Breaking down a 12-month wedding planning timeline

Yay! So you’re officially engaged! Congrats y’all! After taking the time celebrate the good news with your friends and family and taken the time to let the engagement soak, it’s time to get to wedding planning. Some want to marry immediately and some want to take their time to planning their dream wedding. Here’s a break down of a 12-month timeline planning process that will hopefully make the process easier for you.

Having a wedding planning timeline is crucial to ensure that everything goes to plan, it also holds you accountable to completing all the tasks that you may need to do on your to-do list. If you are planning a shorter engagement, consider writing down the tasks in the order of priority, and adjust the timeline to fit with your schedule.

12-Month Wedding Planning Timeline

12-Months Before 

Let’s start with laying down the foundation of the wedding preparations during these initial months. But first, let’s set a budget! Having an overall set wedding budget will help narrow down your venue options, how large of a wedding guest list can be, along with helping prioritize what is most important to you and your partner. Talking about money is literally every couples least favorite thing to talk about, so I highly recommend making it an at home date night with a bottle of wine or your favorite drinks and keeping an open mind during this time.

Once you have a budget set in place, you guys can move on to the more fun parts of the planning process like creating a mood board, touring venues, and researching vendors. In this 10-12 month timeframe it should give you enough time to align your values and expectations along with giving you time to do your research so in the future process will be smooth sailing. Below are a few of the bigger items that should start getting checked off your list:

  • Having a wedding budget
  • Draft your wedding guest list
  • Setting a date!
  • Creating a mood board (Pinterest is a place that I highly recommend)
  • Make a list of venues and scheduling tours
  • Booking your wedding venue
  • Finding a wedding planner/coordinator! I highly recommend taking the time to find the right planner for you.


10-Months Before 

Time to pick your vendors! These will be your big ticket items besides your venue.

June-September is typically the peak season for vendors especially in the Pacific Northwest, so you’ll definitely want to book your vendors as soon as possible.

Photographers & Videographers can book out as far as 18-months in advance, so if you have your heart set on a specific person, now would be the time to lock them in. Also, having the chance to book them out far in advance would give you the opportunity to chat and schedule an engagement session. I personally highly recommend booking an engagement session (even if it was a mini session) with your scheduled wedding photographer because it will give both parties a chance to meet prior to the wedding day.

Up next is florist – if you are wanting an extravagant floral display or have a specific look in mind and you know that only a few florist can achieve that look then I wouldn’t want to wait on booking them especially if your wedding date is a popular date.

Caterer – depending on your chosen venue, it could be that the venue has already selected your caterer choice for you. But if the venue gives you the option to bring out an outside caterer, I would recommend getting a few quotes and sampling menus based on the season.


8 to 9-Months Before 

So you’ve spent the last few months setting a budget, creating a vision for your day, creating a guest list and spending your days doing vendor research. This is also the time when you’ll focus on guest-specific tasks like creating a wedding website, registering for gifts and reserving hotel rooms for out of town guests.

Time to “say yes to the dress”! Bring one your best friends/mother/sisters or whoever you feel should be apart of this important moment and make your first appointment at a couple of bridal shops. I recommend looking at different bridal shops websites and saving a few dress options. When you’re trying on dresses, consider trying on different styles, too. You may love the idea of a fit in flare dress but why not consider trying on a ballgown, you never know, you might fall in love! If you know you’re on a smaller budget for a dress, you can always check out a bridal outlet shop, Amazon, Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark. There’s so many options!

  • Ready to dance?  It’s time to book your DJ or live band
  • Schedule your engagement session with your booked wedding photographer
  • Order your wedding dress
  • Set up a wedding registry
  • Book a block of hotel rooms or Airbnb for your out-of-town guests
  • Creating a wedding website
  • Finalize your menu with your caterers
  • Hire your officiant


7-Months Before 

It’s time to get the bridesmaids ready! Once you have your wedding colors selected it’s time to gather the girls and try to find some dresses! Are they all going to wear the same style or color or can they wear different styles with the same hue? Or even different styles with different hues but still in the wedding color scheme.

Let there be cake! With the huge trend of unique cakes being showcased on social media, it’s been known that bakeries to book out quickly and require a decent amount of time to bake all of those delicious tiers and decorate them to be your dream cake. I would recommend booking a few appointments at a different bakeries for a tasting.

Don’t forget about your honeymoon, if you’re planning on taking your trip immediately after the wedding, I suggest hiring a honeymoon travel consultant, they can help you save tons of money on last-minute flight and hotel prices.

  • Finalize your wedding guest list and compile the list of addresses in a spreadsheet
  • Order bridesmaid dresses
  • Do a cake tasting and order your cake
  • Start planning your honeymoon
  • Send out your save-the-dates


6-Months Before

Time to book your rentals and order your invitations. Ordering now will prevent you having to pay any unexpected rush-delivery or lack of items being in stock. If you’re planning a destination wedding that is more than a few states away or even out of the country, I would recommend sending out the invites in the 8-9 month range.

Glitz & glam! Book your hair and makeup artist now too! You’ll definitely want to do a trial run before your wedding and they up pretty quickly too if your wedding is in the peak wedding season. I recommend booking your trial run with your hair and makeup artist for your engagement session.

  • Order the bridesmaids dresses
  • Book your rentals (chairs, tents, linens, etc.)
  • Order your invitations
  • Start planning your honeymoon
  • Hire your hair & makeup artist (do a trial run)


5-Months Before 

Time to think about the men! Let’s get the groom’s attire prepared, typically the suits don’t take as long compared to the dresses which is why we wait until the 5-month mark. But if you are planning on having a fully custom suit/tuxedo, I would recommend doing this at the the 9-month mark. This is also the time to start thinking about the accessories (jewelry, veils, shoes, etc.). If you’re planning on having your ceremony location and your reception location in different locations and are considering a party bus or other transportation, this would be the time to book that.

