You’re now officially engaged. Congratulations! After you’ve shared the good news with your loved ones and given yourselves time to bask in newly-engaged glory, it’s time to start the wedding planning. This year-long journey involves many details—from finding your vendors to writing your vows—and it is no easy feat. But with the right systems in place, the time leading up to your wedding can be exciting, not stressful. And luckily for you, we broke down the 12-month process into an easy-to-navigate wedding planning timeline.
A wedding timeline is crucial to ensure everything goes according to plan. It also holds you accountable for completing all tasks on your to-do list at the right time. Depending on priority, availability, and requirements, some should be completed at the very beginning, while others can wait until closer to your wedding day. We’ll begin our timeline from the 12-month mark. But if you have a shorter engagement, write the tasks down in order of priority, and adjust the timeline to fit your schedule.
12-Month Wedding Planning Timeline
10 To 12 Months Before
You’ll lay the foundation for your wedding preparations during these initial months. We can’t stress enough how crucial it is to begin by setting your budget before considering anything else. Your budget will help narrow down the list of venues to consider, dictate how large your guest list can be, and help you prioritize what’s most important to you and your fiancé. Because talking about money has the potential to be stressful, we highly recommend making a date night of it with dinner at home, a bottle of wine, and a totally open mind.
Once you hammer out those all-important numbers, you can move on to more fun things, like creating your mood board, touring venues, and researching vendors. The key in this 10-12 month timeframe is to align your values and expectations and do your research so the rest of the planning process can be smooth sailing. Here are some of the big-picture items you should start getting checked off your list:
- Set a wedding budget
- Draft your wedding guest list
- Nail down the date
- Create a mood board
- Tour and book your venue(s)
- Figure out what type of wedding planner is best for you and hire a planner that will fit your needs
- Browse our lists of the best wedding vendors around the world to research wedding photographers, wedding videographers, bands and/or DJs, caterers, florists, and rental companies
- Choose your wedding party
- Insure the engagement ring
8 To 9 Months Before
You’ve spent the last four months setting your budget, creating a vision for your day, deciding who will stand beside you, and doing tons of vendor research. Now is the best time to hire your photographer and videographer as soon as possible since they book up quickly. Consider arranging an engagement session. It’s the perfect opportunity to get to know your photographer, practice being in front of the camera, and capture this unforgettable time in your relationship forever.
This 8-9 month window is also when you’ll focus on guest-specific tasks, such as creating a wedding website, registering for gifts, and reserving hotel rooms for out-of-town guests. Since guest lists are one of the most challenging elements of wedding preparation, continue to work on them to decide if you want to stagger invites to narrow down your list. Do this 8–9 months before the wedding:
- Book your photographer and videographer
- Take engagement photos
- Order your wedding dress
- Set up your wedding registry
- Book a block of hotel rooms for your out-of-town guests
- Create a wedding website
- Meet with caterers
- Hire your officiant
- Buy your wedding invitations if you plan to stagger your invites between a Group A and Group B list
6 To 7 Months Before
Now that you’ve got many big decisions crossed off your list, you’ll be focusing on assembling your vendor team, choosing wedding day fashion, and announcing the wedding with save-the-dates in the next several months. You must finalize your guest list because everything from here on out depends on knowing how many guests to plan for.
If you get too overwhelmed with that decision, remember the end goal and start thinking about that honeymoon. This is the perfect time to research honeymoon destinations around the world and decide if you want your honeymoon to be full of adventure or straight-up relaxation. Here’s what to do 6-7 months before the wedding:
- Finalize your wedding guest list and compile the list of addresses in a spreadsheet
- Buy your wedding invitations (if not already bought last month)
- Order the bridesmaid dresses
- Reserve any rentals you might need (chairs, tents, linens, etc.)
- Hire a florist and a caterer
- Arrange wedding day transportation
- Start planning your honeymoon
- Send out save-the-dates
4 To 5 Months Before
You’re officially more than halfway through the wedding planning process—congratulations! Now is the time when most of your details will start to fall into place, so be prepared for a whirlwind of decision making. You’ll want to set everything up for the rehearsal dinner, including deciding who will be invited so you can prepare invitations.
You’ll also want to focus on your bridal look by setting up your first dress fitting and getting your groom’s look squared away. As a reward for making so many decisions, now is also the time to eat all the cake so you can pick the perfect flavor and start thinking about your bridal shower and the bachelorette/bachelor parties. Decide who you want to invite to each event, and then start putting together inspiration to create your perfect party looks. 4-5 months before your wedding, you have to:
- Do a cake tasting and order your cake
- Check on the status of your wedding invitations (if staggering, send your first round of invitations now)
- Book the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner venues
- Hire your hair and makeup artists
- Choose your ceremony processional and recessional music, particularly your first dance and father-daughter dance songs
- Attend your first dress fitting
- Buy or rent the groom’s attire
- Book accommodations for your wedding night
- Send your bridal shower guest list to your host—and browse our lists of spring bridal shower outfits and winter bridal shower outfits to start planning what you want to wear
- Send a bachelorette party guest list to the maid of honor and a bachelor party guest list to the best man
3 Months Before
At three months out, it’s time to cross off some of those tiny details that can easily get overlooked, such as finalizing your food and printing menus and ordering favors. Trust us. You’ll be glad you got these little things out of the way so you can focus on bigger details in the coming months. Since there are fewer big-ticket items to book or buy, this is also the perfect time to plan your wedding ceremony.
