Planning your special day
Sixteen to Nine Months Before
- Begin leafing through bridal, lifestyle, fashion, gardening, design, and food magazines for inspiration.
- Determine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own.
- As soon as you’re engaged, people will start wondering who’s in.
- Make a head count database to use throughout your planning process, with columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant information. (Want to keep costs low? It may be brutal, but the best way to do it is to reduce your guest list.)
- A planner will have relationships with—and insights about—vendors.
- Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception, factoring in travel time between the two places.
- Keep their contact information in your binder.
- But remember that your invitees should be on your wedding guest list as well.
Eight Months Before
- No need to talk specifics yet, but be sure that the people you hire are open to doing the shots that you want.
- Attend gigs of potential acts to see how they perform in front of audiences, then reserve your favorite.
- If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one now and hire the service this month or early next.
- You’ll need to schedule time for at least three fittings. Veil shopping can be postponed for another two to three months.
- Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue.
- Sign up at a minimum of three retailers.
- Create your personal page through a free provider such as weddingchannel.com. Note the date of the wedding, travel information, and accommodations. Then send the link to invitees.
Seven to Six Months Before
- Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Addressing cards is time-consuming, so you need to budget accordingly.
- Make sure that your passports are up-to-date, and schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.
- Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.
- Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding (these vary by county and religion).
- Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.
- Florists can serve multiple clients on one day, which is why you can wait a little longer to engage one. Plus, at this point, you’ll be firm on what your wedding palette will be.
- Consider limos, minibuses, trolleys, and town cars. (But know that low-to-the-ground limos can make entries and exits dicey if you’re wearing a fitted gown.)
- Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance).
Five to Four Months Before
- Negotiate the cost and the menu. If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, book that place as well.
- Ask the stationer for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.
- Some bakers require a long lead time. Attend several tastings before committing to any baker.
- Provided you, ahem, know about the shower.
- Bring the shoes along to your first fitting so the tailor can choose the appropriate length for your gown.
- Make a few appointments with local experts to try them out. Snap a photo at each so you can compare results.
- What should be playing when the wedding party is announced? During dinner? To kick off the dancing? Keep a running list of what you want—and do not want—played.
Three Months Before
- You’ll want to wait until now to see what will be available, since food and flowers are affected by season.
- Some safe bets: monogrammed cookies or a treat that represents your city or region. If you’re planning to have welcome baskets for out-of-town guests, plan those now too.
- Which loved ones would you like to have speak at the reception? Ask them now.
- Determine what you would like to have read at the ceremony—and whom you wish to do the readings.
- And schedule your second fitting.
- No need to go to a printer, if that’s not in your budget: You can easily create these on your computer.
- This will give you time for resizing and engraving.
- Giving them a first draft now allows ample time for tweaks and feedback.
Two Months Before
- Make sure any questions you or they had on your first draft have been answered.
- Discuss specific shots, and walk through the locations to note spots that appeal to you.
- Though you probably won’t be able to dictate every single song played, you should come prepared with a wish list.
- The rule of thumb: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony, setting the RSVP cutoff at three weeks after the postmark date.
- If you’re planning to include a photograph, check the publication’s website: Some have strict rules about how the photo should look.
- Arranging a night out with your girlfriends generally falls to the maid of honor. But if she hasn’t mentioned one to you by now, feel free to ask—for scheduling purposes, of course!—if a celebration is in the works.
One Month Before
- Phone people who have not yet responded.
- The process can take up to six days, but it’s good to give yourself some leeway. If you are changing your name, order several copies.
- For peace of mind, you may want to schedule a fitting the week of your wedding. You can always cancel the appointment if you try on the dress then and it fits perfectly.
- Now that you have a firm head count you can order accordingly.
- This gives the chauffeurs ample time to navigate a route.
- Draw out table shapes on a layout of the room to help plan place settings. Write the names of female guests on pink sticky notes and the names of male guests on blue sticky notes so you can move people about without resketching the entire setting.
- You’ll present them at the rehearsal dinner.
Week of the Wedding
- Choose someone to bustle your dress, someone to carry your things, someone to be in charge of gifts (especially the enveloped sort), someone to hand out tips, and someone to be the point person for each vendor.
- Include every member’s contact information, along with the point people you’ve asked to deal with the vendors, if problems arise.
- Or make arrangements for a delivery.
- Supply him or her with a list of moments you want captured on film.
- And put tips in envelopes to be handed out at the event.
- Make an appontment for a manicure and a pedicure the day before the wedding. (You might want to get a stress-relieving massage, too.)
- Typically, companies close their lists 72 hours in advance.