Juggling planning your wedding with busy work schedules and life in general can be very stressful and a real struggle. My handy wedding planning checklist will help keep you on track so that no detail is forgotten.
18 – 24 months to go
Discuss and decide on the type of wedding you want – church ceremony? Marquee reception? Civil ceremony and reception at the same location? There are endless options for your wedding and it’s best to sit down and talk about what you want together so you’re both on the same page, before you start planning.
Put together a guest list
This can be stressful but you need to be realistic about how many people you want to invite so you can work out how big a venue you will need – there’s no point looking for a venue that holds 70 people if you’re planning on inviting 150! It’s a good idea to split your guest list into two categories – the people you absolutely have to have there and another list of people you’d like to have if you could and if budget allows. Don’t worry if your initial list seems huge, you’ll keep going back to it and adjusting it until you have the final version.
Set your budget
Now you have a rough idea of how many guests you’ll be inviting (including yourselves and your bridal party), have a ballpark figure in your mind about how much you think you want to spend and think about the elements of your wedding that you want to spend most of your money on. If the venue and atmosphere is important to you, allocate more money to the venue. If great food, wine and photos are your highest priority, allocate more of your budget to those areas. When setting you budget, list the top three things that are most important to you for your wedding and allocate accordingly. If you want lots of flowers with a floral arch and statement centrepieces that is going to cost more of your budget than pillar arrangements and low centrepieces. Equally, flowers might not be that important to you so you might want to allocate less to that category.
This is one area where having a wedding planner is super helpful, as we can guide you and give you advice on how to realistically budget for each item.
Set your wedding date
One of the most important planning decisions to tackle first, and not just for practical reasons. Setting the date first will impact all the other areas of your wedding and once you have made that first decision, you’ll be able to go ahead and secure your venue and suppliers for your wedding day.
Choose a date that suits you both, however you may want to take into account any significant dates that involve your family or close friends, major sporting events and bank holidays. The earlier you set the date the more time you have to plan.
Think about taking out insurance – weddings are expensive and emotional and it is best to be prepared in case something does happen. Wedding insurance covers you if there is a problem with the venue or a supplier, but be mindful that it does not cover if one of you changes their mind.
Research wedding venues
Think about and research potential venues and locations for your ceremony and reception. Once you’ve got a list of the venues you like, make a shortlist and make sure you go and visit each one, taking photos too of the spaces and the grounds so each one is clear in your mind. Often photos of the venues or spaces are very different in real life than they are online!
12 – 18 months to go
Book your venue
Make sure you book the church, registrar or celebrant as well as ceremony venue if you’re having a civil ceremony. Ensure you know exactly what is included when booking your reception venue – is catering and furniture included? Is there a certain time you need to get out by? Are there any restrictions you need to be aware of? Again, this is where having a wedding planner on board is invaluable as we know all the ins and outs of venues and possible restrictions and can help you work out which venue best suits your requirements.
Select your bridal party
Once you’ve worked out the type of wedding you want, it’s time to choose your bridal party – bridesmaids, best man, ushers, groomsmen etc. There are no rules on the size of bridal party or indeed you might even choose not to have a bridal party, it is entirely up to you.
Send Save the Date cards
Now you have your date confirmed and your venue/s booked, it’s worthwhile letting your guests know to save the date for your wedding day. This is especially useful if your wedding date is quite far in advance, and if your guests are travelling from abroad or across the country to attend. It’s also a nice keepsake for your guests too!
Research ideas for venue décor
Think about how you want your ceremony and reception venue to be decorated. If your venue is a blank space, consider hiring a venue stylist to dress the spaces.
Research and book your suppliers
It so important to have the right team of suppliers working with you on your wedding day, and this is again an area where having a wedding planner can prove invaluable. Don’t just opt for the cheapest, make sure you do your research and get at least 3 quotes for each service you are looking for – caterer (if not provided by your venue), photographer, videographer, florist, cake etc. Once you have researched and shortlisted and found your favourite, make sure you book them straight away, some suppliers get booked up so far in advance you don’t want to miss out.
Research wedding dresses
Your Pinterest board may be full of ideas of wedding dresses and hair styles, so do your research on where you can find your favourite styles and make appointments to go and try them on.
Arrange the wedding licence
You will need to give notice to your registrar/priest/celebrant at least 3 months before your wedding day but it’s best to do it with as much notice as possible.
9 – 12 months to go
Start dress shopping
An exciting part of the wedding planning process, make sure you allow enough time to order you dress. Some boutiques consider under six months a ‘rush order’ and will apply a fee.
Order wedding cake
Think about the type of cake you’d like and order through your cake maker.
6 – 9 months to go
Choose and order your stationery
Make sure you allow plenty of time to order your stationery, especially if it is a bespoke design, and don’t forget to allow plenty of time to send your invites. Have a think about other stationery you might want for your wedding such as programmes/order of service, menus, table place cards and table plans.
