Congratulations! You’re engaged to the love of your life and on the road to marital bliss. If you are ready to start planning for the big day, you may be wondering where to begin.
From starting your wedding registry to planning a rehearsal dinner, we’ve created a comprehensive wedding planning timeline to help the countdown to your wedding day run smoothly.
Along with a detailed timeline of what to do 12+ months in advance of your “I do’s,” we’ve shared advice for your big day and the important post-wedding tasks. Use our wedding planning checklist below or download and print it out for your home, office, or daily planner so that you stay on track for the big day. For a more customizable version of this checklist, check out our interactive wedding checklist.
12+ Months Before Your Wedding
- Celebrate your engagement: You’re officially engaged! Take some time to celebrate before you get started planning.
- Choose a date: Do you want a summer or fall wedding? Choose up to three dates that you are comfortable with and begin planning from there.
- Set a budget: Draft a detailed wedding budget making sure to include any staple elements such as venue and catering. Allow a buffer for any hidden costs such as gratuities and cleaning fees.
- Find your wedding planning community: Join the Zola community on Facebook and share advice and tips with other Zola couples.
- Create a wedding folder or binder: Stay organized and use this as a place to keep track of thoughts, ideas, receipts, and your wedding to-do list. Start a budget document to put in here and update throughout the planning process.
- Consider a wedding planner: If your budget allows, consider hiring a wedding planner to help you coordinate the big day.
- Brainstorm your wedding style: Keeping in mind the season and your venue options, begin looking at wedding magazines and online resources to determine your vision for your wedding style. Choose a color palette that you can stick to throughout your wedding decor and create an inspiration board that you can share with vendors.
- Have an engagement party: Celebrate your upcoming marriage by hosting or having someone else host your engagement party. Make sure to only invite those that you plan on inviting to the wedding.
- Insure your engagement ring and consider getting wedding insurance: Research insurance options and find one that will give you and your fiancé peace of mind.
- Begin researching vendors: Through your own research or the help of a wedding planner, begin researching caterers, photographers, entertainment, florists, and videographers that will fit your wedding style.
8-12 Months Before Your Wedding
- Choose a wedding theme: Get together with your significant other to come up with a wedding theme that embodies both your personal style and love story. Consider brainstorming a wedding hashtag for guests to use on the day-of.
- Decide on a wedding party: Consider whether you like the idea of having a wedding party. If you do, who do you want with you every step of the way? Choose your maid of honor, bridesmaids, best man and groomsmen, and make them feel special by asking them in a clever way or with a gift.
- Draft a guest list: Consider how many people you can invite based on your budget and the size of your venue, and how any people you want to invite based on the vibe you want to create.
- Schedule venue tours: Will you have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception? Explore venue options and make sure to factor in time between various locations and how weather conditions could affect the commute.
- Take engagement photos: Share your love with all of your friends and family by taking engagement photos. Use these for your wedding website, your engagement party invitations (should you have one), and your save the dates.
- Plan your wedding night stay: Where will you spend your first night as a married couple? Book a special room and secure any requirements that you may need to make sure the night is perfect.
- Research bands and DJs: Meet with different bands and DJs to find the perfect one for you and your partner. Once you find the one, book them now so you don’t have to worry about it later.
- Schedule tastings with caterers: Get with your significant other and do some research online to find a few caterers that you each agree on. Schedule your tastings now so that you have enough time before the wedding to decide upon a menu.
- Try on wedding gowns, dresses, or suits: Plan a fun outing with your support crew to search for that perfect dress, suit, or tux. Celebrate by popping champagne while trying on different options until you find the flawless look that you’ve always dreamed of.
- Book an officiant: Think about who you might want to officiate your wedding and make sure they’re certified in the state where you’re getting married.
- Book venues: Sign the contract, pay the down payment, and start making things official by deciding on your wedding ceremony and reception venues.
- Establish a fitness and beauty routine: Whether you cut back on sweets or spend a few extra minutes on your skin care routine, take some time to get in the swing of self-care so you feel your absolute best on your big day.
- Book a blowout appointment: For all upcoming wedding events, book a blowout appointment (or two!).
- Schedule a menu tasting with your caterer: Your wedding menu doesn’t have to be limited to the standard steak and chicken options. Get together with your fiancé and caterer and start crafting a unique wedding menu all while remembering to stay within budget.
- Register for gifts: Make it easy on your guests by creating a Zola registry. From coffee makers to luggage for your honeymoon vacation, create your dream wedding registry by using our registry checklist and our helpful tips on how to create a wedding registry.
