Planning Your Wedding – Your Incredible Dream Day

Planning your wedding - wedding planning

Planning your wedding may seem like a huge task, however, our checklist will help ensure that you cover every detail and break it into small manageable steps. Be sure to look through the entire list as some items you may be able to get a start on ahead of time, saving you work and stress later on. When handled in little pieces over several months, this can be a super fun and exciting process.

12 to 18 Months Before

This is when the major decisions about your wedding get made. What the style of your wedding will be? How much do you want to spend? Who do you want as guests? While it may seem daunting at first, breaking the wedding down to smaller steps will help you keep your wedding day on budget…and will help maintain your budget.

  • Announce your engagement! Have fun and let everyone know.
  • Choose 3 dates to potentially have your wedding on. This will allow you the flexibility to ensure you get the venue and vendors that are perfect for you.
  • Talk budget. Come up with a rough idea of how much money you are willing to spend. You can refine this later as you talk to venues and vendors
  • Discover your wedding style. Do you want a high-end wedding with lots of glamour, destination on a beach or top of a mountain, rustic at a cottage or ranch, or a small intimate wedding
  • Choose your wedding party: maid of honor, bridesmaids, best man, groomsmen, flower girl, and ring bearer.
  • Create a wedding website. A website is a great way to keep people up to date about your wedding. It acts as the information hub where people can find all the details about your big day.
  • Get engagement ring insured and consider purchasing wedding insurance. Weddings can be expensive affairs and should the date have to be postponed, deposits and payments may or may not be refunded (The 2020 wedding season was a prime example of this)
  • Begin compiling a guest list. Be sure to include any plus one, or kids that may also be attending. Talk with your vendors to find out what location is best for them to sit during the reception, they will likely be on the move during the reception and have extra equipment, so an outside edge may be ideal.
  • Consider ceremony and reception venues. Also, consider how people will get between the locations, are they difficult to access, a long-distance apart, etc. If having an outdoor ceremony, is there an indoor option in case the weather doesn’t co-operate?
  • Start assembling a team of wedding pros: wedding planner, photographer, videographer, caterer, florist, and DJ / musicians. Many of these vendors will begin booking dates a year in advance, so if there is a vendor or venue that you have your heart set on, earlier is better to make contact with them.
  • Browse wedding dresses and styles. There are many amazing wedding dresses and dress vendors, Be sure to give yourself time to find the dress of your dreams.
  • Create wedding and style boards on Pinterest. Have fun with this, browse the styles and details that you love and save them to your dream board. This board will give you ideas of what goes together and will give you ideas that you can incorporate into your wedding.
  • Get engagement photos taken. Your engagement photography session provides you with a few benefits. First, it gives you a chance to work with your photographer to ensure that your personalities work together. The photographer may have a great portfolio, but if you don’t like being around them, you will see the stress in your photos. Next, this will offer you a chance to learn a few tips and tricks about posing that will make you feel more comfortable being in front of the camera. Finally, it will offer a chance for you to determine the style of photo that you love, as well as what you don’t. This will allow the photographer to concentrate on the style that you like best
  • Browse and order Save the Date cards. There are many options and designs so you will certainly find something that you love. Be sure to save one for the photographer to get a picture of on your wedding day.

10-11 Months

  • Choose bridal party attire and accessories. Talk with your bridal party and see what they are comfortable with wearing. Choose a color that compliments your wedding colors and design
  • Reserve ceremony and reception venues. Be sure to talk with the venues to find out any house rules that they may have. If getting married in a church, find out if they allow photographers (not all do). For your reception venue, find out about outside caterers and corkage changes for liquor.
  • Hire officiant, photographer, videographer, caterer, DJ/band, florist, and planner. Many of these professionals, will already be taking bookings, so be sure you do not leave this until the last minute.
  • Finalize guest address list. Ensure that you have the correct addresses for all your guests. Using a spreadsheet is a great way to keep track of all your guest information. Be sure to continually update this list as you will use it multiple times to send invitations and thank-you cards.
  • Mail your Save the Date cards. Now that you know they are going to the correct place, let’s send them out.
  • Purchase wedding dress, veil, and undergarments. You have decided on the perfect dress and accessories…let’s make them yours.
  • Establish a healthy skin and wellness routine. You want to look your best on your wedding day. Starting now gives you lots of time to make the small changes to help you reach your goals
  • Research honeymoon destinations. You will want some time alone to unwind after all the planning and chaos of your wedding. Start looking at options for your honeymoon.