  • Buy or rent the grooms attire
  • Book your accommodations for your wedding night
  • Send out bridal shower guest list to your host
  • Send a bachelorette/bachelor party guest list
  • Get your wedding accessories together
  • Book your transportation for your wedding


4-Months Before 

You’re more than halfway through the planning process – yay! Now is the time where everything starts to fall into place. You’ll want to start setting everything up for your rehearsal dinner, including who will be invited so you have invitations prepared.

This is also the time where you’ll want to focus on your bridal look and set up your first dress fitting. As a reward to all these decisions, now it’s time to do a slight celebration with your bridal shower and bachelorette/bachelor parties.

  • Book your rehearsal and rehearsal dinner venues
  • Schedule a dress fitting
  • Plan your bridal shower
  • Plan your bachelorette & bachelor parties
  • Music! Choose your ceremony processional and recessional music, particularly your first dance and any father-daughter/mother-son dance songs.


3-Months Before 

Let’s cross off those some of those tiny details that sometimes get overlooked, such as finalizing your food, printing menus, and ordering wedding favors. This is also the best time to schedule a night to choose your ceremony readings together. Make sure to find readings that speak to you and reflect your relationship and love for each other. So, when you meet with your officiant to plan the rest of the ceremony, take the time to figure out how to make your ceremony more personal and always ask for advice if you guys feel like you’re stuck. Here’s what to do in the next three months:

  • Finalize your menu with your caterer for your reception dinner
  • Order/print menu cards
  • Contact your florist to finalize details for your floral arrangements
  • Buy your wedding rings & box
  • Start planning out a wedding day timeline
  • Print out ceremony programs (if you plan on having any)
  • Order or create wedding favors
  • Meet with your officiant to plan your wedding ceremony


2-Months Before 

Now is the time to send out any last minute wedding invitations. This is also the time to get in touch with all of your vendors to ensure that everyone is on the same page along with making any final payments. 

As a wedding photographer, I recommend my couples to check their online portal and start filling out any wedding questionnaires that they haven’t started working on. There will be a wedding timeline questionnaire which will help us photographers with creating an outline for the wedding photography timeline (this is slightly different than the day of timeline). You will also need to meet with your DJ or live band to finalize your wedding playlist and provide of list of do & do not want played during the reception. 

Buckle up y’all it’s time to party! Get ready to adventure with your team bride/groom for your bach parties! And let that wedding planning stress melt away for a day or even the weekend. Next month, will be crunch time! Here’s what to do in these two months before the wedding day: 

  • Send out any last minute invitations 
  • Check in with all vendors
  • Meet with photographer or check online portal to fill out questionnaires 
  • Review playlist with your DJ or live band (create a do/don’t play list) 
  • Have fun at your bachelorette/bachelor parties! 
  • Send out as many final payments as you can 
  • Ensure that the groomsmen have bought or rented their attire


1-Month Before 

We are officially in that 30-day mark from the best day of your life so that means it’s crunch time! Here’s the list of all things to do in this timeframe:

  • Get your marriage license
  • Have your last dress fitting
  • Buy any last minute accessories (veil, lingerie, shoes, jewelry)
  • If you’re thinking of giving your groom or partner a wedding gift and considering doing a boudoir session, now is the time to book.
  • Send out rehearsal dinner invites
  • Buy alcohol or finalize your signature cocktails
  • Create a reception seating chart
  • Buy any gifts for your bridesmaids, groomsmen and anyone else on your list
  • Order vow books or write them out
  • Contact any guests who haven’t RSVP’d yet
  • Check with hotel blocks
  • Schedule a dinner date with all of your wedding party to discuss any wedding details like what their roles/responsibilities will be on the wedding day

1-Week Before 

We are now in the single digits until your wedding day, time to start cracking down and getting in that wedding mindset! Here’s what to prepare for:

  • Do a last minute check in with all of your vendors to ensure that they have a correct and updated wedding day timeline
  • Send out your wedding day timeline to everyone in the wedding party
  • Send a final guest list to your caterer
  • Break in your wedding shoes
  • Ensure that you have checks ready for the day-of payments and vendor tips (make sure to have them clearly labeled on the envelopes)
  • Pamper yourself! Book a spa day!
  • If you’re planning to leave for the honeymoon immediately after the wedding, make sure you have everything packed
  • Do a final date night with your fiancé before your wedding day
  • Take a deep breath! Everything is coming together!

The Wedding Day 

It’s finally here! It’s your wedding day, there’s nothing else left to do besides to be present on and enjoy every moment of your wedding day.


After The Wedding & The Honeymoon 

After taking the time to enjoy the married life along with soaking in the time together during your honeymoon, there may be a few loose ends that need to be tied up:

  • Pay any remaining balances to your vendors
  • Return your rentals
  • Write “Thank You” cards
  • Get your wedding dress cleaned and preserved
  • Take advantage of any registry discounts to buy any must have items that you may have not received.
  • Send in your marriage license
  • Officially change your name (if you choose to do so)
  • Research life insurance, medical insurance plans and figure out the right coverage for your relationship

So cheers to you two! I know that it may be tempting to jump right into the wedding planning process, but honestly there’s no rush. Take as long as you need to plan or just taking the time to soak in the engagement. So if you want to have a long engagement then why not!? If you want to have a short engagement then no problem! Just do what’s best for you as a couple and enjoy the process.

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