- Launch a wedding website: Get crafty and design a wedding website to keep your guests constantly informed. Include important details like ceremony and reception addresses, engagement photos, registry information, and more. Pro tip: Create a wedding-specific email address to keep everything organized.
- Request time off: It can be easy to overlook even the most obvious to-do. Make sure to request days off from work for your pre-wedding prep, wedding day, and honeymoon.
6-8 Months Before Your Wedding
- Discuss details: Hash out the minor wedding day details with your fiancé. Do you have any religious or family traditions that you would like to incorporate? Will you be writing your own vows?
- Fill any special roles: Aside from your wedding party, who will you have as ushers, flower girls, ring bearers, and readers during your ceremony
- Send save the dates: Tell your wedding guests to mark their calendars by sending out either paper or digital save the dates. Keep your wedding theme in mind when designing these sneak-peeks.
- Assemble your wedding dream team: This means hiring all your vendors including a wedding photographer, videographer, florist, caterer, and entertainment. Explore examples of your vendors’ work to make sure it aligns with your vision.
- Order your wedding cake: Once you have decided upon your wedding cake design and flavor, (or your dessert of choice) make sure that it’s ordered and confirmed to arrive on time.
- Order flowers: Sticking to your color scheme and being cognizant of the season, work with your florist to create the perfect floral arrangements and personal flowers for your wedding day.
- Say yes to the dress: Decide on your wedding gown, dress or suit.
- Choose wedding party attire: Collaborate with your bridal squad to ensure everyone feels comfortable and beautiful in their outfits. Make sure to coordinate colors and styles with the groomsmen attire as well.
- Schedule cake tastings: Now for the fun part! Choose what kind of dessert you’ll serve and start tasting cakes, pies, brownies, and more to find the perfect dessert for you, your partner, and of course, your guests.
- Reserve rentals and decorations: This includes elements such as chairs, decor, lighting, linens, and more.
- Begin planning your honeymoon: Where will you and your partner spend your first vacation as a married couple? If you’re leaving the country, factor in the time to renew or get new passports for your honeymoon vacation.
4-6 Months Before Your Wedding
- Order wedding invitations: Wedding invitations can be expensive depending on the paper quality, quantity, and design so keep your wedding style and budget in mind when ordering.
- Purchase wedding bands: Order your wedding rings now so that you have time to adjust the size and choose engravings that are representative of you and your partner.
- Finalize any honeymoon plans: Make sure all your documents are in order and that any flights, hotel rooms, and activities are booked so you can have a stress-free honeymoon with your new husband or wife.
- Book rehearsal venues and assemble your guest list: Decide on your rehearsal venue(s) and assemble your final guest list. This is also a good time to order any rehearsal dinner invitations you may need.
- Choose a guest list for your wedding shower: If you’re having a shower, choose and send a guest list to your wedding shower host so he or she can begin planning the party.
- Book a stylist: Book a stylist and start playing around with your wedding day makeup and hair to ensure you create the look you love. Make sure to use long-lasting wedding makeup that will keep you looking flawless throughout the day.
3 Months Before Your Wedding
- Attend your wedding shower: Let someone else do the planning and attend your own wedding shower! Enjoy the spotlight and relax a little.
- Order wedding favors: Show your guests how much you appreciate them by gifting wedding favors. Think beyond your basic trinket: our unique ideas will ensure that they always have something to remember your special day.
- Complete your wedding day look: Finish solidifying your wedding look by choosing shoes, accessories, and undergarments. If you’re wearing a suit or tux, make sure it’s fitted and tailored just the way you like it.
- Select the music: Start crafting a dancing playlist and choose select songs for your processional, recessional, first dances, and more.
- Create welcome bags for out-of-town guests: If guests are traveling far for your wedding, show your appreciation and make them feel comfortable with welcome bags for their hotel rooms.
- Book group transportation: Book transportation that may be needed to transport your wedding party and guests to and from venues on the big day.
- Choose who will be giving a toast: Make a list of the people you would like to speak at your reception. Keep the list short, while remembering to include important people like parents and siblings.
- Consider a calligrapher: If it matches your wedding style and your budget allows, consider hiring a calligrapher to give your wedding menus and place cards an extra stylized touch.
- Consider wedding alcohol: When considering what types of drinks to serve at your wedding bar, think about the season as well as any personal favorites you might have. Will you be serving springtime cocktails or an assortment of sparkling bubbly? Will you and your partner be creating your own signature drink?
- Create a final event schedule for your vendors: If you don’t have a planner or coordinator, collaborate with your vendors and finalize an event schedule to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
- Purchase the minor details: Make sure you have the smaller details accounted for such as the ring bearer pillow, flutes for toasting, and any other fun decorations that you think your guests will enjoy.
