Over the next 12 or so months, you will have so much to think about, so many details to arrange, planning a wedding can seem overwhelming. But, if you give yourself enough time to plan and sort the tasks month by month bit by bit you can get everything sorted in enough time.
Elite Marquees have kindly put together a 12 month wedding-planning checklist and wedding timeline, in the hope that this helps the job becomes more fun and less stressful.
The ideal engagement length, in terms of planning, is 12 to 14 months. With a year or more to plan, brides will usually be able to book their venue of choice. That’s not to say you can’t get your dream venue with less time; it just gets trickier, of course, as the best venues get booked up quickly.
12 Months Out
Decide your budget
It’s time to do the maths and work out some not-so-fun numbers. Before you can start anything, you have to figure out who’s paying for what and determine your wedding’s structure. From there, you’ll will want to break down said budget—what’s is your priority? What’s is not?—and start allocating funds accordingly. (A little market research here comes in handy.) These numbers will most likely change as you plan, it’s smart to start a detailed spreadsheet from the start. This will help you keep track of your spending and make it easy to adjust numbers along the way.
Make a guest list
We know you wish you could invite any and everyone, right?! Chances are, you can’t, which is why you have to put a limit on handing out invites. When deciding your final head count, consider your budget (how much can you afford?) and your final venue (how many people does it fit? – Elite Marquees can advise you on the perfect venue size thanks you our extensive experience). Also, who’s paying for what? From there, figure out how you’re going to divide up the list. If you and your future partner are putting up the bill, assume you’ll get 70 percent of the invites, while both sets of parents will split the other 30. But if mum and dad are contributing, it’s protocol to give all involved parties—your parents, your partner’s parents, you as a couple—one third each. Next comes the brutal process of cutting, negotiating, and cutting some more until you reach a final number.
Hire a wedding planner
Again, this will depend on your budget. (Fair warning: Most of everything will!) But if your budget allows—or if your peace of mind depends on it—now is the time to tap the manager of your big day. This person will be your right-hand woman (Some of the best wedding planners are men!) and will guide you in all decisions, from selecting a venue to tracking your budget and handling all the logistics.
Decide formality and overall theme
Now’s the time to sit down and have another heart-to-heart convo with your partner. After all, the vibe of your wedding needs to be a mutual decision between the two guests of honor. To get the conversation flowing, pour a glass of wine/water/tea and ask yourself: What’s important to you and why? What do you value? Also, know that your venue—more on that, below—is going to affect all of this. (Because, in most cases, we’d argue against a glam, black-tie theme for a barn wedding.)
Select the venue
OK, you know who you’re marrying (We would hope). Now the real question is where and when? Trust us: Choosing the venue is one of the most important decisions you’ll make right now. Seriously, the location affects almost everything else, from how many people you invite to what kind of flowers go on the table. Chances are, it’s also the biggest chunk of change you’ve put down, like ever. That’s why you want to explore your options, visit the top contenders, and ultimately select a place that fits your guest count, style, and budget. But when push comes to shove: Throw out that pros and cons list and trust your gut. This decision is about how you feel when you’re there.
Select the caterer
Your wedding is the best (and largest) dinner party of your life. So how exactly do you feed 150 of your nearest and dearest? Well, start with hiring people you trust to deliver—whether that’s the venue’s in-house caterer, a preferred caterer recommended by us, or even your favorite pizza truck. And don’t be afraid to get creative with your menu!
11 Months Out
It’s finally time to gather inspiration, select a color palette, and create a mood board (this bit is probably for the females lads, leave them to it). If you’re struggling for inspiration, world famous wedding planner Jessica Sloane recommends taking a step back to look at things that have already in your world—like how you’ve decorated your house, what you are liking on Instagram, you might want your kids to be involved — draw inspiration from things like that.
Hire your suppliers quickly, including things like your photographer, band, DJ.
These are the people who will make your night fun—and you want those memories to last forever (AKA, they’re important). Do your research before you hire, and ask all the right questions.
10 Months Out
Without thinking, boom! You’re 2months down. Coming up quick ain’t it. At this stage you need to start thinking about your wedding dress
You may know exactly what you want or you might not, which is OK too. Finding a gown may be trial-and-error, but you need to look online for inspiration. Visit stores, speak to planners, maybe a best friend who’s already married will be able to help you with where to start.
Book hotel-room blocks for guests
It’s considered a thoughtful gesture to block out rooms (and secure a discounted rate) for your guests.
Start looking at invitations
The wedding invitation is a guest’s first contact and impression of your big day! That’s why you want to put your best foot forward with a personalised preview. If you’re going custom, start working with a local north west graphic designer to create your dream suite. If you’re going for a less involved route, you can just wait until the six-month mark. (Invites should be sent out just six to eight weeks prior to the big day.)