Schedule a night to choose your ceremony readings together. Find readings that speak to you as a couple and reflect your feelings about love and marriage. Then, when you meet with your officiant to plan the rest of the ceremony, discuss other ways you want to make your ceremony personal, and ask for advice if you’re feeling stuck. The ceremony is, after all, the most important moment of the wedding day, so take as much time as you need this month to make sure it will be exactly what you’ve envisioned. Here’s what to do three months before the wedding:
- Work with your caterer to finalize the menu for your reception dinner
- Order or print the menu cards
- Use this checklist to finalize the floral design
- Buy your wedding rings
- Create a wedding day timeline
- Print the ceremony programs
- Order wedding favors
- Meet with your officiant to plan the wedding ceremony, choose the readings, and discuss ways to personalize the ceremony
2 Months Before
The time has finally come to send all of your wedding invitations. Since this isn’t quite crunch time yet, use this month to meet with or get in touch with all of your vendors to ensure everyone is still on the same page and send as many final payments as possible.
We recommend meeting with your photographer to discuss day-of planning and final questions. You’ll also need to meet with your DJ or live band to finalize the playlist and provide them with songs you do and don’t want to play during the reception. Then it’s time to party! You’ve earned every bit of relaxation and fun your wedding party has in store, so live it up at the bach parties and let the stress of wedding planning melt away for the night (or the entire weekend). Next month is crunch time, so rest up now! Do this two months before the wedding:
- Send out your wedding invitations (or a second round of wedding invitations, if staggering)
- Meet with your photographer to discuss wedding day plans
- Review the playlist with the DJ or band and give them your “don’t play” and “must play” lists
- Let loose at your bachelorette/bachelor parties
- Send out as many final payments as you can
- Check in with all your vendors
- Ensure the groomsmen have bought or rented their attire
1 Month Before
You’re officially one month away from the best day of your life, and this is the month that all of those details that are still on your to-do list will be checked off. Most importantly: get your marriage license. Laws vary from state to state and country to country on how far out you need to get your license, so make sure you know the ins and outs of making everything legal.
In addition, you’ll want to schedule your final dress fitting and buy all the accessories you need, decide if you’re going to change into a reception dress (and buy one if you do), create your wedding day timeline, create your seating chart, and buy gifts for everyone on your list. You should also have received lots of RSVPs by now, so update your spreadsheet, call anyone you have yet to hear from, and prepare a final list for the caterer. Here’s what to do one month before the wedding:
- Get your marriage license
- Have your last dress fitting and buy your accessories (veil, jewelry, lingerie, and shoes)
- Buy your reception dress and reception shoes
- Send out rehearsal dinner invitations
- Buy alcohol or finalize your signature cocktails
- Send your wedding day timeline to all your vendors
- Create your reception seating chart
- Buy gifts for your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and everyone else on your list
- Write your vows
- Update your guest list spreadsheet with all the RSVPs you’ve received
- Call any guests who haven’t yet RSVP’d
- Check the hotel blocks
- Get your wedding party together to discuss roles and responsibilities for the wedding day
1 Week Before
As you get into the right mindset for your wedding day, there are just a few last-minute things to cross off your list or delegate to your loved ones. This week, spend your time circling back with vendors, the wedding party, and any other family or friends who need to be in the loop to ensure everyone is on the same page and knows exactly what to do on the wedding day. You’ll need to get the final guest count to the caterers and plan for day-of payments.
We recommend filling out checks and putting them in marked envelopes that you can easily hand off to your coordinator. Then, finally, it’s time to indulge in some last-minute relaxation, packing for the honeymoon, and getting everything together, so you’re feeling your absolute best come your wedding morning. Here’s what to do one week before the wedding:
- Check in with all your vendors one last time and ensure they have the wedding day timeline
- Delegate any last-minute tasks to friends and family
- Send your wedding day timeline to everyone in the wedding party
- Send the final guest list to the caterer
- Break in your wedding ceremony and reception shoes
- Ensure you have checks ready for day-of payments and vendor tips in clearly labeled envelopes
- Book a day at the spa
- Pack for your honeymoon
- Schedule a date night for you and your fiancé to de-stress before the wedding day
- Review our tips for feeling your best on your wedding day
The Wedding Day
Your only responsibility on your wedding day is to be fully present and enjoy every minute of the day. All the details are planned, you’ve handed off your phone and email to a friend or family member, and your planner or coordinator has everything under control. You just need to bask in the glow of being pampered, spending the day with everyone you love, and marrying your best friend.
After The Wedding And The Honeymoon
Now that you’re home from the honeymoon, there are just a few loose ends to tie up before you settle into newlywed life. Don’t worry. There are few things left to do. The most important is circling back with all your vendors to ensure everyone has received their payment. If you have any outstanding balances, this would be the time to pay them all off.
Then you can move on to more important things, like opening gifts you received on the wedding day and sending “thank you” notes. To ensure you remember everybody, we recommend using your guest list spreadsheet to note all the gifts you received. That way, all the information is in one place when you start writing notes. Here are the last few things to wrap up after the honeymoon:
- Pay all remaining balances to vendors
- Return your rentals
- Write “Thank You” notes
- Clean and preserve your wedding gown
- Take advantage of registry discounts to buy any registry items you didn’t receive
- Officially change your name (if you choose to do so)
- Research life insurance plans and figure out the right coverage for your relationship
It can be tempting to begin planning your wedding as soon as you are engaged. How far in advance you start planning for your big day will determine how long it takes. Some couples decide to have a lengthy engagement, while others could be ready to tie the knot right away. There’s no need to rush into planning if your wedding is more than a year away.
Planning your wedding is a huge undertaking, so don’t try to do it all at once. You want to remember your wedding as an incredible and beautiful time in your life, not as a stressful one. And our 12-month wedding planning timeline will allow you to sit back and enjoy the process.