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Wedding Planner Checklist: A Complete Timeline Guide

wedding planner checklist

You’re newly engaged, and already family and friends are asking, “When’s the big day?” with excited smiles. But just because your loved ones are curious about dates doesn’t mean you need to answer them immediately! First, actually savor being engaged! This is a special moment. Enjoy it. 

Then you can tackle making a wedding planner checklist to help you capture all the details make your special day one to remember for a lifetime. Why a wedding planner checklist? Well, wedding planning can be exciting and overwhelming… with a seemingly endless list of tasks to complete before the big day! 

The best way to stay organized and ahead of everything is to create a wedding timeline planner with a checklist of all the necessary tasks. By breaking down the planning process into manageable chunks and keeping track of your progress, you can ensure everything’s done well in advance. 

Then you can party away during your special day and trust there won’t be any last-minute stress! (At least not the type you could’ve planned for! We all have that one aunt or uncle who’s going to embarrass us)

What do you need to know before planning a wedding?

There is a lot to consider before you plan a wedding, and any wedding planner you talk with will have their own version.

We recommend before you look into or plan anything—venue, date, food, guest list, bridal party—you figure out your wedding budget. One thing to consider, though, is to do some initial research so your budget can be realistic and match what you decide on. 

Whether you’re paying for the wedding yourself, or you have family members who are contributing, you’ll need to know what you’re working with. By having a pre-determined budget, you can assess options (and possibly tweak the budget) and eliminate choices that exceed your finances. 

In addition to deciding on a budget, consider writing out a dream wedding list of elements you’d like to include! Pinterest is a great hub to track physical images that capture the feel and vibe you want. Plus, you can find some great DIY projects and links there, if that’s part of your wedding vision. 

When to start planning your wedding?

A timeline for a wedding isn’t always something we can control… sometimes we work around having a sick parent there (and moving the wedding up) or waiting so that someone critical can attend. 

Regardless of your time frame, you can tweak and adjust the checklists below. We went with twelve months, but the key is to include whatever you need on your version of the checklist, and compress or expand the timeline as your schedule requires. 

Feel free to eliminate items you’re not worried about—maybe you’re eloping or planning a destination wedding, and so some items aren’t as crucial—and add items that aren’t listed, such as arranging to borrow that one special heirloom every woman in your family for the past five generations has had at their wedding ceremony. There’s a higher demand than ever for weddings (and wedding vendors!). This means that it can be helpful to prepare a longer wedding timeline planner—but don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Let’s start with the basics.

How to Plan a Wedding Step by Step

Once you’ve done your initial budgeting and brainstorming for the wedding feel and elements, you’re ready to start the actual planning process for the wedding of your dreams!

It’s critical to have at least these two aspects (budget and general vision) in place before you dive into details. Why? Because they influence everything that comes after—from the guest list to venue size, from which aspects you’re okay negotiating on to which ones you absolutely will not budge on. 

Do you care more about having a live band than plated dishes? Would you rather spend more on a photographer and less on a DJ? You’ll have to make decisions like these and knowing your budget and vision will make the prioritization easier.

12 Months Before the Wedding

When you’re a year out from the wedding, you should be fairly close to nailing down a venue and date. When you explore venues, consider the size of your guest list. Do you need a gigantic space for 200 people, or is an intimate setting for 75 more fitting for your vision? 

Here are several other wedding planning tasks for this stage: 

  • Find a wedding venue (or two, if your ceremony and reception are at different locations!)
  • Confirm ceremony and reception venue reservations (remember, some venues are in high demand and need to be reserved 12 months in advance)
  • Set a date and time for the ceremony and reception 
  • Start to look at wedding dresses/tuxedos and suits (make sure you allow enough lead time!) 
  • Decide who’ll stand by your side (aka your wedding party) and ask them
  • Tastings for food! (One of the best perks of wedding planning)
  • Choose a photographer you trust to capture your special day. His work will soon be available in albums, prints and frames to decorate your home.

