The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Planning
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Enjoy these tips brought to you by my past brides and my experience as a wedding photographer!
Keep in mind that your planning may look different than this due to different timelines, religions, or wants!
1. Buy a wedding planning book.
Make to-do lists, what to buy, budget, etc.
Keep track of payments, what you've paid vendors and the final payment due date, all wedding expenses, and receipts. Print them to keep a paper trail.
2. Create a new email for ONLY wedding things.
3. Set your wedding budget.
4. Purchase wedding bands.
5. Think about dates.
Choose a few dates and then check with your closest family and friends as well as your top vendors.
Be aware of holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, or trips scheduled for certain days.
Think about what season you want to get married in, what the weather will be like, and how the weather will impact your venue.
6. Figure out the average cost of each vendor in your area and book your prioritized/most wanted vendors first.
You can find vendors in your area by looking up theknot.com or weddingwire.com
Book 9-12 months in advance:
Wedding Planner, Month-Of Coordinator, or Day-Of Coordinator
Book 7-8 months in advance:
Florist (Do you want real or fake flowers?)
Dress (Think of shipping and alterations.)
Book 5-6 months in advance:
Officiant (Premarital counseling.)
Book 4-5 months in advance:
Baker (Do you want a donut wall, cupcakes, cake?)
Bridesmaid dresses, groom, and groomsmen suits
Book 3-4 months in advance:
Transportation (Party bus.)
Book 2-3 months in advance:
Hair and makeup (Schedule your trial for your engagement shoot.)
7. Figure out how many people are on your guest list before picking a venue.
Choose a night to sit down together and make a list. Start with immediate family, the bridal party, extended family, close friends, and so on.
If you need to cut people to stay within a certain number or budget, start from the bottom of the list.
If you’re trying to keep it small, think of people who have impacted your relationship and will continue to be a part of your lives!
Decide if you want kids and/or plus-ones to attend.
8. Decide if you want to have a seating chart or open seating.
Assigned seat, assigned table, open seating.
Either way, reserve seats closest to the head table for family.
If you are having assigned seats or tables, make sure you save seats at a table close to your head table for your photographers and videographers. This is important so they/we can capture kisses, speeches, etc, without having to sprint up to the front every time and possibly miss something. This way, they are also close to you in case you need them for anything.
Have a name card with their meal they ordered unless it is buffet style.
9. Read your contracts before signing.
Also read your contracts a month before your wedding as a refresher.
Are you required to feed your vendors? (Typically yes!)
When is your final payment due?
10. Where do you both want to get married?
A barn, your backyard, your lake, a park, a modern venue, a woodsy venue, a destination wedding.
11. What kind of meals do you want?
Appetizers, dinner, desserts, and treats.
12. What meal style do you want?
Plated meal, cafeteria buffet, stations, or family style.
13. What kind of beverages do you want?
Water, lemonade, juice.
Champagne, open bar, cash bar, limited bar, alcohol-free.
14. Create a mood/inspiration board on Pinterest to figure out the style you want for your day.
Formal/traditional, romantic, modern, bohemian, rustic, or garden party/casual, whimsical, etc.
15. Pick your wedding colors.
16. Make a wedding website.
theknot.com is great!
17. Build a wedding registry.
Use a list so you know what you want/need.
Even if you already have things, upgrade them! You can sell or donate your old things if you want.
Over register to give lots of options.
Know your space. Think about what can actually fit into your apartment or home.
See it in person before registering for it.
Register at: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, your favorite small business, etc.
18. Decide together what style you want for your interior design/home decor.
Modern Farmhouse, Modern Scandinavian, Modern Traditional, Modern Industrial, Mid-Century Modern, Eclectic Chic, Minimalist, Bohemian, Rustic, etc.
19. Create a hashtag.
20. Pick invitations and Save the Dates.
Make Facebook invites to save money.
21. Make wedding programs.
Print at: Shutterfly, Zola, Vista Print, etc.
22. Make the process of changing your last name easy by checking out this website!
23. Shop around for options when it comes to a wedding dress. Try on lots of different styles even if you think you know what you want!
Invite a few close family members and/or friends!
Do you want to wear shapewear under your dress?
Do you need a strapless bra or pasties?
24. Buy your dress 6-7 months before your wedding.
When getting it altered, make sure you can sit in it before making it any smaller.
25. What accessories do you want?
Veil, floral crown, diamond hair pins, earrings, necklace, shoes, etc.
26. What color suit and tie will the groom and groomsmen wear?
27. What perfume and cologne do you and your fiancé want on your day?
28. Wait a month after you get engaged to choose your wedding party.
Let the excitement settle. Make sure these are friends you want for a lifetime. Some friends are just in your life for a season, and that’s okay!
