The Only Wedding Planning Checklist & Timeline You’ll Need
Wondering how to plan a wedding? You’re in luck. Our detailed wedding planning checklist and timeline lists every box you need to tick in the lead-up to your special day.
We’ve broken our wedding planning checklist into the 7 most important stages spread across twelve months, but each step is just as relevant if you happen to be planning within a shorter time frame.
Note: you can also download our printable wedding checklist if you’d prefer to physically mark off each item as you go.
12 months (or more) before the wedding
For most couples, wedding planning begins at least a year out from the big day, but regardless of when you start the journey the first steps are to:
Set a wedding budget with your partner
The costs will start mounting as soon as you start planning, so be prepared with a comfortable budget you both agree on.
Choose a date and book a venue
These two tasks set the tone for the rest of your planning and go hand in hand. Not all venues will need to be booked this far in advance, but you’ll want to secure your dream location as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Make sure to run the date by family and important guests first to make sure there aren’t any glaring clashes.
Hire a wedding planner
If you want the help of a professional wedding planner, now’s the time to book them in. They’ll need plenty of notice to get everything ready.
Create a draft guest list
This might be subject to change, but it helps you get a sense of the numbers, which will, in turn, inform the budget and other hiring decisions.
Book all your wedding vendors
This includes a caterer, florist, photographer, videographer, and DJ. The best of the best will book out well in advance, so aim to secure them as early as possible.
Decide who will be in the wedding party
People will want to know. They’ll also be your biggest source of help during the whirlwind of the next 12 months!
10 - 11 months before the wedding
Decide on the theme of your wedding
A Pinterest board is a good way of finding and recording stylistic inspiration.
Book a reception space
Check whether the space offers inclusions (tables, chairs, dinnerware) or whether they need to be hired separately.
Book an officiant
This may or may not be necessary depending on the nature of the ceremony. If you hire an independent officiant, meet with them first so they can get to know you and your future spouse, your couple story, and wedding plans. This will help them prepare their ceremony readers appropriately.
Sending save the dates
Once you’ve finalized your guest list, send save the dates so they all can mark their calendars.
Shop for a wedding dress and bridal party outfits
You’ll need plenty of time for sizing and alterations, not to mention tough decision making (after all, this is one time you’re definitely allowed to be picky).
Book accommodation for yourself and guests
Accommodation might be required if the wedding venue requires people to travel. Speak directly to the hotel to see if you can reserve multiple rooms at once.
8 - 9 months before the wedding
Set up a wedding gift registry
A gift registry allows guests to see your wishlist of wedding presents, so they’re guaranteed to get the right gift without doubling up with someone else. Take into consideration that your registry will be referenced throughout your entire journey, from bridal shower to the big day and random gift giving in between, so don’t be shy when selecting your wish list.
Setting one up is simple with MyRegistry, which allows you to add your favorite items from online stores to a single wishlist. Shop the entire range of Waterford crystal and add it to your registry here.
Create a wedding website
A wedding website is a convenient space for hosting all the details of the big day, as well as RSVPs once invitations have been sent.
Rent additional equipment
Even if your chosen venues include equipment rental, check to ensure that nothing extra is required (e.g. extra tablecloths, a DJ table, sound equipment).
Determine the menu and drinks
Discuss options with your caterer ahead of time, but be flexible enough to adjust once the RSVPs start arriving with dietary requirements. Also, signature cocktails are a fun, personalized addition to your cocktail hour.
6 - 7 months before the wedding
Trial hair and makeup stylists
Make a shortlist of local stylists who cater for weddings and trial them (a good excuse to get your hair and makeup done before a night out).
Organise transport to and from the wedding
Book ahead for limos and wedding cars.
Purchase wedding bands
Leave time for resizing and engraving.
Purchase and prepare invitations
Whether you get them done by a professional printer or make them yourself is up to you, but you’ll need plenty of time to source addresses for every guest.
Organise legal documentation
This will depend on your country and religion. Meet with the officiant if possible to discuss what legal documentation (e.g. visas, passports, marriage licenses) is required.
4 - 5 months before the wedding
Order a wedding cake
Many wedding cake providers will do tastings to help you come to a decision, so go along for a decadent afternoon before you put down the deposit.
Organise fitting sessions for the wedding party
You’ll have plenty of time for further alterations if needed.
Organise flowers and floral arrangements
Flowers are often affected by seasonal availability, so place an order well ahead of time.
Book a rehearsal dinner venue
If you’re having one, that is. You’ll also need to decide on the guest list - typically, immediate family members, the bridal party, flower girl and ring bearer (including their parents), and your officiant are all in attendance.
Start planning your honeymoon
Check that your passports are up to date if you’re going overseas.
