It finally happened! You or your partner popped the question, and now you’re enjoying engagement bliss. But before you say, “I do,” the real work begins—planning your wedding. Regardless of budget or timeline, it’s totally possible to put together a beautiful day you’ll never forget. If you’re looking for tips on how to plan a wedding, we have helpful advice and resources below to help you get organized!
1. DETERMINE THE DATE
The first item on your wedding planning checklist should be deciding on a date. Wedding season is usually in the late spring through early fall with peak season between June and September. If you get married during those months, venues and vendors may be difficult to schedule, and you may find that some will charge more for their services because of the higher demand. If you’re hoping to save money on your wedding, consider setting the date in the late fall or even during the winter months.
2. SET A BUDGET
This step is the most important in your wedding planning process. Before you choose your dress, venue, or decor, put together a wedding budget to make sure you don’t go overboard on spending. If either of your families have offered to help pay for the wedding, ask them what they’re able to contribute before making plans. This allows you and your partner to get an idea of how much you’ll need to make up any differences. Once you’ve determined what you can afford, then you can dive into wedding planning!
3. CONSIDER HIRING A WEDDING PLANNER
Hiring a wedding planner can help streamline your planning, making the whole process less stressful for you and your partner. Plus, wedding planners have established relationships with vendors, which can help with finding great deals on catering, entertainment, venues, and more. Talk with your partner to see if choosing a wedding planner is the best choice for your needs and your budget.
4. KEEP EVERYTHING ORGANIZED
Staying organized is key when it comes to planning your special day. If you’re not hiring a wedding planner, use a wedding planning website, wedding planning spreadsheets, or wedding countdown calendar to keep track of your budget, schedule, and deadlines. You can also keep checklists and documents in a DIY wedding planning binder or use wedding planning apps like WeddingHappy and iWedPlanner.
5. ATTEND A WEDDING OR BRIDAL FAIR
Attending a local bridal fair is a great resource for helping you plan your wedding. One major advantage is that bridal fairs host multiple wedding vendors, making it easy to meet professionals like caterers, photographers, and florists all in one convenient place. Many exhibitors also offer free samples, hold giveaways, and offer discounted services in an attempt to bring in potential clients. Some bridal fairs even host bridal gown trunk shows, where you can talk with the designers and find incredible deals on dresses.
6. CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD
Putting together an inspiration folder or vision board is one of the best things about planning a wedding. Collect images for colors, decorations, food, flowers, and more from bridal fashion magazines to create an inspiration board for how you want to see your big day. You can also check out Instagram and Pinterest for even more wedding planning inspiration!
7. PUT TOGETHER YOUR INVITE LIST
Once you’ve decided on the type of wedding you want to have, you can start on your wedding invite list. Even if you don’t have an exact number right away, estimating the number of guests can help you choose the appropriate venue size, as well as prepare for your overall food and beverage costs. You should also choose wedding party members like bridesmaids, personal attendants, and groomsmen as soon as possible so they can lock in the date!
8. FIND & RESERVE A VENUE
After you and your partner have chosen a time of year for your wedding, select a few potential dates that could work within that season. Venues can book out up to a year in advance, so try to reserve your choice as soon as possible. Make sure you tour venues and ask plenty of questions about each venue before signing any contracts. Thinking about having an outdoor wedding? There are lots of affordable wedding venues, such as public parks and even your own backyard. Just be sure take weather into consideration when picking your date and attire for the wedding party!
9. LOCK DOWN YOUR VENDORS
Planning a wedding means working with a variety of vendors to make sure your day goes off without a hitch. Photographers, caterers, DJs, and florists are just a few of the potential vendors you might consider for your wedding. To make sure you hire your vendors far enough in advance, look over this handy wedding vendor timeline. A few weeks before your wedding, follow up with your vendors with last-minute details.
10. SELECT FORMAL WEAR
Typically, wedding dresses should be bought six to nine months out, while bridesmaids dresses, groomsmen tuxes, and the groom’s tux should be bought or rented about four to six months out. This provides enough time for everything to come in and to set up alteration's appointments before the big day. There are a few ways you can save on formal wear. Buying wedding dresses off of the rack can save you hundreds of dollars, as can shopping online for gently used gowns. If you don’t mind the bridesmaids wearing different dresses, ask them to find an affordable dress in your preferred color. Also, tux rental companies offer group discounts (usually with the groom’s tux free) and coupons for off-season rentals.
11. SCHEDULE HAIR & MAKEUP APPOINTMENTS
Hairstylists and makeup artists can book out months in advance, particularly during peak wedding season. Schedule these appointments as early as you can in your wedding planning process or ask a friend to do your hair and makeup. You’ll want to make two appointments with your preferred stylist and makeup artist. One will be a trial run to make sure you love the look for your wedding day, and the other will be for your actual wedding day!
