Ready, Set, Plan! Your Step-by-Step Blueprint to the Altar
To help you prepare for your big day, we've put together a must-have checklist of things to consider before you approach the altar. While this list is not exhaustive, it's a good blueprint as you begin to plan for your wedding.
12+ Months Before Your BIG DAY!
- Set a date.
- Discuss and create a budget.
- Begin outlining a guest list.
- Figure out where to have the wedding ceremony and reception.
- Book hotel room blocks.
- Book a DJ and a wedding planner, if desired.
- Find and book an officiant.
- Begin shopping around for suits and/or gowns.
- If desired, set up a wedding website.
9-12 Months Before Your BIG DAY!
- Choose members of the wedding party and assign roles.
- Make final decisions on the guest list.
- Choose wedding themes and colors.
- Pick caterer and discuss what kind of food will be served.
- Book a florist, ceremony musicians, DJ and/or band for the reception, and a bakery for the cake.
- Research and select stationary for wedding invitations, thank you notes, etc.
- If the wedding party participants are wearing dresses or suits, arrange a fitting and have each person order their respective attire.
- Order other formalwear accessories, if desired.
6-8 Months Before Your BIG DAY!
- Mail save-the-dates.
- Discuss ceremony details with the officiant.
- Choose your honeymoon destination and make all necessary travel and lodging arrangements.
- Order official invitations and thank-you notes.
- Prepare plans for the rehearsal dinner.
4-5 Months Before Your BIG DAY!
- Make sure everything is right flower-wise with your florist.
- Have a room booked for your wedding night.
- Have cake order finalized.
- Start making, or purchase, wedding favors.
- Select your wedding rings.
2-3 Months Before Your BIG DAY!
- Go to various food tastings and make final decisions on the menu.
- Send out invitations 6-8 weeks in advance.
- Schedule fittings for wedding gown and veil (if applicable) 6 weeks out (and again 1-2 weeks out).
- Make final plans with the officiant for the ceremony.
- Ensure that hotel rooms for both the wedding night and honeymoon are still booked.
- Begin making ceremony programs.
- Create an hour-by-hour schedule of wedding day plans.
- Get those last-minute accessories!
- If you’re writing your own wedding vows, this is the time to finish them.
1 Month Before Your BIG DAY!
- Discuss what kinds of photos you want with your photographer and/or videographer and plan where pictures will be taken before, during and after the ceremony.
- If you have out-of-town guests, have welcome bags ready for them.
- Mail out invites for the rehearsal dinner.
1-2 Weeks Before Your BIG DAY!
- Schedule your final wedding gown/veil fitting (if applicable).
- If there are any missing RSVPs, do a follow-up with the invited guests.
- Design a seating chart to give to the caterer, planner, photographer, etc.
- Let your caterer know how many guests are expected, including anyone hired for the event.
- Make sure everything is in order with all hired staff (musicians, DJ, band, caterer, photographer, wedding planner, etc.).
- Have all toasts written, rehearsed and ready to go!
- Make sure you have the marriage license (duh)!
2-3 Days Before Your BIG DAY!
- Confirm times of delivery for the cake and flowers.
- Confirm meet-up location with the photographer.
- If place cards, menus, wedding favors, guest book, and other items are a part of the reception, give them to your planner and caterer accordingly.
- Have the processional and recessional planned out.
- Make sure your attire is in its best shape. Steam if necessary to eliminate wrinkles.
- Have your overnight bag packed for your wedding night.
- Bring welcome bags to the hotel where your guests will be staying.
1 Day Before Your BIG DAY!
- PANIC!!! Then, STOP PANICKING!!
- Have all materials for the ceremony (décor, accessories, etc.) brought to the site.
- Rehearse ceremony.
- Attend rehearsal dinner.
- Give gifts to your significant other, parents, etc.
- Have an attendant hold on to the officiant’s fee to be given after the ceremony.
- Be happy! This is a stressful time, but it’s all worth it when you walk down that aisle.
Your BIG DAY!
- Let yourself be enveloped in the love of your family, friends, community and, of course, your spouse.
Gretchen Gales is a Collegiate Fellow with Unite Virginia magazine. She is currently a student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying English and History.