Working through you wedding planning timeline is a marathon, not a sprint. Here’s how to stay sane and make sure everything – from the big stuff to the finest detail – gets ticked off your list.
12+ months before
- Create a wedding file or make a Pinterest board to keep track of all your ideas and inspiration.
- Work out your budget– this is crucial! Before you start any sort of planning, determine how much you’re willing to spend. It’s an old tradition, but if your parent’s contributing toward your wedding, find out how much early.
- If you’re going to hire a wedding planner, do that now.
- Choose your date and reserve a venue (one of these is likely to depend on the other).
- Book the venue for your reception, if it’s going to be different to the ceremony venue.
- Start planning your guest list– a draft version of this should be done ASAP in order to pick a venue with sufficient guest capacity. Look at extending invitations not as a social obligation, but as being surrounded by those you love and who love you.
- Choose the wedding party. Ask people who love and support you to be attendants. You don’t need an even number of groomsmen and bridesmaids. Loved ones don’t come in matched sets; your wedding party doesn’t have to, either.
- Book your wedding celebrant who will officiate your marriage.
- Choose and book an MC.
- Have an engagement party; keeping in mind that anyone invited to this should also feature on your wedding guest list.
9 – 12 months before
- Order your dress or book a designer. It can take up to nine months for a gown you’ve ordered to be made; if you select one early, you’ll avoid rush fees. Don’t panic if you’ve a short engagement period, you can purchase a sample from a bridal shop, or buy off of the rack from a store or resale website.
- If they’re not included in your venue hire, choose a caterer.
- Book your DJ or entertainment (including ceremony musicians).
- Research and book a photographer (and videographer if you want one). When booking a photographer or videographer, ask to see an entire wedding he or she has shot, not just the highlights. Whomever you book, he or she will be with you the whole of your wedding day, so I also recommend arranging a video conferencing call with them, so you know who you’re booking, their personality and if you can see you both working together.
- Book your florist. It’s helpful to bring your florist images of arrangements you love and lists of your favourite flowers.
- Reserve accommodation for out of town guests. Consider booking a block of hotel rooms for your travelling guests to stay in. And while you’re at it, begin to build your wedding website, where guests can find travel information and even RSVP.
Consider how important wedding photography is to you?
I ask every client what is the most important element to their wedding day. Photography is the answer, 9 times out of 10. It’s the most important thing from your wedding day that you can keep with you forever. Having the correct timeline will provide you with more opportunities for better photos and a better wedding day experience overall.
6 – 9 months before
- Meet with your officiant to make sure you have all the necessary paperwork covered.
- Have invitations made. The first hint guests will have of your wedding style is your invitations. Make sure they represent it well. Sending something too casual is confusing if you’re having an elegant formal wedding. While you’re at it, send out save-the-dates, if you feel your wedding requires them. They’re best for destination weddings or any other celebration that requires extra guest planning or travel booking.
- Start organising bridesmaids’ dresses, groomsmen’s suits, flower girl and pageboy outfits.
- Start planning your honeymoon, including renewing your passport and getting any vaccinations. It may feel far away, but travel plans always require time. Figure out where you want to go and when.
4 – 6 months before
- Fit and purchase your wedding rings.
- Do tastings and order your cake.
- Buy your wedding shoes (and start taking them to dress fittings).
- Begin dress fittings. You’ll need a few extra appointments to ensure that it fits like a glove. Start around this period, so you have plenty of time for alterations. Make sure you take your shoes and undergarments to your 1st appointment.
- Book your hairstylist and make-up artist. Arrange hair appointment at least 3 hours before and make-up an hour before the ceremony.
- Plan the big-day timeline. Consider the location and time of year; keep your guests comfortable and provide seating (especially for the elderly). Be sure to factor in travel times between locations too. Below is a sample timeline:
- 10:00 – Hair stylist arrives
- 11:00 – Make-up artist and photographer(s) arrives
- 12:30 – Leave for ceremony venue
- 13:00 – Ceremony
- 14:00 – Confetti / Canapés and cocktails
- 14:30 – Formal family & friends photos (30m) / couple’s wedding portraits (20m).
- 15:30 – Wedding Breakfast. The host and best man offer toasts.
- 17:00 –Speeches after main course.
- 17:45 –Deserts and light entertainment (couple mingle with guests).
- 18:45 –Cutting of the cake and tossing of the bouquet.
- 19:00 – First Dance and party starts.
- 20:00 – Cake, coffee and evening buffet.
- 21:00 – Evening wedding portraits (optional)
- 23:00– The bride and groom depart.
- Start choosing the playlist.
- Book rental companies for anything your venue isn’t providing, from seat covers to fancy Portaloos.