Decide how many people you want in your bridal party.
Ask at least 9 months before the wedding. Don’t rush it, but leave enough time to shop around for dresses as well as have your closest friends help throughout the planning process!
29. Choose your…
Maid of Honor, bridesmaids, personal attendant, best man, groomsmen, ushers, flower girl, and ring bearer.
30. Choose your bridesmaid dress color and then let them choose the style.
They will feel more comfortable in a dress that fits their body type.
31. Bridesmaid dresses should be ordered about 4-5 months before the wedding so there is time for alterations.
Plan a day to get together to go bridesmaid dress shopping or a brunch if you’re buying online!
32. Decide if you want to do gifts for your bridal party.
Possibly jewelry you want them to wear during your wedding.
33. Notify the people you are wanting to make speeches or to do readings throughout your wedding at least 2 months ahead of time so they can prepare.
The MOH, best man, and parents all typically give speeches.
Close relatives like grandparents often read a Bible verse during the ceremony.
34. Take advantage of Facebook groups that sell used wedding decor or bubbles.
Any time you put the word “wedding” in front of an item, the price goes up so shop for similar items.
Look at places like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s to DIY wedding decor.
DIY your signage.
35. Look up bouquets on Pinterest and decide what you want.
Composite, Cascading, Hand-tied, Just Picked, Nosegay, Pageant, Pomander, Clutch/Posy, Round, Unstructured.
36. You will need to get flowers for…
The bride (bouquet), bridesmaids (smaller bouquets), groomsmen (boutonnieres), grandparents and immediate family that are not in the wedding (corsages and boutonnieres), flower girl, any floral archways, floral decor, or centerpieces.
37. Don’t sacrifice on things you have always wanted. You only get one wedding!
Go on a few walks a month with your S.O, friends, or family.
Spend the first 15 minutes talking about anything BUT wedding details and then the next 15 minutes talking about all things wedding.
This helps you keep up with relationships while also getting to plan!
38. Don’t stress over the tiny details because no one remembers those but you.
39. Enjoy the process with your fiancé, best friends, and closest family members. Don’t do it all by yourself!
40. Ask your married friends and hired vendors for advice!
41. Be respectful, but make clear boundaries with in-laws, family, and friends. Remember that it is YOUR wedding.
You are joining as one family, so work hard to create relationships with your in-laws if possible!
42. Remember once the big stuff is planned/booked, a lot of the smaller details can’t be finalized until the last couple of weeks before the wedding.
Talk about your expectations with the bridal party and family about engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and rehearsal dinner details.
43. Plan the Rehearsal Dinner.
Typically the groom’s family plans this for the night before the wedding.
44. Buy a Rehearsal Dinner dress.
45. Plan time to get your marriage license.
The license must be used within 60 days.
46. Send wedding invitations about 6-8 weeks before your wedding.
Put a line on your RSVP for a requested song so you know what your guests want to hear.
47. Have your guests RSVP 2-3 weeks before your wedding.
Put numbers on your RSVP cards in case they forget to write their name. That way, you can look back on your list and see that #37 is The Smith’s!
48. Book hotel room blocks for your guests about 3 months before your wedding.
You can also just give people suggestions on hotels to stay at if you want to save money and not have to worry about getting charged a percentage of the rooms that don’t get booked.
49. Designate people for the following jobs:
Who sets up the wedding decorations?
Who holds the rings before the wedding? (Best man.)
Who drives your car?
Who’s driving everyone to photo locations?
Who cleans up your bridal suite when you’re heading to your Honeymoon?
The ushers and personal attendants typically...
clean up the getting ready rooms.
clean up the food at the church.
move the decor from the ceremony to the reception.
clean up after the reception. (Decor, flowers, leftover food and desserts, gifts, etc.)
Make sure there is enough room in their car for all of these.
Pick up the furniture rentals before the reception and return the furniture rentals after the reception.
50. Find someone who can take care of your pets while you’re on your Honeymoon.
51. Set out polaroid cameras or disposable cameras at the tables.
52. Get matching robes for you and your bridesmaids.
53. Provide umbrellas or shawls for you and your bridal party if it’s rainy or cold.
54. Give your favorite songs to your DJ to make sure they’re on the playlist.
55. Pick your special dance songs.
First look, father-daughter, and mother-son dance.
56. Write your vows.
Purchase His and Her Vow books from Etsy or Amazon.
57. If you’re a K.Ranae Bride, we create a timeline for your wedding day together about 2-3 months before your wedding day!
Plan Golden Hour/sunset photos.
58. Plan your Honeymoon last so you’re not trying to do too much at one time.
Do you want an all-inclusive?
Make a list of what to pack.
Make a list of things to bring back such as gifts you want to buy while there.
