Planning a wedding is an exciting journey, but it can be hard to know when, where, and how to start. The most common question we hear couples ask is, “When should we start the process of planning our wedding?”. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, we’ve created a timeline to help guide you through your wedding planning process in hopes of helping you have a stress-free journey to your big day.
This timeline begins around 1 year before your wedding day; however, feel free to take this guide and condense it if you’re having a shorter engagement.
12-18 Months Before the Wedding
The early stages of wedding planning are crucial for setting the foundation of your event. During this time frame we recommend focusing on the following:
- Announcement and Engagement: Share the news about your engagement with family & friends! This would be a perfect time for booking an engagement photo session. You could even consider hosting an engagement party to celebrate this joyful moment.
- Budgeting: Establish your wedding budget. This step will surely influence every other decision you make during the planning process.
- Guest List and Venue: Create a guest list and start scoping out potential wedding venues. Popular venues tend to book up quickly, so we recommend securing your date ASAP.
- Vendors: Research and book your top vendors, such as a photographer, videographer, and wedding planner (if you choose to hire one).
8-12 Months Before the Wedding
As you move closer to your wedding date, it’s time to zoom in on the finer details of your big day:
- Save the Dates: Send out save-the-dates to give your guests enough time to pencil your wedding into their plans!
- Wedding Party: Ask your chosen bridesmaids, groomsmen, and other loved ones to be a part of your special day.
- Dress and Attire: Begin shopping for your dream wedding dress and for your wedding party too. (Do keep in mind that alterations to dresses or suits can take several months.)
- Catering and Menu: If your chosen venue doesn’t already provide catering, start researching and sampling your yummy options. Also, reach out to bakeries if you’re having a wedding cake on your big day!
- Honeymoon: Decide if you and your fiance will be taking a honeymoon right after the wedding, weeks later, or at all. If this is something you’ll be doing, begin talking about locations and travel so you can get everything booked!
- Registry: If you’re having any type of shower or party before the big day, create a registry so guests will know exactly what gift to bring.
4-8 Months Before the Wedding
Moving even closer to the big day, you’ll want to focus on logistics:
- Invitations: Send out your wedding invitations, including important details like RSVP information and accommodation options for out-of-town guests.
- Decor and Theme: Decide on a wedding theme and start planning accordingly. This could include contacting a florist, ordering faux flowers, etc.
- Music and Entertainment: Book your ceremony and reception music, whether it’s a live band, DJ, or other entertainment options Be sure to get this knocked out within this time frame.
- Officiant: Whether you’re choosing to use a pastor, family friend, or hired officiant, make sure you choose who will be making this marriage legal.
- Transportation: If you’re getting ready at a location other than your venue, or are traveling from your ceremony to reception space, make a plan for how your wedding party will get from one location to the next. It’s best to have a plan in place, even if you aren’t renting transportation, so everyone knows exactly what to do and travel on your wedding day can be stress-free.
- Hair & Makeup: Decide if you’ll be doing your own hair & makeup, if a family friend will be helping out, or if you’re hiring a company.
2-4 Months Before the Wedding
Now it’s the final stretch, time to finalize some last minute details:
- Finalize Details: Confirm ALL details with your vendors, from the timeline of the day to the timing of specific song choices.
- Wedding Rings: Purchase or design your wedding rings and ensure they’ll be here in time for the ceremony.
- Marriage License: Go to your local courthouse to get your marriage license. Requirements vary by location, so be sure to check the specific guidelines in your area.
- Wedding Rehearsal: Create a plan for what happens before or after the wedding rehearsal. Typically, the couple, their wedding party, and close family will get together after the wedding rehearsal to celebrate the soon to be Mr. & Mrs. one last time before the big day! If this is something you’re doing, make a plan for where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing!
1 Month Before the Wedding
As the countdown reaches its final month, focus on the last-minute preparations:
- RSVPs and Seating: Finalize your guest list based on RSVPs and create a seating plan (if that’s your style).
- Final Fittings: Attend your final dress fitting and ensure there won’t be any wardrobe malfunctions the day of. (;
- Timeline and Schedule: Work with your wedding planner or day-of coordinator to finalize the wedding day timeline, including arrival time for vendors and special event timing!
1 Week Before the Wedding
With just a week to go, consider tying up any loose ends:
- Confirm details: Reconfirm all details with vendors one last time and provide them with a final headcount.
- Pack Essentials: Prepare a bag with essential items you’ll need on the wedding day, such as touch-up makeup, a change of shoes, and personal items.
- Relax and Rehearse: Take time to relax and be fully present at your wedding rehearsal so that everyone is familiar with their roles so the ceremony can run smoothly!
On the Wedding Day
Finally, the moment you have waited for has arrived. Take a deep breath and savor every moment of it 🙂
Like we mentioned earlier, there’s no one size fits all, but we’ve noticed that the ideal timeline for wedding planning is generally 12-18 months before the big day. This time frame allows you to secure your preferred vendors and venues, make thoughtful decisions, and enjoy a stress-free planning process. However, flexibility is key, and it’s possible to plan a beautiful wedding in a shorter amount of time, if necessary. The most important thing is to create a timeline that suits your preferences, personalities, and circumstances, so that your wedding day is everything you’ve dreamed of and more.
If you’re looking for more resources on wedding planning, Season 1 of our Behind The Studio podcast is for you! In “Getting Married? Start Here!”, we’ll be taking you through the entire wedding planning process. From choosing the wedding vibe to creating your most magical honeymoon, we’re here to share all of the tips we have!