Wedding Planning Checklist
So you’re engaged – congratulations!! But now what? Where do you even start? We put together a detailed checklist for you to ensure no detail is missed! From 18 months prior to the big day, all the way to the day after your wedding, check off these tasks in this timeline for a stress-free planning journey!
You can also download a free printable PDF here!
12-18 MONTHS BEFORE
- Start a wedding folder or binder. Begin leafing through wedding, lifestyle, fashion, gardening, design and food magazines for inspiration. Browse Pinterest and Instagram for ideas.
- Work out your budget. Determine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own.
- Pick your wedding party. As soon as you’re engaged, people will start wondering who’s in the wedding party.
- Start the guest list. Make a head count database to use throughout your planning process, with columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant information. (Hint: Want to keep costs low? It may be brutal, but the best way to do it is to reduce your guest list.)
- Hire a planner, if desired. A planner will have relationships and insights about vendors. Even if you are only going to use them for day-of coordination services, it’s wise to hire them at the beginning of the planning process.
- Reserve your date and venues. Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception, factoring in travel time between the two places.
- Book your officiant.
- Research photographers, bands, florists and caterers. Keep their contact information in your binder or spreadsheet.
- Throw an engagement party, if you wish. But remember that your invitees should be on your wedding guest list as well.
8-12 MONTHS BEFORE
- Hire the photographer and the videographer. No need to talk specifics yet–be sure that the people you hire are open to doing the shots that you want.
- Book the entertainment. Attend gigs of potential acts to see how they perform in front of audiences, then reserve your favorite.
- Meet caterers. If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one now and hire the service.
- Purchase a dress. 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. It’s great to try to get one of the room rates to sit right around $100 if possible.
- Start a gift registry with a minimum of three retailers.
- Launch a wedding website. Create your personal page. Note the date of the wedding, travel information and accommodations. Then send the link to invitees.
- Visit your local men’s formalwear stores and choose the groom’s and groomsmen’s attire.
- Send save-the-date cards.
6-7 MONTHS BEFORE
- Select and purchase invitations. Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Addressing cards is time consuming, so you need to budget accordingly.
- Start planning a 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.
- Send your guest list to the host of your shower.
- 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).
- Reserve structural and electrical necessities. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.
- Book a florist. Florists can serve multiple clients on one day, which is why you can wait a little longer to engage one. Plus, at this point, you’ll be firm on what your wedding color palette is.
- Arrange transportation. Consider limos, minibuses, trolleys and town cars. But know that low-to-the-ground limos can make entries and exits challenging if you’re wearing a fitted gown.
- Start thinking about shuttle service for your out-of-town guests. Is this a service you would like to provide? If so, start talking with the hotels you have contacted and see if they have any special relationships or deals set up for these services.
- Start composing a day-of timeline. Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance, etc.).
4-5 MONTHS BEFORE
- Book the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner venues. Negotiate the cost and the menu.
- If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, reserve that venue.
- Check on the wedding invitations. Ask the stationer for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.
- Select and order the cake. Some bakers require a long lead time. Attend several tastings before committing to any baker. (Because, why not?)
- Purchase wedding shoes and start dress fittings. Bring the shoes along to your first fitting so the tailor can choose the appropriate length for your gown.
- 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.
- Choose your music. Are there any must-have songs? What about songs NOT to play? Listing out these items can give the DJ great direction in your music preferences. Also start thinking about: first dance, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance, anniversary dance, and bridal party dance songs.
3 MONTHS BEFORE
- Finalize the menu and flowers. Since food and flowers are affected by season, you’ll want to wait until now to see what will be available.
- If desired, order favors. Some safe bets: 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.
- Make a list of the people giving toasts. Which loved ones would you like to have speak at the reception? Ask them now–so they can start preparing!
- 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.
- If you want, order menu cards and programs.
- Purchase the rings. This will give you time for resizing and engraving.
- Send your event schedule to the vendors. Giving them a first draft now will allow ample time for tweaks and feedback.
2 MONTHS BEFORE
- Touch base again with all the vendors. Make sure any questions on your first draft proposals have been answered.
- Set up your timeline meetings with your wedding planner.
- Meet with the photographer. Discuss specific shots, and walk through your wedding venues 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. (Insider Tip: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony, setting the RSVP cutoff at three weeks after the postmark date).
- Submit a newspaper wedding announcement. If you’re planning to include a photograph, check the publication’s website. Some have strict rules about how the photo should look.
- Enjoy a bachelorette, bachelor, or stag party. Arranging a night out with your friends generally falls to the maid of honor or best man.
- Schedule spa treatments for the week of the wedding, including massage, facials and mani/pedi.
1 MONTH BEFORE
- Enter RSVPs into your guest list database. Phone 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 (with luck!) your last dress fitting. For peace of mind, you may want to schedule a fitting the week of your wedding. If you try on the dress and it fits perfectly, you can always cancel the appointment.
- Stock the bar. Now that you have a firm head count, you can order accordingly.
- Confirm times for hair and makeup and all vendors.
- E-mail and print directions for drivers of transport vehicles. This gives the chauffeurs ample time to navigate a route.
- 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 re-sketching the entire setting.
- Purchase bridesmaids’ gifts. You’ll present them at the rehearsal dinner.
