Congratulations – You’re engaged! You’re entering a period of love, deeper connections, and starting the rest of your life with the one you love most. But with this comes a daunting task – planning a wedding.
Whether you want a small, intimate wedding with your closest family and friends, or an all out party with everyone you can think of, we’re here to help tackle what may feel like the impossible. We’ve created this useful guide, along with our official Forever and Company 18-month wedding planner and Wedding Journey email subscription, to help you (and your fiancé!) stay organized and reduce your stress as you plan the wedding of your dreams.
12+ MONTHS BEFORE
Determine your wedding colors and feel.
Your wedding colors and feel set the stage for the big day. What is your vision for the day?
Determine a budget.
Wedding budgets can range all over the place. Consider your priorities – is it florals? Atmosphere? Also consider who is helping pay for the wedding and how much you individually want to pay!
This is critical to book at the beginning of your wedding planning journey. Other vendors you book will need a date and location when considering being a part of your wedding day. It’s important to keep in mind when touring venues if you want a completely separate ceremony and reception space or plan to use the same space for both!
Start a guest list and establish a guest count.
Who do you want with you on your big day to celebrate with you? Pay attention to budget when establishing your guest count – the average cost per wedding guest is $215. Therefore, less guests = less money!
Secure your photographer and/or videographer.
Your photographer will be with you the entire wedding journey if you choose to take engagement photos, so take your time in choosing a photographer that has a style you like! You’ll cherish these photos the rest of your life so you want to make sure they’re special!
Plan your engagement party.
Take some time for you and your fiance to celebrate your love! Kick back, relax, and party the night away with your loved ones!
Start shopping for your dress and other wedding outfit details.
Wedding dresses can take an average of 8 months to come in (not including alterations!) so start shopping early! Your dream dress is out there, whether it be the first dress you try on or the 20th! Take time to decide other wedding outfit details such as a veil, jewelry, and shoes to complete your look.
8-12 MONTHS BEFORE
Hire wedding planner and/or day of coordinator if desired.
Feeling intimidated by all the planning details? Consider hiring a wedding planner and/or a day coordinator to make the planning process smoother (and more stress free!)
Choose your wedding party.
Decide who you want standing with you on your big day. Traditionally, a bride has a Maid (Matron if married!) of Honor and bridesmaids, and a groom has a best man and other groomsmen! Your wedding party can be as small or large as you want – don’t feel pressured to ask people to be in your wedding party if they aren’t especially special to you and your fiance!
Finalize guest list.
Narrow down who you’re inviting to your wedding. This is a great time to decide if children are invited!
Start planning out invitations.
Now that you have your guest list finalized, you can start creating your invitations and save the dates. Tie in your wedding colors and theme to create a cohesive look throughout.
Schedule engagement photos.
Make sure your pictures represent you and your fiance as a couple. These photos are perfect to be used for your save the dates, wedding stationary, and for the future!
Schedule tastings and book caterer.
Start tasting options for your menu and wedding cake (or other desserts). Meet with different caterers to choose which one you want for your wedding. Consider the time of day of your ceremony when planning out your menu – planning on dancing the night away? Maybe provide a late night snack for your guests!
Secure music and any necessary elements for your venue.
Decide what you and your fiance want for your wedding music – do you want a live band? Or is a DJ more your style? Think about music for your ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception and if your music will have to move locations within your venue.
Once you decide and book your DJ/band/music, make sure to book any other elements you’ll need to transform your reception space, such as uplighting and special effects.
Have your engagement party.
Take the time to celebrate being engaged! While wedding planning can be fun (and definitely daunting), enjoy the time you have with your fiance being engaged. Celebrate with friends, family, and any other special people in your lives.
Order save the dates.
While not necessary if you’re trying to cut costs, save the dates give plenty of notice to your guests of when your wedding is! Send save the dates 2-3 months before your formal invitations, so order early. Include the basic information for your wedding, such as the date, location, and any important links (like your wedding website if you have one and your registry).
Plan the honeymoon.