9 Months Out
It’s time to buy your wedding dress- It’s time to say yes to the dress if you want to avoid any late fees.
Send save-the-dates – Let everyone officially know when and where you’re making it official. And remember: Everyone who gets a save-the-date gets a wedding invite. No exceptions.
8 Months Out
Gift registering is not for everyone, but if it is – Involve your partner this one—after all, you two are building a life (and home) together. When registering, it’s smart to ask for staples—like sheets and pots and pans, and so on—but it’s even more genius to think about what you really want. Are you adventurers? Aspiring chefs? Charity givers? Consider your hobbies and tailor your registry to your soon-to-be-married lifestyle.
Next, select the bridesmaids’ dresses and schedule fittings within the month
After browsing online for initial research, ask you can ask your bridesmaids to come shopping with you. It will be helpful for you to see them in the dresses, and you could even ask how they feel in the options you’re considering. (They do have to wear it in front of a crowd of hundreds, after all!) That said, we’re all about the trend of selecting a color palette—like yellow, grey, burgundy, or white—and letting your girls choose what they want to wear. Even better, check out our guide to perfectly pulling off mismatched dresses.
Meet with potential florists
Much like hiring your other suppliers, you want to be simplistic with your florist as well. In order to do that, we suggest asking friends for recommendations, scrolling through Instagram inspo, and asking your planner/venue coordinator who they recommend in the area. It’s important that you find someone who is able to deliver on your vision and budget.
7 Months Out
Hire the ceremony musicians
If your enlisting the talents of a three-piece band, now’s the time to do so. As for the actual music, we say don’t go generic when you can go personal! H
Order rental items, such as specialty chairs, linens, draping, lounge furniture, white dance floor, etc. (You can do this through us, don’t worry. We got you covered)
You may think of these as “extras,” and we beg you to change this way of thought. Great rentals essentially act as the good bones of your wedding-day decor. Conclusion: Don’t skimp on upgraded chairs and cozy lounge furniture (your guests will thank you!) if your budget allows.
If you aren’t marrying in a house of worship, you’ll need to hire someone to make it official. Couples can use a professional (check local listings, or some venues do come with a registra) or take a more intimate approach and ask a close friend or family member to do the honors.
6 Months Out
Hire a lighting technician
The most important detail brides forget about is lighting. Seriously, the bulbs and candles you select are what will ultimately light your perfect venue, make your photos just right, and keep the party going—even after the sun sets.
Our perfect see-through Marquee is perfect to get the right lighting for your big day.
5 Months Out
Book transportation for guests, if needed
How do you know if it’s needed? Consider your venue’s parking situation, guests’ access to car services or public transportation, and the cost you’re asking them to incur. Good rule of thumb: If it’s going to run them £20 or more—especially if you’ve already asked them to travel for a destination wedding— think about a shuttle bus. Or, some car services, such as Uber, allow you to book rides on others’ behalf.
Book the bride and groom’s transportation (limo, specialty car, etc.)
Time to think about you two! Whether you’re into getting in to a stretch Escalade limo, or all about hopping on a tandem bicycle—get around in a style that’s all your own.
Book the honeymoon
Traditionally, normal wedding etiquette states the groom plans a surprise honeymoon for the bride. But, if you guys are tag-teaming your honeymoon strategy, try to have things semi-sorted out by this five month mark. That means being on the same page about budget, timing, travel arrangements, and a semblance of an itinerary. You don’t have to schedule every minute, but each of you should share the most important takeaways you want from this trip, and act to ensure those activities will happen.
Buy or rent the groom’s tuxedo
The groom walks out first, remember? Therefore you need to make sure that first impression on your guests is a good one. Step one is choosing between a tux or suit, based on the formality of your wedding, and then deciding whether to buy or rent. When selecting the actual ensemble, focus on fit and function. A well-made outfit will be flattering, but also allow your groom to show off any and all embarrassing dance moves without fear of splitting any seams. Finally, if you’re going the renting route, avoid these five mistakes groomsmen make when renting a tux or suit.
.4 Months Out
Have your final taste session with the caterer
At this point, you’ve asked your caterer to talk the talk through these questions. Now it’s time to taste what they’re really made of. The tasting has become increasingly important as more and more couples choose to customize everything from their signature cocktails to their desserts. If you’re nervous about heart-eyes obstructing your taste buds’ judgment, bring your planner or consultant. They’ve likely attended dozens of tastings, and will be your clear-eyed troubleshooter—paying attention to the detailing of the food and the attentiveness of the service, while you’re crying over appetisers to bae about how “It’s just starting to feel so real, you know?”