59. The week of, confirm the following:
Last-minute RSVPs, seating chart, Honeymoon logistics, vendors, that you have all payments taken care of, etc.
60. Decide if you want to do wedding favors.
Consider little treats instead!
61. Decide if you want a receiving line.
I typically recommend them so you can make sure you get to say a short and sweet “hello” and “thank you” to everyone!
62. Decide if you want a photo album guest book for people to sign.
Don’t forget pens!
63. Decide if you want to create a photo display honoring family members who have passed away.
64. Do you want a garter?
65. Buy a knife to cut your cake with.
66. Make a list of all of your things and where they are going since you will not be the one setting up or tearing down.
This way, nothing will get left behind or lost.
67. Make sure everything is done a couple days before so you can take a day to RELAX.
68. Pay all of your vendors at least one week before your wedding so you don’t have to think about it on the day.
Decide if you want to tip any/all vendors.
69. Pack an “Emergency Kit” or small purse of personal items that you want your personal attendant to carry for you all day.
70. Enjoy a mani and pedi and shave everywhere the night before.
71. Clean your ring.
You can get this done for free at almost every ring shop.
You can order a jewelry cleaner off of Amazon.
72. Decide your game plan for your wedding night, Honeymoon, and opening gifts.
Do you want to…
Book a Bridal Suite, sleep at the hotel, leave for the Honeymoon in the morning, and then open gifts with your family when you get back?
Book a Bridal Suite, sleep at the hotel, open gifts with family in the morning, and then leave for the Honeymoon a few days later?
Leave for the Honeymoon that night and then open gifts when you get back home?
73. Pack for your Honeymoon.
74. Pack your wedding day bag.
75. Pack your overnight bag.
76. Clean your home so you come home to a clean house.
77. Go to bed at a decent hour the night before.
ON THE DAY...
78. Eat breakfast and stay hydrated.
79. Have your details ready in a shoe box for your photographer to take right away.
80. Play music in your getting ready room.
81. Write a love note to your S.O. and have your MOH deliver it.
82. Turn your phone on silent. Give any vendors your Personal Attendant’s phone number so you can focus on your day.
Unplug! Your phone will be blowing up with well wishes. You can respond to these AFTER your Honeymoon.
83. Provide snacks and waters for your bridal party to keep energy up.
84. Provide lunch (sandwiches) for your bridal party the day of the wedding.
Bonus points if you provide lunch for your photographers! ;)
85. Break in your shoes before your wedding day or make sure you have bandaids.
86. Don’t wear a bra throughout the day. It will leave marks for photos.
Wear a button up shirt or robe so you don’t ruin your hair.
87. Make sure to eat and drink water whenever it’s offered. Eat dinner!
88. Have the girls pray over the bride and the guys pray over the groom.
89. Take 5 minutes in private with your S.O alone (with no friends, family, or vendors) to take in the day both before and after you get married.
90. Take a pause before walking down the aisle to lock eyes with your groom.
91. Walk SLOWLY down the aisle.
92. Look at EACH OTHER during the ceremony, not the officiant.
93. Take a moment to look at your guests during your ceremony to see the people who are there to support you.
94. Remind your MOH to fluff your dress while up at the altar.
95. Make sure your mom or MOH knows how to bustle your dress for the reception.
96. Have your personal attendant carry around your lipstick for the day to reapply. It will wipe off between all the kissing.
97. Do you have a pet? Have a family member bring your pet/s to one of the photo locations!
98. Pack flats for your reception. Your feet WILL get sore if you’re planning on wearing heels.
99. Be careful not to get sunburned. Wear sunscreen the week before your wedding.
100. Bring bug spray if you’re going to be in grassy areas.
101. Avoid spray tans. Crying can stain, it can turn out to orange, oftentimes it makes the groom look very pale in photos.
102. You want to remember your day, so be careful when it comes to alcohol if you’re having any.
103. After you eat, take 5-10 minutes to walk around together and thank your guests for coming.
104. Give a thank you speech to your family, friends, and vendors who helped make it all happen.
105. Don’t stay too long at your reception. You will be tired, so don’t feel bad about heading to your Bridal Suite around 10:00!
106. Share an intimate dance to your first dance song when you get alone in your hotel room.
107. Bring some desserts/snacks from the reception back to your hotel for you and your hubby!
108. Have open communication! Have a conversation ahead of time about your expectations and thoughts about what your wedding night will look like. (Sex.)
109. Remember this day is YOURS AND YOUR PARTNER’S so be considerate of others, but don’t let them take the joy or control your day.
110. Always remember it's about the marriage, not the wedding.
111. Remember that even if everything were to go wrong on your wedding day, you are still marrying the love of your life!