12+ months before
- Envision your wedding and draw up a budget.
- Assemble your “planning team.” Consider hiring a wedding consultant.
- Pick a wedding date and time. Select several options, then check with your venues, officiant, and important guests before finalizing.
- Start planning the guest list.
- Look for and book ceremony and reception sites.
- Ask friends and relatives to be in the wedding party.
- Optional: Have an engagement party. You may want to register beforehand for gifts.
8-10 months before
- Bride: Think about, shop for, and order your gown.
- Envision reception food.
- Decide what type of entertainment you want. A pianist for the cocktail hour, strolling violinists, a DJ, or band?
- Think about your floral decor.
- Research and book your wedding professionals. Interview and hire vendors: photographer, videographer, reception band or DJ, florist.
- Research a wedding insurance policy to protect your deposits.
- Research and reserve accommodations for out-of-town guests.
- Register for gifts.
- Contact rental companies if you need to rent anything for ceremony/reception, such as chairs, tables, and tent.
6-8 months before
- Book ceremony musicians.
- Order bridesmaid dresses.
- Start planning honeymoon.
- Send save-the-date cards. This is a particularly good idea if you’re marrying during a tourist or holiday season or having a destination wedding.
4-6 months before
- Attend prewedding counseling, if required.
- Shop for and order invitations and wedding rings.
- Shop for formalwear.
- Renew or get passports, if necessary.
- Envision your wedding cake and research, interview, and book a cake designer.
3 months before
- Order wedding cake.
- Hire a calligrapher, if you want your invitations professionally addressed.
- Attend your shower. (It may be earlier, depending on when hosts decide to have it.)
- Groom: Rent the men’s formalwear.
- Hire wedding-day transport: limousines, other cars. Look into transportation sooner if you’re considering renting streetcars or over-the-top travel.
2 months before
- Mail your invitations.
- Write your vows.
- Purchase gifts for parents, attendants, and each other.
- Book your stylist and try out big-day hairstyles.
- Book a makeup artist and go for a trial run.
1 month before
- Apply for a marriage license. Check with the local bureau in the town where you’ll wed.
- Bride: Have final gown fitting. Bring your maid of honor along to learn how to bustle your dress. Have the dress pressed and bring it home.
- Call all bridesmaids. Make sure they have their gowns ready for the wedding.
- Make last-minute adjustments with vendors.
- Create a wedding program to hand out to guests.
- Order and plan in-room welcome baskets for out-of-town guests.
2 weeks before
- Review final RSVP list and call any guests who have not yet sent a response.
- Deliver must-have shot lists to photographer and videographer. Include who should be in formal portraits and determine when portraits will be taken.
- Deliver final song list to your DJ or bandleader. Include special song requests and songs you don’t want played.
- Bride: Get your last prewedding haircut and color.
1 week before
- Give reception site/caterer final guest head count. Include vendors, such as the photographer or band members, who will expect a meal. Ask how many extra plates the caterer will prepare.
- Supply location manager with a list of vendor requests such as a table for DJ or setup space needed by florist.
- Plan reception seating chart.
- Print place and table cards, or finalize list with the calligrapher you have hired to do so.
- Call all wedding vendors and confirm arrangements.
- Give ceremony and reception site managers a schedule of vendor delivery and setup times, plus contact numbers.
- Groom: Get your hair trimmed.
- Attend bachelor/ette parties.
2-3 days before
- Bride: If you need to, have your gown pressed or steamed.
- Groom: Go for final fitting and pick up your formalwear.
- Groom: Ask the best man to make sure all groomsmen attend fittings and pick up their outfits.
- Determine wedding-party positions during ceremony and the order of the party in the processional and recessional.
- Hand off place cards, table cards, menus, disposable cameras, favors, and any other items for setting the tables to the caterer and/or reception site manager.
- Reconfirm final details with all vendors. Discuss any necessary last-minute substitutions.
- Call the limousine- or car-rental company for pickup times and locations.
- Arrange for guests without cars to be picked up from the airport or train station. Ask friends, attendants, or relatives to help.
- Deliver welcome baskets to the hotel concierge; make sure to include names and delivery instructions.
- Provide all wedding professionals with an emergency phone number to call on the day of the wedding.
- Write checks and/or talk to wedding hosts (usually your parents, if not you) about any final balances to be paid at the end of the reception.
- Rehearse ceremony. Meet with wedding party, ceremony readers, immediate family, and your officiant at the ceremony site to rehearse and iron out details.
- Bring unity candle, aisle runner, yarmulkes, or other ceremony accessories to the site.
- Give your marriage license to your officiant.
- Attend rehearsal dinner.
- Present attendants with gifts at the rehearsal dinner. You’ll want to do this especially if the gifts are accessories to be worn during the wedding.
- Present parents and each other with gifts.
- Give wedding bands to the best man and the maid of honor to hold during the ceremony.
- Give best man the officiant’s fee envelope, to be handed off after the ceremony.
- Introduce your reception site manager to your consultant or maid of honor for questions or problems during the reception.
- Assign a family member or attendant to be the photographer’s contact so he knows who is who.
- Prearrange for someone to return any rentals.
- Preplan for attendants to take the bride’s gown for cleaning and return the groom’s tux to the rental shop.
- Write and send thank-you notes to gift-bearing guests and vendors who were especially helpful.
Bruce Barone specializes in portrait, wedding, nature, and editorial/documentary photography.