From choosing a theme to booking a venue to sending out invitations, certain decisions to get you from “yes” to “I do” should take place at specific points in your timeline. If you and your fiancé can stick as closely to a timeline as possible, your stress level will stay lower throughout the planning process.
Here’s your how-to plan a wedding step-by-step guide: when to start planning a wedding and what you should consider at different times throughout your engagement — plus some tips on how to make the most of your wedding planning.
The First Big Decision: Should You Hire a Wedding Planner?
It’s tempting to think that the two of you can plan a wedding perfectly by yourself. Planning your own wedding sounds like a way to save money, but the headaches involved in the process can add unnecessary stress. A wedding planner can help you save money and time and make your wedding planning timeline much smoother because they know what goes into wedding planning.
Wedding planners often have access to discounts that you don’t, which can save you money even as you’re paying the planner an hourly rate. A good wedding planner will also have access to contacts that you might not be able to find on your own, giving you more options and choices. Finally, if you and your fiancé both work full-time jobs, hiring a planner can save you time, assist you with creative ideas, and eliminate some of the stress of preparing for your big day.
10-12 Months Until Your Wedding
You may wonder what to do first when planning a wedding. The early stage of your wedding planning process is a time for big-picture thinking. Start with your budget and be realistic about how much money you can afford to spend. Plan a cushion into your budget for overruns. Hire your wedding planner and choose some close friends as a sounding board for your ideas.
Think about a theme for your wedding — or whether you want a theme at all. Look at venues during this time, and narrow down where you might want to get married and where you should host your reception. Choose your wedding party from your close friends and family, and begin narrowing down your guest list.
Finally, choose a color scheme for the wedding. Begin looking at the vendors that you might need to book early: photographers, videographers, caterers, and DJs or bands.
8-10 Months Until Your Wedding
You, your fiancé, and hopefully your wedding planner has spent the past two months making larger-scale decisions, and now it’s time to start focusing on smaller details. Begin shopping for a wedding dress and look at bridesmaid dresses. Schedule fittings as soon as you’ve narrowed down a style and color for wedding wear.
Start talking to florists and choose a printer for your invitations. Look into local hotels for out-of-town guests — you may even want to consider talking to local hotels about booking blocks of rooms. Next, it’s time to have a little fun. Take engagement photos, send out save-the-date cards, and maybe even host an engagement party. Create your wedding website and plan your gift registries.
6-8 Months Until Your Wedding
The wedding is getting closer, and those more detailed plans are starting to fall into place. By the eight-month mark, you should have booked your venue and have started choosing a venue for the rehearsal dinner. Who plans the wedding rehearsal dinner? Traditionally it’s the groom’s parents, but nowadays it can be whoever is hosting the dinner itself handling that planning.
It’s also the time to begin renting furnishings, serving ware, and décor for the wedding. Decide if you need specialty lighting for your ceremony or reception and if so, look at technicians and rental equipment. Finding the right rental company will make these decisions so much easier.
Hire your officiant at this point in the process as well. That’s not a decision that you’ll want to take lightly. Start thinking about the details of your wedding ceremony, including custom vows and music choices. Talk to musicians and hire the ones that fit your style and music choice best — whether professionals or talented friends.
4-6 Months Until Your Wedding
Even though you made dress decisions months ago, this is the time to look at tuxedo rental for the groom and groomsmen. Be sure to schedule fittings. Book your honeymoon, and if it’s taking place out of the country, make sure your passports are up to date. Order your invitations if you haven’t done so already. Don’t forget to order your rings!
If your officiant or church requires premarital counseling before your wedding, you and your fiancé should start sessions at this point. Start booking transportation for guests if necessary, and decide what type of transportation you and your fiancé will want to use as you leave the reception to begin your new life together.
10-12 Weeks Until Your Wedding
By this point, details are starting to come together, and your wedding should begin to feel like a reality. This time is when you should have your final tasting with the caterer and begin narrowing down your menu for the reception. Order your cake and plan your hair and makeup trials. Hire a calligrapher to address invitation envelopes, then get ready to send them out soon.
You should brainstorm favors for your guests and prepare to order them at this point in the game, as well as consider photo booth rentals. You’ll also have plenty of showers and parties to attend, so be sure to have fun with those!
6-10 Weeks Until Your Wedding
If you have any DIY items to accompany your wedding, now’s the time to finish those up. You should send your invitations out at the two-month mark, with RSVPs due a month before the big day. If you’re writing your vows, you and your fiancé should polish them up at this time. Meet with your florist to view and discuss mockups of your flowers.
You should continue meeting with your officiant and be sure to invite them to the rehearsal dinner. In fact, any rehearsal dinner invitations should go out during this time as well. Look at gifts for your wedding party and buy or rent the small items for the ceremony and reception — things like cake toppers, signage, and guest books.
2-6 Weeks Until Your Wedding
It’s crunch time! This is the time to assemble your gift bags and work on seating arrangements. Put together your place cards, potentially using the same calligrapher you hired for your invitation envelopes. Create a program and have it printed, and be sure you’ve made all the adjustments to your ceremony.
Make sure you’ve paid all your vendors in full at this time, and check-in with your wedding party often to make sure that they have everything they need. You, your fiancé, and your wedding planner should also have a final walk-through at your venue to prepare for the big day.
The Last Days Before the Wedding
As you get ready to walk down the aisle, this is the time to tie up those loose ends and get ready. Double-check with those RSVP stragglers, but don’t be too pushy. Practice your vows and work on a note to give your fiancé on your wedding day. Have final fittings and make sure your rings are clean and ready to go. Any edible crafts should come together at this point too.
The week before the wedding, get your hair done. Have a manicure, pedicure, and maybe even a couple’s massage. Pack your bags for the honeymoon and clear out your final to-do list. Finally, on your big day, relax and enjoy the ceremony and reception. Don’t sweat small mishaps because they can turn into funny stories that you’ll tell for years. You and your fiancé are the guests of honor, so be sure to take in every moment on the wedding day and get ready to spend your new life together.
Can you plan a wedding in less time? You can, but your timeline will be more compressed than the one above. Be mindful of the fact that, if you have a shorter timeline, some of your decisions will need to be made more quickly. A shorter planning timeline will make hiring a wedding planner even more crucial.
How CORT Events Makes The Big Day Even Easier
Whether you’re planning a formal wedding or a casual event, CORT Events has the furniture and décor you need to make your special day one to remember. Be sure to reach out to CORT Events as you plan your equipment and décor rental — at the eight-month point in your process — for all your wedding rental needs.