You’ve said yes to the big question (or popped the question yourself), posted the obligatory #ringselfie, made the excited calls to friends and family (and hopefully you’ve received a few thortful engagement cards) – once the post-proposal high wears off, it’s time to start planning for the big day. Once you start planning your wedding, it’s easy to get panicked about how much there is to do – how are you meant to know about all the different kinds of flowers? What kind of cake will please your mates, but also your great-aunt Phyllis? And what should go on the wedding party playlist?
It sounds like you need a wedding planning checklist… and oh, how convenient, here’s one, on this very page, ready for you. We’ve got your essential wedding planning checklist, with loads of wedding planning tips for the big-ticket items. When it comes to planning your wedding, our advice is simple: don’t get overwhelmed – get organised.
How long does it take to plan a wedding?
Honestly – like every couple, every wedding is different, and so the time it takes for wedding planning will be different too. A low-key, casual affair like a registry office service with a family dinner is very different to a lavish celebration at a castle or a grand hotel! Some couples may be able to plan a wedding in weeks, but for most of us, you’ll be looking at a timetable of months or years. Our wedding planning guide assumes that planning your wedding will take about 12 months – planning about a year in advance should mean you’re able to get the venue and suppliers you really want.
The ultimate wedding checklist
- Decide what kind of wedding you want
- Get some inspiration
- Do your research and set a budget
- Pick the venue
- Plan the guest list
- Choose the wedding party
- Book your vendors
- Register for gifts
- Send save the dates
- Buy the wedding dress
- Order the wedding party’s outfits
- Get a marriage license
- Confirm the details with your vendors and venue
- Send invitations
- Final fittings
- Arrange your seating plan
Decide what kind of wedding you want
Set your wedding priorities – the most important part, obviously, is that at the end of the day, you and your special someone will be happily married. But what about the rest of the day – do you just want a day that’s romantic and intimate, with time to see all of your friends and family – or is it all about a party that will get people drinking and dancing until the small hours? Deciding your priorities early on will help your wedding planning massively when it comes to setting a wedding budget.
Get some inspiration
Start looking for ideas and inspiration for the big day! The look, feel and theme starts here – a colour scheme will help choose your florals, your bridal party dresses and suits, and even your decorations – so pick carefully. Our top tip? Pinterest is a bride’s best friend for wedding planning inspo. Start pulling together some boards for wedding inspiration – find initial ideas for everything from the dress to the décor.
Do your research and set a budget
It’s time to start scoping out how much everything is going to cost you – so get a spreadsheet going and track rough costs for the main items. That means it’s time to look at your likely vendors for venue hire, food and drink, photography, florists, cake, decorations – all the things that are going to cost you. For now it’s just rough working out, but it will give you a steer on your budget – an essential before you go any further planning your wedding!
Pick the venue
More than anything, the venue will set the mood for your big day! A grand hotel or historic building won’t need much ‘dressing up’ to give you a fancy vibe – but if you really want to put your unique stamp on your big day, maybe look at more of a blank canvas, like a rustic barn or an event space. Wedding planning tip – ask friends and family for recommendations rather than relying on a Google search. Pretty photography online can’t tell you how a place really feels on the day!
Plan the guest list
This is a biggie – and a social etiquette minefield. If you’re planning a massive bash, you don’t have to worry too much about this, and you can invite plenty of people. But if you’re keeping costs down, or planning an intimate wedding, it’s possible only some of your nearest and dearest will make the cut. Hopefully your family and friends are super chill and won’t be mortally offended. Hopefully.
Choose the wedding party
Traditionally, you’re looking at a maid of honour, bridesmaids, a best man, groomsmen – and then page boys or flower girls to really up the cuteness factor of your wedding. Obviously, these best-of-the-bunch friends will also be planning/attending your hen or stag parties, so pick carefully.
Book your vendors
Time to confirm just about everything else – here’s a handy little wedding planning checklist within a checklist to make sure you’ve boxed off all of your bookings:
- Florist (check out our handy guide to choosing your wedding flowers here)
- Wedding band or DJ for the reception
- Any other entertainment
- Photographer and/or videographer
- Any additional catering
- Hiring extra decoration
- Transport to and from the ceremony and reception
Register for gifts
Time to have some fun – go make yourself a big ol’ wishlist and register for your wedding gifts. Once you’ve got your list, make sure you let everyone know where you’re registered – include the information in your save the dates, or email a link to your guest list. If you’re already comfortably set up for household appliances, lots of couples now ask for donations to the honeymoon fund – it might feel awkward asking people to give money rather than things, but for some couples it just makes more sense!