8-9 Months

  • Find hotel options (at different price points) for out-of-town guests. Many hotels will offer a discount when you book a block of rooms. Having a few different room types/options also give your out-of-town guests some options to choose from to best fit their needs.
  • Browse and decide on Wedding Invitation designs and coordinating stationery (Programs, Menu Cards, Thank You Cards, and Favors). There are many wedding invitation design professionals who can help you design a perfect package if you decide you need some help with it.
  • Create your gift registries at 2-3 local, national and/or online retailers. Including national and online retailers, ensures that out-of-town guests have easy options to help with selecting options from the registry
  • Begin planning a honeymoon. The next few months will be busy with planning and sorting out details,
Planning your wedding - destination wedding
Planning your wedding – destination wedding

6-7 Months

  • Explore wedding day hair and makeup styles. Part of your Pinterest dream board is a great place to begin looking at styles that caught your eye. Be sure to do a test run to ensure that you love the hair and make-up styles. Scheduling it at the same time as your engagement photography session will allow you to see how it looks in pictures as well.
  • Meet with the officiant to discuss plans for the ceremony and to find out any special rules or quirks they may have.
  • Reserve rentals: chairs, linens, lighting, décor, etc. By now you have a good idea of how your wedding will look and all the details and accessories you will need.
  • Choose dessert style and schedule tastings. MY FAVORITE PART!!! Desert tastings…if you need someone to come along to help you choose, we are always available 😉
  • Decide on groomsmen attire. Time to get your guys looking their best.
  • Book transportation to and from venues. Whether it is your own personal vehicles, having a friend drive you, or hiring a limo company…this is the time to book the arrangements.
  • Purchase wedding bands.
  • Decide on a date for the Bachelor and Bachelorette party or weekend.
  • Order Thank You Cards (for the bridal shower and gifts that arrive early).

4-5 Months

  • Choose flowers for wedding party, attendants, venues, cake, etc. Your florist has done this many times and will be a valuable resource for you as you decide on the best look within your budget for all the various options you may want.
  • Schedule dress fittings. There will be several dress fittings, if you are planning on dropping a dress size or otherwise altering your appearance, be sure to let your seamstress know so the appropriate alterations can be made. Leave time between your final fitting and your wedding day to handle any last-minute adjustments
  • Book honeymoon flights and hotels. Now is the time to ensure that you have taken care of flights and accommodations for your honeymoon. You will want some time to unwind and relax before getting back to life as married couple.
  • Book room for the wedding night. Don’t forget that you will need a room for your wedding night. Make sure it is close, after the hectic wedding day, you won’t want to be spending an hour getting back to your room.
  • Order wedding dessert/cake. If you are doing an intricate wedding cake, you will want to find a cake baker early to ensure that there is time to get the perfect cake.
  • Plan welcome baskets for out-of-town guests. Guests coming from out of town may have never been to your locale, having a small gift basket to say thank you for coming will be appreciated. Consider including brochures about things to do in the area.
  • Prepare {play/do not play} lists for DJ/band. Have a favorite song that you want to hear…or a song you don’t…create a list for your DJ. Also, determine the songs/music you will use for the various aspects of your wedding (ie: reception entrance, first dance, etc)
  • Finalize wedding guest list. With the final guest list, you can now start finalizing details with the reception venue and your catering vendor.
  • Assemble rehearsal dinner guest list. As the name suggests, there will likely be food and drink involved. It is more than one last chance to have fun prior to your wedding. It provides an opportunity to address any last-minute details that may have come up.
  • Book rehearsal dinner venue. This venue does not have to be the same place as your reception will be. Choose somewhere that will allow you to be there for some time and that can give you space a little away from other diners.

