Joy Wedding
Joy Baby New
Registry with Free Shipping
Registry with 20% Completion Discount
Registry with Zero-Fee Cash Funds
Registry with Easy Returns
Registry with Free Shipping
Find an Event
Inspiration » Wedding Planning » Wedding Planning Checklist & Timeline: Your Must-Have Guide

Wedding Planning Checklist & Timeline: Your Must-Have Guide

by Joy Editors
designer assisting woman with wedding dress fitting

Congratulations, you’re officially a fiancé! There’s so much preparation that goes into planning your dream wedding. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a handy wedding planning checklist you could follow? Well, now you do!

We’ve created this comprehensive (yet easy-to-follow) guide and timeline to help you confidently plan ahead for your big day. You’ll know when to hire your photographer, buy your attire, finalize your seating chart, and all other details to remember in the months leading up to your wedding.

Read on to learn how you can get a head start on your wedding tasks and enjoy the planning process.

Printable Wedding Planning Checklist

Let’s be honest: there are a lot of details and arrangements to keep track of for a wedding. That’s why we included this printable wedding planning checklist. This will be your go-to timeline and to-do list for the next 12 months (or sooner) leading up to the wedding. Download the checklist to print it out or save to your device for on-the-go!

printable wedding planning checklist of tasks to do each month before the wedding date.

10-12 Months Before Your Wedding

Now that you have your handy checklist, it’s time to start wedding planning! About a year out from your preferred date is the ideal time to start looking for venues and conceptualizing the look and feel of your wedding day. Start thinking about your set date and how you envision your celebration.

wedding invitations during 10-12 stage of wedding planning

Set your wedding budget

The average cost of a wedding is $30,000. If you’re funding the event yourself, set a wedding budget based on how much money you can comfortably spend. If family members are contributing or covering it, check in to see the figures and know your limit.

Throw an engagement party

An engagement party is a fun way to celebrate your good news with friends and family. It can be as simple and casual or as elaborate and formal as you want. It’s also a great way to jumpstart your guestlist and recruit help for the wedding planning.

Decide on a wedding theme or style

Find a theme or style that speaks to you and your fiancé and look for inspiration, whether on Pinterest or in magazines. This will help you decide on wedding outfits, a venue, and the finer details for your big day.

Choose a venue

When choosing a venue, consider your budget, guest list, time of year, style, and accessibility needs. Since venue availability can influence your wedding date, this is a task to tackle first. Schedule tours with a few different venues to get a feel of the space, such as for the ceremony and reception, to help vet your options.

Set the wedding date

For some couples, the wedding date will be determined by venue availability. As such, it makes sense to set this after you’ve chosen a venue. Alternatively, you can pick a date that’s special to you and look for a flexible venue.

Create a guest list

Now’s the time to start thinking about who to invite to your wedding. Start a guest list and work out how many people you’d like to invite. Your venue may limit this, so you’ll want to first confirm occupancy limits. Make sure you collect addresses for all guests so you can send save-the-dates.

Decide on your wedding party

Once you’ve set a date and started thinking about attendees, consider who you’d like to be part of your wedding party. Select your best man, maid of honor, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and others who’ll play an important part in your celebration.

8-10 Months Out

You’ve figured out the important basics, like where and when your wedding will take place. Now, it’s time to start thinking about the elements that bring your celebration to life, like photography and music.

Hire a wedding planner

If you feel overwhelmed with the planning process, consider hiring a professional wedding planner to handle all major wedding details, like coordination, bookings, and managing budgets. This way, you’ll have support in your corner and can focus on the small tasks. 

Start wedding dress/suit shopping

If you or your partner will be wearing a wedding gown, start your search early. You may find the perfect one right away or you might need lots of time. In any case, an early start means you won’t feel rushed.

Book a photographer

You’ll remember your big day forever, but the photographs will visually capture those memories. Meet with a few wedding photographers and book your date with the one whose work (and cost) best suits you. If you want a wedding video, now’s the time to hire your videographer, too.

Take engagement photos

Once you’ve found the perfect photographer, book an engagement photo session. These photos are lovely to display in your home and share with others along with your save-the-dates.

