Wedding Planner

The perfect guide to your perfect day

Free Wedding Planner Checklist

16 to 9 Months before

Start a wedding folder or binder

Begin leafing through bridal, lifestyle, fashion, gardening, design, and food magazines for inspiration.

Work out your budget

Determine how much you have to spend, based on your families’ contributions and your own.

Pick your wedding party

As soon as you’re engaged, people will start wondering who’s in

Start the guest list

Make a head count database to use throughout your planning process, with columns for contact info, RSVPs, gifts, and any other relevant information.

Hire a planner or decorator

A planner will have relationships with—and insights about—vendors.

Reserve your date and venue

Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception, factoring in travel time between the two places.

Book your Celebrant

Research photographers, bands, florists and caterers

Keep their contact information in your binder.

Throw an engagement party

But remember that your invitees should be on your wedding guest list as well.

8 Months before

Hire the photographer and/or the videographer

No need to talk specifics yet, but be sure that the people you hire are open to doing the shots that you want.

Book the entertainment

Attend gigs of potential acts to see how they perform in front of audiences, then reserve your favorite

Meet caterers

If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one now and hire the service this month or early next.

Purchase a dress

You’ll need to schedule time for at least three fittings. Veil shopping can be postponed for another two to three months.

Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests

Pick three hotels at different price points close to the reception venue.

Register for gifts

Sign up at a minimum of three retailers.

7 to 6 Months before

Select and purchase invitations

Hire a calligrapher, if desired. Addressing cards is time-consuming, so you need to budget accordingly.

Start planning a honeymoon

Make sure that your passports are up-to-date, and schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.

Shop for bridesmaids’ dresses

Allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.

Meet with the celebrant

Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding.

Send save-the-date cards

Or have a wedding website with all the details for guests

Reserve structural and electrical necessities

Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.

Book a florist

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.

Arrange transportation

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.)

Start composing a day-of timeline.

Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance).

5 to 4 Months before

Book the rehearsal and rehearsal-dinner venues

Negotiate the cost and the menu. If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, book that place as well.

Check on the wedding invitations

Ask the stationer for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.

Select and order the cake

Some bakers require a long lead time. Attend several tastings before committing to any baker.

Send your guest list to the host of your shower

Provided you, ahem, know about the shower.

Purchase wedding shoes and start dress fittings

Bring the shoes along to your first fitting so the tailor can choose the appropriate length for your gown.

Schedule hair and makeup artists

Make a few appointments with local experts to try them out. Snap a photo at each so you can compare results.

Choose your music

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.

3 Months before

Finalize the menu and flowers

You’ll want to wait until now to see what will be available, since food and flowers are affected by season.

Order favors, if desired

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.

Make a list of the people giving toasts

Which loved ones would you like to have speak at the reception? Ask them now.

Finalize the readings

Determine what you would like to have read at the ceremony—and whom you wish to do the readings.

Finalize the order of the ceremony and the reception

Print menu cards, if you like, as well as programs

No need to go to a printer, if that’s not in your budget: You can easily create these on your computer.

Purchase the rings

This will give you time for resizing and engraving. (Think of insurance)

Send your event schedule to the vendors

Giving them a first draft now allows ample time for tweaks and feedback.

2 Months before

Touch base again with all the vendors

Make sure any questions you or they had on your first draft have been answered.

Meet with the photographer

Discuss specific shots, and walk through the locations to note spots that appeal to you.

Review the playlist with the band or deejay

Though you probably won’t be able to dictate every single song played, you should come prepared with a wish list.

Send out the invitations.

The rule of thumb: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony, setting the RSVP cutoff at three weeks after the postmark date.

Enjoy a bachelorette party

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.

1 Month before

Enter RSVPs into your guest-list database

Phone people who have not yet responded.

Mail the rehearsal-dinner invitations

Visit the dressmaker for (with luck!) your last dress fitting

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.

Send out as many final payments as you can

Confirm times for hair and makeup and all vendors

E-mail and print directions for drivers of transport vehicles

This gives the chauffeurs ample time to navigate a route.

Assign seating

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.

Purchase bridesmaids’ gifts

You’ll present them at the rehearsal dinner.

Write vows, if necessary

Get your hair cut and colored, if desired

2 to 1 Weeks before

Send the final guest list to the caterer and all venues hosting your wedding-related events

Break in your shoes

Reconfirm arrival times with vendors

Delegate small wedding-day tasks

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.

Send a timeline to the bridal party

Include every member’s contact information, along with the point people you’ve asked to deal with the vendors, if problems arise.

Pick up your dress

Or make arrangements for a delivery.

Set aside checks for the vendors

Make an appointment for a manicure and a pedicure the day before the wedding. (You might want to get a stress-relieving massage, too.).

Pack for your honeymoon.

Enjoy yourself!

Free Wedding Planner Checklist