Honeymoons take all different shapes and forms. Think of your budget and your dream destinations when beginning to plan your honeymoon. Do you want to explore a destination city? Or is a relaxing beach vacation more your style? Also consider the time of year you are getting married in when considering when and where to take your honeymoon. While the Caribbean is a popular location, going late summer/early fall is hurricane season!
Start florist research.
Keep in mind the time of year you’re getting married in when considering how you want your florals to look. Out of season florals tend to be more expensive and will need a larger floral budget.
6-8 MONTHS BEFORE
Start planning bachelor/bachelorette parties.
One of the most fun parties during your engagement! Get your best friends together and celebrate all night (or even all weekend!) It’s becoming increasingly popular for couples to have a combined bachelor/bachelorette party instead of separate parties so choose which one is more your party style when planning it! Typically, the maid of honor and/or best man take charge of planning the party, so start communicating early if you have specific requests!
Plan the rehearsal dinner.
Taking place the night before the wedding, the rehearsal dinner allows you, your fiance, the wedding party and any other people directly involved in the wedding to practice the wedding proceedings before the big day!
The “dinner” part comes after, where you can have one more night of celebration before the wedding with your loved ones. Book a venue, start planning out the wedding itinerary, and establish your wedding party.
Florals can really elevate your wedding. Florals and greenery can completely transform a venue, so work with your choice of florist to determine where you want florals and what type of florals you want. Popular trends include flower ceremony arches, flowing bouquets, and even floral “rentals” (which can help you cut costs if your budget is tight!)
Determine rental needs.
Chairs, linens, tables, tents – all are typically rented for your wedding as you probably won’t use them again. Check with your venue to see what is already included in your booking and if they have their own rental options. It’s also a good idea to check any policies they may have when it comes to bringing in outside rentals!
Decide on formal wear for the wedding party.
This includes formal wear for bridesmaids/groomsmen, parents/grandparents, flower girl, ring bearer, and anyone else in the wedding party. Before attending fittings, decide on what look you are going for to make it less complicated (and to reduce unwanted opinions). Do you want everyone wearing the same thing? Or just the same colors? Pinterest is a great resource to see how different wedding party’s can be dressed and still look cohesive!
Block hotel rooms for out of town guests.
While not necessary, it is very helpful when planning your wedding to block out hotel rooms near your venue for guests that will be traveling from out of town to attend your wedding. The closer to your reception the better, as not everyone will have access to a car to drive to the venue. Use your guest list to decide how many rooms to block.
Order invitations and other stationery.
You’ll send out your invitations 2-3 months before the wedding date, so make sure to order early. Again, Pinterest is a great resource to get a multitude of ideas for your invitations and any additional elements. Consider mailing policies in your area when deciding on your invitation design, as wax seals can add enough weight to require additional postage!
Send save the dates.
As previously mentioned, save the dates can be useful to give plenty of notice to your guests of when your wedding is! Send save the dates 2-3 months before your formal invitations.
Attend tastings to try different flavors and options for your wedding cake! It is becoming more and more popular for couples to have a small tiered cake to cut together and then have different desserts for their guests, such as an ice cream bar or cupcakes!
If you and your fiance aren’t fans of cake, there’s tons of other options – don’t feel like you have to have a cake! If you do choose to have a cake, bring some inspiration to your baker to help design your wedding cake.
Research marriage license requirements.
Every state has different requirements and rules for applying for a marriage license. Start looking into how to apply/obtain a marriage license and all the documents you may need. At the same time, if you or your fiance is planning on changing your legal name, this is a great time to research how to do this as well!
Plan your ceremony.
Decide who you want to officiate your wedding. This could be a religious official, a family member, or someone that is close to you and your fiance. Use your wedding party list to plan out the order of the ceremony. Your ceremony is a great time to incorporate any religious, cultural, or other types of traditions that are important to you and your fiancé.
Book your honeymoon.
Now that you’ve decided where and when to take your honeymoon, book lodging, travel accommodations, and any activities you want to do on your honeymoon that require booking in advance. Things can fill up fast so it’s best to plan ahead!