Countdown to the Big Day
A planning checklist for your wedding
Wondering where to begin preparing for THE BIG DAY? There are a great many details involved in planning a wedding, and it’s those very details that are often the source of stress and anxiety. Allow yourself ample time to think over the details that will make up your celebration, and flexibility to alter your choices and budget while your ideas evolve.
Here are some tips to keep you and your wedding on track … and on budget:
18 to 9 Months Prior
Schedule an engagement photo session. Announce your exciting news to friends, family, co-workers and the local media with your new photographs.
Organize a wedding binder or scrapbook. Look through magazines – bridal, design, food, fashion, lifestyle, city – for things that inspire you.
Set the tone. Now is a good time to determine what kind of wedding you and your fiancée want, whether formal or informal, indoors or out, destination or local, and even what season and time of day you both prefer.
Create a budget. Sit down with your fiancée and other financially involved family members to iron out a budget. Determine how much you can spend and what each person’s contributions will be.
Hire a wedding coordinator. If you prefer to have a professional wedding planner ease your burden, make certain to factor the cost into your budget based on the level of service you desire.
Start the guest list. Start compiling a list of addresses for invitations. A spreadsheet will help you keep track of responses, gifts and other pertinent information throughout the planning.
Choose your wedding party. Give these individuals ample time to prepare financially for any expenses they may incur and any possible travel arrangements.
Finalize your wedding date. If you are choosing a major holiday or heavy travel weekend, be sure to send out Save the Date cards. And don’t forget to check the OU and OSU football schedules. This is Oklahoma, and these things matter.
Reserve your date and venues. Deposits may be due at the time of reservation. Make certain to factor in the correct amount of travel time if you plan to have separate wedding and reception locations.
Research florists, photographers, videographers, bands, caterers and bakers.
Book your officiant.
Begin planning your vows if you intend to write your own.
Throw an engagement party!
8 to 7 Months Prior
Get the dress. Choose your gown and accessories, as well as your bridesmaids’ dresses. You’ll typically need two or three fittings for your dress.
Book a caterer. If your reception venue doesn’t provide food services, book a caterer after you have reviewed their offerings and narrowed down your desired menu.
Order the cake. Make certain to sample cakes and other desserts from bakers before making your decision.
Book a photographer and videographer. Discuss the shots and angles you may want, and listen to their suggestions.
Book a florist. Your florist will want to know your color palette, though final decisions can be delayed for a few months.
Book the entertainment. Choose the orchestra, band, DJ or other musical group, but make certain to attend a few performances before making a decision.
Reserve hotel rooms. Choose a hotel (or two) close to the reception venue for your out-of-town guests.
Plan your honeymoon. Begin the process of acquiring a passport or updating an existing one if necessary for your travel plans. Also make sure you make appointments for any vaccinations you may need prior to travel.
6 Months Prior
Register for wedding gifts. Choose a minimum of two retailers to give guests options.
Create a wedding website. There are many free and easy-to-use services available on the Internet if you’re not website savvy. If you have an attendant who is, consider tasking that person with this item.
Order invitations. While ordering your wedding invitations, select stationery for menus, programs and thank-you notes. The stationery store can likely recommend a calligrapher if you want to use one. If you plan to send save-the-date cards, this is the time to order those as well. Invitations should be mailed eight weeks in advance, with the RSVP cutoff set at three weeks after the mail date.
Reserve transportation. Options for transporting you and your wedding party are plentiful: limousines, town cars, minibuses, trolley cars, even horse-drawn carriages. The method should fit the type of wedding you’re planning and should be feasible for distance and time.
Reserve rental equipment. If your caterer or venue isn’t providing tables, chairs, linens and dinnerware, reserve these now.
Dress the men. Purchase or reserve the groom’s attire, as well as the attire for his attendants.
Meet with the officiant. Discuss the details of the ceremony and ensure that you have all the documents required by the state. Choose your desired readings for the ceremony and run your finalized vows past your officiant if you choose to write your own.
5 to 4 Months Prior
Choose gifts. Purchase any gifts you wish to give your attendants. Arrange for welcome baskets for out-of-town guests, and if desired, select favors for guests to take away from the reception.
Book the rehearsal and rehearsal-dinner venues. Schedule a rehearsal venue, time and menu for all involved in the ceremony. Consider inviting all out-of-town guests as your budget allows. If you plan to host a next-day brunch for your guests, book that venue now, too.
Start your dress fittings. Take the undergarments and shoes you plan to wear with your dress to every fitting. If you didn’t choose your veil/headpiece when you purchased your gown, do so now.
Book hair and makeup artists. If you don’t already have a favorite stylist, visit a few before making a decision. It’s helpful to offer photos of the wedding party attire.
Finalize your music selections. If you’re uncomfortable on the dance floor, consider signing up for some dance lessons now.
3 Months Prior
Create a schedule for your wedding and reception. Compile a “day-of” schedule of events for all participants to follow for your wedding day, including times and locations for photographs, hair and make-up, any last-minute rehearsals, readings, etc. Consider tasking this item to a trusted relative or friend if you’re not using a wedding coordinator. Make sure to give copies to all vendors involved, as well.
Finalize your flower choices and catering menu.
Book a room for your wedding night.
Purchase your wedding rings.
2 Months Prior
Touch base with all your vendors. Make certain that everyone is in agreement on all the final details.
Submit a newspaper wedding announcement. Check the newspaper’s website for any rules about what and how to submit.
Mail the wedding invitations.
1 Month Prior
Print any programs and menus you require. You should have all the information you need after confirming the schedule with your officiant and finalizing the menu with your caterer.
Get your marriage license. Make appointments for marriage licenses and any bloodwork your state may require. Request certified copies of any documentation necessary. Also, complete any paperwork required to change your name, if you choose to do so.
Update your address with the post office. Complete a change-of-address form through your local post office if your living arrangements will be changing.
Buy a guestbook. If you prefer something less traditional, consider a platter or jar with little notecards for guests to jot down a message.
Purchase attendants’ gifts. The rehearsal dinner is the time to present these.
Assign seating. If you’re having a seated dinner, plan where everyone will sit.
Confirm any hair and makeup appointment times. If you want to get a cut and color before the wedding, this is the time to do so.
Enter RSVPs into your guest list database.
Mail the rehearsal dinner invitations.
Schedule your final dress fitting.
Week of the Wedding
Print place cards and seating charts, if desired.
Reconfirm arrival times with all vendors.
Send a final timeline to your wedding party.
Notify your caterer of your final guest count.
Assemble welcome baskets.
Pack for the honeymoon.
Take care of as many final payments as you can.
Prepare tip envelopes.
Get a manicure and pedicure, or treat yourself and your attendants to a spa day.
Supply any drivers (including hired transportation and out-of-town guests) with point-to-point directions.
Pick up your dress or arrange to have it delivered.
Pick up your wedding rings.
Break in your wedding shoes!
Delegate the details. If not using a coordinator, assign tasks: delivering welcome baskets, carrying vendor tips, transferring bouquets to tables, bustling your dress, being in charge of gifts.
If you write thank-you notes as gifts arrive, you won’t feel overwhelmed after the wedding.