First Comes Love Then Comes Planning
02/10/2016 08:03AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier
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The Ultimate Wedding Planning Timeline
By Shanna Perkins
More like first comes love – then comes months of planning – THEN comes marriage. There was a time when 6 months was considered a long engagement. Today, engagements last an average of 13.8 months. One component of prolonged engagements is the time that it takes to plan a wedding. We’ve all heard the wedding planning horror stories and we can’t promise it will be entirely stress free, but following a timeline will start you out on a smooth road to happily ever after.
“I don’t believe there is a magic number for wedding planning,” says wedding, event and honeymoon planner and owner of Southern Couture Weddings, Hannah Trahan. “I truly feel that it depends on the client. I have clients who make all of their decisions very quickly and are basically waiting for the big day. Some clients change their details up until the final meeting. In my opinion, no shorter than 6 months, because there are a lot of decisions to be made and you don’t want to feel pressured or rushed. Longer than a year can give you too much time to change your vision multiple times.”
12-10 Months – Pick A Date
Meeting the person you want to marry. Getting engaged. Those are the two most important factors, but a close third is picking a date. The date is one of the things that make your day so unique to you. First decide if there are any holidays or events that you absolutely do or don’t want your wedding to fall on or near. Determine what season suits you best and what the weather will be like. Now, start narrowing down the dates.
The most popular months for swapping “I Dos” are June, September and October. Meaning, booking venues and vendors could be an issue if not done early enough. Getting married in months like January or March will make booking easier. However, there is a different set of obstacles to consider, like flowers. Depending on the time of year, finding certain flowers could be very difficult to fit into your budget.
Have an open mind when choosing a date. Your dream venue could be booked that weekend or your favorite photographer could have another obligation. Pick a few that you are both OK with and see what works best.
“The most important things to remember when determining your timeline and date are the length of the engagement and the time of year,” explains Trahan. “Busy months will book out more than a year in advanced, while slower months could be available in as little as three months. You want to start with the main details that book quickly and schedule from there. Venue, church and date are the real first decisions.”
Create A Budget
This part may not be fun, but it’s critical that it’s done before anything is paid for or any deposits are made. To create a realistic budget, you must do research to find out what things cost in your area. Make a list of prices and determine where they rank by importance.
Creating a priority list will allow you to layout what the most important elements are. Now do the math, determine what percentage of the budget should be spent where. This will allow you to have a flexible budget that can be used as more of a guide. The last step in creating the budget? Talk to your family. Find out if they are willing to contribute. It used to not be uncommon for parents to foot the entire wedding bill. Today more and more couples are paying for the bulk of their weddings and allowing their family members to pay for flowers, the bar or the honeymoon. Either way it’s best to ask so that you know exactly what you can factor into the budget.
Assemble A Planning Team
For some people this will consist of mom, maid of honor and future mother in law. Some brides are great and efficient planners who love all of the little details. Others, well, you’ve heard the term Bridezilla, right? These women would do well to hire a wedding planner or consultant to help sort out the details and ease their anxiety.
“When you should book your wedding planner depend on if you are interested in full service or week of coordination,” explains Trahan. “For full service, I would recommend booking first so she can assist with all details from finding available venues to setting all appointments. Booking a coordinator first will ensure she helps with the entire process.
“Most clients are most overwhelmed in the first few weeks when they realize the amount of things to get booked. A coordinator can be very instrumental during this time. Week of can be booked as little as one month out, but I would recommend between the three and six month mark.”
The Guest List
Start considering who you want to invite to your wedding. Consider your venue’s capacity and your budget and settle on a headcount. Deciding who gets what percentage of the guest list has been known to lead to premarital tiffs, to say the least.
Make your dream guest list. Now look at the reality of capacity and budget and start chopping those names. Here are a few rules to help narrow down the list.
• If neither of you has met them, spoken to them or heard of them.
• If you aren’t related and haven’t spoken to them in two years.
“There are really no rules for when you should take your engagement pictures, because every couple is different and there are different lengths of engagements,” explains photographer Jennifer Beslin, owner of Fusion Photography. “I always suggest scheduling your session as soon as you set your date so you can celebrate your engagement.
