The Complete Wedding Planning Checklist: 43 To-Do’s Before Saying Your “I Do’s”

couple sitting together at a wedding

The congratulatory calls and engagement parties have waned. Now what? It’s time to get down to serious wedding planning. Fun? Yes! Overwhelming? Oh, yes. But don’t fret. We’ve compiled this pre-wedding timeline and wedding planning checklist for soon-to-be brides and grooms.

16-9 months before your wedding day

1. Create a file or binder to keep wedding information organized and together

  • Wedding planning sections should include the following:
    BudgetDate
    VenueGuests
    Wedding partyVendors
    AttireStyling
    CeremonyReception
    EntertainmentMenu
    Pre-wedding plans: rehearsal dinner, bachelor party, bridal shower etc.Post-wedding plans: honeymoon

2. Plan your budget. TheKnot.com’s budget allocation chart can help:

Reception48-50%
Attire8-10%
Flowers/Décor8-10%
Entertainment/Music8-10%
Photography/Video10-12%
Favors and Gifts2-3%
Ceremony2-3%
Stationary2-3%
Wedding Rings2-3%
Transportation2-3%
Miscellaneous8%

When planning your budget, it’s a good idea to avoid piling up bills that you’ll be paying back for years to come. Here are some wedding financing tips to help you avoid going into debt. 3. Set a date and reserve a venue for the ceremony and reception

3. Set a date and reserve a venue for the ceremony and reception

Research listings and compare features, cost, size, etc. Arrange visits and bring a list of questions to ask venue planners. Also, consider wedding insurance for protection in case of a cancellation or damage to the venue.

4. Create the guest list

  • Draft the list based on your budget and venue size.
  • Use Google Docs or similar resources to keep the list organized and easily editable.
  • Make sure guests’ names are on the RSVP card to avoid any confusion.

5. Choose your wedding party

6. Hire a wedding planner to help with details

7. Have the engagement ring appraised

You will most likely be able to have your ring appraised for free at the jewelry store where the ring was purchased. In the event your ring is lost or damaged, it’s a good idea to keep the appraisal and receipts in a safe place.

8. Insure the engagement ring for protection

Research your options when it comes to insuring your ring. You can contact your agent for more details on the steps you should take.

9. Choose an officiant for the ceremony

8 months before your wedding day

 10. Select a photographer and videographer

  • Decide on a photography style – candid, classic, edgy?
  • Read client reviews.
  • Interview prospective photographers and view their work.
  • Compare photo packages.
  • Inquire about your rights to the photos, since many photographers own the rights to all wedding images.
  • Find out post-production details, such as how long it takes to get your photos, how many you’ll receive, and whether the photographer offers retouching options.

11. Decide on entertainment

When choosing between a band or DJ, consider the following:

  • Vibe – Music sets the tone, theme and ambiance of your wedding
  • Variety – Make sure the entertainment can play the mix of genres you desire
  • Budget – While a DJ generally costs less than a band, the price of a band often depends on the number of musicians
  • Space – Check with the venue about restrictions. For example, is there a limit to the number of musicians or pieces of equipment you can bring in?

12. Choose a caterer

Schedule a tasting of what you want to serve and find out exactly what’s included, such as plates, silverware, table linens, etc.

13. Plan attire for the bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl and ring bearer

Schedule fittings and keep track of dates. Don’t forget jewelry, bag, shoes, bridal veil and other accessories.

14. Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests

15. Register for gifts with at least three retailers

Print out a wedding registry checklist to avoid missing any essentials.

16. Look into coverage options for any new gifts you receive

Check your homeowners or renters policy to find out if new gifts are already covered. If not, look into different property insurance options that could insure your new items.

7-6 months before your wedding day

17. Design invitations

  • Choose text and colors that are legible.
  • Order at least 25 extra invitations in the event of re-sends.

18. Plan your honeymoon

Planning your honeymoon well in advance can help avoid any last minute problems and can save you money. It’s also a good idea to get travel insurance so you’re protected if an incident affects your trip.

19. Send save-the-date cards

20. Reserve things like portable restrooms and outdoor lighting if needed

21. Book a florist

22. Create a music playlist, including a list of no-play songs

23. Arrange transportation for guests

  • Book transportation for the wedding party, as well as for you if you plan to arrive separately.
  • Hire a shuttle or bus to take guests to and from the hotel.

5-4 months before your wedding day

24. Finalize the menu

25. Choose a wedding cake

Schedule a tasting with bakeries so you can try different types of cakes, ask questions and review the bakery’s portfolio.

26. Address wedding invitations

Consider hiring a calligrapher to make your invitations more elegant and consistent.

3 months before your wedding day

27. Map out the ceremony with your officiant

28. Choose wedding favors for your guests

29. Create a list of who will be toasting at the reception

Be sure to allot time for speeches in your day-of schedule.

30. Purchase bride and groom wedding bands

2 months before your wedding day

31. Confirm times with all vendors

Send your day-of schedule to vendors and confirm appointments for hair and makeup.

32. Buy gifts for your wedding party

33. Send invitations

1 month before your wedding day

34. Get your marriage license

35. Separate RSVPs as you receive them by “attending” and “not attending”

The RSVP date should be 2-3 three weeks before your wedding in order to give the caterer a head count and set your seating chart a week ahead of time.

36. Schedule the timing for all day-of activities, such as the cake cutting and the first dance

A wedding planner or coordinator can help.

37. Put together gift bags for out-of-town guests

Week of the wedding

38. Assign seating for the reception

Create a seating chart at least a week before the big day. A site like seatingarrangement.com can help with the task.

39. Confirm honeymoon details

40. Deliver gift bags to guests at the hotel

41. Put tips and final payments for vendors into separate envelopes

42. Pack for your honeymoon

Check out our tips for efficient packing, and our guide to following TSA carry-on rules so your honeymoon isn’t derailed at the airport.

43. Breathe and enjoy as all your planning comes together!