3 Months

  • Finalize honeymoon plans and ensure all documents are in order. If you are traveling out of the country, ensure your passport, entry visas, travel insurance, etc are all in order. Best to catch an issue now while there is time to get it sorted out.
  • Plan ceremony and reception seating. Some things to consider when developing your seating plan, consider putting guests with young kids on the outside edge to allow them quick access to the washrooms or common area if needed. Be sure to consider a high chair as a seat when counting the seats around the table. Finally, don’t forget to plan for where your vendors will sit, consider also placing them on an outside edge as they will likely be up and down throughout the reception and may have gear bags they need to keep close to them. This will be your rough draft, we will finalize it closer to the actual day once there is confirmation of who is attending.
  • Finalize readers, readings, and music for the ceremony. This month, finalize the plans for your ceremony, who you would like to read, what readings, and what music will be playing.
  • Purchase: toasting flutes, serving pieces, guestbook, flower basket and ring bearer pillow. These are the little details that often get forgotten about until the last minute.
  • Finalize reception menu. Be sure to consider a couple of options to allow for various dietary concerns and tastes.
  • Order Menu Cards and Wedding Favors.
  • Mail Wedding Invitations. You want to have the RSVPs back approximately one month before your wedding. This will ensure your guests have time to know their schedules and can make an accurate determination of if they will be attending.

2 Months

  • Develop a system for organizing RSVPs. Remember the spreadsheet we made for all the guests and their addresses, add a new column to show how many people will be attending and if there will be children. Consider highlighting rows of attendees as green or move them to a separate sheet within the spreadsheet.
  • Begin writing vows. Unless you are a professional writer, this may take some time and several revisions. Don’t rush it, do out an outline then build off of that.
  • Review ceremony details with the officiant. Plan all the details now, what sections of the readings you would like, and any small details that you would like. Your officiant will be a great resource for this and will answer any questions you may have and offer suggestions based on their experience.
  • Lay out the content for Wedding Programs. If you are providing a wedding program for your guests, now is the time to plan it out. Keep it simple and offer some fun facts about you both.
  • Apply for a marriage license. Depending on your locale, this can be done through your local registry office.
  • Finalize fittings for wedding party and parents. The day is getting close, arrange for final fittings for your bridal party. This will allow time for any alterations that may still need to be done.
  • Create wedding day timeline and send to your vendors, officiant and wedding party. Talk with your hair and make-up artists, photographer, etc to create the final timeline. Your photographer will help you with your photography timeline, be sure to include the drive time between locations in your timeline.
  • Write out a honeymoon itinerary for the family at home. As with any vacation or trip, be sure that you have an itinerary and contact information for family at home in case they need to reach you.
  • Decide “Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue.” Don’t leave this until the last minute…trust us, there will be lots of things to look after at the last minute. Determine what you would like to use for your “Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue” items.

1 Month

  • Finalize seating arrangements. You should now have your RSVPs back, or at least have a good idea of attendees. Finalize the seating plan that you began 2 months ago. Having the bulk of the work already done makes this an easier process. You may have to make some final adjustments for people who have not sent their RSVPs, but this will be the
  • Call vendors to confirm dates, times, and locations. We have actually attended weddings where various vendors, in one case it was the officiant, had the incorrect date and showed up late after many frantic phone calls.
  • Confirm honeymoon reservations. One last chance to confirm that all your documents are in order and your travel and accommodations are confirmed with the correct date of arrival and departure (take it from my experience when I accidentally booked a room for the wrong month when traveling across Europe, it is a simple mistake)
  • Pick up wedding rings. Ensure the rings fit, now is the time to get them adjusted if they are overly tight or loose. Then…keep them safe, this is not the time to misplace them.
  • Attend Bachelor/Bachelorette party. Having a party? Do it now to give you a chance to relax after all the planning and work up to this point. This also gives you time to recover and get back on track before the wedding day.
  • Final dress fitting (with shoes & undergarments). This is it!! Your wedding dress is ready and just checking now for any final adjustments that may be needed.
  • Write Thank You notes as gifts are received. Getting started on the Thank You notes will be appreciated after the wedding.
  • If you have a pet, look for pet sitter/boarding options to cover the wedding and honeymoon.