“If you have a longer engagement, you have the opportunity to pick your season,” Beslin continues. “Most people want spring portraits with flowers, but I love a good ‘snuggle’ portrait in the beautiful colors of fall and winter.”
Beslin points out that taking your engagement pictures is a great time to get to know your photographer and vice versa. It’s also an excellent time for you and your fiancé to get comfortable in front of a camera and to learn what you do and don’t like. And once your engagement pictures are taken care of, it’s time to….
Schedule A Wedding Photographer
“I am sure you’ve heard this before, but I can’t stress how important it is, if photography is important to you, you should schedule your photographer as soon as you have chosen and locked in your wedding date,” Beslin stresses.
It’s also a good idea to go ahead and schedule your bridal portraits.
Today, there is no shortage of “photographers,” but taking pictures in sepia tone does not a photographer make. It’s very important that you don’t settle on your photographer and that you do your research.
“Sure, it’s easy to ‘price shop’ by sending emails, but please pick your three favorite photographers and meet with them,” Beslin advises. “Learn what it is you want and need. If your budget doesn’t allow you to hire your favorite, let the photographer know and ask for suggestions. Be sure to ask your photographer what type of equipment they use, if their backup equipment is equally efficient, if they have insurance and how long it will take to receive the final images.”
10-8 Months Wedding Gown
This is a big one. I mean, it’s the dress! And it isn’t a quick process. Occasionally it takes several trips to the bridal shop (or shops) to find the perfect dress. Once you find it, you have to wait for it to come in and still have to factor in time of alterations. So, it’s important that it’s done within or before this window.
“Being in the bridal fashion industry, we would recommend looking for your dress once the question is popped,” says Le Jour Couture owner Shayda Yazdi. “The sooner, the better. You should order your gown no later than six months before your wedding. Gowns take about that time to come in. Time for alterations should always be considered.
“The overall process is at least a six month period,” she continues. “Again, alteration time varies for every bride. Once your gown arrives, we quickly set up an appointment with our in house seamstress to discuss timeline for any alterations necessary to make your dream gown fit seamlessly to your body.”
The Wedding Party
Decided who you want to stand by your side and ask them to be involved in your big day. There are plenty of adorable ways to do this, a quick Pinterest search will show you all the ways you can ask. Or, do it the old fashion way and ask them over dinner or drinks.
Research & Commit
In the 8-10 month window, the big decisions are behind you and lots and lots of little ones lay before you. This is the time when you start thinking about the smaller details and deciding exactly what kind of wedding you want. Once you make these decisions, book them!
Food, food is important. Nobody is a good hungry guest (or drinker). Food also helps set the tone of the wedding. Start determining what kind of food you want and look into caterers.
What kind of music do you want for the ceremony and reception? A pianist, violinist, DJ, band? Think about what type of music is special to you and your fiancé and what your guests would appreciate.
Depending on where you live, hair and makeup for weddings can book up pretty early. So, it’s good to find a beautician whose work you like and go ahead and schedule them. You want to be sure to let them know if they’ll be doing your bridal party’s hair and makeup, too. It’s also a good idea to book them for your bridal portraits.
Decide what kind of floral décor you want. It’s important to take into consideration the size of the venue, so you’ll know how many flowers will be needed. Discuss the style of your wedding with your florist and make sure to price check as you go; if your wedding is out of season, flowers could eat up a large part of the budget. You’ll need to decide on and order floral décor, bouquets, boutonnieres and possibly something for the mothers of the bride and groom.
If a large amount of your guests are coming from out of town or if you’re having a destination wedding, book accommodations for them at a near by hotel.
Check in with your venue to see what they provide, contact a rental company for anything that won’t be included: chairs, tables a tent.
8-6 Months – Order Bridesmaids’ Dresses
By this point, a lot of the details, like the tone of your wedding, will have already been determined. Bridesmaids’ dresses should compliment the style of your wedding dress – casual or formal. It’s important to factor in body types and skin tones. Yes, it’s your big day, but they should be beautiful, as well.
Once you’ve made your decision, finalize it with your bridal party. As a rule, bridesmaid dresses run small, so ask each girl to be measured by a professional seamstress. Place the order for the dresses at the same time, so they are all in the same dye lot. It will take about two to three months for these dresses to come in.
