With so many tasks to take care of and details to arrange, planning a wedding can seem overwhelming and stressful. This handy wedding planning checklist will help keep you on track so that no detail is forgotten.
18 months to go
Draft your guest list
It’s difficult to determine a wedding budget, or find your dream wedding venue without knowing how many people you’d like at your wedding.
Putting your guest list together can be a challenge, but you need to be realistic about how many people you want to invite so you can work out how big a venue you will need – there’s no point looking for a venue that holds 70 people if you’re planning on inviting 150! It’s a good idea to split your guest list into two categories – the people you absolutely have to have there and another list of people you’d like to have if you could and if your budget allows. Don’t worry if your initial list seems huge, you’ll keep going back to it and adjusting it until you have the final version. Don’t forget to include yourselves, your bridal party and family on your guest list to make sure they are included in the numbers.
Set your budget
Now you have a rough idea of how many guests you’ll be inviting, have a ballpark figure in your mind about how much you want to spend per head, and the elements of your wedding that are most important to you – these are the areas you’ll likely want to spend more of your budget on.
If the venue and atmosphere is important to you, allocate more of your budget to the venue. If great food, wine and photos are your highest priority, allocate more of your budget to those areas. When setting you budget, list the top three things that are most important to you for your wedding and allocate accordingly. If you want lots of flowers with a floral arch and statement centrepieces that is going to cost more of your budget than pillar arrangements and low centrepieces. Equally, flowers might not be that important to you so you might want to allocate less to that category.
This is one area where having a wedding planner is super helpful, as we can guide you and give you advice on how to realistically budget for each element of your wedding.
Enlist the professional help of a Wedding Planner
If your budget allows, seriously consider hiring a wedding planner. They will help guide you through the process – from venue and supplier recommendations to tracking your budget and handling all the logistics, they’ll also manage the day itself for you too.
Discuss and decide on the type of wedding you want – church ceremony? Marquee reception? Civil ceremony and reception at the same location? Barn wedding? Mansion House? Country House? There are endless options for your wedding and it’s best to sit down and talk about what you want together so you’re both on the same page before you start planning.
Decide on your preferred wedding date
One of the most important planning decisions to tackle early on, and not just for practical reasons. Setting the date early will impact all the other areas of your wedding and once you have made that first decision, you’ll be able to go ahead and secure your venue and suppliers for your wedding day.
Choose a date that suits you both, although you may want to take into account any significant dates that involve your family or close friends, major sporting events and bank holidays. The earlier you set the date the more time you have to plan.
Research & provisionally book your wedding venues
Think about and research potential venues and locations for your ceremony and reception. Once you’ve got a list of the venues you like, make a shortlist and make sure you go and visit each one, taking photos of the spaces and the grounds too, so each venue is clear in your mind. Often photos of the venues or spaces are very different in real life than they are online!
Ensure you know exactly what is included when booking your reception venue – is catering and furniture included? Is there a certain time you need to get out by? Are there any restrictions you need to be aware of? Again, this is where having a wedding planner on board is invaluable as we know all the ins and outs of venues and possible restrictions and can help you work out which venue best suits your requirements.
Make sure you check the church (for a religious ceremony), registrar (for a civil ceremony) or celebrant are also free on the dates you are looking at – don’t put down any venue deposits until you know there’s someone to marry you on the date you want. Most venues will let you provisionally hold the date for a certain number of days while you make the necessary calls to relevant parties.
Confirm the Registrar or Church is available on your preferred date
If you’d like a civil ceremony, you’ll need to book a registrar who will conduct the ceremony. You’ll need to contact your county council to do this (search “book a registrar” and the name of your county council). Some registry offices don’t let you book a registrar earlier than a year in advance so do keep that in mind.
If you’re opting for a church ceremony, you’ll need to check with the church that it is available on your preferred date. They will also have requirements you’ll need to meet in order to get married there so make sure you check that too.