Dress your bridal party
Choose your bridesmaid dresses and accessories and the outfits for the groom, best man and groomsmen, as well as any accessories.
Book your honeymoon
If you’re having a honeymoon, book your travel and hotel and make sure your passports are valid and if not, renew them in plenty of time before you’re set to travel.
You’ll most likely have two – three dress fittings before the big day, think about the shoes you’ll be wearing and any other accessories such as hair pieces, veils and jewellery.
Reserve accommodation for you and your guests
Think about where you will spend your first night as a married couple and if you’re not heading off straight away on a honeymoon or mini break, perhaps book a nice hotel room for the night. For guests who will need overnight accommodation the night of your wedding, it’s helpful to reserve rooms for them on their behalf.
Choose your hairdresser and make-up artist
If you’ve decided to have your hair and make up done professionally, choose your hair and make-up artist and book in for a trial.
Set up your wedding gift list
If you are opting for a wedding gift list, decide where you want it to be hosted and start setting it up. Include a range of products so there’s something for all budgets if you’ve opted for a traditional gift registry.
Choose the readings for your ceremony
Personalise your wedding ceremony by choosing poems and readings to be included in your ceremony. If you’re having a religious ceremony, you’ll need to choose hymns as well, for a civil ceremony bear in mind your music and reading choices cannot include religious references.
Choose your ceremony and reception music
Think about the type of music you want to include in your ceremony – what will you walk up the aisle to? Again, civil ceremonies cannot include any religious music. Do you want a DJ, or a band for your reception? Once you have decided this you can book in the suppliers if you haven’t already.
3 – 6 months to go
Buy wedding rings
Allow plenty of time if you are choosing a bespoke design and make sure you have the rings at least a few days before the wedding just in case!
Send out your invitations, including RSVP cards to all your guests on your finalised guest list. It’s always nice to send an invite to both sets of parents and the bridal party too.
Choose and order wedding favours
If you’re opting to include wedding favours as part of your guest experience, think about items that are personal to you both as a couple and will be memorable of your wedding.
3 months to go
Hair and make-up trial
Explore different options and discover what suits you by having a trial with your hair and make-up artist. If you can, try to arrange it so it coincides with a night out or your hen do so you’re suitably glam and can really put your make-up to the test.
Have a menu tasting with your caterers
Narrow down your selection for the wedding breakfast and canapé choices to a few options and then arrange to attend a menu tasting with your caterer so you can decide which options you like the most, to be served on your wedding day.
Start the table plan
A task a lot of people dread as it can cause a lot of stress – when you start to put together your table plan work out who can sit next to who and who definitely cannot sit together and try and make it all make sense. There will be many versions of the table plan so be warned, it will not be right the first time round!
Write your vows
It might seem like something you can leave till the last minute, but if you’re writing your own vows it might take you longer than you think so give yourself plenty of time to let the words flow.
1 month to go
Confirm all your suppliers
Contact your suppliers and make sure they have your booking confirmed, along with any other details they will need to know.
Final dress fitting with your accessories
Have your final dress fitting with all your accessories, including the shoes you’ll be wearing on the day. Make sure to wear them in before the big day so they won’t give you blisters or sore feet!
Finalise your table plan and organise place cards
Now you’ve had all the RSVP’s in you can finalise the table plan and start organising place cards for each place setting.
Settle final balances with your suppliers and venue
Make sure all the final payments have been made to your suppliers and venue, according to the contracts you have with them.
Shot list for your photographer
Put together a shot list for your photographer of all your must have photos.
Wedding party thank you gifts
Buy gifts for your bridal party as a thank you for being part of your wedding.
One week to go
Confirm bookings and timings with all suppliers and venue
Give yourself peace of mind by checking in with all your suppliers ahead of the big day to double check timings and to make sure they know what your requirements are.
Reconfirm final numbers and dietary requirements with your caterer
By this stage, you should know who is attending and who isn’t. Confirm the final numbers with your caterers and make sure they are aware of any dietary requirements.
Hold a rehearsal in the venue
If you’re having one, hold a rehearsal of the ceremony in your ceremony or reception venue, to go through what will happen on the day and to make sure all of your bridal party know where they need to be and when they need to be there.
Wedding cake delivery
Confirm when the wedding cake will be delivered and set up.
The day before
This is where having a wedding planner really is invaluable. They will reconfirm all the wedding timings and details with your suppliers and bridal party, and make sure everything is ready to go, leaving you to relax and prepare for your big day.
The above list is of course subjective and there are no hard and fast rules of the order in which to do things, this is purely a guide to help you check things off that to-do list.
Every couple and wedding is different and while you may check everything off the list, some of the items might not apply to you. Just remember, it takes the same amount of planning regardless of whether your wedding date is 2 years or 2 months away.
To download this checklist, click here
To find out how I can help you make sure everything is ticked off your to-do list, discover my services here