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The Ultimate Wedding Planning Guide With Free Wedding Planning Checklist

You’re engaged. Congratulations! And now, after your beautiful proposal, it’s time for the next exciting step, wedding planning! Though it can be a little overwhelming for some, we’re here to help! With our wedding planning checklist to help you plan your month-by-month steps, you’ll be planning your wedding with no stress.

We’ll break down each step of how to plan a wedding in this guide, giving you everything you need to know about each step. And to make things even easier, we’ve created a free downloadable wedding planning checklist for you, meaning you can print it off and tick off each step as you’ve completed it to help keep you on track.

We’ve covered this plan across 12 months, as this is an ideal amount of time for wedding planning, but if you’re planning on a different engagement length, don’t worry! Even if you have a shorter engagement, you can still make this plan work for you. Simply make sure you cover off the first few months in a quicker period. Ideally, the last three months' schedule shouldn’t be done any earlier or later!

Now let’s walk through how to plan for a wedding in 12 stress-free months!

12 Months Out

Plan Your Budget

First and foremost, you need to sit down and figure out what your bottom line is for the wedding. This is one of the most important first steps in planning your wedding, as this helps you in deciding on all your following planning decisions, from the venue to the guest list. Take a look at what’s on the market as you think about this. Look at inspiration and decide what matters to you and your partner so that you can budget accordingly to ensure you can achieve your dream day. There’s nothing better than an excel spreadsheet for your budget plan. Break out every purchase and give an ideal budget to help guide you on the way. Or, there are some amazing free tools on the market that can help with this, like Bridebook's free budget planning tool!

Guest List

Next on the list is the guest list. Determining how many people and who you want to invite to your wedding is another significant factor in how to plan a wedding. Your headcount, especially for the day, will significantly impact your overall budget (food is PRICEY) and determine which venues you can and can’t use due to capacity. If you have an extensive guest list but a limited budget, see if you can keep the day guests lower and invite more people to the evening when you aren’t expected to dish out as much food for everyone. 

Pick A Venue

Possibly one of the most exciting steps! Once you have a rough idea of your numbers, you can start looking at wedding venues. Make sure to book viewings or visit wedding fayres at any venues you like the look of. It’s also important to be prepared with a list of questions about things that matter to you most. If you want your furry family members to make an appearance on your wedding day, you’ll need to ensure the venues you like are open to having dogs onsite; if they’re not, then they’re not for you! You want to ensure that the venue fits your style, budget and guest count, so keep these top of mind when looking!

Pro tip: brides often find they get a feeling when they see the right venue - trust that feeling!

Hire A Wedding Planner*

This is a personal choice and one that is driven by budget, but if you’re thinking of working with a wedding planner, now would be an ideal time to get them onboard. Working with a wedding planner early in your planning journey makes that process much easier. However, if your budget is limited, this might not be on the cards for you! This is where your family and friends can come in to support you throughout. Make sure you have someone as clued in on the planning as your partner so they can help you along the way when needed.

Organise Your Save The Dates

Once you have your venue & date organised, we think a good next step on your wedding planning checklist is to get your save your dates sent out straight away if this is something you're doing. This isn’t a step everyone will take, but some may find it particularly helpful if they have family travelling from out of town or are having a destination wedding. A save the date is a basic ‘invite’ simply informing people to keep your date free, and you may also choose to share your venue location. Start designing these on free tools online, or purchase a template for your save the date if you’re not as creative. There are lots of templates available on Etsy! 

Research Vendors

With your basics in place, it’s time to start thinking about the details. Pull together a Pinterest board and begin collating all of your ideas, inspiration and any vendors you like. This step will help you pinpoint the important ideas and allow you to come across any relevant suppliers in your area that you want to start reaching out to. 

Throw An Engagement Party

This is completely optional in your overall wedding planning checklist, but it’s a great way to kick off your year of wedding planning. It’s important to take time out for the fun things; there’s nothing more fun than celebrating your engagement and sharing it with your family and friends. This can also be a great way to share your wedding date with invitees if you aren’t opting for an official save the date. 

10-12 Months Out

Book your Registrar

With your venue now booked, you must ensure a registrar is available. We advise you make this a priority and book as early as possible. Especially in the post-covid years, we are seeing registrars booking up fast, and without availability on your wedding day, you could be left in quite the predicament. Some venues will let you have a temporary hold on your date and confirm once you’ve booked your registrar, so take them up on that if the opportunity arises.