Book your wedding venue
Now the registrar or church is confirmed, you can go ahead and book your wedding venue and pay the deposit.
Invest in wedding insurance – weddings are expensive and emotional and it is best to be prepared in case something does happen. Wedding insurance covers you if there is a problem with the venue or a supplier, but be mindful that it does not cover if one of you changes their mind.
16 months to go
Research and book your suppliers
It so important to have the right team of suppliers working with you on your wedding day, and this is again an area where having a wedding planner can prove invaluable. Don’t just opt for the cheapest suppliers, make sure you do your research and get at least 3 quotes for each supplier/service you are looking for – caterer (if not provided by your venue), photographer, videographer, florist, cake etc. Once you have researched, shortlisted and found your favourite, make sure you book them straight away, some suppliers get booked up so far in advance you don’t want to miss out.
Research wedding dresses
Your Pinterest board may be full of ideas of wedding dresses and hair styles, so do your research on where you can find your favourite styles.
12 months to go
Giving notice/registering your intention to marry
You’ll need to make an appointment to give notice at your local register office, and you must have lived in that registration district for the past 7 days. If you and your partner live in different registration districts, you’ll need to give notice separately (you don’t have to do this on the same day). For more information on giving notice, refer to the Gov.uk website.
Choose your bridal party
Once you’ve set the date, it’s time to choose your bridal party – bridesmaids, best man, ushers, groomsmen etc. There are no rules on the size of bridal party or indeed you might even choose not to have a bridal party, it is entirely up to you.
Send Save the Date cards
Now you have your date confirmed and your venue/s booked, it’s worthwhile letting your guests know to save the date for your wedding day. This is especially useful if your wedding date is quite far in advance, if your wedding is on a bank holiday, or if your guests are travelling from abroad or across the country to attend. It’s also a nice keepsake for your guests too!
Research ideas for venue décor & styling
Think about how you want your ceremony and reception venue to be decorated. If your venue is a blank space, consider hiring a venue stylist to dress the spaces.
Start dress shopping
An exciting part of the wedding planning process, book appointments to go and try on a selection of dresses. Ensure you allow enough time to order you dress, some boutiques consider under six months a ‘rush order’ and will apply a fee.
10 months to go
Order wedding cake
Think about the type of cake you’d like and the style and design of the cake. Most cake designers offer sample boxes too, so make sure to taste the cake before you order.
Choose and order your stationery
Make sure you allow plenty of time to order your stationery, especially if it is a bespoke design, and don’t forget to allow plenty of time to send your invites. Have a think about other stationery you might like for your wedding such as programmes/order of service, menus, table place cards and table plans.
Dress your bridal party
Choose your bridesmaid dresses and accessories and the outfits for the groom, best man and groomsmen, as well as any accessories.
Book your honeymoon
If you’re having a honeymoon, book your travel and hotel and make sure your passports are valid – if not, renew them in plenty of time before you’re set to travel.
8 months to go
Reserve accommodation for you and your guests
Think about where you will spend your first night as a married couple and if you’re not heading off straight away on a honeymoon or mini break, perhaps book a nice hotel room for the night. For guests who will need overnight accommodation the night of your wedding, it’s helpful to reserve rooms for them on their behalf. It’s also useful to include this information with your invites.
Set up your wedding gift list
If you are opting for a wedding gift list, decide where you want it to be hosted and start setting it up. Include a range of products so there’s something for all budgets if you’ve opted for a traditional gift registry.
Choose the readings/poems for your ceremony
Personalise your wedding ceremony by choosing poems and readings to be read within the ceremony. If you’re having a religious ceremony, you’ll need to choose hymns as well, for a civil ceremony bear in mind your music and reading choices cannot include religious references.
Choose your ceremony and reception music
Think about the type of music you want to include in your ceremony – what will you walk down the aisle to? Again, civil ceremonies cannot include any religious music. Do you want a DJ, or a band for your reception? Once you have decided this you can book in the suppliers if you haven’t already.
