Wedding Planning Guide

Print a mini 5x7 wedding planning guide booklet!
Print a mini 5x7 wedding planning guide booklet!

A planning guide for your wedding is an essential tool for effective time management. Any wedding guide should include a budget, vendor list and many other important components to ensure you stay on track.

After the Engagement

Getting engaged is an exciting time for all brides-to-be. However, once the initial thrill wears off, it's time to get down to business. There are several important decisions that need to be made fairly quickly if you want to have your wedding within a year to a year and a half after your engagement.

Set the Date

The first thing to do is set a wedding date. Begin by deciding how long an engagement you want to have. This varies for many couples, with many engagements being anywhere from six to eighteen months long. The reason for the varied length depends on a variety of factors, including finances, school and other important dates.

Once you have narrowed down the length of time, decide on exactly which season and month you want to marry in. Many couples wait to pin down the exact weekend until they have consulted with their chosen ceremony and reception locations. However, it's always best to have a date in mind early so you can start planning.

Set the Budget

Wedding Budget Planner
Download a helpful wedding budget planner.

The budget is another important aspect of your wedding which needs to be decided early on. If not, you could end up vastly underestimating the cost of your entire wedding. Don't start out your marriage in debt from lack of planning.

Decide whether you want a small or large wedding, and how luxurious it will be. A small wedding can be expensive if you want the best of everything, while a large one doesn't need to cost a lot if it's a casual backyard wedding.

Many brides and grooms pay for weddings themselves in the 21st century. However, many parents still want to contribute to the cost of their child's wedding. If your parents have offered their help, be sure to include them in your budget planning.

If you need help downloading the printable budget, check out these helpful tips.

Book Location

Popular wedding locations can be booked anywhere from six months to two years in advance. It's important to book your locations early if you have particular ones in mind, or if you are limited by budget concerns. This is also important if you plan to have the ceremony in one place and the reception in another. Coordinating the two can be problematic, especially during peak wedding season.

Many locations, like other vendors, will require a deposit to reserve your date. Make sure you find out the cancellation policy, have a copy of the contract and a detailed receipt upon choosing your location.

General Wedding Planning Overview

A wedding planning timeline is a helpful resource for brides who want to know exactly when to do what when it comes to their wedding. However, these timelines aren't always accurate, as many are based on a one-year engagement. Instead, start with what needs to be done right after the engagement, followed by a general overview and then the last minute details. This way, you can work on your own schedule.

Vendor Meetings and Selection Process

Getting vendor quotes and setting up meetings is a huge part of the wedding planning process. The most common vendors booked for weddings include:

  • Professional photographer
  • Florist
  • Caterer and bartending services
  • Wedding cake decorator

Get recommendations from friends and family, as well as checking out websites for local vendors online. Meet with your two to three favorite choices and make note of what packages they offer and how much each one costs. Once you meet someone with the right fit who is available on your wedding date, you will usually put down a deposit and sign a contract for services.

Religious and Legal Requirements

Preparing for Marriage
Many religions require marriage preparation classes.

If you are planning a religious wedding ceremony, it is important to find out what requirements you need to fulfill before you can be wed in your house of worship. This is especially important if your fiance needs to convert to your religion. Even without a need for conversion, many religions require marriage counseling and possibly classes before the nuptials. They may be offered only at certain times, or take several months to complete, so be sure you find out these details right away.

It's also best to check on legal requirements at this time, too. Most states have a short waiting period for marriage licenses, but you want to be sure you know how long it is so you don't miss your window of opportunity. If you're planning a destination wedding, it's important to find out exactly what you need to do to make your marriage legal in the U.S. upon your return.

Ladies' Attire

Brides often begin searching for their dress as soon as they get engaged. If you are getting married within a year, this is a great idea. Many dresses need to be ordered from a designer and will take anywhere from four to six months to arrive. However, if your wedding is over a year away, don't shop too early unless you know you can stay out of the bridal salon once it's purchased. You may find your dream dress in new collection for the next year and be disappointed you bought too early.

