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The Ultimate Wedding Planning Timeline

Welcome to the ultimate wedding planning timeline! I know how stressful this phase can be, but it doesn’t need to be so bad. Planning your big day should be fun! So let’s quiet that nagging voice in your head that keeps asking if you’re on track with my condensed, year-out timeline that offers suggestions to brides AND grooms!

12 Months Out

Establish A Budget

I know it’s not fun, but one of the first things you’ll need to tackle is doing the math and crunching some numbers. Before you can start planning anything, you need to figure out who’s paying for what and determine your wedding’s bottom line. From there, you’ll want to break down the budget and discuss your priorities. Would you rather invest more in flowers or food? Do you want a videographer? Are there any other special considerations that will eat up dollars? I think it’s smart to have a detailed spreadsheet from the get-go. When I got married, I used Zola and found their timeline and checklist to be incredibly helpful!

Select a Venue 

Choosing the venue is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the wedding planning process. It affects almost everything from the number of guests invited, to the kind of flowers you have on the table. (Not to mention it’s a sizable chunk of your overall budget!) Pick a space that fits your guest count, style, and budget, and choose it early in the planning process. Available dates fill up quickly and far in advance! Pro Tip: Throw out the pros and cons list and trust your intuition. Chances are, how you feel is the right decision here. 

Create a Guest List

This task can be so difficult to figure out! When deciding your head count, consider your budget and venue space. From there, divide up your list and delegate tasks, like if you and your partner are covering the majority of the cost or if parents/family members are contributing. The rule of thumb is that when parents pay, they DO get a say in who is invited, even if you feel that you don’t know the guests super well. 

Hire a Wedding Planner 

This is an important step to remember, and it’s worth it. I promise! Note that a venue coordinator is not the same as a wedding planner. Your planner will help keep everything running smoothly, even for the pickiest brides. You might have everything under control, but a planner can take tasks off your plate that you shouldn’t be dealing with the week of your wedding. They help mitigate family drama, keep everyone calm, cool, and collected through the process, and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Basically, they handle the stress so you don’t have to! I highly recommend a planner.

Decide on Formality and Overall Theme

Do you want this event to be black tie? How about black tie optional, formal, or semi-formal? The vibe of the wedding needs to be a mutual decision between both partners. What do you value? What makes the most sense for your venue, space and wedding date? With these elements locked down, all of your future decisions will be much easier to navigate! 

Pick a Caterer 

Feeding 150+ people in one sitting is no easy task. Start with hiring a catering company you trust, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your menu. Adding fish to your menu will bring the cost up, so if you are on a budget, select chicken/beef and a vegetarian option or a buffet. It can also be fun to select a signature cocktail or appetizers that are favorites to you! It’s your perfect day… it should feel (and taste) like it!

11 Months Out

Pick a Color Palette 

Other than your food tasting, this part might be the most fun! If you haven’t already, 11 months out is the time to gather inspiration, look at color palettes, and create a dream wedding board on Pinterest. If you’re struggling with this part, look at home magazines, or what you seem to gravitate toward on Instagram. You can also take a peek at David’s Bridal or other bridal dress stores for ideas! 

Hire Media/Entertainment Vendors 

These are the people who will make your night fun, and capture all the memories so they last forever. It can feel like every part of planning a wedding is important, but in my biased opinion, I think photography is the most important! At the end of the day, your wedding photos will be what you take forward to look back on. So savor the moments with incredible photographs! Much like your venue, photo and video services tend to book out far in advance, so make sure you don’t put this step off. You’ll want to book your top choice for your already locked-in date! (To learn more about my wedding photography pricing and packages, click here!)

10 Months Out 

Say Yes to Your Dress 

Maybe you know exactly what you want in a wedding dress, or maybe you don’t have a clue… either way, it’s okay! Enjoy this process, because it goes by fast and it’s meant to be fun! I mean, who doesn’t love trying on gowns? Stores and boutiques typically carry one size for trying on, then order your dress in the correct size just for you. After that, if you’re adding any beading, sleeves, etc., or need any alterations or adjustments made, you’ll need to allow time for that process, in addition to shipping time.

Book Hotel-Room Blocks

It’s a thoughtful gesture to offer a hotel block (and secure a discounted rate) for your guests, especially if the majority of your guests are traveling in for the big day. Reserve about 10 months out to ensure you can get a big enough block! 

Create a Wedding Website 

My personal favorite is Zola. It really provided everything I needed, and was very user-friendly. (It even had an integrated registry!) Use whatever you like the look of, like Minted, WeddingWire, or The Knot, and put all the important details in one place. (That way people can look things up for themselves, or if you start getting questions, you can just point people to your site. It’s SO much faster that way!) 