Book Your Photographer

This could be considered one of the most important vendors on your wedding planning checklist. Photographs & videographers are there to capture the day, giving you photos and videos that you can look at over and over again to remember your wedding day. Make sure you do your research and find a photographer that suits your style. You can even test them out with an engagement shoot to ensure they’re right for you. Now would be the perfect time to have an engagement shoot, so you can include your photos in any design work moving forward, like save the dates and invites!

Wedding Photography. Image shows a bride and groom on their wedding day.

Finalise Your Guest List

Finalising your guest list can be a tricky part of wedding planning, but an essential one to ensure you stick to your budget and can start bringing in your vendors. You need to have at least a rough idea of numbers so you can start moving forward with your catering! This will also come in handy when you want to send out save the dates, meaning you can make everyone aware of your wedding date, giving them plenty of time to plan for being there. 

Book Your Caterer

Your first meal together as a married couple must be amazing, so make sure you choose the right caterers. Some venues may offer in-house caterers, limiting your choices (something you might want to consider when booking your venue), whereas others will let you bring in outside catering. There are so many different ways to do it, with a formal sit-down dinner, buffets or caterers offering service via their catering van. Each comes with its own pros and cons, so think about the theme of your wedding and your previous experience with the caterer! 

Decide On Your Wedding Party

Image shows a Bride and her Bridesmaids on a wedding day.

You’ve got a big year of wedding planning ahead of you, so make sure you’ve got your besties by your side for it. Your bridal party should be there to help you through the whole planning process and be just as excited as you are for your wedding day. Make sure you choose your closest friends at the time, who you can trust to be by your side. Bridesmaid proposal boxes are a popular way to ask your besties to be part of the party. Include helpful little gifts for your bridesmaids, insights into your planning ideas, and something sentimental to show how much it will mean to you to have them by your side!

Start Dress Shopping

One of the most exciting parts of wedding planning; shopping for the dress! Some designers can have lead times of up to 10 months, so you ideally want to have tried on dresses by ten months and even possibly put your order in! Take your nearest and dearest with you, but remember that dress shops will limit how many you can bring with you, and you don’t want everybody to see your dress! Take the opinions you value most and can rely on for positive input. 

Send Your Save The Dates

Once your save the dates are designed, send them out as soon as possible. You can have them printed and sent out via post, but we LOVE the idea of email/text save the dates, as not only does this save you money in terms of printing costs and postage, but it also means that there’s less impact on the environment. 

Pro tip: utilise a tool like Bridebook’s guestlist feature to collect all of your guestlists contact details for ease of sending out information

8-10 Months Out

Plan/Book Venue Decor

If you’re planning on hiring your wedding decorations or working with wedding decorators, you’ll want to ensure you get them booked in fast! Hiring decor can be a way to save money and save you the hassle of having to source decorations from lots of different places. It also avoids waste after the wedding making it a good eco-friendly option! We know that some brides love the idea of finding their decor and making it part of the wedding planning process - if that’s you, then keep an eye out for your decorations throughout the year. We’d advise aiming to tick wedding decorations off of your wedding planning checklist by two months out to reduce any last-minute stress.  

Order Your Dress

If you haven’t already, get your dress ordered by eight months out at the latest! This will allow time for the dress to be ordered and then any alterations to be made, ensuring your dress fits you perfectly. 

Book Your Entertainment

Whether you’re planning on hiring a DJ, live band or even a magician - get these booked before the 8-month mark. This will ensure you have the best pick of entertainers to capture your wedding theme perfectly and keep your guests entertained. Brides often opt for some entertainment between the ceremony and wedding breakfast, giving you and your loved ones a chance to get those all-important photos.

Order Your Wedding Cake

Around this time, you want to start researching cake makers, booking tastings (yum) and finalising what you want from your wedding cake. If you and your partner have different preferences, different flavoured tiers are the perfect compromise, allowing you both to get your preferred flavour wedding cake. 

Pro tip: ask your friends and family for recommendations on this one, and take your time to ensure you find the right cake for you!

Hire Hair & Make Up Artists

If you want some help with getting ready for your wedding day, make sure to book these in plenty of time. You want the best pick of MUAs and Hair Stylists and to allow time for tests. If you’re planning on doing your own hair and make-up, make sure to keep doing practice runs throughout the year to nail your look!

Make Your Gift Registry

Whether you’ve got a full house to furnish or are planning a beautiful honeymoon, creating a gift registry is always a good idea to avoid getting any gifts that will go to waste. Even if you don’t really want anything, your guests are likely to bring something, so it’s always helpful to point them in the right direction. Some amazing apps out there will allow you to create amazing honeymoon gift boards, allowing guests to purchase you some beers on the beach or even ice cream!
Pro tip: charges a one-off fee for their registry tool, which allows you to make beautiful gift boards, with half of the fee going to charity!

