Immediately Upon Engagement Decide on a Wedding Date
There are people you really want at your wedding. Give them as much notice as possible that they should set aside the date for you. If the wedding will involve travel and an over-night stay for guests, it's important to let them know that as soon as possible. It will be helpful for you to get early feedback on who may not be able to attend the wedding.
Set your budget
Your budget is the single biggest wedding decision to make after the decision to get married itself. Consider the range of projects you need or want to take on during your first year of marriage: honeymoon, buy a house, start a family, start or continue post-secondary education, buy a car, travel. Calculate the cost of these projects. The wedding costs will compete with these other projects. Calculate the money you will have from all sources for the wedding and your other projects. This will help establish the maximum amount of money you can spend on the wedding. From this calculation, all other spending decisions about the wedding will follow. It's a terrible idea to borrow any money from any source for your wedding.
Select your bridal party.
There are hundreds of details involved in planning the wedding and in getting through the wedding day.Your bridal party can be a huge help in handling these. Everything from RSVP tracking to picking up the flowers can and should be delegated. Can every member of the bridal party afford a bridesmaid's dress or a tuxedo? Is every member of the bridal party physically fit and mature enough to shoulder the responsibilities involved? Be objective.
Choose your theme. [modern, vintage, classic, rural, contemporary, etc.]
It's your wedding. Within reason and the bounds of good taste you should have what you want regardless of who will pay some of the expenses. Have faith in your own judgment and taste.
First Review & Planning Session
All the above should happen almost immediately. Once you square away these 4 foundations of your wedding, what follows are estimated time frames for everything to follow. Buy a binder, a hole punch and index tabs to collect & organize these details. Start a spread sheet to track all expenses. This is your wedding plan. Check it & update it often.
12-18 Months Out - Ceremony Location
Your caterer may have suggestions about where to hold your ceremony. You may have seen a pretty location yourself. Since many couples no longer get married in a church many reception locations have a "chapel" or an additional area for a wedding ceremony, . A wedding arch decorated with flowers can make a ceremony setting take shape almost anywhere you want. Will a botanical garden or public park permit wedding photographs? At what charge? What is Plan B in the event of rain?
This choice will be a function of a number of things: how many guests you are having, how far they have to travel, what kind of wedding (cocktail, plated service, etc.), your budget and what you both like.
The number of weddings in almost any part of the country is greater than the number of available beautiful reception venues. That means competition for venues and rising prices in a seller's market. (It's called supply and demand). Will a venue permit an outside caterer? Is the outside caterer charged for permission to serve food there? Is there a kitchen that the caterer may use or will food be brought to the venue already prepared hours before dinner? Will a kitchen have to be set up on site? Is the venue air conditioned? Does it have sufficient washrooms, coat check & racks with hangers, parking?
For outdoor weddings, caterers should have a list of beautiful and functional venues. Consider having your wedding on the property of a friend or relative. As farm weddings & country weddings become ever more popular consider rural venues that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture or a local 4H club can suggest.
Cottage weddings on a distant lake are more remote. Consider the expertise of your caterer in providing service well off the beaten path. How well equipped are they for off-site catering? How will the location impact the need for overnight accommodation? Will you need late night transport between the cottage and hotels? Are there Bed & Breakfast Inns in the area where guests can stay close to the wedding? Could the wedding be held at such an Inn instead of at the cottage? Parking and washrooms are critical for a cottage wedding, as is the potential for tense neighbour relations due to traffic congestion, trespass and late night noise.
DJ &/or Band
Your music choice will be a big part of how your celebration turns out. If the music is too loud older guests will leave early. If you choose the wrong genre of music for your demographic it's no fun. Before you pick a DJ ask if you can drop in on an event he is spinning the tunes for. You'll get a pretty good idea if that D.J. is for you. The same selection process applies to a band. Attend an event where they will play.. Ask for references and establish firm ground rules about arrival/set-up time, alcohol or drug use before and during the event, dress code, flirting, electrical & space needs, frequency & length of breaks. Plan your play list. You will need to feed the D.J. or band members, (& any other support staff you hire for the wedding). Make sure the caterer provides for this at an agreed upon price.
Most photographers have a portfolio you can see to get an idea of their style. Packages with a set price are a good idea even if you are not budget conscious. Give your photographer a copy of the wedding day schedule and make sure he/she can stick with it. Most delays at weddings are the result of a photographer who falls behind & can't stop taking one more shot. You will delay the rest of the wedding if you let the photographer take charge of the schedule. Your guests will be waiting.
A nice addition to your wedding memories.
9-12 Months Out
Sometimes, brides pick a wedding dress FIRST. But, more often, other factors such as theme, location, time of year and entertainment sway the dress decision. It may not be your dream to buy a wedding dress that someone else wore before but the potential savings are considerable. After all, you will wear this dress but once. On the other hand you will see it in pictures of the wedding for the rest of your life. You have a right be beautiful on your wedding day.
8-10 Months Out
If you can, get all the girls together for a full day of dress scouting. Keep budgets in mind and go for a style that will flatter a variety of body types. There is no excuse for any member of the wedding party to dress like a tart.
