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Wedding Bells: The Wedding Planning Timeline
Hi everyone, it’s Alex. For today’s installment of the Wedding Bells series I’ll be breaking down the ever-intimidating wedding planning process into a simple and straightforward timeline. Whether you’re a bride-to-be, a bridesmaid, or an attendee this timetable will let you know what to expect and how to be prepared. I hope you find this helpful!
Ideating the vision for your wedding is easy. Most of us have been envisioning our dream day since we were little. And if you’re like 99% of the women on Pinterest, your wedding is practically planned on a not-so-secret “I Do” board. (Come on, you know you have one.) While establishing the aesthetic for your wedding is definitely the fun part, planning it can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many things to coordinate that it can take away from enjoying your engagement.
In light of this, I’ve put together a wedding planning timeline based on a bevy of reading and research (and some help from my amazing planners, Ashley and Christina of Mein Schatz). Bear in mind that just because this timeline is based on a yearlong plan, it doesn’t mean you cannot apply it to your schedule. If anything, it should serve as a helpful guide in letting you know the basic order of events. Check it out and be sure to read my notes below the timeline for more in-depth details!
12 Months Before
Book Venue: Venues book up fast—in some cases, up to a year in advance.
Draft Guest List: I suggest doing this in a Google Doc spreadsheet so that your family can easily access the list and update as needed. It also avoids the issue of having multiple versions of the same document floating around in your email.
Engagement Party: This is completely optional. Traditionally the parents of the bride host the engagement party.
Register: It’s better to do this sooner rather than later so people know what to get you if they want to send you an engagement or shower gift. You can always go back and edit your registry so don’t feel like you’re bound to everything you register for right off the bat.
10 Months Before
Pick an Officiant: Like venues, officiants book up fast.
Select Bridal Party: This was one of the toughest decisions for me because it was impossible to include all of my closest friends. Nevertheless it’s good to get this out of the way early so your attendants can plan accordingly. I’ll go into more depth about this subject soon and will also provide some fun ideas on how you can ask them too!
Choose Vendors: First and foremost, book a photographer (I am using The Long Haul). I would also suggest hammering down a caterer (again, we’re using Whoa Nelly! Catering), DJ or band (we’re doing a DJ for our reception, The Flashdance), and florist at this point, too. The rest can be booked later. Since I am based in Southern California, I went with local vendors that my wedding planner has worked with before. If possible, it’s best to book vendors that have not only worked together, but have worked at your venue as well!
Take Engagement Photos: This is optional, although many couples like to include an engagement photo in their announcements or save the dates. If you do not wish to include a photo in either, you can take them at a later date or not at all. Completely up to you! Personally, I suggest taking some photos together as a couple where you are not in your formal wedding attire at some point before the wedding. These will be lovely images to scatter around your home later down the road.
8 Months Before
Order Your Dress: Believe it or not, a wedding dress can take up to 7 or 8 months to receive after ordering—especially if you are doing something customized like me (and in case you’re wondering, my dress is from JLM Couture, but I’ll go over finding the perfect dress for your body type and aethetic later).
Block Hotel Rooms for Guests: If you have a handful of guests coming in from out of town or you’re doing a destination wedding, you should book a block of rooms at a local hotel for your guests. Typically hotels will give you a discounted group rate if you meet the minimum room block requirement.
Cake Tastings + Order Cake: If you ask me, this is by far the best part of the entire process. I’ll go into more detail about this later…
Begin Hair & Makeup Trails: Once you’ve ordered your dress, it’s a good idea to begin thinking about your beauty look. If you are doing your own hair and makeup, be sure to test out a few styles with some serious staying power. Also, if you are going to get an airbrush tan, I suggest testing out a few different places. Once you find a tan that works for you, book your wedding appointment at least 48-hours before your actual nuptials take place.
Send Save the Dates: If you are doing a destination wedding, it’s a good idea to send these out with as much advance notice as possible—10 months prior to your date should be sufficient. Otherwise, it’s important to give your guests at least 6 months notice so they can save the date on their own calendars and plan accordingly. More on this later!
