Congratulations on your engagement! The days and weeks and months before your wedding is one of the most special times. The process should be exciting and shared between yourself and your partner since it ultimately ends in your happily ever after. Planning your wedding can be a daunting task, which is why most brides and industry experts would recommend you hire a wedding planner. But, should you wish not to, it is not impossible to plan your own successful wedding. Just use our handy list to keep track of all the different things you need to get done, and also by when.
We know the most beautiful wedding day is the one that speaks of the couple. So even though this is our example, we encourage you to move things around, leave things out or add things to the timeline. In the end, it is your day.
If you are more enthusiastic so planning your wedding in less than 12months, just move up the timeline. So instead of working in months, you work in weeks, or however long you have to plan. Just remember to get the big ticket and most important items (venue, dress, food, officiant and invitations) done first. It is possible to plan a fairy tale wedding (even within a small budget) in as little time as 2 weeks! You just need to be organized.
So to help, here is our suggested timeline for engagements of 12 months or longer:
12 months before
1. Set your budget
You need to know how much you need, how much you have, and then keep track of how much you spend. For more info on this, read our previous post here.
2. Create a wedding website
There are various free sites that offer this service. You can even open a Wix account. Although not necessary, it is a nice to have, especially if you set it up in such a way that guests can RSVP on it, access your wedding registry, and get all of the info regarding the accommodation, date, directions, and transport arrangements, etc. in one place. Guests can even post photos, making it easier for you to get all of their snaps afterwards.
3. Draw up your guest list
Determining how many people you would like to invite is crucial. Only after working out the estimate numbers, and seeing if it will fit in with your budget, can you start looking for a venue. For more info on drawing up your guest list, read our post here.
4. Start your wedding file
It is handy to have all of your gathered info in one place. If you attend trade shows or go for viewings, you can place all of that information in your file. Keep your notes there, and also keep track of your progress.
5. Create a mood board for the look and feel
Pinterest is going to become your best friend! Create a secret board where you can pin all of the ideas and colours and themes that you love. Should you wish to hire a wedding planner or consultant, you can add them to that board so that they can get a very accurate idea of the type of wedding you would like, and the type of bride that you want to be.
6. Hire a wedding planner or consultant
Not a must-have, but definitely a nice-to-have. It will make your life easier, and although pricey in the beginning, the negotiation, experience and calm that planners normally bring are invaluable.
7. Book your venue
Get to booking your venue as soon as possible. Especially the trendy and popular venues book up fast, with some already running a waiting list for 2 years down the line. A useful tip: book the venue before you pick your date.
8. Set the theme, as well as the look and feel of the wedding
Decide how formal or informal it is going to be, your dominant colours, etc. Based on the theme, you will design your wedding stationery, décor, etc.
9. Set the date
Once your venue has been confirmed you are ready to set the date (obviously the date that the venue is available J)
10. Order your save the dates and invitations
Based on the theme and colour choices, you will now design your save the dates and invitations. Once happy, order them to ensure they have arrived before it is time to send them out.
11. Start dress shopping
Decide if you would like to have a dress custom-made, would like to rent, or buy. And if you want to buy it, will it be pre-loved or new? Know your budget, styles that work on your body shape, colour preferences and finishing touches. Then start making appointments to have fittings. Be open-minded, sometimes a dress that we would have never considered ends up being THE ONE.
12. Start your special beauty regime
Looking good on your big day takes time, so start early. If you would like to lose weight before your wedding day, now is a good time to start changing your lifestyle to a healthier one. Incorporate exercise, drink more water, up the ante on your face cream, etc.
8 – 10 months before
13. Ask your bridal party
If you are going to have a maid-of-honour, bride’s maids and flower girls, or any variation thereof, you need to ask these special people if they will do you the honour. Just a tip – you and your partner should have the same number of people in your bridal parties.
14. Send out save the dates
This is especially important if you decide to get married on a date that falls on a long weekend, a public holiday, during the school holidays or around another big date or event. Also, if close family or friends live overseas, travel for work or have very small kids, they will need enough time to make arrangements to be there. It is important to note on the save the date whether or not guests are allowed a plus-one, and whether kids are invited or not.
