The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist for All Engaged Couples

 

        Pull off an unforgettable ceremony and reception with our comprehensive wedding checklist.

        By Real Simple Editors

 

14 to 12 Months Before

Collect design inspiration..Scroll through Instagram, leaf through bridal magazines, and browse your favorite lifestyle and fashion sites for inspiration. Take a good look around your home and closet, too—you'll never know where you'll find unexpected design ideas.

Work out your budget.Determine how much money you have to spend on your ceremony and reception, based on your families’ contributions and your own.

Pick who will be in your wedding party.As soon as you’re engaged, people will start wondering who’s in.

Consider your guest list.Make a head count spreadsheet to use throughout your planning process, with columns for contact info, addresses, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant info. (Planning a party on a budget? It may be brutal, but the best way to cut costs is to reduce your guest list.)

Hire a planner, if necessary.A good planner will always have relationships with top-rated vendors.

Book your venue and lock down your wedding date.Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception, factoring in travel time between the two venues.

Hire a photographer, videographer, florist, caterer, band, and other must-have wedding vendors.Keep in mind that the best event pros tend to book up over a year in advance.

Nine Months Before

Determine your dinner and drinks menu.If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one now and hire the service this month or early next.

 

Purchase a dress, suit, jumpsuit, or your wedding outfit of choice.You’ll need to schedule time for at least three fittings. Veil shopping can be postponed for another two to three months.

 

Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests.Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue.

 

Register for gifts.Sign up at a minimum of three retailers across a range of budgets.

 

Create a wedding website.Create a personal page where you'll tout the date of the nuptials, travel information, accommodations, and registry info.

 

Seven to Six Months Before

Select and purchase invitations.Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Addressing cards is time-consuming, so you need to budget accordingly.

Start planning your honeymoon.Make sure that your passports are up to date, and schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.

 

Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses..Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.

 

Meet with the officiant.Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding (these vary by county and religion).

 

Send out save-the-dates.

 

Reserve structural and electrical necessities.Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.

 

Arrange transportation.Consider limos, minibuses, trolleys, and town cars.

 

Compose a day-of timeline.Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance). If you have a planner, he/she/they will assist with this.

 

Five to Four Months Before

Book the rehearsal-dinner venue.Negotiate the cost and the menu. If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, book that place as well.

Check on the wedding invitations.Ask the stationer and calligrapher for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.

Taste and order the wedding cake.Some in-demand bakers require a longer lead time. Attend several tastings before committing to any one dessert pro.

Send your guest list to the host of your shower.Provided you, ahem, know about the shower.

Purchase wedding shoes and start outfit fittings.Bring the shoes along to your first fitting so the tailor can choose the appropriate length for your look.

Schedule hair and makeup artists.Make a few appointments with local experts to try them out. Snap a photo at each so you can compare results.

Set your music playlist.What should be playing when the wedding party is announced? During dinner? To kick off the dancing? Keep a running list of what you do and don't want played.

Three Months Before

Finalize the menu and flowers.You’ll want to wait until now to see what will be available, since food and flowers are affected by season.

 

Order favors, if that's your thing.Some crowd-pleasing ideas: monogrammed cookies or a treat that represents your city or region. If you’re planning to have welcome baskets for out-of-town guests, plan those now too.

 

Make a list of the people giving toasts.Which loved ones would you like to have speak at the reception? Ask them now.

 

Finalize the readings.Determine what you would like to have read at the ceremony—and whom you wish to do the readings.

 

Purchase your undergarments.And schedule your second fitting.

 

Finalize the order of the ceremony and the reception.

 

Print menu cards as well as programs.No need to go to a professional printer, if that’s not in your budget: You can easily create these at home.

 

Purchase the rings.This will give you time for resizing and engraving.

 

Send your event schedule to every vendor.Giving them a first draft now allows ample time for tweaks and feedback.

 

Two Months Before

Touch base again with all the hired pros.Make sure any questions you or they had on your first draft have been answered.

 

Meet with the photographer.Discuss specific shots, and walk through the locations to note spots that appeal to you.

 

Review the playlist with the band or DJ.Though you probably won’t be able to dictate every single song played, you should come prepared with a wish list.

 

Send out the invitations.The rule of thumb: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony, setting the RSVP cutoff at three weeks after the postmark date.

 

Enjoy a bachelor/bachelorette party.Arranging a night out with your girlfriends generally falls to the maid of honor. But if she hasn’t mentioned one to you by now, feel free to ask—for scheduling purposes, of course!—if a celebration is in the works.

 

One Month Before

Enter RSVPs into your trusted guest-list spreadsheet.Contact people who have not yet responded.

 

Get your marriage license.The process can take up to six days, but it’s good to give yourself some leeway. If you are changing your name, order several copies.

 

Mail the rehearsal-dinner invitations.

 

Visit the tailor for your last outfit fitting.For peace of mind, you may want to schedule a fitting the week of your wedding. You can always cancel the appointment if you try on the dress then and it fits perfectly.

 

Stock the bar.Now that you have a firm head count you can order accordingly.

 

Send out as many final payments to pros as you can.

 

Confirm times for hair and makeup and all vendors.

 

Assign seating.Draw out table shapes on a layout of the room to help plan place settings. Write the names of female guests on pink sticky notes and the names of male guests on blue sticky notes so you can move people about without resketching the entire setting.

 

Purchase thank-you gifts for family and the wedding party.You’ll present them at the rehearsal dinner.

 

Write your vows, if necessary.

 

Get your hair cut and colored, if desired.

Week of the Wedding

Reconfirm arrival times with vendors.

 

Delegate small wedding-day tasks.Choose someone to bustle your dress, someone to carry your things, someone to be in charge of gifts (especially the enveloped sort), someone to hand out tips, and someone to be the point person for each vendor.

 

Send a timeline to the wedding party.Include every member’s contact information, along with the point people you’ve asked to deal with the vendors, if problems arise.

 

Pick up your dress or suit.Or make arrangements for a delivery.

 

Check in one last time with the photographer.Supply them with a list of moments you want captured on film.

 

Set aside checks for the vendors.And put tips in envelopes to be handed out at the event.

 

Book a spa treatment.Make an appontment for a manicure and a pedicure the day before the "I dos." (Consider a stress-relieving massage, too.)

 

Send the final guest list to the caterer and all venues hosting your wedding-related events.

 

Break in your shoes.

 

Assemble and distribute the welcome baskets.

 

Pack for your honeymoon.