Book entertainment

Like wedding photographers, popular bands and DJs get booked up quickly. Research local musicians and DJs, listen to their music, and have a conversation with a few options before making a decision.

Hire a caterer

If your venue doesn’t have an on-site caterer or you want to use your own, this is a good time to find and hire one. Whether you want a formal sit-down dinner or a laid-back barbecue, there are plenty of options.

Book your officiant

A good officiant is always in demand, so lock yours in as soon as you know your wedding date. If you want a friend or family member to do the honors, you can ask them now and have them get ordained online. There are different rules depending on the city or state, so be sure to do some research ahead of time.

Set up a gift registry

Sign up for a wedding registry with your favorite stores. If you’d prefer cash gifts or donations to charity, you can also set these up online.

Your wedding registry, your way

From gifts, to cash funds, experiences or charitable causes, add any gift you want, from any online retailer, to your Joy registry.

Create your wedding website

A wedding website is the perfect place to share details about your big day. You can use it to manage save-the-dates, RSVPs, catering choices, and more.

Send your save-the-dates

Once you’ve finalized your guest list, you can send out your save-the-dates. This lets your guests know they’re invited, and they can start making arrangements to be there. Design your save-the-dates with Joy to easily print and mail or email digitally.

6-8 Months Out

Around the eight-month mark is the time to start thinking about the finer details. This is when you’ll pick out your wedding cake, decor, and attire.

woman trying on wedding dress in a fitting room

Order your wedding cake

The search for the perfect wedding cake begins with figuring out what you love and what works with your theme. Seek out a few bakers specializing in wedding cakes or the dessert of your choice (donut tower, anyone?), have a tasting, and choose the vendor that best suits your taste and budget.

Book your florist

As with your wedding cake, you’ll want to figure out your budget for wedding flowers. This will help you find the right florist who can take your ideas and turn them into reality.

Order rental furniture and decor

If your venue doesn’t provide furniture and decor on-site, scout around to find the best vendor and place your order. Don’t forget about all the smaller items you might want, such as table linens, decor, vases, and lighting.

Buy your wedding dress/suit

As for your wedding attire, now’s the time to order it. This gives you plenty of time to attend fittings and make alterations so it fits you perfectly on the big day.

Shop for wedding party attire

Your wedding dress is sorted — it’s time to move on to your wedding party. Around the 6-8 month mark is when many couples look for suits for the groom and groomsmen as well as dresses for the bridal party.

Book your hair and makeup stylists

All eyes will be on you, so you’ll want to feel and look your best. Research hairstylists and makeup artists and book trial appointments before confirming who you want for your big day.

Start planning your honeymoon

If you want to jet off somewhere right after your wedding, it’s time to start thinking about your honeymoon destination and where you’ll stay. Look for inspiration online or reflect on previous vacations together for ideas.

4-6 Months Out

If you started wedding planning around a year out, you’re now at the halfway mark. Celebrate by booking a food tasting and your honeymoon, among other things.

Buy wedding rings

Whether you know exactly what you want or are open to ideas, now’s a good point in your planning timeline to buy your wedding bands. Visit plenty of jewelers and see what’s out there. There’s a ring for every budget and taste — or you could consider commissioning a custom ring.

Order wedding invitations

Make sure you order wedding invitations early enough, especially if they’re bespoke by a designer. The average cost of wedding invitations is $5-$8 per guest, so keep in mind the quantity as well as the type of design elements of the wedding stationery suite.

Hire your transportation

Whether you opt for a limo, a vintage car, or a horse-drawn carriage, 4-6 months before your wedding is when you should be booking your transportation. If your hotel or venue offers shuttles for guests to and from the event, you can book this in advance.

Have a food tasting with your caterer

Before you create a menu for your wedding reception, have a tasting with your caterer. This way, you can get a taste (literally) of different options and decide what you love the most.

Book hotel room blocks

If this is an option at your venue or a nearby hotel, it’s a good idea to reserve some rooms. This way, you can keep your closest friends and family nearby to celebrate. You can also create a list of suggested hotels to include with your wedding invitations — this is really useful for out-of-town guests.

Book your honeymoon

You’ve decided where to go and have a rough idea of the activities you’d like to do, so go ahead and book your dream trip. If you book early, you might even be able to save money on your honeymoon.