Send save the dates
Save the dates let your guests know to block off your wedding dates, book any time off work, and book accommodation. In terms of when to send save the dates, the general rule of thumb is between six and eight months before the wedding – that should give everyone who’s planning on attending enough time to make arrangements! thortful wedding planning tip: If you decide you’d rather not have children at your big day, now’s the time to let parents know.
Buy the wedding dress
For the girls, this is the Big One, and maybe the most agonised-over part of wedding planning – buying your wedding dress. Most bridal gowns are made to order, so you need to factor in time for production, a second fitting, and any alterations with plenty of time to avoid paying rush fees. There’s no rule on when to buy your wedding dress, but in general you want to be placing your order to buy your wedding dress no later than 6 or 7 months before your wedding date.
Order the wedding party’s outfits
You’ll probably be doing this around the same time as you’re shopping for a wedding dress, but if you’re planning on ordering your bridesmaids and flower girls made-to-order dresses, factor in a similar amount of time to allow for production and alterations. Ditto for the guys – if you want custom suits, make sure you order with enough time for fitting and tailoring.
Give notice to the Register Office
Get a marriage license, or your dream day won’t be happening! In England and Wales, you have to give at least 29 days notice to the Register Office before your wedding day – the notice is valid for 12 months, so get this ticked off the wedding planning checklist well ahead of time! You wouldn’t believe how often this is overlooked – and your last month of wedding planning is bound to be busy, so save yourself the last minute stress.
Confirm the details with your vendors and venue
You’re in the final countdown (cue the 80s glam rock) so it’s time to consult your wedding planning spreadsheet and go back to all of your suppliers. Confirm final costs, pay deposits, arrange any extras, and let them know about access to your venue on the day – what time they should arrive, where they need to deliver to, that kind of thing.
If you’re keeping with tradition, your invitations should go out about eight weeks before the big day. The invitations should have all of the information your guests need, and all the RSVP information that you need– that’s right, it’s time for another mini wedding planning checklist:
- Date and time, and an optional itinerary
- Location of the ceremony/reception
- Dress code
- Directions or a map
Get your RSVPs
The invitations should also have your RSVP details, whether you want them to be posted back, emailed, or if you’re using a wedding website. Include:
- Names of the guests invited (or plus ones!)
- An envelope to send the RSVP back, or links to your wedding website or email address
- Dietary requirements or allergies
- Deadline to respond
By now, your dresses and suits should have arrived – go for your final fittings for any last minute alterations and changes. Pick up anything you’re missing like jewellery, accessories or shoes. thortful wedding planning tip: wear your wedding shoes around the house before the big day! Nothing will put a cramp on your day like shoes that are pinching or rubbing. Plus you get to swan around the house feeling fancy. Win-win.
Arrange your seating plan
Another potential social etiquette nightmare – decide where everyone will be sitting during dinner and reception. Navigate any ancient family feuds, attempt to play matchmaker with your single friends, and maybe space out any hard-partying friends so you don’t have that one table that goes hard ordering shots all night.
You’re on the final run now – so here’s a few last-minute jobs that are easy to overlook in the rush of final wedding planning. That’s right, it’s one more mini wedding planning checklist…
- Priority photography list for the photographer – make sure you get the pictures you want with family.
- Spa and beauty treatments – book these for the week before the wedding in case a spray tan goes wrong, or your facial causes you to break out in spots!
- Wedding day essentials – designate a bridesmaid to carry a wedding survival kit on the day with things like your lipstick, plasters, needle and thread, and tissues).
- Pack for your honeymoon or minimoon – no-one wants to come home from your wedding and pack, so sort your suitcase well ahead of time.
And the last step? Well, now you go get married. After months of wedding planning, budgeting, organising and stressing – you get to marry the love of your life, and start the next chapter of your story together. And not to get all soppy, but that’s the magic part.
Hopefully, as long as you followed our essential wedding planning checklist, your big day will run smoothly and like a dream – so you can go start your married life together in newlywed bliss.
For more wedding-related inspiration, check out the rest of our blog!