6-8 Months Out

Choose Your Wedding Rings

Wedding rings are often forgotten until the last minute, but as one of the life-long reminders of your beautiful wedding day, we’re all for putting a lot of thought and planning into the wedding rings you buy. We advise that six months is the ideal time to buy your wedding rings, as all quality wedding ring suppliers should be making your rings to order, which can take some time! There are endless variables to consider when choosing your wedding rings; you can find out more about these in our guide to buying your wedding rings here. 

Decide On Bridesmaid Dresses

With your dress ordered and your wedding theme and colours all decided, it’s time to start shopping for your bridesmaids! This is another fun part of how to plan for a wedding. Make a night of it with the girls, with cocktails, facemasks, and LOTS of dresses to try on. It’s good to get an idea of styles your girls wouldn’t feel comfortable with before you start ordering; even though it’s your day, you don’t want any of your friends to be unhappy with their outfits.

Plan & Book Your Honeymoon

Is there anything more exciting than honeymoon planning?! There are a few things to think about before you start booking your honeymoon. When do you want to go? Straight after the wedding? A few weeks or even a few months later? What kind of honeymoon do you want? Completely relaxed and all-inclusive, or an in-between honeymoon with relaxation and adventure? Once you’ve got an idea of these important questions, it’s time to start picking the place you want to visit and booking!

Pro tip: if planning is getting on top of you, why not approach a travel expert to organise your honeymoon? Often they have no fee, meaning you don’t need to worry about the cost!

Create Your Ceremony & Reception Song Lists

This is one for you both to think about. What do you want to walk down the aisle to? What song do you want to play when you are first introduced as a married couple? What songs are essential to hear at your reception? There are lots of songs to consider and choose from, so make sure to think about which songs both hold meaning to you and when you’d like to hear them on your big day. 

Block Out Hotel Rooms 

If you have many out-of-town guests coming to your wedding, an important part of your wedding planning is identifying and blocking out hotel rooms they can use. Scout out local hotels and Airbnb where guests can stay, and if you expect to be able to fill a whole place, reach out to them to see if you can secure the rooms and possibly even a discount!

4-6 Months Out

Order Wedding Invites

There’s so much to think about regarding your wedding invites. Plan for some spares, so order more than you actually need. Consider how guests will RSVP; are you including return postage or opting for the modern QR code route with a wedding website? Gathering all of your addresses can also be a bit of a chore, so make sure you’re ready and waiting with these ahead of time. When it comes to design, there are endless possibilities. Just keep in mind that they should fit in with the overall theme of your wedding!

Organise Groomsman Attire

If your groom and groomsman party are planning on bespoke suits, getting them ordered earlier is better! Bespoke and made-to-measure suits can take up to 6 months in extremely busy periods, so make sure your first fitting is booked in plenty of time. If your party plans to hire suits, you can leave this closer to the 4-month mark!

Order Wedding Favours

Wedding favours are not a necessity when it comes to how to plan a wedding, especially if you’re operating on a strict budget, but if you are planning on doing them, now is the time to order. There are endless options you could choose from. We highly recommend supporting small suppliers on platforms like Etsy and choosing something unique and personal to you. 

Order Gifts For Wedding Party

Remember that your wedding party and family members have helped you a lot at this point, so you might want to find a way to thank them. Ordering gifts for your wedding party can often be forgotten when planning a wedding, so we added it to our wedding planning checklist to avoid any last-minute shopping! If you want some inspo for gifts, head over to our blog for Bridesmaid gift ideas!

2-4 Months Out

Hair & Make-Up Trials

With the big day getting closer, it’s time to perfect those details. Plan your hair and makeup trials close enough to the wedding that your stylists will remember what you’re going for but far enough out that you have time to tweak and fit in another practice if needed!

Finalise Floral Arrangements

You’ve discussed the flowers and colours you want, and now is the time for any final tweaks or inspiration that your florist needs to know about. Finalise details such as delivery and care to ensure everything goes to plan on the day.

Finalise Wedding Cake Details

Give your baker the final approval on your cake order, and let them know any final details. For example, if your florist is creating some decorations to add to your cake, discuss how and when these will be passed over to ensure a smooth process.

Finalise Menu With Caterer

Before sending out your invites, ensure you have everything finalised with your caterer. You will follow up with them to provide final numbers after receiving your RSVPs back!

Send Out Invites

Send your wedding invitations out anywhere between 3-4 months out. In our opinion, the earlier, the better. Set an RSVP date which works for your vendors, such as caterers, venue and any travel you have planned. Ideally, you want these back no later than six weeks before.

