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wedding planning guide

Tip: Be sure to bookmark this page so you can revisit the checklist throughout your wedding planning process.

Congratulations! You're engaged! Now that you've shared the news with family and friends, you've got a wedding to plan. Before you get too worried, take a deep breath and let us help with the planning process. From "Yes!" to "I do," our wedding planning timeline covers every important step, so you can focus on the joy and never miss a deadline. As your wedding timeline progresses, don't forget to browse our wedding stationery for paper goods for every part of your big day.

1Determine your wedding budget

An integral part of your wedding planning, creating a budget before you start serious planning will help you prioritize vendors, narrow down choices and make your big day less hectic. It's important to remember who will cover each aspect of the budget—you and the groom, your parents, other family members or a mixture. While checking off big budget items like venue and food are important, our style and trend expert Amber Harrison reminds not to forget smaller hidden costs, such as vendor gratuities, delivery fees and dress preservation.

2Have family help out—or hire a planner

After creating your wedding budget, you should have a better idea of what you need to hire for and what you want to DIY. If you know you're going to need an extra set of hands, start reaching out to family and friends to see who might be available to help. Or, if you prefer and your budget allows for it, consider a wedding planner to help bring your dream day to life.

3Pick a date and schedule venue tours

Consider all of the options! It always helps to have a small handful of wedding dates in mind so you're not feeling stuck if venues are already booked. With your available dates in hand, start scheduling and visiting potential locations for your ceremony and reception. Consider the general look and feel of your wedding day, in addition to details like guest count and weather.

4Pick your bridal party

Now the bride gets to pop the question—to her closest friends! You and your partner should decide who you want to be in your bridal party. There are many ways to ask friends and family to participate, including a heartfelt "Will you be my bridesmaid?" card.

5Plan and host your engagement party

Your engagement party is a time to gather family and friends to celebrate your upcoming nuptials. Location and theme are entirely up to you and your soon-to-be. Will you go with a classic backyard gathering at Mom and Dad's, an intimate dinner with close family or something else? Whatever you choose, keep in mind your engagement party will be the first time many loved ones from both sides are meeting for the first time!

6Determine your wedding theme

Let us guess, you probably already have at least one Pinterest board filled with dozens of ideas for the big day. Sort through your inspiration to see what works best for your venue, date and personal style. From there, determine important thematic items, such as your wedding color scheme, preliminary menu and venue decor.

7Book your wedding ceremony and reception venues

With a date and theme in mind, it's time to reserve your wedding date! If you're wondering how to translate your virtual mood board into a real life event, celebrity wedding planner Mindy Weiss suggests focusing first on florals, table décor, and food and drink. These items are an easy way to bring cohesion into your wedding décor.

8Find your dream gown

It's time to find the dress. While everyone will have their opinions on what looks best on you, follow the advice of bridal atelier owner Mark Ingram and only push the envelope only as far as your own personal taste level. When making appointments, make sure you order your wedding dress at least eight months before the big day, to account for various alterations and fittings.

9Plan your menu

For most couples, planning and tasting the menu is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning! After interviewing potential caterers, work with them to plan out your reception menu—from appetizers to entrees to dessert. Don't forget small yet important details like your bar menu, linens and additional tablescape rentals.

10Find your picture perfect photographer

Interview potential photographers to get a feel for their style and personality. Keep in mind that if your wedding is in a high demand season or day, you may need to book sooner rather than later.

11Play that funky music

Live band, DJ or DIY? Whatever choice you go with to get guests on the dance floor, you'll still need to pick out wedding songs for your processional, recessional, first dance and more. You can find inspiration from anywhere, like favorite movies, traditional ballads or songs that elicit a special memory.

12Register for gifts

What you register for is entirely up to you and your fiancé. If you're moving in together for the first time, home and kitchen items may be helpful to start the settling in process. Feel free to not only put down items that you'll need, but also items that would just be fun to have in your home! If you're more established and already have everything you need, asking for a cash registry or a honeymoon fund is becoming an increasingly popular wedding registry choice.

13Reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests

With a fairly final guest list in hand, you should have a good idea of how many on that list are traveling from near and far—and which may need overnight accommodations. Block several rooms for your out-of-town guests in advance. This will ensure that you can meet your room block quota based on your expected number of RSVPs. Don't forget to book your own room, as well.

14Reserve additional rentals if needed

In addition to the big ticket items, consider whether you'll need need additional rentals for the reception, such as tables and chairs, plate wear, lighting or a reception tent. While many caterers and/or reception halls can provide these items, you may need extra, depending on the size of your wedding.