2-4 Months Out

With just a few months to go, it’s time to send out your invitations. Now is also when you map out your ceremony and finalize your menu. It’s all starting to come together.

Send your wedding invitations

It’s the moment your guests have been waiting for — the arrival of your wedding invitations. Start planning early so you can turn these around quickly with minimal fuss.

Write your vows

If you’re customizing your vows, now’s a good time to start working on them. They may evolve over time, so don’t panic if you’re still tweaking them in the days leading up to your wedding.

Choose readings

Many ceremonies feature readings from friends, family, and loved ones. Start your research now and get some ideas together for readings you’d like to feature.

Buy wedding party gifts and favors

Lots of couples present the wedding party with gifts as a thank-you for their support. Many weddings also include wedding favors for guests to take away with them. Whether you choose chocolates, seed packets, or something different altogether, make sure you have plenty of time to wrap or assemble them.

Book your dress or suit fittings 

Chances are your dress or suit won’t fit perfectly on the first try. Your first fitting will help the tailor or seamstress know how to alter it to fit you like a glove.

Finalize the menu

Your food tasting gave you a good idea of your caterers’ specialty. Now, it’s time to finalize your menu. This is especially important to do early if you want to give your guests different options on the wedding invitation.

Confirm your passport is up-to-date

If you’re having a destination wedding or your honeymoon is in another country, make sure your passport is current. If it’s expired, you can arrange a renewal without worry.

1-2 Months Out

Your wedding date is fast approaching. It’s time to check in with your vendors and plan where your guests will be. Around this time is when you’ll make good use of your wedding stationery as you create programs and place cards.

wedding table setting at a venue

Send out rehearsal dinner invitations

If you have a rehearsal dinner or pre-wedding get-together planned, send your invitations around the 4-8 week mark. This gives guests enough notice so they can join you for the meal.

Apply for your marriage license

You can’t get married without a marriage license, so make sure you obtain one from your local marriage license office or town hall. Depending on your state, a marriage license can cost between $30 and $150 and may require a waiting period. They’re also only valid for several days before your actual ceremony, so you’ll want to plan ahead for the paperwork process.

Create the seating chart

If you’re having a sit-down meal, you’ll need a seating chart so guests know where to be. A lot of couples find this takes a while to get right, so start early and tweak it later if you need to.

Design your wedding program

A wedding program helps your guests follow along with the ceremony and feel involved. Create your wedding program using a template or put the words together for a designer to whip up a program for you.

Order or make place cards

Welcome your guests to their seats with a personalized place card. Whether you DIY these or order them with your wedding stationery, make sure you have them sorted out.

Check in with your vendors

For some of your suppliers, it’s been a while since you were last in touch. Make sure everything is on track by giving them a call or setting up a meeting to discuss progress.

2-4 Weeks Out

There are only a few weeks to go until you exchange your vows and start the next chapter of your lives together. Tie up any loose ends and have fun making the perfect wedding playlist in these weeks.

Have your final dress or suit fitting

By now you’ve had one or two fittings, but this last one is the most important. If you have your final fitting now, you’ll have enough time to make any last-minute alterations.

Confirm guest list RSVPs

Like any event, you’ll have some people who forget to RSVP or miss the first deadline. Follow up so you know what your final numbers will look like. With Joy, you can sync our Smart RSVP tool with your wedding website for hassle-free guest confirmation and organization.

Book a venue walkthrough

Set a meeting with the wedding coordinator at your venue and walk through the space. Get a feel for where everything will be and request any changes to your original plans.

Supply a shot list to your photographer

Many couples have a set list of photos they want for their special day. This can include couples poses, group shots, location shots, and close-ups of decor. Deliver these to your photographer and ask them for their suggestions on extras.

Create a playlist for your DJ

The right songs will have guests on the dancefloor all night, so make your wedding playlist and send it to your DJ. Many DJs also guide guests through the reception. Create a wedding reception timeline for your DJ to keep the event flowing.