2 Weeks

  • Follow up with guests who have not RSVP’d. If there are any guests who have not sent their RSVP, check-in with them. Adjust your seating plan as needed.
  • Give final count to the caterer. The caterer will use this number, and selections, to order and prep the food required for your reception.
  • Update registries.
  • Begin breaking in wedding shoes. You will be in these shoes a lot on your wedding day. Be sure to wear them around to break them in and ensure they are comfortable. The last thing you want is to have blisters on your wedding day.
  • For the guys, get the final haircut and color before your wedding. The two weeks early allow the hair to grow out slightly and fall naturally when you style it on your wedding day.
  • Delegate wedding day duties: gift table, guestbook, etc. Ensure everyone knows what they are doing, ushers, who will look after your gifts, etc.
  • Delegate someone to return tuxes, rentals and tend to the wedding dress. You will be enjoying the time to yourself after your wedding and potentially heading off for your honeymoon, ensure you have someone you trust to return the tuxedos and to keep the wedding dress safe until you return.
  • Send directions to wedding day limo/transportation driver. It has happened more than once where a limo driver got lost or did not know where to go. Print off maps and locations so there is no confusion as to where to go.

1 Week

  • Prepare final payments to vendors and cash tips for service personnel. Ensure all necessary payments have been taken care of for all your vendors and venues.
  • Give copies of the readings to the person doing the reading. This will give them a chance to get comfortable with the flow of the piece and any difficult to pronounce words.
  • Give photographer and videographer your image and video requests. Ensure your photographer has a list of any photo requests you have, also prepare a list of persons and combinations you would like for your family photos. This will save time when doing photos and maximize the time the photographer has to work with you as a newlywed couple.
  • Layout wedding clothes. Be sure that you have all the small details that you will need for the day. Now is when you want to realize that something is missing….not on your wedding day.
  • Prepare wedding day emergency kit. No matter how much you plan, there are always little things that pop up. Having a needle and thread, small scissors, spot remover, etc with you will help you quickly handle anything that pops up
  • Pack for honeymoon. Start getting your honeymoon attire ready and packed, again, this is doing a little bit of work beforehand to help ease the stress and chaos later.

The Day Before

  • Deliver welcome baskets. The welcome baskets that you previously made for your out-of-town guests should now get delivered to them.
  • Treat yourself to a mani/pedi/massage. Treat yourself to a little spa day. You have put in a ton of work and now it is time to unwind for a little bit.
  • Attend wedding rehearsal. A short wedding rehearsal will help ensure everything goes smoothly, everyone knows their duties, and in what order things
  • Get to bed at a decent hour! You are in for a big day tomorrow, be sure to get a good night’s sleep. Waking up fresh and rested will make the day that much better. Secondly, you will have a lot of photos taken of you, you don’t want to look exhausted in all your photos

The Wedding Day

  • Eat a good breakfast! This is going to be a hectic day, start it off with a great breakfast to keep you going
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready. Don’t start your day rushing and stressed. Leave lots of time for everyone to get dressed and ready.
  • Give wedding rings to the best man. The best man will now keep the rings safe until he gives them to you during the ceremony.
  • Relax, smile, and soak in every incredible moment. It is amazing how quickly the day will fly by. Be sure to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moments
Planning your wedding - wedding reception
Planning your wedding – wedding reception

After the Wedding

  • Ensure tuxes and rentals have been returned. Be sure to return all the small details and accessories that came with the tuxes.
  • Get wedding dress to preservationists or cleaners. To keep the wedding dress looking its best for years to come, be sure to invest in a quality preserving service.
  • Order and send Photo Thank You Cards (include a wedding photo). It will take several weeks for your photographer to get the photos back to you
  • Be sure to change your identification, bank information, and other documents, as well as any possible pensions, medical plans, etc that you may be a part of, to your new name and marital status.

Planning Your Wedding

Patton Photography is a professional photography studio based out of Calgary, Alberta. Our signature style offers a clean and modern look to your photographs while maintaining a professional headshot. Contact us anytime to sit down over coffee for a stress-free conversation.

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