3 months before the wedding
Book hair and makeup for the wedding day
Schedule a preliminary appointment about a month before the wedding.
Prepare speeches and readings
Start writing any speeches you wish to give (including your vows, if necessary), and inform family members who you would like to give a toast at the reception.
Plan tableware and decorations for the reception
This might be catered for by the venue, but you might add a personal touch with some additional table decorations.
Order wedding favours
If you plan on giving them out, now’s the time to order gifts for each guest.
Create a running order for the wedding day
An hour by hour schedule will keep things running smoothly, and it’s something you can give to members of the bridal party to make sure they’re kept informed.
Attend your bridal shower
If it’s been organized by the maid of honor, all you need to do is attend and make sure you’ve got your gift registry set up so guests have guidance on what to get you.
Print name cards, menus, and programs
A professional printer will save you the hassle, but these can also be done at home if you’re a fan of DIY.
2 months before the wedding
Send wedding invitations
Two months is a standard amount of time for a wedding invite, but you may want to allow longer for international guests.
Start tracking RSVPs
This is simple if you have a wedding website, but you can just as easily set up a spreadsheet to record who’s coming.
Organise a shot list for the photographer
If you can, go to the venue with the photographer so they can get a sense of the light and what will work best on the day.
Compile playlist suggestions for the DJ
Even if they don’t use a prescribed playlist, the DJ and guests will benefit from a list of ‘must plays’ (and possibly ‘do not plays’). Plus, choose songs for your traditional dances as well. First dance, father/daughter, and mother/son, for instance.
Purchase any wedding day accessories
Make a list of accessories like ring pillows, gloves, undergarments, guestbooks, and so on, then check each item off.
1 month before the wedding
Decide on the seating plan
Shuffle post-it notes around on a large sheet of paper to find an arrangement that keeps everyone happy.
Follow up on any missing RSVPs
Check in with guests you haven’t heard back from. You may need to adjust the catering with updated numbers.
Check in with all vendors
A quick call will ensure they’re aware of plans for the day. Consider sending them a copy of the schedule for reference.
Pick up your wedding bands
But don’t give them to the best man just yet! Keep them somewhere safe alongside the other accessories you’ll need on the day.
Attend the final dress fitting
Now is the time for any last minute alterations.
Purchase thank you gifts for the bridal party and parents
Explore the Waterford crystal range for a gift that celebrates their commitment to this special day. Consider engraving a thank you message or their initials for a personal touch.
The Final Week Before the Wedding
Reconfirm plans with all vendors
A quick email with a final copy of the schedule will put your mind at ease.
Assign small jobs to members of the bridal party and wedding team
You’ll need people on the day to carry your things, meet the vendors, and handle gifts. Give these jobs out to members of the bridal party so you don’t have to scramble on the day-of.
Assemble any gift baskets or favours
You might want to leave these in the care of a bridal party member too.
Prepare payments for vendors
Invoices and payments will be the last thing on your mind while you're honeymooning, so settle as many accounts as you can before the wedding itself.
Send a copy of the schedule to the wedding party
You’ll want everyone to be fully aware of the day’s running order.
The night before and day of the wedding
Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
Enjoy the rehearsal or pre-wedding dinner, but make sure you get plenty of rest in preparation for the real thing!
Pack everything you need the night before
Changes of shoes, vows, marriage papers - have them all within easy reach the moment you dive into a busy morning.
Give the rings to the best man and maid of honour
If you wrote your own vows, give a hard copy to them as well for safe-keeping until you need during the ceremony.
Relax and enjoy it!
From this point on, it’s all about you. Have fun and make the first of many amazing memories as a married couple.
After the wedding
After dancing, celebrating, and honeymooning, there are still some post-wedding to-do’s to tackle.
Sort your gifts
Many gifts from your registry will be brought to the wedding or delivered right to your home. Don’t delay opening and be sure to note down each gift giver so you know who needs to be sent a thank you letter.
Send thank you notes
Thank you notes should be sent to anyone who gave a gift, whether they attended the wedding in person or not. Make the message personal and send it as soon as you can after the big day.
Print your wedding photos
Most wedding photographers will provide printed copies as part of their service, but print anything that finds its way back to you in digital format (including photos taken by friends and family). A printed photo makes the memory all the more physically present, especially when it’s placed in a dignified crystal frame.
Clean and preserve your dress
The longer you wait, the harder it will be to remove any stains or reception-spills from the dress. Have it professionally cleaned as soon as possible so it’s ready for preserving.
Looking for luxurious gift ideas to add to your registry? Explore Waterford’s wedding hub for a range of artisanal crystalware that’s handmade for special occasions.