- Plan your exits: How will you be exiting the ceremony and reception? Will your guests be standing and clapping or showering you with sparklers?
- Choose a guestbook: How do you want your guests to record their presence at your wedding? Find or create a guestbook that you and your significant other will want to look back on for years to come.
2 Months Before Your Wedding
- Purchase thank you gifts: Let the ones who helped get you to where you are today know how much you appreciate them with thank you gifts. Make it even more special for your maid of honor.
- Meet with your officiant: Meet in person to solidify any details and specific plans for your ceremony.
- Start planning your first dance: Once you have chosen the perfect song to represent you as a couple, sign-up for dance lessons with your fiancé. Break in those wedding shoes and bond with your soulmate on the dance floor!
- Finalize your menu: Once you have decided on a menu that will satisfy your tastebuds, create and print cards that will match the rest of your paper suite or wedding theme.
- Confirm menus for all events: To ensure smooth sailing, get in touch with your caterer to confirm menus for all events.
- Get a gift for your fiancé: Whether you decide to DIY a gift or buy one, surprise your significant other on the big day to express how excited you are to be spending the rest of your life with them.
- Touch base with your stylist: Make sure you and your stylist are on the same page when it comes to your wedding day makeup and make any last-minute changes.
- Mail your invitations: A general rule of thumb is to mail out invitations about six to eight weeks before the ceremony. Set the deadline to RSVP three weeks before the big day to avoid any last-minute cancellations.
- Meet with your entertainment: If you hired a DJ or live band, make sure to meet with them beforehand to discuss the playlist and any special songs that you want to be played, as well as ones to avoid.
- Submit wedding announcements: Shout your marriage from the rooftops and submit wedding announcements to local newspapers and any other place where you would like your engagement known.
- Pick your “Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue”: If you’re sticking to this time-old tradition, put some thought into what you want to use and make it unique to you.
1 Month Before Your Wedding
- Apply for a marriage license: Make sure to get two to three extra copies just in case one is misplaced.
- Write your vows: Find a quiet time to sit down with pen and paper and put your feelings into words. Proofread and practice several times so that you get it just right.
- Create a wedding day timeline: Create a run-of-show timeline for exactly how you would like your wedding reception events to flow. Consider everything from introductions to toasts to cake-cutting.
- Pick out wedding weekend attire: Make you sure know what you are wearing for all of the wedding weekend festivities and events.
- Get your wedding party ready: Check in with your wedding team to make sure they are prepared for the big day. Do they have their attire? Do they know their wedding day duties?
- Give your photographer and videographer a shot list: Ensure they have a wedding day agenda for any must-have portraits and shots you want captured. Mention any special moments that you have planned so your vendors know when to be ready for them.
- Cover all your bases: Purchase any just-in-case essentials like umbrellas or tents in case of any drastic weather changes.
- Have your bachelor or bachelorette party: Let loose! Enjoy a fun night out on the town with your posse of closest friends.
- Send rehearsal dinner invitations: Assemble the rehearsal dinner list and send out invitations to make sure everyone arrives on time.
- Arrange final payments: Mark off final payments for all vendors in your wedding planning binder (or your Zola Checklist) and confirm everything is staying within budget.
- Confirm times with your vendors: Make sure your vendors know the date, time, and location of their expected arrival so there is no confusion on the day-of.
- Design a wedding program: Create a wedding day guide that details the ceremony, including its songs, readings, the wedding party members, and a thank you message. Keep your wedding theme in mind when designing this.
- Keep track of gifts: Make the post-wedding thank you process easier by tracking of all your wedding gifts with the Zola gift tracker.
- Order ceremony and reception paper decor: Wrap up your wedding theme by purchasing paper details such as ceremony programs, reception menus, and place cards.
- Begin writing thank you notes: When you have spare time and as gifts are received, begin writing thank you notes to make the post-wedding process less daunting.
2 Weeks Before Your Wedding
- Finalize your seating chart and review final RSVP list: Follow up with guests who have not RSVP’d to make sure that you have not missed anyone. Do one last review of everyone who is attending and make any final adjustments to the seating chart.
- Attend a final fitting: Bring undergarments and wedding day accessories to make sure the dress (or suit) of your dreams fits perfectly.
- Pre-pack for your honeymoon: Do this now so you don’t have to worry about it later. Don’t forget to pack any important travel documents.
- Send final timeline to your wedding party: Send your wedding party a detailed timeline including important times and locations so that no one skips a beat.
- Pick up your wedding attire: Make sure to pick up your wedding wear or arrange for it to be delivered.
