n 2012 I saw a huge change in the timeframe of traditional wedding planning. Most brides are now planning their Big Day in just 9 months, are they crazy? Absolutely not!
Planning a wedding in 9-months can seem like a lot to take on, but it can be done with one simple tool: a 9-month checklist and timeline.
Below, is my go-to checklist and timeline I came up with after endless hours of research for the “perfect” checklist and timeline. I have yet to find the perfect checklist, but the list below is a combination of all my favorite checklist. I also consider is my quick reference and is by no means completely, complete!
Officially announce your engagement. Your own personal wedding site is a great way to share the plans as they develop. This is perfect for out of town family and friends!
Start a wedding folder. Think of this as your quick go to reference for all things wedding. This is where you will not only keep inspiration photos but where you will keep your vendor information, sample swatches to bridesmaids dress, your dress, linens; etc.
Rough draft of budget. Determine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own.
Pick your wedding party. The men and women who will be with you and your groom every step of the way.
Start the guest list. Excel will be your new best friend. Come up with A, B and C lists. Each list should have columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant information. *A is your dream list, B is your it budget list and C is your practical list (I promise this will help!)
Hire a planner. A planner will be the key to keeping you and your family sane during the wedding process PLUS they have great relationships with vendors while having experience that will be priceless over the next few months.
Book your date and venue(s). Typically to hold any date and venue, you will have to put a deposit down. Once you book this, everything else will start falling into place. ** When booking the venue, consider if you will have a separate location for the ceremony and the reception. Factoring in travel time between the two places is key when building your day of timeline for not only you but also your guest.
Start booking your wedding professionals as soon as you have met and feel comfortable price wise with a vendor.
*Be sure to get a contract that states wedding date, time, and location for each vendor, as well as the schedule for payments. You should have them booked between 8-6 months.
Host an engagement party. This is time you just take in the fact that you are ENGAGED! Enjoy…
*but remember that your invitees should be on your wedding guest list as well.
Personalize your Big Day. This is the time to start making the wedding your own. Incorporate items into your Big Day that represent you and your groom.
Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests. Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue.
Register for wedding gifts. Sign up at a minimum of three retailers all at different price points.
Select and purchase invitations. Hire a calligrapher. Not only is addressing cards time-consuming, but they can also be costly. You need to budget accordingly.
Start planning a honeymoon. Make sure that your passports are up-to-date, and schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.
Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses. Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.
Book and meet with the officiant. Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents needed for the wedding.
Send save-the-date cards.
Reserve structural and electrical necessities. Book heaters for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, tents and so on.
Arrange transportation. Consider limos, minibuses, trolleys, and town cars.
Start composing a day-of timeline. Draw up a schedule for the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance, etc.).
Book the rehearsal and rehearsal-dinner venues. Negotiate the cost and the menu. If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, book that place as well.
Check on the wedding invitations. Ask the stationer for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.
* The rule of thumb: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony, setting the RSVP cutoff at three weeks after the postmark date.
Select and order the cake. Some bakers require a long lead-time. Attend several tastings before committing to any baker.
Send your guest list to the host of your shower. Provided you, ahem, know about the shower.
Purchase wedding shoes, your undergarments, and start dress fittings. Bring the shoes and undergarments along to your first fitting so the tailor knows what they are working with length and fit wise.
Schedule hair and makeup artists. Make a few appointments with local experts to try them out. Snap a photo at each so you can compare results.
Choose your music. What should be playing when the wedding party is announced? During dinner? To kick off the dancing? Keep a running list of what you want—and do not want—played.
Finalize the menu and flowers. You’ll want to wait until now to see what will be available, since food and flowers are affected by season.
* Waiting until now to finalize flowers will be helpful and stress free since you will have already planned your details accordingly.
Order favors. Some safe bets: monogrammed cookies or a treat that represents your city or region, you can even donate money to a charity of your choice in honor of your guest. If you’re planning to have welcome baskets for out-of-town guests, plan those now too.