Choose your cake
Now, you and your partner should settle on a look and flavor profile you both love. Don’t stress about pleasing every one of your guests! This is your cake as a couple; it’s about expressing you guys! (You can also consider a groom’s cake.) Got the cake(s) decided? You need a baker. Find a reputable one who’s available on your date, and happy to take on your dream design for an equally dreamy price. (Ask them these questions and here’s what to expect at your cake tasting!)
Buy wedding rings
Does your fiancé (or you!) know the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding band?
Select groomsmen’s attire and schedule fittings within the month
Do you want the groom and his guys to be matchy-matchy? You’ve got this, and don’t be afraid to get the groom involved. He may be able to easily pull rank and get his men in line—a very neat, orderly, and well-dressed one, at that.
Hair and makeup trial
Help your stylists help you by researching some particulars before you come in for your trials. Look back at old photos of yourself so you can find something that’s worked before and ensures you still look like yourself. Next, feel free to search social media for other inspiration; just don’t delude yourself with highly-filtered Instagram expectations.
Bring photos and be as specific as possible about what you want and don’t want.
3 Months Out
Order the invitations and hire a calligrapher
There are a few ground rules when it comes to ordering your wedding invitations: order enough of them and account for some mistakes, make sure they will arrive in time, set up a system for recording RSVP replies, and confirm all addresses and spelling. But when it comes to design and wording, the options are endless. Need a little advice to rein it all in? Keep reminding yourself that the theme of your invites should match the vibe of your wedding and express you as a couple.
Create or plan your menu
Once you’ve undergone a successful tasting session, you’ll have a good sense of your caterer’s style and offerings, so you’re ready to finalise your food! Maybe you’re the couple who’s hand-selected every hors d’oeuvres, main, side, dessert, and drink situation. Or, perhaps you just told your chef to “handle it” and called it a day. Either way, now is the time to stamp your approval on a completed menu that fits your budget, tastes, and timing.
Brainstorm guest favors and gift bags
You don’t have to do favors or gift bags, they are not a requirement, but if you do now’s the time to decide.
Book a photo-booth rental
Photo booths have become mega business now, and are a regular reception staple. We can point you in the right direction for this.
Write your vows
If you’ve opted to write your own promises to one another, start thinking about what those should sound like for you two as a couple. Traditional? Tear-jerking? Feminist? Fill-in-the-blank? Millennial? Pop-culture inspired? We’ve got guides for them all.
2 Months Out
Send the wedding invitations (with RSVPs due one month before the wedding)
You already have done the hard part—the selection process. Now, you just need to print and assemble.
First dress fitting
Your first fitting should be anywhere between two to three months after ordering, and your second one around the six-week mark.
Buy wedding-party gifts
How much you spend on your bridesmaids gifts is determined on an individual basis, but no matter your price point, your goal should be something that’s as thoughtful, functional, and personalised as possible.
Do a floral mock-up with your florist
Floral samples vary depending on your florist and your own wedding decor choices, but most of the time they’ll include a mock reception table set-up, centerpiece, and bouquet. Now is also the time to talk tweaks and finalize your delivery and care strategy.
1 Month Out
Countdown is on – you are nearly there!
Assemble gift bags, then pay your vendors in full, make a final final checklist
The last awkward situation you want to deal with right before your wedding day is a supplier chasing money. Avoid that by keeping careful track of when and how much you pay each vendor. If there are some vendors who must be paid the day-of, or you’re distributing tips, give your most trusted bridesmaid or relative a heads-up that come wedding day, you’ll be counting on them to handle the labeled envelopes you’re going to put together.
Create a seating chart
You thought the guest list was a pain in the hiney, and now you’ve arrived at the seating chart challenge—another daunting balancing act of relationships, egos, potential, and crisis-management. You’ll want to think about your venue’s floor plan, whether or not you’ll have a head table and who will be sitting at it, and choosing a cool design.
Order or make your escort cards and place cards
First, you should know the difference. While both place cards and escort cards designate where each guest will be seated at a wedding, place cards are more specific—and also more formal—than escort cards. A place card not only directs guests to the table where each will sit during the reception, but also points each guest to his or her particular seat at the table. Whichever you choose, you’ll want your cards to complement the overall theme of your wedding, but again, the possibilities are unlimited.
Have a final venue walk-through
Make a list of questions beforehand, and bring your planner or another close friend or family member to bring up anything you forget.
Break in your wedding shoes
Walk around your hallways! Dance in your kitchen! Do everything in your power to avoid painful blisters on your wedding night.
Then you have it! You have arrived at your big day. Remember, for marquee or venue help. Elite Marquees can help and advise you every step of the way. Allowing you to have less worry and concentrate on some of the more important items on this list.
We hope you enjoy the next 12 months in preparation for your big day.