You're engaged, congratulations! Soak in this time and enjoy every minute of your engagement. Once you're ready to get planning everything will start moving quickly, so you'll want to have a rough idea of your timeline and expectations to keep your wedding planning journey as stress-free as possible! Today on the blog I'm sharing my wedding timeline to help guide your first steps. Even though we hit a pandemic-sized road bump along the way, we initially planned on a 9-month engagement period, so I broke down this post into that time frame. Adjust accordingly for a longer or shorter engagement. If you hop on Google, every resource you'll find will have a slightly different timeline, so select the one that works best for you, or pick and choose which pieces work best for you- just remember to be flexible! Once you've selected your vendors, they will have their own deadlines for tastings, final walk throughs, and payments, so those aren't included. Before getting started, take a deep breath, have a glass of champagne, and remember to find the joy in each step of the process. Happy planning!
9 Months Out
Set your budget: First things first, set your budget. You don't need to break down the cost per vendor just yet, but you and your fiancé definitely want to know what range you're looking at.
Figure out your priorities: After you know your total budget, it's time to figure out your priorities. Unless this is a no expenses spared wedding, there will be some prioritization to do! Is it more important to you to have the perfect photos or a rockin' DJ? Videographer or catering? Every couple prioritizes different parts of the wedding so deciding what's most important will help the rest of your finances fall into place, and search for vendors in the appropriate price range.
Create a mood board: When you're just starting the wedding planning process, your options can feel endless. There are so many different wedding themes that it's hard to know where to start. A great tip to help you start your process is to create a mood board to test out different color schemes, outfit ideas, and overall theme or vibe for the day. (Read more: Creating a Mood Board)
Set your date: The order of this step varies depending on the couple. For some couples, this decision will be made based solely on availability of family or friends, while others will factor in the availability of their favorite vendors.
Find your venue: This is likely the very first vendor you'll want to book, because it will solidify your date. Most venues also have preferred vendor lists and occasionally in-house vendors, which will make your selection process a little easier.
Ask your bridal party: You got the guy, now you need your girls! This was one of the first things we did after we selected our date. Our family and friends are so important to us that this was a major priority. If you make this decision a little later on, that's just fine too.
Find an organizational system for Thank You notes: The closer your wedding day gets, the more gifts will likely start rolling in. You'll want to make sure to send out a thank you note for each gift you received, so it's super important to get organized early so you don't let your thank you to do list get too long. (Read more: Managing Thank You Notes)
Eloping: If a big wedding isn't for you, stop reading now and head over to Eloping 101.
8 Months Out
Get your dress! Once wedding planning is underway, one of the most exciting steps for many brides is saying "yes" to the dress. Dresses can have quite a long turnaround time and will always involve alterations. Especially now with COVID restrictions you'll want to start looking early and follow their recommendations on when you'll need to order. (Read more: Say "Yes" to the dress!| Silhouette Guide | Veil Guide)
Make initial contact with the of your vendor team: Selecting your wedding day vendors is a big deal! You want to explore all options, which includes way more than Google. Consider cross referencing your favorite vendors on multiple websites, such as TheKnot, Wedding Wire, or even a local organization. If you can't find what you're looking for on Yelp or Google Business, ask for referrals! Your vendor will *hopefully* be able to provide a long list of brides who can speak to their experience. Not sure about trusting online reviews? Ask your friends! Talk to friends who have gotten married recently and ask their opinion. Don't be afraid to reach out to other brides on Instagram, message boards, Facebook groups, or blogs. Vendors to look into include a photographer, band or DJ, videographer, planner/coordinator, caterer, and florist, hair stylist, makeup artist, and even a bridal consultant. (Read more: Selecting Your Vendor Team)
Hair/Makeup Trials: After narrowing down the look you want on your wedding day, you'll want to make sure that you set up a hair and makeup trial. This is the perfect opportunity to test out the looks you love and see what suits you best. If you can, schedule a trail the day you're looking for your dress so you can get a good idea of your vision! (Read more: Schedule a Hair and Makeup Trial)
Take Engagement Photos: Figure out what vibe you're looking for. Do you want your photos to look casual, fancy, or somewhere in the middle? Typically photographers allow two different outfit changes, so decide if you want two drastically different looks or have a similar feel for both. The whole point of engagement photos is to capture the love between you and your fiancé, so make sure you feel like you in the photos. It's easy to get caught up in a fancy venue, new clothes or getting your hair and makeup done, so as you're making plans, make sure you're staying true to yourself! (Read more: Planning your Engagement Photos)
7 Months Out
Create Guest List: You're starting to finalize plans, but who is coming?! The best tip here is to allow each family to create their own lists. Wedding size and potentially family financial contributions will dictate part of this process, so make sure to establish an open dialog about it and communicate honestly regarding your expectations. My best recommendation is to create a spreadsheet of everyone invited, contact information, and columns to check off when various invitations were sent. You can also include RSVPs on this spreadsheet too!
Register! Creating our registry was a fun way to figure out what we really wanted, upgrade the items we've had for a while, and add some personalized home decor. You'll want to get a good start on this so the link can be included on your Save the Dates and shower invitations! (Read more: Registry Must Haves)
Book Hotel Room Blocks: This is an often-overlooked step. Although it may not seem incredibly crucial, this is another item you'll want to finalize before sending out Save the Dates so your guests have enough time to plan ahead!