- Plan your rehearsal. Book any spaces and make dinner reservations for day-before prep.
- Compile your registry. People will send gifts starting with the first party thrown for you, be it an engagement celebration or a shower. Set up your wish list (ideally, at two national stores and one local) to make their lives easier.
Does your wedding require more than one photographer?
This is one of those questions you may want to ask after you already have an idea of what the day will look like. It really depends on how the photographer works, how the day is ordered, all that will be occurring throughout the day and of course, what you want or don’t want photos of. Most clients want the extra photographer for the peace of mind in knowing you’re covering two angles especially during those important moments when one person can’t always be in the same place at the same time. I personally enjoy working with a second photographer especially for weddings over 10hrs with multiple locations. Again, don’t just assume on the amount of photographer’s you’ll need. Every photographer works differently and can assess your wedding appropriately after proper planning.
3 months before
- Finalise the menu and flowers.
- Buy your wedding lingerie.
- Order wedding party gift and wedding favours if you’ll have any.
- Choose who will give the toasts.
- Make your wedding vendors aware of the day’s schedule (they may have helpful feedback).
- Hire wedding day transportation, including limos or buses for the day.
- Book your spa treatments for the week of your wedding.
2 months before
- Send out invitations– All invites should be sent at least eight weeks ahead, allowing your guests adequate time to respond and ensuring that you will get a reliable head count a week or two before the event. For destination or holiday-weekend weddings, the earlier they’re sent, the better.
- Meet with your photographer to discuss specific shots, locations and people to be photographed.
- Do a trial hair and make-up run.
- Have menus and programmes printed.
- Write your vows.
4 weeks before
- Make a list of your RSVPs and follow up with anyone who has not yet responded.
- Make a seating chart and have place cards printed.
- Have your final dress fitting. You should bring along your maid of honour so she can learn specifics such as how to lace your corset or bustle your train (we’re not kidding).
2 weeks before
- Let your venue contact know about any special vendor requests, such as additional power outlets for the DJ or refrigeration for the cake.
- Send your DJ your final playlist, including any songs you definitely don’t want to hear.
- Have your pre-wedding haircut and colour.
- Break in your wedding shoes around the house—your feet will thank you later.
Meet with your photographer to discuss specifics.
Preparation is key. The more detail you provide to your photographer about your wedding day, will ensure he or she knows what things/period on the day and people that are most important to you as a couple. In doing so, your photographer can anticipate and capture the special moments between you, them and amongst each others that you will want to see. Knowing your wedding timeline is key for every vendor you hire.
The week of
- Give venue and caterer a final headcount.
- Confirm times, dates and final details with every vendor.
- Hand over programmes, menus and place cards, and any hired or DIY decor, to your venue reception manager.
- Delegate wedding day and post wedding tasks. Someone to:
- Deal with guest questions and concerns,
- Get your gifts home and handle rental returns while you’re on honeymoon,
- Gather all your friends and family members for the formal wedding photos.
- Pick up your dress and the rings!
- Make sure the bridesmaids’ dresses; groomsmen’s suits and flower girl / pageboy attire are ready to go.
- Pack for your honeymoon.
- Make final payments to vendors (if not earlier contractually), and prepare cash tip envelopes for wait-staff on the day.
- Organise snacks and drinks for the dressing rooms.
The night before
- Rehearse the ceremony with your wedding party, immediate family and officiant.
- Introduce the manager of your reception venue to the best man and maid of honour, or whomever you’ve delegated as the go-to person for any questions or problems during the reception.
The wedding day
- Give the wedding bands to the best man (or maid of honour).
- Charge your phone (just in case).
- Eat breakfast, stay hydrated and don’t rush!You going to spend a large part of the day talking and on your feet; so eat well and sip water regularly. You can take your time, within reason. Allow up to 15 minutes for stragglers to find seats, but don’t annoy guests with excessive primping.
- For beautiful photos, have your hair and make up done in front of the best available light in your room/suite. A good and experience photographer should hopefully have provided you with some tips on what to do on the morning.
- Also, don’t forget Mum and Dad. If you have a good relationship with your parents, build a memory by having a moment with them after you’re dressed. The same goes for siblings and grandparents.
- Have wedding party, family and guests pre-ceremony photos taken.
- Finally, live in the moment and enjoy your wedding day. It’s the only day you’ll probably have absolutely everyone you both love and care about in one place.
So that just about sums it up. I hope this timeline covered as many of the tasks as possible for you to be prepared and enjoy your wedding day experience. I’m sure absorbing all this content can be a bit overwhelming, but remember wedding planning is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you found this timeline helpful, do me a favour and share it with someone you know. Also, I want to hear from you. If I missed anything or if you have ideas to make this even better I would love to hear it! Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!