8-10 Months Before the Wedding

At this point in the wedding preparation, you’ll want to finalize some of the logistics, such as settling on a final guest list, booking hotel blocks for guests, and creating a wedding website you can share on your save the dates!

Here’s a handy checklist to help you track the rest: 

  • Make a guest list 
  • Book hotel room blocks with discounted rates, if available
  • Contact most of the suppliers involved and make the necessary reservations (florist, musicians or DJ, furniture and audiovisual equipment rental company, etc.);
  • Look at save the dates and other stationary items
  • Think about how to address wedding invitations
  • Insurance policies in case of unexpected problems or circumstances beyond your control. Look into wedding insurance to see if it’s a good option for you.

6-8 Months Before the Wedding

Wedding planning preparations might be moving into the “feeling real” stage, as you approach the six-month mark. Have fun with your partner as you register for necessary everyday items and more special or unique mementos.

  • Send out save the dates (maybe even choose customized ones featuring your engagement photos!)
  • It’s time for your wedding party to order their dresses so they have enough time for alterations. 
  • Decide on hair and makeup, whether you’re going to find someone to do it for you or tackle it yourself 
  • Explore honeymoon options, and if you’re going out of the country, don’t forget to get your passport  
  • Research officiants and if needed, musicians. If you’re doing a religious wedding, the officiant might have premarital requirements, such as counseling. Make sure you allow enough time for this. 
  • Designate the two people who will act as witnesses
  • Consult your provincial Department of Justice website for more information on the legal obligations of the future spouses

4-6 Months Before the Wedding

As the wedding draws closer, it can feel more stressful! That’s why you want to include stress-free and enjoyable tasks like deciding on your honeymoon plans, tasting wedding cakes and identifying your favorite flavor profiles, and settling on the perfect wedding favors for your guests to take home. 

Here’s a complete list for this stage:

  • Finalize honeymoon plans 
  • Decide on the final menu with the caterer 
  • Select and order your cake
  • Purchase wedding rings
  • Finalize invitations and ensure you know then drop them in the post 
  • Book officiant if you’re not having a religious ceremony
  • Personalize and/or choose wedding favors 
  • Decide on transportation for your guests, if necessary, and transportation for the two of you, if you’re driving off into the sunset. 

2-3 Months Before the Wedding

The finish line’s nearly in sight! Plus, you have fun things (like parties!) and hair/makeup tryouts to look forward to. Make sure you think about your wedding vows (if writing your own) and review the ceremony from start to finish. 

Here are some other tasks to consider at this point:

  • Decide on seating chart/ make seating cards if needed
  • Begin to write your vows 
  • Make sure your ceremony timeline is fully planned
  • Shop for thank you gifts for wedding party
  • Test run your hair + makeup
  • Throw some fun into the stressful: Have your bachelorette/bachelor party and wedding shower. Savor knowing you don’t have to worry about things to write in a wedding card, even if your guests do!
  • Create welcome bags for out-of-town guests
  • Wedding dress/suit fitting + undergarments purchase for dress 

A few weeks before the wedding…

The countdown has really begun: are you excited?

Although our checklist ends with the final 2-3 months, there are several things you’ll want to remember in the month or weeks before the wedding, including: 

  • Take care of the legal documents required for the marriage—this is the most important thing! 
  • Hunt down those who haven’t RSVPed
  • Send final headcount to venue/caterer after finalizing RSVPs. Confirm seating chart 
  • Check in with vendors and ensure everything’s ready 
  • Book final beauty appointments 
  • Pack overnight bag (Don’t forget to book a room for the wedding night!)
  • Practice your wedding vows 
  • Confirm the wedding shot list with the photographer and include your favorite wedding picture ideas
  • Attend the final fitting + break in your wedding shoes
  • Get cash for payments/tips and place in envelopes 
  • Review the wedding day timeline 

Let your Maid of Honor and Best Man be in charge of a simple wedding checklist for the day of the wedding with all the important details. 

There are whole books about this, so let them handle it, but if there’s anything specific you want covered, give it to them and trust them to show up for you and make sure it happens. 

And there you have it! A simple wedding checklist that you can adapt to meet your own specific needs. 

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