Build Your Wedding Website: You're going to want to have this finalized before sending out your Save the Dates, so make sure you've worked through all your logistical details. Include your registry, hotel block information, and provide guidance on the timeline of events and dress code recommendations. (Read more: Fall Dress Code Guide | Spring Dress Code Guide)
6 Months Out
Send Save the Dates: Let's get that date saved! Before dropping them in the mail, do one final check of your guest list and make sure your website is updated and clear. Then it's time to relax.
Select bridesmaid dresses: Depending on the retailer you're working with, you may need to start this process a little earlier to account for delivery time, but around 6 months is typically safe. Delivery and dress alterations for bridesmaid dresses have a much quicker turnaround time than wedding gowns.
5 Months Out
Rehearsal Dinner: If you're having a rehearsal dinner, now is the time to solidify those details. You'll want to make sure you have time to secure a venue and work out details so that you can include this information in your wedding invitations.
Order Rental Items: You'll want to talk to your venue and vendor team to figure out what items you're going to have to rent separately. Things to consider include: chairs, tables, decor, linens, tableware, lights, lounge furniture, dance floor, drawings, Photo Booth, heaters, fans, or tents.
Map out your ceremony: With the big details underway, it's time to start thinking about your ceremony. Discuss how you want the ceremony to feel; traditional, unique, religious, spiritual, or something else entirely. (Read more: Ceremony Traditions)
Book an officiant: If needed, now is the time to select an officiant. You'll want to give yourself enough time to meet a few and see who you connect with best. It's also an option to ask a family member or close friend to officiate! Just make sure they are legally ordained before the big day.
4 Months Out
Book Transportation: Do a little research into transportation options in your area and determine what your needs are. Consider transportation for the bridal party and guests to/from the ceremony, between the ceremony and reception if it's not in the same place, and the end of the night for the bride and groom. Once you have the details sorted out, put this information on your wedding website.
Buy Wedding Bands: Wedding bands are meant to symbolize love and eternity so finding the perfect one for you is so important! Make sure you order with enough time so you can try on for size before the big day. (Read more: Wedding Band Guide )
Order invites: Once your details are set, it's time to order invitations! Many companies offer customizable templates, or you can hire a calligrapher and create your own! If you want a more unique look, Etsy is also a great resource. When ordering your invitations, make sure all relevant details are included, a link to your wedding website is provided, and an RSVP deadline is clear- typically 1 month out. (Read more: Style Me Pretty Stationary Guide)
3 Months Out
Send the Invitations! Get those invitations in the mail, it's time to start anxiously checking your mailbox or inbox for RSVPs daily.
Guest Favors: There are so many decisions to make regarding which favors you should choose, or if you should even do favors at all. Start thinking about your options so you have time to order and personalize if needed! (Read more: Wedding Favors)
Start to write your vows: This is a crucial part of any wedding ceremony. Give yourself enough time to think out what you want to say so you're not waiting until the last minute.
Get Crafting: Revisit that mood board, it's time to DIY! Plan out decor ideas and little items that you want to include in your rehearsal dinner, bridal suite, ceremony, or reception. Things to consider include: table numbers, bridal party accessories, signs, wedding dress hanger, and party favors.
Research your marriage license: Another crucial part of your wedding ceremony is making sure your wedding is official and legal! Spend some time researching your state requirements to make sure you have time to get everything in order.
2 Months Out
Buy Day-of Gifts: On your wedding day, it's often customary to provide gifts to your bridal party, parents, and groom. Think about what you want to gift each person and order as needed!
Day-of Decor: This is also the time to think about any wedding-morning details you'd like to incorporate into your big day! Think about getting ready with the bridesmaids and groomsmen and plan for any decor needs.
1 Month Out
Chase down RSVPs: Even though you were super clear about your RSVP deadline, you'll likely have to chase down a guest or two (or twenty!) Having an accurate guest count is important so you can give realistic estimates to your vendors.
Create a Seating Chart: Once you get your final RSVPs, create your seating chart. Keep COVID restrictions in mind and make sure to provide enough distance between guests. You'll want to create a seating chart that guests can reference or individualized name cards to make seat assignments easy to find.
Tips! You don't want to forget to tip your wedding vendors. Talk to your fiancé ahead of time and figure out what you're comfortable spending on tips. My recommendation is to create an envelope and thank you card for each one ahead of time, and ask someone to be responsible for handing them out at the end of the night.
Assign responsibilities: Your wedding day is going to fly by. The last thing you want to do is be in charge of the little details. Make a list of the little things you're going to want done on your wedding day, and figure out who is going to do them. If you have a wedding planner or day of coordinator, likely all of those items can fall on them, but if not plan to ask a family member or bridesmaid.
Self-care: Now's the time to relax and treat yourself to a little self-care. Make appointments to get your hair touched up early in the week, just in case you need time for a correction (which you won't because it's going to turn out perfectly)! Other appointments to look into are nails, eyebrows, or even a massage. Consult your aesthetician before scheduling any skin procedures that may have lasting side effects into your wedding day.
Clean your ring: Make sure you get your rings cleaned so they are extra sparkly on the big day. Don't forget to clean the wedding bands too!
Finalize your vows: You've likely been brainstorming them for a while now, but it's time to write them down! Even if you've chosen to memorize them, transfer them to a nice notecard that you can keep as a special memory.
Day of note: One fun tradition is to write a special note to your fiancé for them to read on your wedding day. Consider writing notes for your parents and bridal party too.
Whew, you made it! It seems like a lot but take each step nice and slow, and enjoy being engaged. And remember, everyone has a different timeline and different priorities, so use this timeline to create your own and find what works best for you! As I get closer to the end of our big celebration this spring I’ll add more detail, and would love to hear from you about what you would add too!