How to Plan a Wedding from Start to Finish: The Ultimate Checklist
So you’re engaged! Firstly – congratulations, this is such an exciting time! And secondly…do you know how to plan a wedding from start to finish?
As I’m sure you’re already figuring out, planning your nuptials is potentially a long, (long, long) monumental list of tasks. And while magazines full of pretty pictures are a fab place to start for inspiration, it can be quite a daunting undertaking – particularly if you’ve never before been involved in the process of planning an event on this scale. Consider this post to be a metaphorical handhold from an expert on all things wedding.
How Long Does it Take to Plan a Wedding?
You need a minimum of 28 days to legally organise a wedding in the UK, and – realistically – significantly longer to plan one. While it is possible to arrange a wedding in as little as several weeks, if you want to enjoy the process, I’d recommend giving yourself at least six to twelve months. This affords reasonable time for research, planning (and achieving) your budget, and booking vendors. (Be aware that popular vendors can be booked out many months – and even years – in advance. This includes venues, photographers, entertainment, etc.)
Of course, the entire operation can become far more involved if your wedding is a big celebration. The extensive checklist I’ve drawn up is designed to make it a less convoluted and more efficient process.
Where to Begin With Planning Your Wedding
First, buy a wedding planner!
But seriously, this largely depends on how long your engagement will be: an abundance of time means more choice available to you for the approach you take.
Essentially, the below agenda gives a suggested order of projects; but there is some admin that has critical deadlines which must be adhered to.
If you’ve opted to marry very quickly, there are certain requirements that must be met and it becomes important to follow the checklist closely. If you’ve a date in mind already, then you’ll already know the timescale you’re working with; if not – that is the place to start.
Once you have a date to work towards, the next steps to take – and crucially the ideal order in which to take them – are outlined below. (Note that although most people will work through the entire list, in actuality, the majority of suggestions are optional. Your wedding can be as complex or simple as your budget, vision and preferences permit.)
How to Plan a Wedding: First Tasks
- Decide wedding date
Keep in mind that the date and the day of the week are likely to affect costs. And also how many invitations are declined.
- Work out your budget
I cannot stress enough how important it is to both create and stick to a budget. Check out this post to read more on this.
- Consider throwing an engagement party, funds permitting
- Decide whether you will have a church wedding or civil ceremony
If you wish to marry in church, there are regulations in place that may make it less than straight forward.
- Start considering the wedding party and guest list
The size of your wedding will inevitably affect your venue and budget.
- Collect wedding magazines
- Research wedding venues
- Visit venues to enable you to select a favourite/s
- Check chosen availability for your date
- Check registrar availability for your chosen date
- Secure each with a deposit – once both confirmed available
- Research photographers/videographers/entertainment/florists/transport/caterers
Note some venues will have in-house caterers who you’re obliged to use.
- Check availability and secure with deposit
- Make final decision about wedding party and tell/ask the people involved! (Ensure your bridesmaids read this!)
Most will feel honoured to be a part of your special occasion – however, weddings are expensive and this is their opportunity to opt out.
Six – Eight Months To Go
- If you’ve not already (as if you need reminding about this one) – go dress shopping!
- Start detoxing now
Whilst I do not necessarily advocate it, if you do intend losing weight before your big day, now is the time to think about your eating habits and exercise plan. For guidance, check out this post.
- Begin thinking about a honeymoon budget/destination
This is a good time to consider your gift list, if you wish to have one. It’s becoming very common and widely accepted as the new norm to request monetary bequests towards your honeymoon.
- Consider registering with retailers if you choose to request traditional wedding gifts
- If you’re tech savvy, launch a wedding site
This is a really fab way for people who are gifting cash to see where the money will be spent.
- Decide how you will invite guests and purchase invitations/buy materials for your DIY project
- Purchase your dress and book alterations
Dresses can be bought off the peg; but if you covet a dress made to order, including alterations, it usually takes around six months from first ordering the dress to having it fit perfectly.