15Book your vendors

Time flies, so by the end of the eighth month mark, we suggest having all of your key vendors selected and booked. This includes your caterer, photographer, music, florist and wedding planner (if applicable).

16Create a wedding website

This is one step where you can ditch the pen and paper. Creating a wedding website is becoming an increasingly popular choice for brides, since it's an easy way to display ceremony and reception addresses, lodging, registry information and more. Pick a fun URL and include it on your save the dates or invitation enclosure cards so guests know where to find your site.

17Send your save the dates

With a final guest list, it's time to make the date official by mailing your save the dates! Will you go with a traditional card, or get creative with magnets, postcards or coasters?

18Choose your bridesmaids' dresses

Collaborate with your bridesmaids on their dresses and organize orders. Wedding designer Jenny Yoo suggests the importance of picking a bridesmaid dress first to help nail down your wedding colors so their dresses match your theme. Try to take your bridal party into consideration and pick what will make everyone feel comfortable that day.

19Start planning your honeymoon

Almost as exciting as the wedding day, is planning your honeymoon! This is where you can make your dream vacation a reality. When to take your honeymoon is completely up to you, but Susan Moynihan of the Honeymoonist suggests giving yourself a day or two after the big day to unwind and say goodbye to guests.

20Order your wedding invitations

Browsing for wedding invitations is when you can truly express your creativity. From casual to elegant, whimsical to modern—what you choose should be a reflection of the wedding your guests expect to attend. Remember your guest count and order a few extra invitations in case some go missing or you need to re-address any.

21Purchase your wedding rings

Now it's time to get the bling for you and your partner! There are so many styles to choose from, so pick whatever makes you most comfortable and happy—you'll be wearing it for a lifetime.

22Shop formalwear for the groom

Don't forget about the groom! Whether he decides to go for a classic tux or something more laid back, give yourself plenty of time for shopping. While you're at it, organize rentals or provide images for the groomsmen, so they all know what to wear.

23Plan and book your wedding cake

Cake tasting is (literally) the most delicious part of wedding planning. Today's weddings often feature cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, macaron towers and other creative dessert spreads. The sky is the limit! Choose sweet treats that the two of you will love.

24Attend your bridal shower

Attending your bridal shower is fun, but as style and trend expert Amber Harrison notes, it's doesn't always feel natural being the center of attention. Try to let those butterflies go—it's time to sit back and let someone else do the planning for a bit.

25Write your vows

We know how important choosing your wedding vows can be, so start a couple months early to give yourself plenty of time to revisit and revise, if needed. We recommend you write your vows down on notecards. Have these handy the day of; standing in front of a crowd can be a bit nerve-wracking. Having notes will ensure that you won't be left speechless at the altar.

26Purchase thank you gifts

It's nice to show appreciation for those who helped with your big day. Purchase a small gift for your parents, in-laws, bridesmaids, groomsmen and any other special people who were a helping hand. Don't forget to pick out something for your soon-to-be hubby to surprise them on the wedding day!

27Book your stylist and test out wedding day do's

Start researching salons and stylists in the area and make appointments at one or two favorites. To make sure your appointment is stress-free, bring a clear photo of your desired hairstyle and any accessories you plan on wearing (veil, comb, etc.).

28Book a makeup artist for a trial run

A trial run with your makeup artist is vital. Keep in mind your wedding day is different from your everyday look, but you should still feel like yourself! Don't go too overboard with your makeup, hair or nails; you are not going to a flashy nightclub!

29Mail your invitations

Mailing invites seems like a simple task, but figuring out postage and requesting special handling ensures your pretty package arrives intact and on time. After addressing your wedding invitations, make sure each invite is weighed, posted and hand canceled for smooth sending.

30Apply for a marriage license

You don't want to say "I Do" without it being legally official, right? A few months before the big day, go to your local county clerk's office with your fiancé. Bring along your driver's license (or other government-issued photo ID) and payment for the marriage license. Don't forget to bring it with you on the wedding day for your officiant to sign after the wedding!

31Have final gown fitting

After all the measurements and waiting, it's time to attend your final gown fitting. Bring along your veil, shoes, jewelry and any other accessories you've purchased since your first gown appointment.

32Call and check-in with bridesmaids

Do a final call with your bridesmaids to determine who is helping with what. Make sure that each of them has everything they will need for the big day. By now, they should have already purchased smaller items, such as their shoes and jewelry.