1 Month Out

Give Notice

This is your final chance to give notice. You MUST give notice 28 days before your wedding. Otherwise, this won’t be a legal ceremony. 

Start Your Seating Plan

Your stealing plan is an essential part of the wedding planning checklist. Creating a seating plan is a tricky art; you want everyone to feel valued and comfortable in their seat. Having this plan is also valuable for your vendors, it helps in dressing the tables and dishing out the food, so make sure this is clear to everyone!

Order Thank You Cards

Don’t leave it too long after the wedding to thank all of your guests for their kind gifts. Be prepared by ordering the thank you cards ahead of time so you can get them sent out as soon after the wedding as possible. 

Write Vows

If you’re writing your own vows, now is the time to start thinking about them. You want to give yourself time to be thoughtful with what you write and to go back and review them closer to the time to ensure you’re still happy with your words.

Review Songlist With DJ/Band

Setup a meeting with your DJ/band to give them all of your songs. Make sure they understand what to play and when, as they will be a big part of ensuring the day runs smoothly, soundtracking all of the key moments.

2 Weeks Out

Final Dress Fitting

2 weeks before the wedding is perfect for your final dress fitting. This will be the point at which all the changes so far have been finished and checked to make sure it’s perfect for your big day. Doing this fitting two weeks before the wedding gives time for any last-minute changes that may be needed. It’s also the perfect time to try your dress with all of your accessories, getting you even more excited for the big day! 

Chase Any Last Minute RSVPs

This really is your last chance to chase any guests who have yet to RSVP. You should keep on top of your RSVPs as much as possible, but this is the time to be firm with anyone still left. Make it clear that if they do not reply to you instantly, then they cannot come to the wedding as you won’t have been able to confirm with your vendors. 

Organise Priority Shot Lists With Photographer

As the big day creeps up, make sure your photographers are completely prepared for what you expect to capture on the big day. If you have some essential shots you want to capture, give them this list and make sure they know who will be involved in each shot.

Final Headcounts To Vendors

Send over your final headcounts to caterers and venue. Consider that your suppliers may have a final headcount date of their own, so if this is earlier, ensure you meet their date. 

Get Your Hair Cut

Before the big day, you’ll both want to get your hair cut/coloured to ensure you’re happy with how it looks. Now is not the time for any drastic changes. Stick to something natural and normal for you 

1 Week Out

Finalise Seating Plan

If this isn’t finished already, make sure your seating plan is finalised at least one week before the wedding. Once it is, share this with your caterers so they know where to deliver each individual's food orders on the day.

Send Out Wedding Day Schedule

Ensure your final wedding day schedule is sent out to everyone who needs to see it. This will include the key members in your wedding party, anyone involved in your photography shot list, your photographers, caterers and DJ.

Confirm Last Minute Details With Vendors

It’s always good to have a final check-in with each of your vendors, a good time to do this can be when sending out your wedding day schedule. Simply confirm the agreed details and timings you’ve already discussed with your vendors. This ensures that everything is confirmed and should run smoothly on your wedding day.

2 Days Before

Pack Wedding Day Essentials

Now is the time to make sure you are ready to go. Get everything you need for your wedding day, and then add everything you might need, just to be sure. This is probably something you should include your Bridesmaids in to ensure you remember everything you could possibly need. You might also want to task a Bridesmaid with carrying an emergency on the day bag as well at this point.

Get Beauty Treatments

If you’re planning to get a spray tan and mani-pedi before your wedding day, two days before is the ideal time. This will ensure your tan and nails are at their best on the day and give you a bit of downtime after all the planning. 

1 Day Before

Enjoy Your Day With Close Ones

The day before your wedding should be set aside for relaxing, getting excited and enjoying time with your loved ones. Make sure all of your last-minute planning is done before one day out, therefore allowing you to simply enjoy this last day before your wedding.

This is the day to be excited and should be completely stress-free! 

So, that should cover everything you need to know for how to plan a wedding. With everything ticked off your wedding planning checklist, you can relax knowing that you’ve done everything you need to do to get married and simply enjoy your big day.

On your wedding day, look after yourself; find time to eat, avoid stress, and give yourself enough time to do everything you need to whilst enjoying the day. This is again where your Bridesmaids can help to keep things running smoothly.

Most importantly, enjoy your big day. You deserve it! And remember, some things may not go exactly to plan, but the most important part of this day is getting to marry your life's love and celebrating that with your family and friends. 

By shaunbell on 17/08/2022