- Send save the date cards
- Start thinking about your style for the day
Are you simply going to be yourself, or do you fancy channelling your inner Greta Garbo? This is your opportunity to go all out and emulate your revered heroine.
- Shop for bridesmaids dresses and look at suits for groomsmen
- Obtain menu options from caterers and start thinking about the options
Bear in mind the limitations of pregnant or vegetarian guests and, of course, those with allergies.
- Solutions for When Your Coveted Wedding Flowers Are Out of Season
- Bloom & Wild Review
- Underwear Solutions for Your Wedding Gown
Three Months To Go
- Choose and order wedding cake
- Start shopping for bridal accessories (veil, tiara, jewellery, shoes, bag, underwear)
- Decide whether to use hair and make-up professionals
If so, schedule trials. For help making up your mind, read my post here.
- Secure with deposit
- Select your ceremony music and provide the registrar with your option/s
Note if your wedding is non-religious, there are certain restrictions in place.
- Finalise readings and submit to registrar for approval
- Order/start hand-making favours
- Finalise menu and flowers
Don’t forget to include your photographer in the final numbers if they have accepted a meal. And be sure to request breakfast as an additional option if you’re getting ready at the venue (here’s why and how to get it right!).
- Purchase rings
- Meet with the photographer
It’s important that your photographer has a good idea of your expectations for the day, including any specific shots you require. It’s also a good opportunity to offer the obligatory wedding breakfast meal.
- Send playlist to band/DJ
Do not underestimate how long it can take to put this together. (If you’re as particular as my husband and me at any rate!)
- Research and book/provide info to guests for nearby hotels
It’s a good idea to slip a printed sheet of these details inside your invites.
- Send invitations
This can also take longer than you may anticipate as you will need to acquire addresses. Once posted, it’s imperative that you keep on top of the list of acceptances so that you can plan your tables in due course. And, of course, the numbers will also affect your budget.
- Plan hen/sten
Do not delay – pinning down a date is nigh on impossible. (I highly recommend delegating this job to your bridesmaids!)
One Month To Go
- Give Notice
- Find a special gift for your hubby-to-be
- Write speeches
- Have final dress fitting
- Pay final instalments
- Chase RSVPs
- Begin writing wedding vows
- Begin assigning seating and making a table plan
My thoughts are with you for the duration of this loathsome task.
- Purchase wedding party gifts
Two Weeks To Go
- Finalise wedding vows
- Have your future spouse’s wedding gift engraved, if required
- Complete table plan
Good luck! You deserve a large glass of vino when you have this tied up!
- Arrange final visit to hairdresser
Don’t go for anything too drastic – just in case…
- Collect your dress
- Finish any DIY projects
- Burn your entrance and wedding breakfast music onto disc, and ensure it’s working.
- Book a massage/mani/pedi for the day before your wedding
Go on – you totally deserve it!
The One Week Countdown
- Touch base with all suppliers and ensure deliveries of cake and flowers are arranged
- Delegate wedding party with tasks for the Big Day itself, and the following day
Such as ferrying the cake, entrance music, and table plan to the venue, and collecting accoutrements the next day/returning suits.
- Break in your shoes
- Pack for your honeymoon
- Make arrangements for airport run
Just make sure the person due to take you does not have a hangover rendering them incapable – not fun at the eleventh hour…
That’s all folks! Good luck – and have fun!
(For advice about the day itself, check this post out!)
Identifying and prioritising the tasks involved with planning a wedding can be an overwhelming chore in itself. I put this checklist together to seamlessly guide you through that process.
Your wedding should ultimately be precisely what you and your husband-to-be want it to be. Whether that’s classy and conventional or means you flout tradition, the ceremony and reception should be a reflection of your joint personalities and styles.
By its nature then, the above list is not intended to be exhaustive. It is, however, a comprehensive starting point for the bewildered bride. I hope it allows you to feel confident in managing the project competently and efficiently, so you can get on with being your intended’s serene sweetheart.
If you found this post helpful and you’re confident you now know how to plan a wedding from start to finish, please share with your friends!