If you’ve just gotten engaged, no doubt you’re both excited and daunted by the task of planning your wedding. We say, “Relax!” If it’s not in the budget to hire a full-service wedding planner, use this helpful timeline to cross some early tasks off your list (and wait a few months to start stressing about others).—Caite White
One year before
Work out your budget. Know your limit (and how much your family might be willing to contribute) before considering much else.
Set a tentative date for your wedding.
Decide on your wedding style and formality. This may be determined, in part, by how many guests you want to invite, so think about the guest list now, too.
Settle on a ceremony location: Are you headed to the chapel or the backyard of your childhood home?
Put down a deposit for the reception location.
Begin the search for other wedding vendors (transportation, flowers, invitations, music, makeup artist). Photographers and video-graphers get booked early, so start there first.
Once you’ve chosen your wedding photographer, schedule an engagement photo session.
Start shopping for wedding rings.
Reserve your officiant. And, while you’re at it, check his or her availability for the night of the rehearsal dinner.
If your reception venue doesn’t have a caterer, decide who’ll provide the food.
Choose a rehearsal dinner location.
Shop for your dress. It may seem too soon, but it can take several months for your dress to arrive, and then you may need alterations.
After you’ve found the perfect dress, schedule fittings and a delivery date.
Choose your bridal party and invite them to be part of your special day.
Select the bridesmaids’ gowns. These’ll take a few months to come in, too.
Start thinking about honeymoon destinations.
Nine months before
Start finalizing the guest list and gathering addresses.
Choose where you’d like to register and go together to select gifts.
Decide to rent or purchase attire for the groom and groomsmen. Once that’s decided, place your order. (Also schedule the groom’s fittings and pick-up or delivery date at this time.)
Finalize all the vendors and secure your wedding date by putting down deposits. (While you’re at it, confirm when final payments need to be made to each vendor.) With the date set, now you can order invitations!
Send out save the dates.
Finalize the plans for your honeymoon. Update your passport and vaccinations, if necessary.
Six months before
Prepare all maps and directions for the ceremony and reception.
Meet with your florist and choose arrangements for the ceremony and reception, as well as bouquets.
If your caterer doesn’t provide one, order your wedding cake.
Begin doing research for your marriage license.
Meet with both sets of parents to coordinate their day-of attire.
Four months before
Reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests. (Consider doing this even earlier if you’re planning a wedding on busy in-town weekends like homecoming or during other local events that draw a crowd.)
Address and send out your invitations and announcements. Include information regarding the accommodations. (Also consider creating a website with all of the accommodation information. Guests might like to get a head start on making those arrangements and most hotels close your block four weeks out.)
Arrange for final dress fittings.
Purchase wedding guest book.
Order your wedding favors, bridal party gifts and other wedding accessories (champagne glasses, ring bearer pillow, cake knife, etc.).
Two months before
Make an appointment with your stylist for wedding day hairstyles for you and your bridal party, as well as appointments for manis, pedis, massages or other spa treatments.
Schedule a trial with your makeup artist.
Start gathering your RSVPs.
Finalize the dates for your last-minute dress fittings.
Arrange a getaway car for after the reception to include all your honeymoon essentials (luggage, tickets, etc.).
Meet with all your wedding vendors to finalize any orders and reservations.
Purchase bridal party gifts and a gift for your fiancé.
One month before
Finalize the details of your rehearsal dinner.
Go over song lists and requests with your band or DJ.
Call guests who have not responded.
Draw up preliminary seating arrangements for the reception.
Have a trial session with the hairstylist and make-up artist you will use on your wedding day.
Get your marriage license with your fiancé.
Two to three weeks before
Pick up wedding rings.
Confirm all arrival times with vendors.
Confirm hotel arrangements for out-of-town guests.
Have your final dress fitting.
Finalize the seating arrangement for the reception.
One week before
Give the caterer your final guest count.
Have final fittings for your groom and groomsmen.
Give gifts to your wedding party, family and fiancé privately, or at the rehearsal dinner.
Make arrangements for your wedding gifts to be brought to your home.
One to two days
Get a mani/pedi.
Get a wax and a spray tan (in that order! See page 81).
Confirm flight, hotel and packing arrangements for the honeymoon.
Make payment envelopes for each vendor and give them to your wedding day assistant along with your marriage license to take care of at the wedding.
Confirm arrangements for the getaway car.
Put together a bridal emergency kit for your wedding day including stockings, sewing kit, safety pins, etc.
Attend your rehearsal dinner.
Your wedding day
Get your hair and makeup done early.
Make sure you get plenty to eat, and drink a lot of water.