Inspiration » Wedding Planning » Wedding Planning Timeline: Your Must-Have Guide to Staying Organized

Wedding Planning Timeline: Your Must-Have Guide to Staying Organized

by Joy Editors
Wedding Planning Timeline: Your Must-Have Guide to Staying Organized

There’s so much preparation that goes into planning your dream wedding. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a handy wedding planning timeline you could follow? Well, now you can.

We’ve created this wedding planning timeline to help you confidently plan your big day. You’ll find guidance on when to hire your photographer, buy your attire, finalize your seating chart, and all the details you’ll need to remember in the year leading up to your wedding.

This wedding planning checklist will help you stay as stress-free as possible so you can enjoy the planning process for this wonderful moment in your life.

10-12 Months Before Your Wedding

Wedding planning timeline: Send invitations 10-12 months out

It’s time to start wedding planning! This is an exciting time when you explore the look and feel of your wedding day. Make plans about your date, venue, and give guests the first glimpse of what your celebration will be like.

  • Set your wedding budget. If you’re funding it yourself, you’ll have a good idea of what your budget is. If family members are contributing, check in to see what your final figure will be.
  • Throw an engagement party. To celebrate your good news with friends and family, throw a celebration. It can be as simple and casual or as elaborate and formal as you want. Either way, it’s a great time to spend with loved ones.
  • Decide on a theme or style for your wedding. Look for inspiration online and find a theme or style that speaks to you. This will help you decide on a venue and pinpoint the finer details for your big day.
  • Choose a venue. One of the first major decisions you’ll make is where your wedding will take place. Tour some venues and book your date with your chosen location.
  • 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 venue afterwards.
  • 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. This may be limited by your venue, so you’ll want to confirm. 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 your big day, 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 want someone else to handle the details, you should find and hire your wedding planner. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and speak to a few different prospects before hiring one.
  • Start shopping for a wedding dress. 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 be rushed.
  • Book a photographer. You’ll remember your big day forever, but the photographs will be a lasting visual reminder. 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 wedding entertainers and musicians. 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 them 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 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.
  • Create your wedding website. Your wedding website is the perfect place to share details about your big day. You can manage save-the-dates, RSVPs, and catering choices, too.
  • 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.

6-8 Months Out

Confetti on couple who just got married
Now is the time to start thinking about the finer details. This is when you’ll pick out your wedding cake, decor, and wedding attire.

  • 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 baker (or several) specializing in wedding cakes, have a cake tasting, and choose the one that best suits your taste and budget.
  • Book your florist. As with your wedding cake, you’ll want to figure out the type of flowers you want for your wedding. 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. If you’re wearing a wedding dress, then you already began your dress shopping and 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 your bridal party. It doesn’t hurt to pick out outfits for your flower girl or page boy, too.
  • Find 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 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. By now, you’ll have a clear idea of the theme of your wedding, so look for wedding stationery to match. Make sure you order invitations early enough, especially if they’re bespoke from a designer.
  • Hire your transport. 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.
  • 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) for different options and decide what you love the most.
  • Block book hotel rooms. 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 in fittings for your dress or suit. 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 your menu. Your food tasting gave you a good idea of what your caterers are capable of. 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 a foreign country, make sure your passport is current. If it’s expired, you can arrange a renewal without worry.

4-8 Weeks Out

Beautiful wedding tablescape

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.

  • 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.
  • Organize your marriage license. You can’t get married without it, so make sure you pick up your marriage license with enough time to spare. Mark a note in your calendar to ensure you don’t forget.
  • 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.

  • Attend your final dress fitting 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.
  • Check your guest list and chase down 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.
  • 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.
  • Have your hair colored and cut. If you want to refresh your look before the big day, now’s the time to do it. Schedule an appointment with your favorite stylist to refresh your color or trim any split ends.

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 you’re 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 head count to your venue and caterers. Now that you have a final headcount, send this to anyone 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 (and 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

Wedding planning timeline: Supply items to the venue for set-up several 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 steamed or press. If you or your partner is wearing a dress, hire a steamer or get someone to press it for you.
  • Pick up any outfits and accessories for your wedding party. 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 items to the venue for set-up. 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 your transportation arrangements. Check in with your limo, car, or cab driver 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. By following a wedding planning timeline, you’re now at the point where everything is in order.

  • 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 car (or family member’s) 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 this ahead of time so you don’t need to worry about it on the day of your wedding.
  • 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.
  • Attend 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.
  • 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

Close-up shot of bride and groom holding hands

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 as these often make the most memorable moments you can laugh about as the years go by.

Keep Things Simple With This Wedding Planning Timeline

We hope this wedding planning timeline has helped you get organized and plan your celebration with as little stress as possible. As long as you keep this wedding checklist handy, you can manage the big items while still accounting for any last-minute changes before your big day.

Up Next:

Create the Perfect Wedding Website

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

You may also like