Take Engagement Photos 

It’s such a great idea to have engagement photos taken, not only for the sake of your save the date card, but to get comfortable in front of the camera before the big day. I offer complimentary engagement sessions with all wedding packages (to learn more, send me a message), and highly recommend the experience. Get familiar with your photographer as they get to know you, then keep these photos for a lifetime of reminiscing.

Choose Some Invitations

Nowadays, people like to keep it paperless, which is a great way to get fast responses from your guests. If you’re looking for a more traditional approach, and an opportunity to select customized invitations, now is the time! When else will you order them? Sal Studios is my favorite Denver, Colorado designer (and the one who created my wedding invitations!). 

9 Months Out 

Send Save the Dates 

Let everyone officially know when and where you’re tying the knot! If you are going with a destination wedding, it doesn’t hurt to get the save the dates out even sooner. People will want to make their plans and look at their budgets, too!

8 Months Out 

Start Your Registry

Involve your better half in this one! Maybe this is their job in the wedding planning process. Take inventory of what you have, what you need, and what you want to have upgraded. Consider your hobbies, wish list items on your honeymoon, your future homes, and so forth to add to your wedding registry. 

Select Bridesmaids/Groomsmen Attire 

Communicate the style and look you are hoping for with everyone. If they are able to make a shopping appointment in their local area, this is very helpful! I suggest providing flexibility in style. You want everyone to feel comfortable no matter what!

Meet Potential Florists

Much like hiring your other vendors, you want to create a cohesive look with your flowers. To save money on centerpieces, you can go with fake flowers or vary the tables between candles and floral arrangements. 

7 Months Out 

Book the Rehearsal Dinner Venue 

Traditionally, the groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner. With that said, every family does it differently! The idea of family-style dinner at your favorite restaurant, or a rooftop keeping it casual is always nice, too. Just make sure the venue knows when you’re coming, how many of you will be there, and how long you’re planning to stay! They’ll need to plan and staff accordingly.

Hire Musicians 

If live ceremony music is your style, consider a vocalist, pair or trio of musicians to make the setting especially unique and personalized to you. This option isn’t high on everyone’s priority list, but it can sure make the day special and memorable! Get on their calendar now so your date is locked in, then start thinking about song selections.

Order Rental Items 

Chairs, linens, drapes… You may think these things are just unnecessary, and it’s certainly important to check with your venue to see if these things are included or not, but the decor and final touches of the wedding day complete the look of the space! If you’re renting any of these items, make sure you’ve got everything covered with logistics arranged.

Hire an Officiant

This one seems obvious, but its sometimes forgotten… you’ll need to hire someone to marry the two of you! Depending on your religious affiliation, you’ll need to talk to the appropriate officiant. If you are not religious, you can go with a friend or family member who fits the role, but now is the time to ask!

5 Months Out 

Book Transportation for Guests (if needed) 

Consider the parking situation for guests at your venue. How far away is your hotel block? Will you have an open bar? Do you want to provide transportation for everyone or will you opt for Uber credit? Depending on how many of your guests are local vs. staying at the hotel, you can also consider mini buses or large shuttles. Ultimately, you want to feel like your guests are safe and cared for, so plan this detail accordingly! 

Speaking of transportation, how are the two of you going to exit your the event? Do you want to take a stretch limo, specialty car, or hop on the shuttle with your guests to head back to the hotel? Anything goes, but it is something you’ll want to think about! 

Book a Honeymoon 

Decide if you want to take your honeymoon right after the wedding or save it for a few months down the road. Plenty of couples save their honeymoon for later in the year, but whatever you decide to do, just remember how special this trip is. It’s not about where you go, but who you are with. You’ll want to consider budget, timing, travel arrangements and types of activities the two of you agree on. 

Buy/Rent Groom’s Attire 

Step one is to choose the dress attire of the wedding, then decide if you’re going with a tuxedo or a suit. When selecting the actual ensemble, focus on fit and comfort. From walking down the aisle, to possibly standing in the heat (if it’s a warm climate) to wearing this on the dance floor, be sure it’s the right choice all around! 

Begin Premarital Counseling 

Whether you come from a religious background or not, premarital counseling has worked for years. It’s helpful to have an objective third-party encouraging you to address issues that have yet to come up in your relationship, and give you the tools you’ll need to manage when you encounter the inevitable bumps in the road. They can even provide you with healthy solutions for conflict-resolution so you’re ready for the tough parts of years to come. 