Bridesmaids' dresses also need to be chosen and ordered around three to six months before the wedding. In the case of a shorter engagement, check out David's Bridal for a wedding gown that can be purchased off the rack, as well as the special occasion section of department stores for bridesmaids' dresses.

Guest List and Invitations

Wedding Invitation Quiz
Take this wedding invitation quiz!

The guest list is an important part of the wedding, not only because it means your family and friends will witness this momentous occasion, but also because it will determine other factors like seating and the number of invitations ordered.

  • If you choose to make your invitations, you will need to gather supplies and get started on them as soon as everything essential is booked. Invitations do not "go bad" so you can complete them once your date and location are secured.
  • Ordering invitations usually requires at least three to six weeks for the printer to create them and ship them to you. Make any inserts, such as directions from the ceremony to reception location, while you await their arrival.
  • Invitations should be mailed approximately eight weeks before the wedding, or sooner if the wedding is held near a holiday or you have a lot of out-of-town guests.


The amount of decorating you need to do for your wedding will depend on your preference and your ceremony and reception locations. Some places need a lot of jazzing up, while others are perfect in their simplicity. After you have picked a wedding color scheme and/or theme, start looking for table linens, candles and lighting.

If you want to rent wedding arches, columns, backdrops, tables or other items, contact a rental agency and choose your items early so you have the best selection. Brides who want to make their decorations themselves can start this process as soon as they find what they need.

Plan the Honeymoon

If you and your fiance want to go on a honeymoon, it's best to start planning this early. Set a budget and decide on your honeymoon destination. Speak with a travel agent about finding the best deals for your trip.

Last Minute Details

Once the major details are figured out, you are often left with a bit of downtime for cleaning up last minute details before the wedding.

Wedding Tuxedo Gallery
Pick out a sharp tuxedo!

One to Two Months Before the Wedding

There are a few things that are usually done just a month or two before the wedding. These items are still important, but do not need the lead time required for the major decisions.

  • Wedding tuxedos for the men in the bridal party are usually ordered six weeks before the wedding. Pick them up the day before the wedding and try them on in the rental store to make sure they fit correctly.
  • Order or make your wedding favors. Don't forget to add a tag with a thank you message to your guests.
  • Book a rehearsal dinner location and send out invitations.
  • Attend any bridal showers thrown in your honor, and send thank you notes promptly.
  • Set any bridal beauty appointments, such as manicures and pedicures. Have a trial run for your wedding day hairstyle and makeup at your chosen salon.
  • Book the final fitting for your wedding dress.
  • Finalize honeymoon details.
  • Purchase attendant gifts.
  • Write wedding ceremony programs.

One Week Before Wedding

The week before the wedding is often strenuous. It doesn't have to be stressful if you know exactly what needs to be done. Typically, this includes:

Wedding Guest Baskets
Make guest baskets the week before the wedding.
  • Confirming the rehearsal dinner
  • Finalizing guest count with caterers
  • Paying any amount due on contracts with vendors
  • Double checking all vendors know where they are going and what time to arrive
  • Making out of town guest baskets and dropping them off at the hotel
  • Confirming honeymoon reservations
  • Filling out marriage license and other legal documents
  • Picking up wedding dress

Day Before Wedding

When planning a wedding yourself, there are still a few things to do the day before your wedding. These items include:

  • Packing a bag to take to your ceremony location with personal and beauty items
  • Packing a bag for your honeymoon
  • Wrapping attendant gifts and writing notes to each attendant
  • Attending rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
  • Getting a good night's sleep

Enjoy Your Wedding Day

Using a wedding planning guide is a good way for brides-to-be to get things rolling for their own weddings. Even if you don't follow a guide perfectly, it is a great reminder for brides regarding what needs to be done and when. Once your wedding day arrives, you can relax and enjoy it, knowing everything is perfectly planned.

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Wedding Planning Guide