Most engagements last 12-18 months (The Knot says 14.5 is the average), and that’s a lot of planning to cram into a short year to year and a half. Don’t miss a thing—the perfect timeline will get you from engaged to married without fear or fuss. Take it one step at a time as we show you how to plan an entire wedding affair in just one year.
Having a short engagement? Brides with six months to plan can double up months to make this list work for them.
Start with the basics. Think of month one as your getting started month. This month you should:
- Come up with a budget for the big day.
- Start researching themes and pouring over bridal magazines for inspiration.
- Make a team—hire a wedding planner, ask friends to serve in the wedding party, and determine what family members you can count on to help tackle these tasks.
- Choose a wedding date.
- Book a ceremony and reception site.
- Get organized with a wedding binder.
- Write the guest list.
Start to hone in on the details. You have a lot of vendors to book. Don’t miss out because you waited too long to commit. This month you should:
- Hire a wedding photographer and/or videographer.
- Try on wedding gowns.
- Nail down the entertainment for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception.
- Schedule floral appointments and come in with ideas for décor, preferably photos and information about types of flowers and colors.
- Create a registry.
- Plan an engagement party.
- Create and send your save the date cards.
This is the month to book everything you haven’t yet. Nail down the rest of the vendors and get your deposits in. This month you should:
- Officially book any remaining vendors.
- Order your wedding gown so you have enough time for alterations.
- Browse rental company showrooms and place orders for any items you need—flatware, tablecloths, chairs, tables, décor, etc.
- Make a wedding website and start filling it with information for your guests. It’s best if you can include the website link on those save the date cards even if you haven’t built the website yet.
- Pick a hotel to serve as home base for out-of-town guests. Don’t forget to ask about room blocks and special party rates.
- Book a wedding officiant or ask a friend or family member to step in
- Meet with caterers.
The big stuff is taken care of and it’s time to get lost in the details. Don’t stress! This part of wedding planning should be fun, and it’s a great opportunity to include friends in the tasks. This month you should:
- Shop for wedding invitations and bands (make sure you order by Month 6).
- Start to talk about your honeymoon and prepare for travel (get passports, find a travel planner, create a savings plan).
- Start interviewing bakers, taste cakes, and decide on your dessert spread.
- Take the girls and guys to pick out wedding attire. This gives the wedding party plenty of time to order on their own timeline.
You’re getting closer. It’s time to make some final decisions. This month you should:
- Order wedding invitations and get ready to send them (e. pick up stamps, hire a calligrapher, etc.).
- Start booking travel for the honeymoon to get the best deals on airfare, hotels, and more.
- Book your baker.
- Check on all the members of the wedding party to make sure they purchased the necessary attire. Ensure rented items will be in the right place at the right time, especially for out-of-town attendants.
You’re halfway there! The big stuff should be handled by now, but this is a good time to start planning for the actual day. This month you should:
- Attend pre-wedding counseling if required.
- Write out a rough draft for the timeline. Consider where everyone needs to be at different parts of the day and how you want the reception to progress.
- Book a hairstylist and makeup artist for you and members of your wedding party.
Plan ahead. There isn’t just one day involved in a wedding. Get with friends and family to plan other affairs. This month you should:
- Handle the rehearsal dinner—create the guest list, book the space, and send the invites.
- Do your follow-ups. Do you need to check in with any vendors? Adjust timelines?
- Book extras like a photo booth or food truck
- Look ahead to your shower. If someone else is planning it, pick a day and send the host your guest list.
- Start the song list. The DJ or band sometimes has a standard form to fill out for this. If not, send special songs for the first dance and bouquet toss plus a list of must play and any do-not-play songs.
Get your final look together. This month you should:
- Shop for and purchase wedding shoes and accessories.
- Book and attend your wedding hair and makeup trials. Bring in inspiration photos for both.
- Attend dress fittings as needed.
Use Month 9 to finalize small details before launching into the wedding festivities. This month you should:
- Finalize the menu.
- Check in with the florist and make sure all pieces have been ordered.
- Ask friends to speak at the wedding and add these speeches to your timeline.
- Schedule another dress fitting if needed.
- Finalize the timeline for the ceremony and reception.
- Purchase rings if you haven’t already.
- Handle the stationary—either order or create your own place cards, menus, programs, and more.
- Order wedding favors.
Most of the heavy lifting has been done, however, you’ll want to make sure everyone is on the same page. This is a good month to get your ducks in a row and focus on organization. This month you should:
- Talk to all vendors and create a final plan. This includes going over the song list with the DJ, talking photos with the photographer, and going over any necessary details with the wedding planner, including items that may have changed.
- Send wedding invitations.
- Plan your night-of accommodations.
- Purchase undergarments and try them on with your dress.
- Attend your wedding shower.
You’re in the home stretch! This month you should:
- Attend your bachelor/bachelorette party.
- Start collecting RSVPs and creating a seating chart.
- Purchase gifts for bridesmaids and groomsmen.
- Have your final wedding dress fitting.
In the weeks leading up to the wedding, schedule some time to relax and do one final check in with everybody. This month you should:
- Confirm all appointments and check-in times with vendors.
- Get a massage.
- Write vows.
- Update the wedding website with travel directions and itinerary for guests.
- Buy booze for the bar (if not provided).
- Send out final payments.
- Get your marriage license.
- Collect the final RSVPs and send the list to your venue.
- Delegate tasks to others to handle on the big day.
- Pick up your dress.
- Pack for the wedding night and the honeymoon.
- Get any and all final items to the wedding planner for set-up.
- Attend the rehearsal dinner.