- Break in your wedding shoes: Nothing is more uncomfortable than blisters. Make sure you are blister-free as you walk down the aisle.
- Plan drinks and snacks for your wedding party: Getting ready is so much more fun with a mimosa! Make sure you and your wedding party have things to snack and sip on while getting ready.
- Check the weather report: If there is a chance weather could affect your day, double-check the weather report and contact the venue to confirm your back-up rain plan.
1 Week Before Your Wedding
- Make any last-minute adjustments with vendors: Review playlists, menu details, decor designs, and send any adjustments that you may need.
- Send the final guest list: Send the final head count to your venue and caterer so they know how many people to expect and can staff appropriately.
- Finalize your vows: Once you have proofread your vows and made them perfect, don’t forget to practice!
- Get any beauty treatments you need: If you are getting a haircut or a color, now is the time to do it.
- Create a wedding day emergency kit: From lipstick to lint rollers, make sure you have everything you need for the day-of.
- Give readers their scripts: Practice makes perfect and you don’t want anything less than perfection on your wedding day!
- Determine special day-of roles: Delegate wedding day duties such as a point person to set up the gift table, wedding favors, and guest book.
- Finalize transportation for the day-of: Make sure to send directions to your transportation vendor and any additional drivers of your guests, if applicable.
- Deliver welcome bags to the hotel concierge: Make sure out-of-town guests are greeted the right way with welcome bags upon arrival.
- Steam or press your wedding wear: Feel fabulous in your wedding attire with a picture-perfect suit or gown.
- Prearrange the rental returns: If the rental company won’t be picking them up from your venue, delegate someone you trust to return any rentals.
- Book your beauty appointments: Pamper yourself and your wedding party with spa, hair, and beauty treatments.
The Day Before Your Wedding
- Attend your rehearsal ceremony: Iron out the details of your ceremony by doing a full rehearsal. Make sure your readers know their order and bring any essentials such as programs and decorations.
- Host a bridal luncheon: Let your bridal party know how much you appreciate their hard work by hosting a bridal luncheon for them. Invite flower girls and any other female relatives you want to thank.
- Present thank you gifts: At the rehearsal dinner, or whenever you see fit, present your wedding party with their much-deserved thank you gifts.
- Give your officiant your marriage license: Give your marriage license to your officiant now so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning.
- Set out wedding day attire: Make the next morning as stress-free as possible by setting out your wedding day essentials the night before.
- Pack an overnight bag: Make sure to include any essentials you may need on your wedding night and hand it off to someone who can deliver it to your hotel suite.
- Pamper yourself: You deserve it! Get a manicure and pedicure, and maybe even a massage to make sure you look and feel flawless for the big day.
- Get some sleep: Go to bed at a decent hour and get some much-needed rest before you tie the knot.
Your Wedding Day
- Eat a good breakfast: It’s true when they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Make sure you have a protein-packed meal that will give you the energy you need to be your most present self.
- Get your hair and makeup done: Sip a mimosa and sit back as you get your hair and makeup done.
- Present your parents with gifts: Slip away from your friends and stylists to share a special moment with the ones who got you to where you are today.
- Hand off your wedding bands: Hand off your rings to someone you trust and make sure they arrive at the ceremony safely.
- Assign a point of person for your photographer: Introduce your photographer to someone who knows everyone in the wedding party so that they can round up friends and family for important photo ops.
- Greet your guests: You’re technically the host, so make sure to greet and thank as many guests as you can.
- Get married!
- Enjoy yourself: All the stress of planning is over. It’s time to enjoy your new marital bliss surrounded by everyone you love.
After Your Wedding
- Create a wedding album: Most professional wedding photographers offer albums you can purchase to house your favorite moments from the day. If you want to DIY this, find a unique photo book or create a digital slideshow.
- Return your rentals: Ensure that all your tuxes and rentals have been returned.
- Bring wedding attire to the cleaners: Keep your wedding attire looking as good as the day you wore it, so you can always look back at the happiest day of your life fondly.
- Send thank you notes: Make sure your guests know how much you appreciate them being there with heartfelt, handwritten thank you notes.
- Send wedding announcements: This is optional, but for those that couldn’t make it, send wedding announcements as a formal way to announce the good news and make them feel included.
- Change your name: If you are changing your name, now is a good time to get that process started.
- Thank your vendors: Thank your vendors for all their hard work with a card or email. Consider adding a tip for those that went above and beyond.
- Enjoy your honeymoon and new life as a married couple!
Now that you know the steps it takes to plan your wedding, it’s time to get started! Download our wedding planning checklist below so that you can create the wedding of your dreams and never miss a beat during the entire wedding planning process.