12. GET THE RIGHT OFFICIANT
Choosing an officiant often gets left at the bottom of a wedding planning checklist. But booking an officiant ahead of time will help you choose someone who can deliver the right message for your ceremony. Ask potential officiants questions about any ceremony restrictions they may have, what their fee is, and if you can meet with them prior to the ceremony. And don’t forget to discuss availability for the rehearsal!
13. DESIGN A WEDDING WEBSITE
A website is the easiest way to keep your guests and wedding party in the loop. Include important wedding day information like the date, venue, attire recommendations, schedule, hotel details, directions, and more. The Knot has a great variety of free wedding websites. Otherwise, you can check out other unique web design options from sites like Minted, Squarespace, Wix, and Zola.
14. FIND GIFTS FOR YOUR WEDDING PARTY
It’s common for couples to give gifts to their wedding party to thank them for their help and time. Some great gifts for bridesmaids include jewelry, clutch purses, or cozy robes for getting ready on the wedding day. A few gift ideas for groomsmen include personalized flasks, cigars, or cuff links. Be sure to check online stores like Etsy, which offer unique selections of wedding gifts!
15. GO WITH DIY DECOR
Adding a few DIY touches to your wedding can keep the day personal while also saving you money. Once you’ve chosen a decorative theme, items like wedding table centerpieces, DIY chalkboard signs, DIY silk flower wreaths, or a DIY petal toss bar can easily be made with affordable materials that still look elegant and stylish. Ask for help from friends or family members so you don’t get overwhelmed!
16. SEND SAVE-THE-DATES
Save-the-dates should be sent around eight to 12 months before your wedding to give guests plenty of time to plan. You can even make DIY save-the-dates, shaving a bit off your overall budget! Also, it’s a good idea to only send save-the-dates to the people on your guest list so you don’t hurt the feelings of anyone who won’t be invited to the wedding.
17. PLAN YOUR HONEYMOON
Planning a wedding can be stressful enough without thinking about another trip! But think of planning your honeymoon as your reward for all that hard work. Work with your partner to choose a location, book tickets, and lock down accommodations so you’re all ready to go after the wedding. Looking for cheap domestic trips? Book an affordable beach vacation, or go off the beaten path with these unique vacation ideas!
18. RESERVE HOTEL ROOMS
If you have out-of-town guests traveling for your wedding, work with a local hotel to reserve a block of rooms. Hotel blocks allow your guests to stay at the same place, making travel coordination much easier. Plus, many hotels offer a discount for multiple rooms, and they provide shuttle services to nearby venues.
19. MAIL WEDDING INVITATIONS
Wedding invitations are usually sent six to eight weeks before the big day. Choose a theme for your wedding invites that fits your style and budget. There are a number of amazing affordable wedding invitations that look extravagant. Or you can even design your own invitations on sites like Shutterfly, VistaPrint, Canva, and Minted for a fraction of the price.
20. CREATE YOUR REGISTRY
Create a wedding registry early in the planning process to give guests time to purchase gifts. Great places to set up registries include Target, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Pottery Barn. Can’t decide on one specific store? Blueprint Registry allows you to create an online registry with items from different retailers.
21. SET DETAILS FOR THE REHERSAL
The rehearsal dinner is typically held the night before the wedding and is a great way for the wedding party to run through the ceremony. The rehearsal dinner details will also need to be set with the wedding venue, the officiant, family members, and any musicians who may be playing music for the wedding. It’s recommended to book your rehearsal dinner with a restaurant about two to three months out.
22. FINALIZE THE GUEST LIST
Collect all the invitations you’ve received, and call anyone who hasn’t sent an RSVP to find out if they’re coming. Get the exact number of guests for your venue and caterer so they can prepare adequately. It’s also good to have a few extra place settings or meals prepared in case guests bring children or dates that they didn’t account for in their RSVP.
23. PUT TOGETHER A SEATING CHART
Tackle this wedding planning tip with your venue to figure out how many tables and seats the space can handle. Make sure to seat guests who know one another at the same tables. Group work colleagues, high school or college friends, or extended family members together. Use this wedding seating chart tool to quickly figure out the logistics.
24. GET YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE
With all of the excitement of finding a dress, choosing a venue, and tasting cakes, there is one very important wedding planning step that can’t be forgotten: getting a marriage license! The process of obtaining a marriage license varies from state to state, so make sure to do your research in advance.
25. ENJOY YOUR WEDDING DAY
Planning your dream wedding will be stressful at times, but don’t let that ruin your big day when it finally arrives. Remember to focus on your partner and your new life together, have fun with your friends and family, and allow beautiful memories to be made. You deserve to have a good time!