4 Months Out 

Have your Final Tasting 

By now you’ve decided on the menu and talked with your caterer, and now it’s time to taste what they’ve made up for your special day! If you are unsure about a few items but don’t want to offend, bring your planner along. That’s what they’re here for!

Choose your Dessert 

From traditional wedding cakes to cupcakes, donuts and cookies, when it comes to your wedding dessert, anything goes! Don’t worry about pleasing everyone. Pick the dessert that you want and like best. That said, if you have folks with allergies, consider a gluten-free and/or dairy-free option for them as a small side. 

Buy Wedding Bands 

Go shopping together and decide on what you both like best! Google search your area for reputable jewelers or go with the same one you used to purchase the engagement ring. Who knows, they may offer you a discount! (Or at least have complimentary styles!)

Schedule a Hair and Makeup Trial 

It’s okay to be picky – you want to feel your best on your wedding day, and makeup and hair stylists know this. Come prepared with inspirational photos and try to articulate what you like and don’t like about the style so they can help you! (Don’t skip this one… You don’t want the first try to be when the cameras are clicking!)

3 Months Out 

Brainstorm Favors 

This isn’t a requirement, but it’s a nice gesture to offer favors either at the wedding (for them to take home) or in the hotel room for your out of town guests. It’s a simple way to thank everyone for sharing in your joy! Have a lot of people traveling in? Consider providing some local favorites.

Book a Photo-Booth Rental 

Photo booths have become a reception staple. While not for everyone, it certainly is fun! Check with your DJ/band to see if they have any connections. I suggest starting there, or asking your venue who they like working with best! 

2 Months Out 

Send the Invitations (with RSVPS due one month before the big day)

You’ve done the hard part picking them out… now just assemble and send them out! Then send out information on any other pre- and post-wedding events (this can also be included in your wedding invitations, if it’s going to all the same people). 

Schedule Your First Dress Fitting 

Your first fitting should be anywhere between two and three months after ordering, and your second one should be around the 6-week mark.  

Get a Marriage License 

This is an important one, and an easy one to forget. Be sure you’ve read everything that’s required in a timely fashion! You’ll want to check about what to bring, how much it’ll cost, how long it will take, and how long it will last. Every state has different requirements! Know yours now so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Communicate Song Selections 

Check in with your DJ or band and make sure everything is in order! The music can literally set the tone for the event, and it should reflect your style. Let your team know what you like, any specific requests, what you don’t like, and any songs or styles you want to avoid. Need help? You can always Google “100 best songs for your wedding reception” if you aren’t sure what to choose. 

Buy the Small Items 

Sometimes your planner can help you out here, and so can your family and bridesmaids. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Toast flutes 
  • Table numbers 
  • Cake topper or stand (unless your baker will have this) 
  • Card box 
  • Ring-bearer accessories 
  • Flower-girl accessories 
  • Hanger for your dress 
  • Bridesmaids/Groomsmen gifts (if applicable) 
  • Guest Book and pens 
  • Dancing shoes 
Colorado Wedding Photography

1 Month Out 

Assign Tasks 

Do you need to assemble gift bags or favors? Or bring snacks to the bridal suite? Don’t take it all on yourself! Ask a trusted friend or family member who would be up for the tasks and let them take these things off your plate. Just make sure they know what’s expected!

Pay the Vendors 

Avoid having to track who’s been paid and who hasn’t. Pay everyone in advance, in full, and check on the tipping etiquette if you are planning on doing this on your wedding day. Then there’s nothing left to worry about when the big day arrives!

Create a Seating Chart 

This is hard to do until you have all your RSVPs returned, but you’ll want to think about the venue floor plan, whether or not you’ll have a head table, who will be sitting at it, and choosing the design. Many wedding websites have a digital planning guide for your seating chart. Once you’ve got a good grasp on that, you can start to create the place cards. 

Have a Final Venue Walk-Through

Come with a list of any questions, and bring your planner or parent to bring up anything you may have forgotten. 

Final Week 

You made it! Take a deep breath and soak up every moment of what will be an incredible week ahead. Now that all the hard work is complete, here are a few helpful reminders for the wedding week: 

  • Schedule a manicure/pedicure 
  • Have a final dress fitting 
  • Pack your bags for you honeymoon 
  • Clean your engagement ring 
  • Clear your work to-do list so you can focus and enjoy the festivities 
  • Practice your vows out loud 
  • Write your partner a note that they can read on the wedding morning

We hope this wedding planning timeline has been helpful! As always, if you are uncertain about anything you’ve read or would like to chat more about wedding photography and a timeline that will work for you and your fiancé, be sure to send me a message here

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