33Plan in-room welcome baskets for out-of-town guests

If you're hosting a destination wedding or are having lots of guests travel from afar, providing a welcome basket in each hotel room is a sweet gesture. Remember, some hotels may charge a fee to drop them off in each room. Providing snacks, water, and general information about the area for your guests.

34Plan your day-of schedule

The day of the wedding, it may seem like all you need to do is wake up and get ready with your friends. But with so many appointments beforehand, it's easy to fall off your planned schedule or preferred timeline. Consider start times for prepping the venue decor, hair, and bridal makeup. Give yourself extra time so you won't feel rushed.

35Prepare your reception seating chart

Creating a seating chart lets you envision everyone having a great time and can be a real help when welcoming your guests. Using materials like chalkboards, flowers, fruits or wine corks for place settings brings small details to life.

36Order ceremony and reception details

To help bring your entire theme together, order reception décor details, such as ceremony programs, reception menus, place cards and more.

37Have your bachelorette party

It's your big night! Enjoy an evening out on the town or a weekend getaway in a new city with your girlfriends. Whatever type of party you choose, this is your chance to unwind and celebrate.

38Review final RSVP list

Double check your final guest list and follow up with any guests who have yet to RSVP. Try to be proactive with any stragglers. Even a few people late to the game can complicate seating arrangements.

39Deliver must-have shot lists to photographer and videographer

In addition to having must-have shots like your first kiss or first dance, you may have other people or scenarios you want photographed. Tell your photographer and videographer who look out for that day, so when you're interacting with certain guests they can capture those special moments.

40Deliver final song list to your DJ or band

Turn in your selected songs for your processional, recessional and first dances. Feel free to note other important moments, such as the bride and groom entrance, cake cutting or bouquet toss. Remember to also provide "must play" songs for the reception.

41Make last-minute adjustments with vendors

At this point, you should have finalized all large matters: menus from the caterer, purchased all wedding decorations, sent the song list back from the DJ and a shot list for your photographer. Take a moment to review these documents, and note any last-minute changes. In addition, give your caterer and venue coordinator a final head count! Give all of your vendors your day-of schedule, plus each vendor's contact number.

42Pre-pack for your honeymoon

Don't forget about the honeymoon! If you're leaving within a week of your wedding, go ahead and pack your bags now, so you don't worry about forgetting anything. In just a few days, you'll be unwinding in paradise!

43Determine wedding-party positions

Line em' up! Figure out where you want your bridesmaids or groomsmen to stand during the ceremony. Aside from your maid of honor and best man, the order of your bridal party is totally up to you! You can start with the shortest, and work your way up to your tallest friend or family member. Or, you can mix it up by other factors, such as age.

44Figure out who is driving

By now, you know who is staying where! Whether your guests live near or far, coordinating pick-up times helps ensure everyone is on the same page—and nobody gets left behind.

45Deliver welcome baskets to the hotel concierge

Don't let your hard work go to waste! Drop off welcome baskets for guests at the hotel. Include any details about your wedding day that an out-of-town guest may not inherently know. Include notes about realistic travel times, where to park at the venues, wedding party members, etc. Clue them in on anything that will make them feel more at home.

46Write final checks

You are so close to the finish line! Now it's time to write some of your very last wedding checks, as most vendors require final payment before the wedding day. And don't forget to tip your vendors, which can be gifted after the wedding day.

47Attend your rehearsal ceremony

You're in the home stretch! Have your bridal party and any readers practice the order of the ceremony so everyone is on the same page.

48Give your marriage license to your Officiant

Possibly the most important step in this timeline: the marriage license! Don't forget to give your officiant your marriage license to sign before the ceremony, and then send it off to the county clerk's office.

49Attend your rehearsal dinner

The anticipation is building! This is an excellent opportunity for guests to mix and mingle before the wedding day. Who you invite and how you host it is up to you—sit back and soak in the joy.

50Get married!

Cheers! Give yourself a pat on the back for the months of hard planning. While stressful at times, you now get to enjoy your happily ever after.

51Write and send thank you notes

Not so fast! Before you sail off into marital bliss, don't forget to thank your guests for celebrating with you. Stay organized with a simple spreadsheet and be sure to order thank you cards in advance, so you can easily check this to-do off your list.

While it may seem like a lot of to-do's, planning a wedding is a fun way to express your creativity and celebrate with loved ones. As your big day approaches, download our exclusive checklist to get access to promotions and deals.

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