A Wedding Planning Checklist for the Do-it-Yourself Bride

So you’re getting married? Congratulations! Certainly you’re probably excited about the big day as it’s the day most of us have dreamt of since we were a little girl.

Some people prefer to hire someone to take care of the details, and why not? It’s your big day and you want it to be perfect, right?

But, what happens if you don’t have the money to hire a professional yet you still want to make sure that it’s the wedding of your dreams? No worries because, with this checklist, you’ll be able to take care of everything and your day will be just as perfect as can be.

1 Year or More Before

portrait of pensive girl in eyeglasses holding pencil

  • Envision your day. Decide what you want for your wedding. Think about location of the ceremony and reception, your dress and those of your bridesmaids, flowers for decoration and your bouquets, what types of photos you want to remember your special day and anything else you can think of that is important to you. Look through bridal magazines and browse websites to get ideas. Start a binder or notebook where you can record what you want and all keep all the details as you go.
  • Create a budget. Once you know what you want your wedding to be like, begin by working on your budget and deciding how much money you want to spend. This will give you plenty of time to start to save for the expenses and finding areas where you may need to cut corners.
  • Decide your wedding party. You’ll want to figure out who you want to stand up with you on that very special day. It may seem early to make that decision, but the more notice you can give them the better because they are going to have to budget for the additional expenses as well.
  • Determine approximate number of guests. You don’t have to nail down a final count right now, but try to get a basic idea of how many people you will be inviting. This is important when it comes to determining how big your venue needs to be and the associated costs with that size of guest roster.
  • Start to lock in your date. You’ll want to start to set up your venues and any other professional services you’ll need to make sure they’re available on your chosen wedding date. You’ll need to think about wedding venue, officiant (person that performs the ceremony), reception venue, caterer, bartender, cake decorator, photographer and/or videographer, florist, hair dresser, band or DJ and whatever other services you’ll be using. If someone isn’t available, it gives you ample time to find someone who is.

9 Months Before

happy beautiful bride blond girl in white wedding dress

  • Pick out your dress. Get your dress this early because you’ll want to save time for a couple of fittings and alterations prior to the big day.
  • Meet with your professional service providers. Take the time to meet face to face with whatever companies you are going to use (such as whoever is going to be taking your pictures, serving your food, doing your hair or providing your entertainment) to make sure they know what you want and can deliver it.
  • Register for gifts. Go to two or three stores and register for whatever gifts you choose so that people know what to purchase for the wedding shower or wedding gift itself. This way those family members and friends who are advance planners don’t feel so rushed and can get you exactly what they want without having to wait for the last minute.
  • Arrange for lodging, if necessary. If you’re going to have your wedding away from home or have lots of out-of-town guests, get with a hotel or motel that can block off some rooms so people have a place to stay, if they choose, at a reduced rate.

6 Months Before

three girls going shopping

  • Take care of your invitations. Purchase your invitations and get them addressed and ready to go. You may be surprised at how much time it takes to address the envelopes and how much it is going to cost you to mail them.
  • Decide on your honeymoon. Start figuring out where you intend to go to begin your new life as a married couple. If you’re travelling out of the country, you may need a passport or specific immunizations so you don’t want to wait until the last minute.
  • Bridesmaids dress shopping. Get the girls together and go dress shopping for their apparel. This gives them time for alterations and allows them to set up a payment plan if necessary.
  • Confirm with your professionals. Meet with the officiant and make sure you have the ceremony the way you want it. Get with your florist to determine what you want as far as arrangements and color. Order your cake, choose your music and start talking to whoever is going to do your makeup and hair to start getting things finalized with them.
  • Send out save-the-dates. If you are sending notification to your family and friends to let them know the date of the wedding so they keep themselves available, six months before gives them enough advance notice to schedule their lives accordingly.
  • Set up transportation. Plan how you will get from home to the ceremony, ceremony to the reception and wherever you’re going once the celebration is complete. If you want a limo or plan to use someone else’s vehicle, now is a good time to set that up.
  • Create a “Wedding Day Plan”. Figure out the sequence of events for your big day, from getting your hair done in the morning to your departure for your honeymoon that night. Plan how you want things to go and in what order.
  • Prepare for rehearsal. Book whatever you need both for the rehearsal and the subsequent dinner that follows it.
  • Get ready for the wedding shower. Come up with a guest list for your bridal shower and provide it to whoever is throwing it so they know how many to expect and can plan accordingly.
  • Buy your bridal accessories. Pick out and purchase your shoes and jewelry that you plan to wear on your big day.