Beauty appointments

If you’re planning to refresh your look before the big day, now’s the time to do it. Schedule an appointment with your favorite stylist or beautician for the longer grooming sessions like hair coloring and facials. (Don’t worry, you’ll also schedule your glam squad the morning of your wedding for makeup and final touches.)

1-2 Weeks Out

Can you believe there’s only a week or two left? You’ve sorted most of your wedding prep by now, so it’s time to get final numbers to the people who need them and practice before the big day.

Finalize the seating chart

It’s unlikely people will RSVP this late, so feel free to finalize your seating chart. Make sure you’re happy with it before supplying it to the venue for set-up.

Provide a final headcount for the venue and caterers

Now that you have a final headcount, send this to any vendor who needs it. Your venue can then set out the right number of tables and chairs, and your caterers can prepare for enough guests.

Practice your vows

It’s natural to get stage fright at the thought of saying your vows in front of a crowd. Practice them at home in front of a mirror (or with a trusted friend if you like), so you’ll feel more comfortable on the big day.

Pack for your honeymoon

If you’re jetting off soon after your wedding, start packing now. This means you don’t need to worry about it while you’re basking in that post-wedding bliss.

2-3 Days Before

Your wedding is only a few days away! It’s time to take care of any last-minute preparations to help the day go as smoothly as possible. Don’t be afraid to rope in the help of your wedding party as the big day approaches.

Wedding planning checklist task to set-up venue items 3 days beforehand

Your wedding is only a few days away. It’s time to take care of any last-minute preparations to help the day go as smoothly as possible. Don’t be afraid to rope in the help of your wedding party as the big day approaches.

Have your dress/suit steamed or pressed

If you or your partner is wearing a dress, hire a steamer or get someone to press it for you.

Pick up any wedding party outfits and accessories

By now you’ll have everything ordered and bought, but you may need to pick them up from stores or tailors. Do this a few days before the wedding at the latest to avoid any last-minute stress. Better still, assign someone in your wedding party to handle this for you.

Supply venue items for setup 

Get any decor items or wedding favors over to your venue a few days ahead of time. This way, you can forget about it until you see it come together on your wedding day.

Confirm transportation arrangements

Check in with your limo, hotel shuttle service, or other transportation arrangement to make sure everything is booked and ready to go.

The Day Before

The day before your wedding is mostly about the ceremony rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. You can also attend to any last-minute details, such as decorations and confirming the reception playlist.

Pack your car

Don’t leave packing until the day of your wedding. Make sure everything you need to take with you is in your (or a family member’s) car and ready to go. This includes any last-minute decor items, favors, gifts for the wedding party, and your wedding day emergency kit.

Rehearse the ceremony at your venue

If this is an option, go for it. It’ll give you an opportunity to practice before the real thing and help you feel less nervous.

Give your marriage license to the officiant

Deliver the marriage license ahead of time so you don’t need to worry about it on the day of your wedding. Your officiant will take it from there!

Set aside vendor tips in an envelope

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to pass tips to your vendors. Avoid this by preparing them now and handing the envelopes to a member of your wedding party to distribute.

Have your rehearsal dinner

Join your friends and family and celebrate the night before your wedding. With most of your wedding preparations done, you can relax and enjoy the evening.

Give thank-you gifts to the wedding party and loved ones

Your rehearsal dinner is also a great time to give your thank-you gifts to supportive loved ones and members of your wedding party. Set some time aside during the dinner for their gift opening. 

Get plenty of sleep

You’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow. Don’t be tempted to stay up too late — a good night’s sleep means you’ll be well-rested to enjoy the day to its fullest.

Your Wedding Day

It’s your wedding day! It’s time to savor every moment. If anything unexpected pops up, don’t worry. Expect the unexpected and embrace every “imperfect” moment. Take photos, dance the night away, and make the most memorable moments you can savor for years to come.

married couple surrounded by guests on their wedding day

Make Wedding Planning a Breeze With Joy

Wedding planning doesn’t have to be stressful. As long as you keep this wedding checklist handy, you can stay organized and enjoy the process. Joy helps you plan a wedding with ease. From building your wedding registry and website to finding inspiration and venues, you’ll find everything you need, all in one place.

Create the Perfect Wedding Website

Set up your wedding website in minutes with design options to make yours truly unique.

You may also like