6-9 Months Out
Quite often the groom will get his rented tuxedo for FREE, since you ordered so many outfits.
Make sure you have a budget in mind before you see your florist. Packages are always available and there is a big range in price, depending on the type of flowers you select and the complexity of the arrangement. Make a list of everyone who will need flowers that day so that you don't forget anyone. Are flowers to go on each guest table, the head table, buffet or other tables? If the wedding will be on a property that your family owns, can the garden be planned a year before the wedding to coincide plant flowers that bloom in time for the wedding?
You will need a rough idea of how many guests are attending. This tells you how many tables will need centerpieces. Although tall centerpieces are striking, they might make it difficult for guests to see each other over the arrangement. Try for a low, simple arrangement that adds colour but doesn't take up too much space on the table. This is critical for platter or family style service.
For rural or cottage weddings, centre pieces made from birch bark, wood, or natural fibers can be charming. Remember to consider the colours of linens, flowers, dresses. The centre pieces should complement these items. Can you make the centre pieces yourself with help from your friends?
If you plan an elaborate themed wedding, you may want the help of a professional wedding decorator. These professionals have access to props and materials that you may have trouble finding. For simple decorations, like tulle and ribbon, you probably have at least one artistic friend that would love to help. Consider lighting as part of the decorations.
Order Invitations and Send invitations.
You need to spend real time considering who to invite without offending any friend or relative. Before inviting anyone you haven't seen or spoken to in years remember that your wedding should be spent with people you care about and who care about you. Be diplomatic when Mom wants to invite her 200 year old great aunt that you've never met. But, be realistic as well.
Proofread the invitations several times. It's hard to correct a printing error on something already in the mail. If the wedding will take place at a cottage or other hard to find location, include a map. Make sure that GPS or Google maps actually help find the location. If they don't, your map & directions should tell people not to use them or else they will get lost. The map should include a "Help" phone number to call on the wedding day. If you create a web site or Facebook page for the wedding, refer to it in the invitation.
Dress Fitting Check
Make sure to weigh yourself before each fitting, so you can keep track close to the wedding day.
Your Wedding Plan
Schedule an evening with your fiancee to track how closely you have kept to your original budget and schedule. If you are way off course, now is the time to correct it.
4-6 Months Out
Book Bridal Shower
Although it's usually a friend or family member who holds this event for you, you should be consulted on the date and location to make sure you will be available that day. You need to balance your role as a guest with your role as the bride at your own shower.
Book Bachelorette Party
This event is also hosted and arranged by a close friend or relative. Don't schedule it too close to the wedding day. Hangovers are not the best way to start your wedding day!
Book Bachelor Party
This party has a reputation for getting out of control. Plan such entertainment as poker, for example, that will keep guests cool and calm.
Master or Mistress of Ceremonies
The seamless flow of the wedding day, both ceremony and reception, will depend on your M.C. He or she has real responsibilities. These include making sure: that the schedule is followed, that guests and suppliers arrive in the right place at the right time, that photos don't run over time, that dinner service is explained, that guests are invited to the buffet table by table, that guest speakers, (including whoever will say Grace before dinner), are introduced and don't run over time and that toasts are presented according to a planned sequence. This is a critical job and cannot be assigned to anyone immature or inarticulate.
3 Months Out
Taste Tests with your Caterer/Venue and your Baker.
A great chance to get a peek at your wedding dinner. Chances are you won't notice food at your own wedding.
Hold Bridal Shower
You need to balance your role as a guest with your role as the bride at your own shower. Be diplomatic in giving an opinion on shower food and décor. Showers are generally held with little or no alcohol. It's unforgivable for anyone to be drunk at a shower.
Hold Bachelorette Party
This will be your last wild ride for the foreseeable future. Have fun and remember the good times.
Hold Bachelor Party
More fun with the guys - enjoy this blast from the past.
Dress Fitting Check
Oops! Time to get back on the stationary bike and eat more salads.
4 Weeks Out
Begin to Finalize Details with Your Vendors.
All your guest responses should be in by now. Finalize guest numbers with your caterer or venue.
Final Dress Fitting Check
Yahoo! It fits!
Make sure you fill out your data sheets with all formalities for your DJ/Band: Music choices, bridal party names, dos and don'ts, etc.
Make salon appointments for manny, peddy, makeup, tanning, hair, etc.
1 Week Out
If you haven't done so already finalize your timeline with your DJ, venue, caterer, photographer, florist and planner (if you hired one). The final timeline should be e-mailed to all of these suppliers. There are no excuses for being late or falling behind schedule.
3-5 Days Out
Pick Up Tuxes
Make sure you pay all your vendors, or prepare the cash/cheques for all your wedding day vendors.
Give the list and chequess to your Best Man or Maid of Honor, so that you don't have to worry about these on your wedding day.
YOU MADE IT! Be thrilled by the centuries of tradition & the love that you have just shared. Enjoy the day of your dreams.
Leave for your honeymoon.
Take some time off from all the rush and just enjoy each other!
Two Weeks after the Wedding
Thank you cards for wedding presents
Check your gift cards to make sure you don't leave anyone out. Get a friend to help double check.