Planning Timeline for Your Wedding

Your wedding date is a year away - it seems like an eternity! As formal weddings have become more and more popular, you should allow about one year for planning. Many reception facilities are reserved as far as twelve to eighteen months in advance during the summer months and December. The size and formality of your wedding will play an important part in determining your date and schedule. Even if your wedding is small and less formal, allow yourself a minimum of three months. The more time you have to plan, the better your chances of reserving your first choices. On the biggest day of your life, who wants to settle for less? With all you have to do, time will fly quicker than you think!

The following schedule and checklist provide you with the basis for organizing your planning time and ensure that all the details will be handled. These are strictly recommendations; we encourage you to see when the businesses themselves say they need to be reserved as you read the rest of the book.


  • Select a wedding date and time (be flexible)
  • Buy a wedding notebook or organizer
  • Figure out your budget and write it down
  • Determine type of wedding and reception: formality, size, colors, and theme
  • Decide on the ceremony site and make an appointment with the clergy
  • Reserve a reception facility; if there's no in-house catering, you will need to find a caterer
  • Start compiling names and addresses of guests
  • Decide on wedding attendants (bridesmaids and groomsmen)
  • Shop for your wedding gown and headpiece
  • Select a professional photographer
  • Select a professional videographer
  • Start collecting favorite photographs from both of your childhoods through the present; you'll want to use them in your wedding video or multi-image slide program
  • Select dresses for your bridesmaids
  • Find a florist
  • Mail out engagement announcements
  • Send an announcement to your local paper
  • Register at the bridal registry stores of your choice (more than one is fine)
  • Reserve a band, orchestra, string quartet, or DJ for your reception (if you choose)
  • Decide on honeymoon destination; if it's a popular area, make reservations now


  • Compile the final guest list; delete or correct as needed
  • Make sure all deposits are paid for services reserved
  • Finish planning the honeymoon
  • Order bridal attire; some manufacturers require up to six months for delivery
  • Order the wedding cake
  • Have groom, groomsmen, and ushers fitted for formal wear
  • Purchase your wedding rings
  • Order invitations, thank-you notes, imprinted napkins, and wedding programs
  • Ask people to handle certain duties like candle lighting, guest book, cake serving
  • Select musicians for ceremony


  • Plan ceremony rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
  • Address invitations (mail four to six weeks prior to wedding)
  • Organize details with service providers: reception facility, photographer, etc.
  • Check accommodations for out-of-town guests; send them information
  • Make beauty appointments: hair, nails, massage, facial, and makeup
  • Arrange for final fittings for your gown and bridesmaids dresses
  • Make your transportation arrangements for the wedding day
  • Purchase gifts for your attendants
  • Shop for your trousseau, lingerie, and going-away outfit
  • Give a bridesmaids' luncheon or bachelor party (optional)
  • Send thank-yous for gifts received early
  • Get accessories: garter, unity candle, toasting goblets, ring-bearer pillow, etc.


  • Decide where you'll be living and send change-of-address cards to post office
  • Confirm accommodations arranged for out-of-town guests
  • Get your final count of guests to caterer
  • Delegate last-minute errands and details
  • Make any necessary lists for photographer, videographer, and musicians
  • Ask a responsible person to coordinate services and people on the wedding day; give them a list of who and what is supposed to be where and when
  • Get your marriage license. Note: If you were married before, you'll need to know the date and place of the divorce or annulment. You may also need to have paperwork proof of divorce or annulment
  • Pick up your wedding rings; make sure they are the correct sizes
  • Pick up wedding attire; try it all on one last time to make sure it fits
  • Make sure bridesmaids have their dresses, shoes, and accessories, and they all fit
  • Keep up on writing thank-yous; don't let them accumulate
  • Pamper yourself and make sure you eat right and get enough sleep


  • Eat a good breakfast
  • Relax and enjoy getting ready for your big day
  • Go to the hairdresser or start fixing your hair a few hours prior to the wedding
  • Put all the accessories you will need for dressing in one place
  • If pictures are being taken before the ceremony, be ready at least two hours before
  • Just enjoy the day! All your months of planning will make your day perfect!

Make arrangements to change your name (if you choose) on your social security card, driver's license, passport, vehicle registration, bank accounts, all types of insurance, paychecks, and benefits at your place of employment, credit cards, mortgage companies and student loans, voter registration, business cards, frequent-flier programs, and all utility companies. If you are a student, contact your school to notify them of your new name, and ask them to change it in their records. Also contact the post office.