What follows is a basic order of events to use when planning for your wedding day. Establishing the aesthetic part of your wedding is definitely the fun part. However, the wedding details can become overwhelming in a hurry. There are so many things to plan for; the coordination of all this detail can quickly take the enjoyment away if you’re not careful. So, I’ve put together this simple check list to refer to and keep yourself as sane as possible. Whether you’re a bride-to-be, parent, Maid of Honor, or attendee, this list will let you know what to expect and how to be better prepared. Please keep in mind, that although this checklist is based on a yearlong plan, it can be adjusted for either longer or shorter planning timelines.
12 Months Out
- Select and Book a Venue: Popular venues will be booked up to a year in advance. If you have your heart set on a venue and you wait too long, you may have to compromise your wedding date.
- Hire your photographer and videographer: Popular photographers and videographers are also booked up to a year in advance. Hiring your photography and video professionals now will give you ample time to build a rapport with them. They are the only wedding day vendors (besides your planner/coordinator) you will spend the entire day with. Also, many of them have bridal and engagement pieces built into their packages. Hiring this far in advance ensures you have time to take advantage of those.
- Engagement Party: Traditionally, the bride’s parents host an engagement party, but it’s totally optional.
- Draft a Guest List: With today’s technology, I would like to recommend using Google Drive to keep your lists on. You can share them with other people and even allow them to make revisions and update the list as needed. This way, you avoid the issue of having multiple versions of the same document floating around and lessen the chance that someone may inadvertently be left off from version to version.
- Register for Gifts: Disregard this step if you’re planning a destination wedding. Otherwise, it’s better to just go ahead and get this out of the way to make room for other details. Also, preparing your registries early allows guests to send you some of the items as engagement or shower gifts. Your registries can always be revisited.
10 Months Out
- Choose an Officiant: Like venues, ceremony officiants book up fast.
- Pick Your Bridal Party: The sooner you choose your bridal party, the sooner you’ll have help planning and people to bounce ideas off of. You also want to give the bridal party as much time to plan to attend your big day—especially if it’s a destination wedding.
- Retain Vendors: Most importantly, book a photographer. Many, like me, offer all-inclusive packages and you’ll need a photographer for the next item on this list. Deciding on a wedding planner, caterer, DJ or band, and the florist is smart at this time too. If you choose an experienced wedding planner, she can offer a lot of insight about the other vendors. In all cases, choose someone with whom you can get along. Personalities that clash do not make for successful wedding planning.
- Plan Engagement Photos: Engagement photos are optional. However, many couples do opt for an engagement session so they can include an professional photo in their save-the-dates, invitations, or newspaper announcement.
8 Months Out
- Purchase Your Dress: If you end up ordering a dress, it can take up to eight months to receive—especially if you are doing something customized. Alterations may also be needed, so plan accordingly.
- Block Hotel Rooms: If you have a handful of guests coming in from out of town or you’re having 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—at least the most tasteful.
- Begin Hair & Makeup Trials: 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.
6 Months Out
- 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.
- Book Honeymoon: This is almost as delightful as the cake tasting. If you’re not quite sure where you want to go, list a few possibilities and begin researching transportation options, accommodations and local attractions. The research should help you make a decision.
- Order Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Bridesmaids dresses can take up to five months to receive. You also want to allow enough time for alterations.
- Purchase Wedding Bands: If you are customizing your wedding bands, it’s best to order them in advance in case there are any issues with their sizing or inscriptions.
4 Months Out
- Confirm Vendors: Confirm and book your additional vendors for lighting, cake delivery, sound equipment, furniture and linen rentals, photo booth, etc.
- Plan Rehearsal Dinner: Traditionally, the groom’s family hosts the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding. Tradition has also dictated that the dinner is reserved for the wedding party and parents only, but this is changing. It is becoming more common to include out-of-town guests, special childhood or college friends, etc., Although, only the actual wedding party attends the ceremony rehearsal.
- Select Groomsmen Attire: Most rent, but even if the groomsmen are purchasing, it’s an excellent idea to get this sorted out as soon as possible to avoid any last minute mishaps.
- Hair & Makeup Finalization: Finalize your look and make sure you have the appropriate makeup for touch ups on the day of the wedding.
In my next blog, I’ll cover what should happen during the next three months prior to your wedding day. Buckle down because it’s crunch time!
Continue reading this series here.
I started Ata-Girl Photography Co. in 2010 and I am one of the premier San Antonio wedding photographers who is available for local and destination weddings. In addition to wedding photography, I also specialize in high school seniors and family portraits in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. I am a professional photographer who enjoys documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. When I’m not photographing a wedding, family or high school senior, I enjoy watching my daughter play softball, hiking, cycling and listening to Elvis!