The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding

Rossini Photography

The weeks leading up to your wedding will be some of the most exciting and eventful moments of your life. However, they can also be quite hectic. There are many parts that go into planning the perfect wedding, from large decisions such as the wedding venue and reception party to more minute details like the party favors and invitation color. The planning process can often be quite extensive and requires a significant amount of preparation and organization from the happy couple. In order to ensure that your wedding is just as spectacular as you’ve always imagined, it’s often necessary to start planning well in advance of the big day. This ultimate guide to planning a wedding will help you stay on track in the months leading up to your wedding.

Twelve months out

Set the date

It may seem a bit excessive, but when planning a wedding, it’s always better to be overprepared. It’s in your best interest to set the date for your wedding as early as possible. Setting the date at least a year in advance will ensure that you have more than enough time to finalize all subsequent wedding plans. The further in advance you set a date, the more likely it will be that your desired venue will be available as well.

Set the budget

Budgeting for a wedding is no small task and costs can quickly start to add up over time. Setting a concrete budget from the get-go will ensure that you don’t break the bank when planning for your big day. Start by setting the main budget for the entire celebration, including the ceremony, reception, and overnight accommodations. From there you can begin breaking the budget down into more specific categories. Set a specific budget for food, decorations, entertainment, and clothing. Setting these specific budgets will ensure that you don't accidentally spend so much on your dress that you can’t afford the flowers you want. The more precise these specific budgets are, the less likely you will be to exceed your overall budget.

Book the venue

Book the venue

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Wedding venues book up fast, especially if you plan to get married during spring or summer. Book your wedding venue as soon as you’re able and sign a contract with the venue, if possible. Most wedding preparations will revolve around the venue in at least some way. Therefore, the sooner you are able to solidify your venue, the sooner you will be able to move forward with other preparations.

Nine months out

Assemble your ensemble

Assemble your ensemble

 

wedding shoe stores

 

Shoe: Gardenia. Rossini Photography

The nine-month mark is where the fun begins! Kick things off by shopping for your perfect wedding ensemble. Finding the perfect wedding dress can be tricky, and it can often take a few tries before you find the one. Beginning the wedding dress-shopping process at the nine-month mark ensures that you will have ample time to try a variety of different options and discover the one that works best for you. Additionally, wedding dresses and suits are often sold off the rack and will generally require at least a few alterations. These alterations can take a few weeks or even months, so it’s best to get the process rolling as soon as possible. When shopping for your wedding dress, be sure to also consider the ensemble as a whole. Visit a few accessory shops and wedding shoe stores to ensure that your entire ensemble is picture perfect on your big day.

Finalize entertainment

Finalize entertainment

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Entertainment is a big part of weddings. It is a party, after all! If you will be having live entertainment at your wedding, it’s best to finalize their contracts at least nine months in advance. This will provide you ample time to create a set list with them and will ensure that they don’t get snatched up by any other upcoming weddings.

Create a wedding website or registry

Wedding websites are a great way to share the excitement for your big day with the world. Such websites are often used to post engagement photos and share the story of how the happy couple met. They can also be a very helpful and cost-effective resource for sending save-the-dates or providing a wedding registry. With the popularity of online shopping, creating a wedding registry has never been easier.

Six months out

Determine the dinner menu

Determine the dinner menu

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One of the most fun parts of planning a wedding is determining the dinner and drinks menu for your reception. You will likely need to taste-test several different meal options, so be sure to go in with an empty stomach. When establishing the menu, be sure to select at least a few different options for the main course. This will ensure that guests who are vegetarian or have special dietary restrictions are still able to enjoy their meal.

Send invitations

Send invitations

Pure White Photography

Though some believe that invitations should be sent only six to eight weeks before the wedding, our ultimate guide to planning a wedding adheres to the school of thought that says it’s never too early to share the excitement and start inviting guests to your big day. In fact, it can often be in your best interest to send invitations a bit earlier. The sooner you send invitations, the more likely it will be that your guests can clear their schedules to attend your big day. This is particularly true for weddings that take place in the summer, when it seems that someone is jetting off on a vacation every day.

Three months out

Plan the ceremony

Plan the ceremony

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Though many wedding ceremonies follow a relatively similar format, it’s still best to walk through the process beforehand. With your big day just three months away, schedule a meeting with your wedding officiant to walk through plans for the ceremony. Determine what readings and songs you would like during the wedding and speak with the officiant regarding any traditions you would like to incorporate in the proceedings. This is also a good time to begin writing your vows, if that is something you and your partner have chosen to do.

Purchase your wedding shoes

wedding shoestips on taking care of your shoes wedding shoes

Finding your perfect sole-mate is not as important as finding your soulmate, but pretty close. Shoes are the second most important part of your wedding outfit after the wedding dress. The right shoes will make you feel beautiful and comfortable as you will have a full day of standing on your feet, greeting your loved ones, and dancing at the reception. They have to hug your feet comfortably, allow your feet to breath, and have generous padding! They also need to have beautiful details as they are one of your wedding details that will be photographed for your wedding album.

It is recommended that you purchase your shoes around 1 month before your first dress fitting. Your seamstress will hem your dress at the right length with your shoes on so that the dress is not too short or dragging on the floor on your wedding day. On the day of your first dress fitting, you will need the actual wedding shoes, or at the very least shoes of the same height as what you are planning to wear. Having the actual wedding shoes at the dress fitting will also allow you to see your full bridal ensemble.

If you purchase your shoes 1 month before your dress fitting, you will have plenty of time for exchanges if needed. Further, you can relax and save yourself from waiting on the edge of your seat for the delivery of the shoes just in time for your fitting.

Check out for more tips on taking care of your shoes and making them even more comfortable.

Test hair and makeup

Test hair and makeuphair and makeup

Pure White Photography

Hair and makeup play a large part in a bride’s overall look. Whether you are planning to do your own makeup or will be hiring a professional for the big day, it’s best to start experimenting at least three months in advance. Test a few different hairstyles and makeup looks to find the one that will best complement your full ensemble. If you will be working with a professional, be sure to schedule a practice run before the big day. This will give you a chance to tweak things if necessary before the wedding.

One month out

Establish seating chart

Establish seating chart

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Seating can be tricky, especially if you’re planning a large wedding with all your family and friends. Start arranging a rough sketch of your seating chart at least a month in advance. This will give you enough time to experiment with different seating configurations and move things around in the event you receive a last-minute RSVP.

Secure your marriage license

Amid the excitement and joy for your big day, the more logistical parts of wedding planning can be easily overlooked. In the month leading up to your wedding, be sure to finalize all necessary paperwork—the most important being the marriage license. The marriage license process can sometimes take several days to complete, so it’s always better to do this sooner rather than later. If you or your spouse will be changing your name after the wedding, it’s best to start this application process now as well.

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding

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