Make a list of the people giving toasts. Which loved ones would you like to have speak at the reception? Ask them now.
Finalize the readings. Determine what you would like to have read at the ceremony—and whom you wish to do the readings.
Finalize the order of the ceremony and the reception.
Print menu cards as well as programs. No need to go to a printer, if that’s not in your budget: You can easily create these on your computer, but do NOT wait until the week of your wedding. This is something that should be taken ahead of in enough time *just in case you need to go another route*
Purchase the rings. This will give you time for resizing and engraving. *Look into insurance for your rings.
Send your event schedule to the vendors. Giving them a first draft now allows ample time for tweaks and feedback.
Touch base again with all the vendors. This is the time to make sure all your questions are answered. No matter how big or small.
Meet with the photographer. This is something I can’t stress enough. Have a list of key shots including artistic and formal. * no matter if the shot seems like a no brainier, write it down!
Review the playlist with the band or D.J. Make sure to note songs you do not want played at your wedding.
Enjoy a bachelorette party. Enjoy a weekend getaway or a night on the town with your nearest and dearest friends-this task generally falls under the maid of honor.
Schedule a walk through with your venue, florist and caterer. This is the time to make any final changes. Go over layout, linens, line-by-line flowers, and food choice. **If you do this the week of your wedding, you may not be able to make changes.
Enter RSVPs into your guest-list spreadsheet. Call anyone you have not heard from. *Keeping up with the spreadsheet from the very beginning will also help reduce stress!
Get your marriage license. This process can take up to six days, but it’s good to give yourself some leeway. If you are changing your name, order several copies-you will need this a lot in the future.
Mail the rehearsal-dinner invitations. The guest at your rehearsal-dinner should be at the very least your wedding party, but traditionally, this involves any out of town guest too.
Your last dress fitting. For peace of mind, you may want to schedule a fitting the week of your wedding. You can always cancel the appointment if you try on the dress then and it fits perfectly.
Stock the bar. Now that you have a firm head count, you can order accordingly.
Send out as many final payments as you can. I cannot stress this enough! You do not want to have to worry about money on your wedding day.
Confirm times for hair and makeup and all vendors.
E-mail and print directions for drivers of transport vehicles. This gives the chauffeurs ample time to navigate a route.
Assign seating. Draw out table shapes on a layout of the room to help plan place settings. Write the names of female guests on pink sticky notes and the names of male guests on blue sticky notes so you can move people about without re-sketching the entire setting. * You can also use www.perfecttableplan.com
Purchase bridesmaids’ gifts. You’ll present them at a bridesmaid luncheon, which is typically the day before the wedding.
Get your hair cut and colored.
Get a facial. Make sure to book this far enough in advance that if you have a break out it will have time to clear before your big day.
Reconfirm arrival times with vendors.
Delegate small wedding-day tasks. Choose someone to bustle your dress and someone to carry your things.
Send a timeline to the bridal party. Include every member’s contact information, along with the point people you’ve asked to deal with the vendors, if problems arise.
Pick up your dress. Or make arrangements for a delivery.
Set aside checks for the vendors. And put tips in envelopes to be handed out at the event.
Book an appointment for a manicure and a pedicure. This makes a fun get together for you and your maids if time permits.
Send the final guest list to the caterer and all venues hosting your wedding-related events. Typically, companies close their lists 72 hours in advance. The earlier you can do this the better.
Break in your shoes.
Assemble and distribute the welcome baskets.
Lastly, don’t forget to: Pack for your honeymoon. Make sure to pack enough comfy clothes, this was something I personally didn’t do on my honeymoon!
**Also know, “the last three months leading up to their wedding, brides spend an average of 11 hours a week working on wedding details.” (2012, The Knot, www.theknot.com)
Don’t let this checklist and timeline overwhelm you!
Do you know what the greatest thing about planning your wedding is? It’s your wedding, and these are only guidelines to help you.
They are by no means set in stone but can be a great starting point.