Book Honeymoon: Figure out where you want to go and begin researching transportation options and accommodations.
Order Bridesmaids’ Dresses: These can take up to 5 months to receive after ordering. Your maids will also need time to get any additional alterations done so it’s wise to order these sooner rather than later. My maids ordered their dresses from Bella Bridesmaid (Lauren actually suggested this place to me since she wore a dress from their boutique for her friend Hannah’s wedding last summer, which is featured on Carats & Cake).
Purchase Wedding Bands: If you are customizing your bands with an inscription, it’s best to order them in advance in case there are any issues with sizing.
Select Groomsmen Attire: Whether the groomsmen are renting or purchasing, it’s a good idea to get this sorted out a few months before the wedding to avoid any last minute mishaps.
Plan Rehearsal Dinner: Traditionally the groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding.
Confirm Vendors: Confirm and book additional vendors (lighting, cake delivery, sound equipment, furniture rentals, etc.).
Decide on Hair & Makeup: Finalize your look and make sure you have the appropriate makeup for touchups on the day of the wedding.
Mail Invitations: Wedding invitations are typically sent out 6 to 8 weeks prior to the wedding.
Write or Decide on Vows/Ceremony: If you are writing your own vows, it’s a nice touch if you memorize them.
Purchase Day Of Accessories: Figure out what you will be wearing with your dress—shoes, jewelry, hairpieces, veil, etc. Also, don’t forget the old adage: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue!”
Confirm Day Of Transportation: Determine how you, your bridal party, and your families will be getting to and from wedding locations.
Apply for Marriage License: Check US Marriage Laws for your local requirements and details.
Get Everything Printed: Make sure you have all of your menus, nametags, wedding programs and the like printed and ready to go.
Bachelorette Party: There isn’t a textbook rule of thumb as to when you can have your bachelorette party. Just find a date that works for your bridal party. Typically the Maid of Honor plans this with the rest of the bridesmaids. More on this later!
Bridal Shower: Traditionally, the groom’s mother’s close friend hosts the bridal shower. Or your bridesmaids can host a shower as well. I’ll delve into this in more detail later.
Final Dress Fitting: Be sure to test out how all of your accessories look with the dress and make any changes as needed. Also, it’s wise to start breaking in your wedding shoes at this point.
Give Shot List to Photographer: Figure out what photographs are important to you and put together a list of shots you would like taken for your photographer. I’ll go over this in more detail later.
Review Music with DJ/Band: Touch base with your band or DJ to finalize the playlist and confirm special request songs.
Final Headcount: Once you have reviewed your RSVPs, you will then need to confirm the numbers with your rental companies (chairs, tables) as well as your caterer.
Finalize Seating Chart: Sit friends and acquaintances together whenever possible. I’ll provide more pointers on this later.
Get Facials & Waxings: Sometimes these treatments can cause unforeseen breakouts, so be sure to give yourself a one week grace period post-treatment to give your skin some time to calm down before the wedding. Also, you never want to get waxed after you get spray tanned…unless you’re going for an intentional zebra look.
48 Hours Before
Get Tan: If bronzed skin is important to you, get an airbrush spray tan. Aside from tanning beds being incredibly bad for your skin, the risk of getting a last minute sunburn isn’t worth it.
Have Nails Done: You want your manicure and pedicure as fresh as possible so try to get this done as close to the wedding as you can.
Wrap Bridesmaids & Groom Gifts: Don’t wait until the last minute to wrap these—better yet, wrap them upon purchase to avoid any headaches later on.
Rehearsal Dinner: Attend and enjoy!
Give Bridal Party Gifts: Typically the day before the wedding the bride will give her bridesmaids’ a gift. I’ll offer some simple ideas later on.
Get married & live happily ever after! No wedding is perfect and things might go astray. Just remember to enjoy the moment (it goes by fast) and have fun!
I hope you find this helpful!
Next time I’ll be shedding some light on the various roles and duties of everyone involved in a wedding! I noticed that many of you were asking about this in response to my last post so if you have any other requests or questions, leave them below and I’ll do my best to cover them!