The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist

Send out second round of invitations pending RSVPs (top tip: automate this to save time and stress). Compile list of dietary restrictions and pass on to caterer.

Order stationery including ceremony programs, menu cards, table numbers, escort cards and place cards. Buy gifts for bridal party members and the wedding couple.

1. Set a date

Setting the date for your wedding is one of the first milestones in the entire planning process. This will give you a set goal to work toward throughout the rest of the planning process, and it can help you stay organized.

To determine your date, start by looking at both of your schedules for the upcoming month. Eliminate days where you have important or inescapable commitments, and then choose the best remaining option.

If there are specific venues or vendors that you dream of working with, be sure to check their availability as soon as possible after selecting a date. They may book up quickly, especially during popular seasons and holiday weekends.

You’ll also want to consider any local events, holidays or three-day weekends that are occurring at the time of your wedding. These can impact everything from hotel room availability to flight rates to vendor prices. Also, if you’re planning an outdoor wedding, be aware of potential weather conditions.

2. Decide on a budget

When you’re planning your wedding, it’s important to have a budget in place. This will help you determine what your priorities are and prevent you from going overboard on things that won’t add to the overall experience.

Sit down with your S.O. (or anyone else who may be financially contributing) and come up with an amount that you both feel comfortable spending on your wedding. Be realistic about your needs and wants, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from a trusted wedding planner.

Once you have a number in mind, start collecting pricing information and proposals from vendors that interest you. Be sure to explain that you are in the ‘fact-finding’ stage and not ready to commit. It’s also a good idea to set aside 5% of your budget for unforeseen expenses, like corsages or boutonnieres for wedding party members who weren’t invited to the ceremony; a last-minute realization that something needs to be decorated at the venue; or extra umbrellas for an unseasonably rainy day.

If you decide that the items you want most are out of your price range, consider incorporating some of them into your registry and asking for gifts from friends and family. You can even host a fundraising event on social media to crowdsource some of the more expensive elements of your big day.

3. Create a guest list

If you’re having a big wedding, you will need to create a guest list. It’s important to do this early on in the process because it will help you determine how much space you’ll need at your venue and if your budget can accommodate everyone that you want to invite.

Begin by compiling a list of everybody you and your fiance want to have at your wedding (you can do this in a spreadsheet, a notebook, whatever works for you). Include every person you know you absolutely HAVE to invite – think immediate family members, close friends, and coworkers – and then start expanding outwards. Consider second cousins, fair-weather acquaintances, old teachers – whatever you have to do to get the numbers down to a manageable size.

Once you’ve done that, cross off any people who can be replaced by someone else. And if you’re feeling ambitious, you can try something like a rolling guest list where the first batch of invitations go out to your “must-have” guests and as RSVPs come in, you can fill them in with the second wave of guests. Just don’t over-invite because that can be a major headache later on down the line.

4. Order your invitations

This is the time to start thinking about what invitations you want to send, if you haven’t already. We recommend placing your order about six months out from your wedding day, which gives us plenty of time to design and print. This is especially true if you want to use a custom design or specialty printing processes, like letterpress or foil.

At this point you should also have your guest list finalized and everyone’s mailing address. We ask for this information so we can begin sending out your invites and completing the seating chart and place cards. If you are planning to have your envelopes hand-written by a calligrapher, it’s also good to get this part of the process started at this point.

The one to two month mark is also a good time to hunt down anyone who hasn’t RSVP’d and give your venue/caterers the final guest count. Also, consider ordering your last-minute wedding decorations (like a unity candle or cake server) and preparing your gift/gifts for the bridal party, groomsmen, and parents. Finally, make sure you have a game plan for returning rental items, such as tuxedos and gowns, and figuring out who is responsible for packing up the boxes at the end of the night.

5. Book your venue

Probably the most important question to ask your venue is how many guests they can accommodate. Having an accurate guest count is critical for planning the day of and helps prevent you from running out of space, having your guests leave early or having to cut people from your list. Be sure to tell your venue the maximum number of guests you’re inviting so they know what type of food and drink service to provide.

Another helpful question to ask is what type of restrictions they have on things like open flames, fireworks, flower petals, and confetti. These can all be a bit of a hassle to deal with on the wedding day, so it’s better to find out before you sign a contract.

Also, be sure to find out what the venue provides (like tablecloths and dinnerware) versus what you’ll need to bring in yourself. This will help you determine how much to budget for rentals and what to plan ahead for.

6. Book your vendors

You’ll want to get your top-tier vendors booked as soon as possible. This is the time to book your florist, wedding cake baker, hair and makeup artists and photographer. It’s also the time to purchase things like your guest book, toasting flutes and a unity candle. If you’re having your groomsmen rent their tuxes, now is the time to do that too.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of wedding pros, reach out to them with a message that explains what you’re looking for and provides some details about your budget. If they don’t seem to be a good fit, ask them if they know any other wedding pros who might be able to deliver the product/service you need within your budget.

Once you’ve locked in all your vendors, the rest of your planning process should feel less stressful. You can focus on researching things like the music and entertainment options, creating a website and booking any additional accommodations you need for your guests. It’s also a great idea to hunt down anyone who hasn’t RSVP’d yet and send in your final guest count to your venue and caterer. You’ll need that number for creating a seating chart, place settings and other details.

7. Book your honeymoon

Whether you’re planning a big splurge or a low-key staycation, the honeymoon is an essential part of your wedding day. Figure out what your budget is and how you’d like to spend it, then start researching your options. Consider things such as flight schedules, how far in advance you need to book, and whether the destination offers certain amenities, such as late night room service or a sauna on location.

It’s traditional to go on the honeymoon right after the wedding, but sometimes life and seasons don’t align. If you’re dreaming of seeing the northern lights in Alaska, but your wedding is in June, that’s not going to work. Similarly, it could be that your dream trip to the Caribbean falls in hurricane season.

Touch base with your vendors and confirm any bookings that need to be made (such as rentals, cakes, or flowers). Have final dress fittings and purchase shoes and lingerie. Write thank-you cards for shower and any early wedding gifts you’ve received. Organize a folder for contracts and other important documents. And, order 10-15% more envelopes than you think you’ll need for the rehearsal dinner. Then, set up a Zola guest list for the event and send out paper invitations or an evite.