15. Hire a band or DJ
Read reviews before hiring any entertainment. Meet with the service provider to ensure you get along, and that they understand your vision for the day. Music can make or break a party, even more so for a wedding. It sets the ambience and the mood, so choose wisely!
16. Finalise the look and feel and theme
Think seriously about the aspects surrounding the look and feel – the décor, flowers, colour, table linen, favours, etc. and finalise your choices. Make sure all of these individual elements work together to form a beautiful whole.
17. Decide on bridesmaids’ dresses
The theme, formality and season of your wedding will affect this. There are more choices than I can name, but the two biggest decisions would be do you want your entire bridal party in the same dress or each in a different (even just slightly) dress, and what colour will the dresses be.
18. Sign up for a gift registry
Register a gift registry with your favourite home-ware shop, or do something entirely different like giving a list of charity organisations that guests can donate to instead of giving you a wedding present. If you rather want money, remember to mention it on the invitation, but give guests an idea of what you will be doing with the money, e.g. it will go towards your holiday fund, etc.
19. Host an engagement party
Plan and host an engagement party to celebrate your engagement with your closest friends and family. Oh and show off your ring!
20. Book a photographer
A big ticket item, having the right photographer is one of our crucial must-haves for a successful wedding. Your photos are all that you will have left, so make sure they are of good quality, and that the photographer captures all of the memories and moments you want and need.
21. Book your caterer
If the venue has its own caterer, meet them now and start discussing your wedding menu. If the venue does not have a caterer or allows outside catering, then you need to find a caterer now. When comparing quotes, just remember to compare apples with apples in order to book the best caterer at the price you can afford.
22. Order your wedding cake
This is one of the fun things! Identify a baker and book a cake tasting. Once decided, give them the inspiration for your cake design and order the cake when you are happy with the design. Tip: serve the cake as the dessert to cut menu costs as well as waste.
23. Get an officiant
Book the person who will legally marry you. If you have a close friend or family member whom you would love to guide the ceremony, but cannot legally marry you, then make a booking to either get married the previous day in court or by a registered officiant before the time. The family member or friend can then go through the ceremony as if they are marrying you, without any legal implications.
24. Begin shopping for shoes, accessories and lingerie
You will need to have the shoes that you will wear with you when you go for your final dress fitting, so get going in shopping for them as well as any accessories and lingerie that you will need.
4 – 7 months
25. Arrange accommodation for yourself on the night of the wedding (if not included in your venue) and for out-of-town guests
If you are not paying for all of the accommodation, make sure your guests have the relevant info to book and pay for themselves. Same with any transport arrangements – make sure your guests have the right information.
26. Begin preparation for the honeymoon
Most of the time the bride will have no idea where they are going for their honeymoon. Even so, now is the time to put some pressure on your partner to book the honeymoon, especially if you are planning on taking it in the busy season.
27. Decide on and book a florist. Confirm flower selection
Take your Pinterest board to your short list of florists, get quotes and pick one. Finalise your flower choices, arrangement designs and any other flowers that you will need on the day.
28. Shop for wedding bands
Decide beforehand how much you are spending, the material of the bands, whether they will be engraved, etc.
29. Visit a physician
Ensure you are in tip-top shape. If you are not planning on starting with a family directly after your wedding, put everything in place for birth control. If you are going to a country or place that required certain shots or vaccinations, get them now to ensure they are out of your system by the time of the wedding.
30. Send out your invitations
Send out your invitations! Make sure you have a clear RSVP date, and also give guests the needed info regarding your gift registry, accommodation and transport arrangements, etc. If they can choose their own main course, or you would like them to contribute song choices, mention that on the invitations as well.
31. Select the groom’s wedding attire
Sort out what your partner will wear, as well as the groomsmen. Doing it now ensures there is enough time for fitting and altering.