6 months to go
Finalise your guest list and send wedding invitations
Send out your invitations, including RSVP cards to all your guests on your finalised guest list. It’s always nice to send an invite to both sets of parents and the bridal party too. Keep a set of your stationery so your photographer can take photos on the day too.
You’ll most likely have two – three dress fittings before the big day, think about the shoes and underwear you’ll be wearing on the day, and any other accessories such as hair pieces, veils and jewellery.
Buy wedding rings
Allow plenty of time if you are choosing a bespoke design and make sure you have the rings at least a few days before the wedding just in case!
Choose and order wedding favours
If you’re opting to include wedding favours as part of your guest experience, think about items that are personal to you both as a couple and will be memorable of your wedding.
Write your vows
It might seem like something you can leave till the last minute, but if you’re writing your own vows it might take you longer than you think so give yourself plenty of time to let the words flow.
4 months to go
Hair and make-up trial
Explore different options and discover what suits you by having a trial with your hair and makeup artist. If you can, try to arrange it so it coincides with a night out or your hen do so you’re suitably glam and can really put your make up to the test.
Have a menu tasting with your caterers
Narrow down your selection for the wedding breakfast and canapé choices to a few options and then arrange to attend a menu tasting with your caterer so you can decide which options you like the most, to be served on your wedding day.
Draft your table plan
A task a lot of people dread as it can cause a lot of stress – when you start to put together your table plan work out who can sit next to who and who definitely cannot sit together and try and make it all make sense. There will be many versions of the table plan so be warned, it will not be right the first time round!
2 months to go
Follow up with guests who haven’t RSVP’d
So you can let your venue and suppliers know final numbers, it’s time to follow up with anyone who hasn’t yet RSVP’d for a definitive answer as to whether they’ll be attending.
1 month to go
Confirm all your suppliers
Contact your suppliers and make sure they have your booking confirmed, along with any other details they will need to know.
Final dress fitting with your accessories
Have your final dress fitting with all your accessories, including the shoes you’ll be wearing on the day. Make sure to wear them in before the big day so they won’t give you blisters or sore feet!
Finalise table plan and organise place cards
Now you’ve had all the RSVP’s in you can finalise the table plan and start organising place cards for each place setting, along with menu cards and any other details for your tables
Settle final balances with your suppliers and venue
Make sure all the final payments have been made to your suppliers and venue, according to the contracts you have with them.
Photographer shot list
Put together a list of must have photos you would like your photographer to take on the day. It’s useful to send this across to your photographer in advance too.
Wedding party thank you gifts
Buy gifts for your bridal party as a thank you for being part of your wedding.
One week to go
Confirm bookings and timings with all suppliers and venue/s
Give yourself peace of mind by checking in with all your suppliers ahead of the big day to double check timings and to make sure they know what your requirements are.
Reconfirm final numbers and dietary requirements with your caterer
By this stage, you should know who is attending and who isn’t. Confirm the final numbers with your caterers and make sure they are aware of any dietary requirements
If you’re having one, hold a rehearsal of the ceremony in your ceremony or reception venue, to go through what will happen on the day and to make sure all of your bridal party know where they need to be and when they need to be there.
Wedding cake delivery
Confirm when the wedding cake will be delivered and set up.
The day before
This is where having a wedding planner really is invaluable. They will reconfirm all the wedding timings and details with your suppliers and bridal party, and make sure everything is ready to go, leaving you to relax and prepare for your big day.
The above list is of course subjective and there are no hard and fast rules in the order in which to do things, this is purely a guide to help you check things off that to-do list.
Every couple and wedding is different and while you may check everything off the list, some of the items might not apply to you. Just remember, it takes the same amount of planning regardless of whether your wedding date is 2 years or 2 months away.
To help you keep on top of your wedding planning, click here to download this checklist
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