests.

This is optional, but if you plan on having the mothers coordinate their outfits with the rest of the wedding party, you may want to approve dress selection or offer guidance for color and style options.

This is optional, though engagement photos have become increasingly popular. You will want to have this arranged in your contract with your photographer.

5 Months before the Wedding

If you plan on having your wedding bands engraved, now is the time! This way you can be sure they are ready for the ceremony and it is one less thing you have to worry about at the last minute.

Your planner may offer honeymoon planning packages which is helpful if you find it stressful to plan a honeymoon while simultaneously planning your wedding. Choose your destination, book your flight and hotel, and arrange for any travel documentation (passports, blood work) you may need ahead of time.

Whether you choose to rent the formalwear or buy it, have all the men (groom, groomsmen, fathers) get their attire from the same shop. If some attendants are out of town, have them send measurements to the shop.

This includes anything you may need to rent (renting instead of buying can save a lot in your budget) such as tables, chairs, place settings, lighting and sound equipment, linens, and décor. Find out what your venues provide or offer to rent because this will save you time and delivery fees. You caterer and planner may offer various rentals as well.

This includes all of the pieces of invitations, place cards, menu cards, thank you cards, ceremony programs, rehearsal invitations, the options are quite extensive if you have the budget. Your stationary should match your wedding style feature your colors if possible.

4 Months before the Wedding

Now is the time to review your budget to ensure you are still on track. Keep your planner up to date with where you are in the planning process and ask for their help and professional advice.

Narrow down the guest lists you have been working on as a couple. You should have ordered your stationary already but expect to invite at least 10% more than your anticipated head count. 10-20% of invitees my send their regrets.

By now you should know exactly what you want to include in your menu and have an estimated cost per head from your caterer.

If you did not arrange to have maps printed with your stationary, take time to prepare some information about the area as well as detailed to the ceremony and reception sites for your out of town guests. Consider putting some of this information on your wedsite for guest to prepare in advance and prepare for local activities while the wedding party gets ready. You should include printed copies in your welcome bags.

Finalize cake plans with your baker. Include cake flavor and design and any other special requests, If you plan on having a grooms cake order it now.

 

If you did not book a bridal suite in a room block, you may want to consider booking a place to get ready on the day of the wedding. Your venue may provide a space for wedding day preparations as well.

3 Months before the Wedding

You should mail your invitations 3 months before the wedding. Budget time prior to this point if you plan on hand addressing the envelopes and assembling them yourselves. You could consider booking a calligrapher to address them for you if your budget allows.

Browse some portfolios and ask friends who were recently married who did their hair and makeup. You can set up a consultation for a hair stylist and makeup artist (some consultants will do both) and confirm your booking for the day of your wedding.

Confirm booking at the rehearsal dinner site and finalize the menu with the caterer. You may need to arrange for rentals such as linens and dinnerware for the rehearsal as well.

Finalize your song choices with your band or DJ

Make an appointment with your florist to finalize flower choice and number of arrangements. Arrange for delivery on wedding day.

Now is a good time to check requirements for a marriage license in your area. You may need to go to a doctor for a physical or blood test.

If you have not already make any arrangements necessary for travel to your honeymoon destination including flights, lodging, and travel documents.

2 Months before the Wedding

Confirm contracts and appointments for every vendor you have hired for your wedding day. Be sure to double check exact date and time of deliveries so you can plan accordingly. Check that you are on time with payments.

Your RSVPs and regrets will begin to return, as they do you should begin recording them for your final guest count.

Prepare printed lists of the name of every vendor with the business name, the name of the person in contact, the service provided, and contact information. Give this list along with a detailed itinerary of the wedding weekend to your planner (if you hired a full-service planner, they will so all of this for you), your family, and the bridal party. Make sure each vendor has the name and contact information of the person.

7 Weeks before the Wedding

 

Meet with your planner to make sure you’re still on track in the planning process.

If you choose to have formal bridal portraits taken, make an appointment to do so now.

6 Weeks before the Wedding

 

 

 

Arrange for alterations

There is no limit to what you can give your guests as favors. Choose something that matches your wedding style.

Choose a keepsake gift to give your wedding attendants, traditionally something personal or engraved.

These items include a guestbook, pen, cake knife, toasting glasses, a bridal garter. Some of these items you can rent.

Make appointments with your hair stylist and makeup artist at the same time if they are not the same person. Have some idea of how you would like to be styled but be open to suggestions as they are the professionals. This is a dry run for how you will look on your wedding day, so make sure you are happy with the results.

If you can, have all of your attendants bring their accessories together at the same time so that if you veto one accessory, there will be examples of another that you would approve. If you cannot get together, have everyone send you photos. Keep in mind pictures can distort color.

Confirm your wedding date with your officiant and go through the ceremony together. Let them know who will be speaking and any traditions you want included in your ceremony.

You can chose to have these printed or calligraphed.

This is optional.

3 Weeks before the Wedding

Apply for your marriage license (a good job for the groom)

Your photographer can offer guidance or have packages available

Include any specific shots you want included and any other special requests

 

Confirm your flower order with your florist. Now is the time for any last minute changes. Include your must have flowers, acceptable substitutions, and flowers you specifically do not want (out of season flowers may hurt your budget)

Prepare thank you notes and arrange to mail them

 

Confirm flights and lodging accommodations

Confirm room arrangements for your out of town guests

Include maps and wedding information. Coordinate your welcome packages with your wedding style

 

If you choose to change your name, arrange to do so now

Arrange for either your planner or an attendant to mail your announcements if you plan on leaving for your honeymoon right away.

Make sure your maid of honor knows how to help you into your dress before you leave the shop.

Follow up with guest who have not responded to the invitation. You will want a guaranteed head count to provide to your caterer

This meeting is the time to make sure your planner is aware of all elements of your wedding day, especially if you are using a day of coordinator and have planned most of the wedding yourself. This will ensure smooth sailing on the big day.

1 Week before the Wedding

 

 

Make sure you are paid in full on all of the services that need payment before the day of. Double check the service confirmations now.

Prepare cash or check payments in sealed envelopes for the vendors who will need to be paid of on the day of the wedding. Address them and give them to your planner to take care of on the wedding day.

Optional, but a fun and nice gesture.

If you plan on having a bachelorette party, do not have it the night before the wedding! That does double for the groom and his bachelor party!

 

 

2 days before the Wedding

Check the weather forecast and make any necessary adjustments. Confirm rain site if you arranged for one.

 

1 day before the Wedding

Your planner should lead the rehearsal and walk through the plan for the big day. Make sure you and your groom as well as the wedding party know the game plan. Now is the time to make sure all questions are asked and answered.

If you plan on leaving for the honeymoon directly from the reception, place all honeymoon luggage in the car you will be driving and lock it.

You will want to eat something that will not affect the fit of your gown, but will last (include protein and bread items). You might be too busy or nervous to eat later. Make sure your planner has arranged to save a plate of each item served at the reception. You will miss some food served while you are having photos taken, and you will want to eat the wonderful meal you worked so hard to plan!

You will want to eat something that will not affect the fit of your gown, but will last (include protein and bread items). You might be too busy or nervous to eat later. Make sure your planner has arranged to save a plate of each item served at the reception. You will miss some food served while you are having photos taken, and you will want to eat the wonderful meal you worked so hard to plan!

Relax, you have planned a beautiful event! Everything is in the hands of your planner and you can enjoy your wedding day!

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