1. Define your budget – this is a big-ticket item that you and your partner need to be on the same page about. Its also good to do some research prior to setting the budget so that you don’t find you’ve underestimated just how much things will cost in actuality compared with what you were initially expecting to spend.
Did you know the average spend for a wedding in the US is $33,391? Keep in mind select locations may be more or less expensive. For example, a Los Angeles wedding averages around $44,142.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a wedding for less than that average, but you may have to get thrifty about planning and know which areas mean the most to you in order to ensure the experience stacks up to what you’re envisioning.
You may choose to hire a wedding planner if you are going to be using one at this point as well to help source venues and vendors. This can happen later in the planning process as well.
2. Set your date – determine the season you want to get married and choose a timeframe that ideally has some flexibility to work with your desired venues available dates.
3. Organize your guest list
It’s good to have a tentative number of guests that you plan on inviting in mind prior to viewing venues as you may find some venues are too small to accommodate your full guest list. It will also help you get more accurate estimates for catering.
4. Find your venue
When searching for your venue, if you have a specific place in mind that you’ve dreamed of getting married at, it’s best to be flexible with your wedding date in case they are already booked for the date you initially had in mind.
5. Start pinning! – Pinterest is perfect for figuring out your wedding colors/theme. Check out my seasonal wedding mood boards to help visualize what colors and details you’d like to incorporate throughout your day. You can also view my tips for choosing your ideal color palette for your wedding!
6. Start looking for your wedding photographer. Many photographers can book up 12 months in advance so if you know of a photographer you want to work with, book them ASAP!
7. Select your bridal party and ask them to be a part of your #bridetribe or #groomcrew. Do yourself a favor and remember you don’t owe anyone a place in your party and if they have toxic habits like putting you or your decisions down, you’re going to be much happier keeping them at a distance rather than right by your side on your wedding day. #nofakefriends
8. Throw an engagement party! If you’re feeling overwhelmed already, take a moment to just relax and celebrate your new adventure with family and friends. This can be as intimate or elaborate as you like.
8. Engagement photo time! If you want to include your engagement photos on your save-the-dates, now is the time to set up your engagement session. Many but not all wedding photographers will offer a complimentary engagement session when you book with them. Fortunately for you, I happen to be one of those photographers 😉
9. Send out save the dates between 6-8 months out if it will be local and 10-12 months out if it’s a destination wedding.
10. Create your wedding website. The Knot, Zola and Wedding Wire are all platforms that help you easily create a wedding website to share information with your wedding guests like the date, time, address for the ceremony and reception, dress code, wedding registry, local hotels, your love story and more. Not to mention how convenient it is to have digital access to your wedding details if your guests forget their invitation the day of.
11. Start looking for your wedding dress
12. Are you thinking DJ or a band? Or both?! This is the time to find them.
13. Get clear on your wedding day timeline – will you be doing a first look? Unsure? Check out my article on deciding if a first look is right for you.
14. Set up several food tastings to find your caterer
15. Find your florist!
16. Dress decisions should be made and alterations scheduled accordingly
17. Start searching for your hair and makeup vendors
18. Cake tasting should also occur during the 3-6 month out timeframe. Or cupcake tasting, or donut wall tasting, or brownie bar tasting (yes I’ve seen this too and it was delicious). It’s all up to you how you want to treat your guests to dessert! It can be as traditional or modern as you desire. Whatever feels right to you.
19. Tux time! Decide if you’ll be buying or renting the groom’s tux and explore some of your options. Classic black and white? Navy blue? Burgundy, blush or maybe hunter green? The options are endless and you want your man to feel REAL good.
Yeah, we’re totally guilty of making the big day all about the bride but make sure your man has a say, especially if he’s willing to be involved in the wedding planning (a rare bird to be sure) but they will typically want to decide what they’re going to wear and YOU want to make sure it goes well with your dress. Certain looks can be more elegant or casual depending on your venue and theme, so you’ll want to aim to be coordinating on these elements.
20. Book your wedding officiant! If you’re having a friend officiate, make sure they have gotten their online certification or meet with several officiants to find one that flows well with you and your fiance’s vibe.
21. This is also the time to determine the bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen’s attire.
22. Order your wedding bands
23. Send out the wedding invitations! Be sure to include the date to confirm attendance by so you can get a final count for your caterer.
24. Accessorize your dress! This is the time to start trying out different jewelry and shoes. Etsy comes in clutch for finding cute little gems for you and your bridal party.
25. Bachelorette/Bachelor party!! While this can occur at any point during the engagement, 4-8 weeks before you say your “I do’s” is pretty standard. Planning should be completed 6 months in advance so you’re not putting anyone in an uncomfortable position to attend without enough time to plan accordingly.
26. Get those gifts for your wedding party + parents. I said it once, and I’ll say it again. ETSY! You’ll find tons of inspiration such as matching robes for getting ready, jewelry, customized wine tumblers, and more. Plus you can’t go wrong with something like a customized flask, engraved beer mug, socks, bottle openers or tie clips for your groomsmen.
27. Finalize your guest count and notify your food vendors
28. Determine the seating chart if you’ll be having one
29. Will you be having a rehearsal dinner? Make sure the wedding party participants are aware of all the rehearsal dinner details! Aslo be sure to get your cute AF rehearsal dinner dress
30. Doing your own vows? Now is a good time to start working on them. DON’T WAIT until the night before your wedding. If not doing personalized vows, this may also be the time to write a love letter that you want to exchange with each other. Give yourself time to think it out. Oh, and get a cute little vow booklet to write them in for photos. An easy find on Amazon or Etsy.
31. Decide on your wedding hashtag! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and family.
32. You may want to treat yourself to a gentle facial at this time to ensure your skin is dewy and glowing but be wary any adverse reaction that can cause a rash, breakout or unwanted side effects. 10-14 days prior to your wedding date is best as your skin should be cleansed of the impurities and recovered by the day of your wedding.
33. Put together a bridal emergency kit for yourself and the bridal party!
This should include items like
34. If you’re getting eyelash extensions, this is an ideal time to get them done as well as your waxing appointment if you’re planning on having a care-free, leg hair-free wedding day.
35. Mani-pedi party! You can choose to do this solo or bring along your bridesmaids, mom, mother-in-law to be, and other close female friends and family who may want to get their nails done. Make sure if you are bringing a large group that you set up an appointment time in advance!
36. Spray tan time – get your faux glow game on.
37. Speak with your wedding planner or coordinator to ensure they have all the vendor information and clarify who will be responsible for any payments needed the day of.
38. Prep items that you’d like photographed including wedding invites, save the dates, ring boxes, vow books, handkerchiefs, jewelry and any other sentimental items in a box that can be easily identifiable while getting ready.
39. Load up everything, and then check your list twice. Real talk, on my wedding day I realized I had forgotten my veil. Did it ruin my wedding? No. Would I have loved to have it? OF COURSE. But my photos came out beautifully and the day went by so quickly, I didn’t think about it twice.
40. Inform your wedding planner of day-of coordinator of any last-minute details and then it’s time to ENJOY your day as all the months of planning come to fruition.