32. Shop for bridal party gifts
If you decide you want to give each of your bridal party members something special, then start shopping for it now.
33. Begin counselling sessions with the officiant
If you are attending pre-marital counselling, start with the sessions now.
34. Go for the menu tasting and decide on your final menu selections
Make sure you are 100% happy with the menu, the offering, the tastes, the portion sizes, etc. Communicate clearly with your caterer regarding all of your requirements.
35. Confirm your order of all rental furniture/décor
36. Book your mock table with the venue and florist
37. Confirm your wedding day transport
Book the wedding car, as well as any other transport that will be necessary to get you, your bridal party and your close family to the ceremony and the reception.
38. Write your vows
Make it heartfelt, sincere and loving. Learn it by heart, but have cards with you on the day just in case the emotion gets you down.
39. Confirm order with the florist
Confirm everything with your florist and ensure all of it is in writing. Confirm what time they will deliver on the day, as well as if there are any hired goods that you will have to return afterwards.
40. Confirm order of stationery
Menus, name cards, church programs, anything that you had designed and now need printing for. Make sure it is done in the right colour, on the right cardstock, etc.
41. Apply for a marriage license
Usually, your officiant will help you with this, but you need to confirm that he/she will. Otherwise, follow the guidelines on the department’s website.
42. Have the final gown fitting. Remember to take your wedding shoes with you!
43. Have your hair & makeup trials
Take a few photos after the trails to make sure your face is not shiny, your hair looks good from all angles, etc.
44. Collate the final RSVP list
If you are still waiting for a few RSVPs, follow up and get their final answers.
45. Prepare a shot list for your photographer and videographer
46. Deliver a list of songs to your DJ or band
47. Draw up a seating plan
48. Contact all of your wedding suppliers and confirm the schedule for the day
49. Pick up the marriage license
50. Obtain any legal information, approvals or licenses
51. Check parking arrangements
52. Rehearsal dinner
If you are having one, this is when you practice the processional.
53. Confirm your final guest numbers with the venue and caterer
54. Book in for Bride and Groom relaxing spa treatments
55. Cut and die hair if needed
56. Kitchen tea
The get-together where the guests give the bride things she will need to set up her home. Usually kitchen appliances or utensils, but can also be towels, linen, or even gardening equipment. The attending ladies can also partake in the tradition of giving her recipes so that she can start her own family recipe book.
57. Bachelors and bachelorettes
The get-togethers for the young guests, planned by the bridal parties. Usually held separate, it can be anything from playing paintball to sipping cocktails, cake decorating or watching rugby.
58. Get your spray tan done – if you are planning on getting it done
59. Confirm honeymoon bookings and plans
60. Confirm accommodation arrangements
61. Pack for honeymoon
62. Confirm wedding day attire
63. Gather all necessary documents for travel
64. Pick up formalwear
65. Have one final phone call with each of your suppliers
66. Have your dress steamed
67. Pre-wedding relaxing pampering
68. Go through the list of things to do and make sure all bases are covered
If you are entrusting a friend or family member to assist with the coordination on the day, you should have a “training” meeting with them now. Give them all of the info, the timelines, etc.
69. Pack wedding day emergency kit
In short, a small kit that contains essentials that you might need if an emergency happens on your wedding day. This kit usually contains things like lipstick, hairpins, pain pills, water, mints, etc. For a complete list of what should be in your emergency kit, look out for next week’s post!
70. Get manicure and pedicure
71. Take a steamy and relaxing bath
72. Put wedding attire and accessories together
73. Give rings to the best man
74. Try to get a good night’s sleep
On the day
75. Have a good breakfast, and make sure you eat something while getting ready. Avoid carb-rich foods, sugars, and caffeine
76. Get hair and makeup done
77. Have someone check the reception site, or check it yourself if time and rules permit
78. Get dressed for the wedding
79. Have candid photos taken with family
We hope that you can use this list of things to do to give you a clear plan of action. We wish you and your partner a beautiful, calm and magical wedding which will be the perfect starting point of your life together.