Begin Planning Your Honeymoon
“I recommend that a couple book the honeymoon once the other vendors are booked,” says Trahan who is also a Certified Sandals Honeymoon Specialist. “Settling on a budget will help narrow down options. If possible, I suggest booking at least six months out from the wedding, but as far out as you can get this decided the more options you are going to have.”
Once you’ve decided on a location, renew your passports if necessary.
Save The Date
There’s always a bit of confusion about the necessity of save the dates. But, if you’re getting married in a month where people are typically on vacation or during a holiday, it’s a good idea to go ahead and send them.
6-3 Months – Wedding Bands
Many engagement rings are purchased with matching wedding bands. If not, it’s time to go find one. This is also the ideal time to select the groom’s ring. It’s important to consider his lifestyle so that you choose a metal that isn’t easily damaged or a style that won’t get in his way. Men’s wedding rings have come along way so you’ll be able to pick one that suits his personal style.
Order Wedding Invitations
Follow every other step you’ve taken while planning your wedding and factor in your style and colors – the invitations should also be uniquely you. They’re the first taste of the wedding that guests will get. Make sure that they are legible and the design doesn’t overtake the font. Choose your words carefully (be they fun or formal) and double, triple, quadruple check the proof.
3 Months – Cake
“You should meet with your baker at least a couple of months before the wedding date,” says Fudge It! owner Natilie Fremin. “Orders should be designed and completed a month in advance if time allows. Planning depends on your theme, the season, colors and any special features you want to include. It’s always a good idea to use the Internet to search for cakes to match your ideas. Mixing features from different cakes can be done to make yours specific to your wedding day. I make suggestions as to what I think will fit the event.”
If needed, hire wedding day transportation. Take into consideration your venue’s parking and how far the ceremony will be from the reception. Look into limousines, town cars or fun transportation like trollies.
Many months after the wedding dress has been handled, it’s finally time for the groom and groomsmen to take care of their formalwear and rent their tuxedos.
2 Months – Invitations
Six to eight weeks is the traditional timespan for invitations to be sent out. This gives guests plenty of time to clear their schedule and make arraignments.
1 Month – Apply For A Wedding License
Check with the local bureau in the town where you will be married.
Take Bridal Portraits
This is a good time to have a final hair and makeup run. After the shoot, because there’s a chance the dress could get dirty, have it pressed one final time.
“My rule is to have your bridals done no later than one month before your wedding date,” Beslin explains. “This allows for alterations, possible cleaning and reaching that ‘perfect weight.’ Ask the local newspaper how far in advance photographs for wedding announcements need to be submitted. I always suggest having professional hair and makeup – it’s another day for you, about you, looking like the best version of yourself.”
The Final Weeks
By this point, you’ve made it. You’ve got it under control. The most important thing to remember is that your wedding day will be a perfect day filled with love, one that you will look back on for the rest of your life. If that’s not enough for you, we have a few last checkpoints. But truly, relax; it will be perfect.
• Call all bridesmaids and make sure they have everything ready.
• Make last minute adjustments with the vendors.
• Create a wedding program.
• Review final RSVP list and call guests who haven’t confirmed.
• Give photographers a must-have shot list. Include who should be in formal portraits.
• Deliver final song list to DJ or bandleader. Include any special request or songs not to be
• Bride: Get prewedding cut and color.
• Give venue and caterer a final headcount. Including any vendors who will expect a meal.
• Call and confirm all arraignments with wedding vendors
• Groom: Get final hair trim.
2-3 Days Before
• Determine wedding party positions during ceremony and order of processional and
• Bride: Have dress steamed or pressed if needed.
• Groom: Ask the best man to make sure all groomsmen have had their tuxes fitted and
• Reconfirm all details.
• Write all checks and talk to someone you trust about making sure everyone receives their
payment by the end of the reception.
• Rehearsal ceremony. Meet with wedding party, readers, family and officiant at the
ceremony site to rehearse.
• Bring unity candle, aisle runners and all other ceremony accessories to the site.
• Give marriage license to officiant.
• Attend rehearsal dinner.
The Day Of
• Give wedding bands to the best man and maid of honor.
• Introduce professionals and site manager to maid of honor or wedding consultant incase
there are any questions or problems.