- If necessary, write vows. This process can take longer that you might think!
- If needed, get your hair cut and colored.
2 WEEKS BEFORE
- Give final head count to the caterer and baker. Confirm all set-up instructions and menu items. Also finalize payment at this time.
- If you’re having a receiving line, determine the order you want everyone to stand in (i.e. parents, grandparents, important family members, etc.).
- Prepare your wedding toasts or thanks to friends and family. (Hint: Traditionally the best man, maid of honor and father of the bride give toasts at the reception. If you’re concerned about length, consider setting a time limit for speeches, or have more of them at the rehearsal dinner. )
- Put together the reception seating plan if you’re having a seated reception meal. (Hint: Leave two blank seats for every 50 guests. This will be for unexpected guests that happen to show up.)
- Designate someone to collect the wedding gifts and cash brought to the reception. Coordinate with this person where they will bring the gifts after the wedding. (Hint: This person could also take care of the guest book, since they will be in contact with many guests.)
- Groom: Get your final haircut. (Hint: Don’t get your haircut the day of the wedding—you want to give your fresh ‘do time to settle in.)
- Fill out escort cards or give typed names to the calligrapher if you’re using one.
- Plan any additional night-before activities with friends and/or attendants and proper accommodation for out-of-town bridal party members.
- Designate who (i.e. reception site manager, coordinator, close friend) will meet, greet and handle each vendor on the wedding day. (Hint: Usually your wedding coordinator does this.)
- 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 bridal 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 make arrangements for a delivery.
- Groom(s): Pick up your tux and try it on in the store before you leave. Don’t wait until the day-of to do this!
- Call your reception site manager and make sure your vendors all have access to the site when they need it. Confirm final payment at this time.
- Distribute final wedding-day directions, schedule, and contact list to all parents, attendants and vendors.
- Confirm delivery locations, times, final payments and arrangement count with florist.
- Call transportation providers for a day-of schedule and addresses for pickups on the wedding day. Confirm final payment at this time as well.
- Confirm location, date, final payment and time with photographer and/or videographer.
- Confirm date, location, time, playlist and final payment with all musicians for the entire day (i.e. live music and DJ for ceremony, cocktail hour and reception).
- Make a day-of schedule for you and your groom. Make sure to include time for hair, makeup, and transportation to and from your beauty appointments and your photo session.
- Put final payments and cash tips for vendors in marked envelopes and give to your wedding planner or a designated friend or family member to distribute on the wedding day.
- Put together an overnight bag for your wedding night and designate someone to deliver it to the hotel for you.
- Leave a copy of your honeymoon itinerary with someone in case of emergency.
- Give seating chart to caterer, venue manager, host or wedding coordinator.
- Determine any wedding-day assignments for members of the wedding party, and make lists/info sheets as needed.
- Check in one last time with the photographer. Supply him or her with a list of moments you want captured on film.
- Attend spa treatments, mani/pedi appointments. (Hint: You might want to get a stress-relieving massage, too.)
- Break in your shoes.
- Pack for your honeymoon.
- Arrange for someone to drop off the guest book and pen and other important pieces at the reception site. (Hint: This can also be done at rehearsal, if it is in the same location.)
- Rehearse the ceremony with officiant and wedding party and other important people.
- Pull together your wedding gown, veil, shoes, and stockings and put them all in one safe place.
- Put together a day-of emergency kit. You never know what may happen and it never hurts to be prepared. Give this to a trustworthy guest, such as the mother of the bride, or the maid of honor.
- Confirm with those people you expect to give/lead toasts at the reception.
- Designate someone to take and freeze the top tier of the wedding cake to be eaten at your first anniversary celebration. (Hint: Save some cocktail napkins, programs, place cards and other mementos too! )
- If you are going on a honeymoon right away, ask a bridesmaid to pick up your belongings at the hotel after you have left.
- Have fun and relax at your rehearsal dinner.
- If your wedding is in the morning, set your alarm. (Hint: Arrange for a backup just in case!)
- Relax, take a bath, and get some much-needed sleep (8-plus hours–if you can!!)
- Most Important: Relax, smile, and enjoy the day!
- Eat breakfast and other small meals throughout the day. Make sure to drink plenty of water and use the restroom before the ceremony.
- Enjoy your hair and makeup time with friends and family.
- Take a moment to thank your parents and tell them you love them.
- Set aside a private moment together before or after the ceremony to exchange gifts and a sweet congratulatory kiss (or two). It always makes a great photo opportunity to catch this special moment when you see each other for the first time, either before or after the ceremony.
- Enjoy your new life as newlyweds!
- Preserve your bridal bouquet, wedding dress and other wedding mementos, if you are choosing to. (Hint: This should be done within one week of the wedding. This prevents stains from setting, and keeps flowers as fresh-looking as possible. If you are going on your honeymoon right away, you may want to give this task to a close friend or family member.)
- Mail gifts to your parents to thank them for their help and support (if you didn’t give them out at the rehearsal dinner).
- Put together an online photo album of wedding photos from friends. (Hint: These will most likely be the first photos available, since professional proofs can take weeks.)
- Send thank-you notes for your gifts within eight weeks of your wedding day.
If you found this helpful, download this free printable PDF so you can stay on track in your wedding binder!
Happy wedding planning!
– Minnesota Wedding Guide