3 Months Before

couple choosing wedding rings at a jeweller

  • Finalize any unanswered questions with professionals. Use this time if you need to confirm the final menu, make sure the florist knows what you want, finalize readings with the officiant or check with any other service professionals you’re using on any questions they may have.  This gives them ample time to make any adjustments necessary.
  • Toasts. If there is someone you want to give a toast at your reception, make sure they know what is expected of them so that they can prepare a speech that will knock your socks off (and hopefully not embarrass you…too bad, anyway).
  • Get your undergarments. If you still need whatever you plan to wear under your dress, buy it now. You should be around the time for your second fitting so you’ll want these items on hand so you know exactly how the finished product will look.
  • Prepare your programs. If you’re giving your guests programs of the ceremony as well as naming who is standing up for you, either order them to be printed or print them yourself so they’re ready to go.
  • Buy the rings. Get both the bride and grooms wedding rings so you’ll have time for any resizing that needs to be done prior to the ceremony.
  • Have your wedding shower. Throwing your wedding shower this much in advance allows you to concentrate solely on the wedding as it gets closer. It also allows you to adjust your registries if you see fit.

2 Months Before

  • Confirm one last time with professionals. Leave no stone unturned so there are no last minute surprises.
  • Mail the invitations. Send out your wedding invitations and RSVP’s. If you’re going to announce the wedding via your local paper, now is a good time to have the article published.
  • Bachelor and Bachelorette parties. No need waiting too close to the wedding to celebrate your final single days. The sooner the better so you don’t risk feeling queasy on the most important day of your life.

1 Month Before

wedding gown being tied up

  • Go through your RSVP’s. Tally up the number of people who will be attending your wedding. Call people who have failed to respond if you expect them and didn’t get a return. Give this number to all appropriate service professionals (such as the caterer and bartender).
  • Obtain your marriage license. Most licenses are good for 30 days, but they take a few days to get so give yourself enough time so you’re not left holding a ceremony you can’t complete legally.
  • Finalize your rehearsal. Make sure everyone and everything is set for the rehearsal and dinner itself.
  • Final dress fitting. Have your last fitting and make sure everything about the dress is exactly the way you want it to be.
  • Make final payments. Pay off whatever you can so you can enjoy your big day without worrying about who you owe money to.
  • Purchase bridesmaids gifts. Buy those in your wedding some token to let them know that you appreciate all that they’re doing to make your day even more special.
  • Prepare your vows. If you’re writing your own vows, get them done now so you don’t just throw something together last minute.
  • Take care of your hair. Get your hair cut and/or colored now so that you don’t have any last minute problems and your hair grows out a little bit, losing its new cut feel.

1 Week Before

adult caucasian businesswoman typing on tablet pc in hotel

  • Finalize everything. Make sure everyone knows where they should be and when.
  • Delegate whatever you can. Set up people to help you take care of the little things the day of the wedding, such as someone to pick up the clothes you wore to the wedding venue, or someone to help the wedding party with any last minute needs.
  • Pick up your dress and shoes. Pick up your dress so you have it and wear your shoes around the house a couple of times to start breaking them in.
  • Set aside tip money. If there is anyone you need to tip on your big day, put some money in an envelope and give it to someone else (delegate) to make sure everyone gets what they deserve.
  • Pack for your honeymoon. If you’re leaving your wedding and going straight on your honeymoon, pack your bags now so you don’t forget anything.

If you follow this timeline, your wedding day will go off without a hitch. You’ll be able to focus solely on the man that you intend to marry because you’ll know that everything else is taken care of. Isn’t that the wedding day of your dreams?

About the author

Christina DeBusk

Changing careers mid-life from law enforcement to writing, Christina spends her days helping others enrich their businesses and personal lives one word at a time.

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