Many friends, family members, and online sources will recommend you begin planning your wedding 12-18 months beforehand, but if you were hoping for a shorter engagement, don’t panic! As wedding planner Alison Hotchkiss-Rinderknecht of Alison Events puts it, nine months is more than enough time to put together your perfect day. And with her tips and timeline, you’ll breeze through the process.
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No matter how much time you have, before you get started, remember these wedding-planning basics:
Crunch the Numbers
If multiple parties (parents, grandparents, and so on) are contributing toward the big day, find out how much they are willing to chip in and then tally up the amount. You and your fiancé should set a budget for the celebration and stick to it! This will guide the rest of your decisions and make the entire process easier to manage.
Book Your Key Players First
When a couple hires us on with nine months or less to go before exchanging vows, we hit the ground running and reach out to all the “key players” right away to find out pricing and availability. Focus on booking your venue, florist, photographer, caterer, and planner (if you will count on having one). Once you’ve got your core team locked down, you can slow down and focus on the smaller details.
These days, there are so many vendors in the event industry. You can shop around forever but, ultimately, remember you are on a timeline and need to stay in decision-making mode. If you have a vendor whose work you love, and your personalities match, go with them: They’ll be amazing, we promise!
The planning process will be a snap if you remember to stay organized. We recommend creating a binder to hold all the details—timeline, budget, contracts, inspiration, and notes. This keeps all the information in one place and saves you the time of searching for that one specific document buried somewhere in your inbox.
Create a Planning Timeline
On that note, one key item in your binder should be a timeline of all the planning to-do’s. Outline all the tasks that need to be done to create your event and when they need to be accomplished. To get you started, we’ve compiled a detailed timeline for you in the next slides.
Note: If you want to see exactly how it’s done in the Alison Events office, you can also purchase All the Essentials Wedding Planner, a pretty, premade binder with, as the name suggests, all the essentials to plan your big day.
Focus on the Big Picture
Above all, don’t sweat the small stuff! Remember what the day is about—you and your partner committing to spend your lives together.
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✔ Pick a date. Or for more venue options, pick a timeframe so you can be flexible if your venue is already booked on desired weekends.
✔ Find your venue.
✔ Reserve room blocks.
✔ Hire a graphic designer and get to work on your save-the-dates.
✔ Choose your wedding party.
✔ Start getting inspired. Research to help you decide what look you are going for.
✔ Go wedding dress shopping. Yes, this should be started early. Most brides don't realize how long it takes to get a wedding dress—it has to be ordered and then altered to fit, so you want as much time as possible to shop around.
Photography: Nathan Westerfield4 of 8
7-8 Months Out
✔ Find an officiant, or if you’re having a friend do it, let them know so they can start preparing a meaningful ceremony.
✔ Choose your bridesmaids’ dresses and think about what your groom and his guys will be wearing.
✔ Do a hair and makeup trial with your stylist.
✔ Begin planning the rehearsal dinner.
✔ Place your event rentals order.
✔ If it’s a destination wedding, make your travel plans.
✔ Begin the design process on your wedding invitations.
✔ Research the policy for marriage licenses where you are getting married.
Photography: Leo Patrone Photography5 of 8
✔ Order the wedding cake.
✔ Finalize all wedding attire.
✔ Finalize welcome baskets or wedding favors.
✔ Begin designing your programs, signage, and other day-of paper materials.
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Photography: Greg Vore7 of 8
1 Month Out
✔ RSVPs should be in—follow up with those guests who have not responded.
✔ Write escort cards and seating cards.
✔ Work on your seating chart (if you’ll have one).
✔ Break in your bridal shoes.
✔ Pick up any day-of paper materials.
✔ Confirm your marriage license.
✔ Find a housesitter or petsitter for the days you are honeymooning.
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✔ Confirm details with all your vendors and tell them the final guest count so they can plan accordingly.
✔ Pick up your wedding dress.
✔ Give a wedding timeline to your bridesmaids and groomsmen and review expectations with them.
✔ Pack your bags.
✔ Relax and prepare to enjoy your wedding day!