October 2, 2020

Tips on How to Plan Your Wedding Like a Pro

Being a Wedding Photographer, we don’t normally help or deal with the planning of a wedding, BUT wedding photographers see a lot of the behind the scenes and learn things that don’t always pertain to photography.

So I wanted to share my tips on planning a wedding and a checklist to help make your planning less stressful and your big day more fun.

14 – 12 Months Before

Collect Inspiration

I’m sure you have scrolled through Pinterest and seen photos of weddings you adore. Save those photos and then refer back to them when your making decisions from picking out your venue to your wedding dress.

Determine Your Budget

Determine how much money you have to spend on your ceremony, reception, dress, florals, photographer, etc. based on your families’ contributions and your own.

Choose Your Wedding Party

Pick your Bridesmaids and Groomsmen, don’t forget the Maid of Honor & Best Man.

Start Your Guest List

If you haven’t already, I would recommend signing up for either The Knot or the Wedding Wire. They make checking track of your guest list simple easy!

Find a Wedding Planner (If you don’t want to do all the nitty-gritty yourself)

A good planner will always have relationships with top-rated vendors and they can help with a lot of wedding day stress.

Book Your Venue (& Your Wedding Date)

Decide whether to have separate locations for the ceremony and the reception. Don’t forget to factor in travel time between the two venues.

Find & Hire a Photographer, Videographer, Florist, Caterer, Band, and Any Other Wedding Vendors You Want

Keep in mind that the best event pros tend to book up over a year in advance, so make sure to get your inquires in early!

Nine Months Before

Book Any Remaining Entertainment

If you want, attend gigs of potential acts to see how they perform in front of audiences, then reserve your favorite(s)

Determine Your Dinner & Drinks Menu

If your wedding venue doesn’t offer its own catering service, look for one now, and hire the service this month or early next month.

Purchase Your Wedding Dress

You need time to schedule for at least 3 fittings. Veil shopping can be postponed for another two to three months.

Reserve Room Blocks at a Hotel for Your Out-of-Town Guests

Pick around 2 or 3 hotels at different price points that are close to the reception venue.

Make Your Gift Registry

You can choose the go the old fashion route with choosing big retailers or you can make an Amazon or Zola registry. My personal favorite that you can make a Honeymoon fund instead of doing the traditional wedding registry.

Create Your Wedding Website

Create a personal website where you can have your wedding date, travel information, accommodations, registry, etc. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. The Knot and the Wedding Wire offer to make your website. It is easy, quick, and simple.

Seven to Six Months Before

Select & Purchase Invitations

This is the time when you should design, purchase, and write out your save-the-dates, invitations, etc. You can also hire a calligrapher if you desire. Addressing cards is time-consuming, so make sure to budget accordingly.

Start Planning Your Honeymoon

Whether you’re going to Disney or taking a romantic trip to Paris, make sure that your passports are up to date and schedule doctors’ appointments for any shots you may need.

Shop for Bridesmaid Dresses

Make sure to allow at least six months for the dresses to be ordered and sized.

Find & Meet with an Officiant

Map out the ceremony and confirm that you have all the official documents for the wedding (these vary by county and religion).

Send Out Save-the-Dates

Pretty self-explanatory 🙂

Reserve Structural & Electrical Necessities

This is not always the prettiest part of a wedding, but an absolute necessity to make your guest happy. Book portable toilets for outdoor events, extra chairs if you need them, lighting components, and so on.

Arrange for transportation

Consider limos, minibusses, trolleys, and town cars. Anything you might want wedding photos for, plan accordingly.

Make a Day-of Timeline

Draw up a schedule of the event and slot in each component (the cake-cutting, the first dance, wedding portraits, etc.). If you have a planner, they will assist with this.

Five to Four Months Before

Book the Rehearsal Dinner Venue

Negotiate the cost and the menu. If you’re planning to host a day-after brunch for guests, book that place as well.

Check On the Wedding Invitations

Ask the stationer and/or calligrapher for samples of the finished invitations and revise them to suit your needs.

Taste & Order the Wedding Cake

Some in-demand bakers require a longer wait time. You should attend several tastings before committing to any one dessert pro.

Purchase Wedding Shoes & Start Your Fittings

Make sure to bring the shoes along to your first fitting so the tailor can choose the appropriate length for your look.

Schedule Hair & Makeup Artists

Make a few appointments with local experts to try them out. Snap a photo at each so you can compare results.

Start Your Music Playlist

What should be playing when the wedding party is announced? During dinner? To kick off the dancing? Keep a running list of what you do and don’t want played.

Three Months Before

Finalize the Dinner Menu & Flowers

You’ll want to wait until now to see what will be available since food and flowers are affected by the season.

Order Wedding Favors

Some people like giving out favors to their guests, some people don’t think it’s necessary. Whatever your choice is that is completely fine!

Make a List of the People Giving Toasts

Which loved ones would you like to have speak at the reception? Ask them now.

Purchase Your Undergarments

This is also the perfect time to schedule your second fitting

Finalize the order of the Ceremony and the Reception

This can also be coordinated this your Wedding Planner.

Print Menu Cards, Programs, Etc.

You can go to a professional printer, get them custom made on Etsy, or easily make them at home.

Purchase the Wedding Bands

This will give you time for resizing and engraving.

Send Your Event Schedule to Every Vendor

Giving them a first draft now allows ample time for tweaks and feedback.

Two Months Before

Touch Base Again With All of Your Hired Vendors

Make sure any questions you or they had on your first draft have been answered.

Meet With Your Photographer

This is the perfect time to discuss specific shots you want and walk through the locations to note spots that appeal to you.

Review the Playlist With the Band or DJ

Though you probably won’t be able to dictate every single song played, you should come prepared with a wish list.

Send Out The Invitations

A good rule of thumb: Mail invitations six to eight weeks before the ceremony, setting the RSVP cutoff at three weeks after the postmark date.

Enjoy a Bachelor/Bachelorette Party

Arranging a night out with your girlfriends generally falls to the maid of honor. But if she hasn’t mentioned one to you by now, feel free to ask—for scheduling purposes, of course!—if a celebration is in the works.

One Month Before

Enter RSVPs Into Your Guest List Tracker

And contact people who have not yet responded.

Get Your Marriage License

The process can take up to six days, but it’s good to give yourself some leeway. If you are changing your name, order several copies

Mail The Rehearsal Dinner Invitations

That’s if you’re planning a rehearsal dinner.

Visit The Dress Shop for Your Last Fitting

For peace of mind, you may want to schedule a fitting the week of your wedding. You can always cancel the appointment if you try on the dress then and it fits perfectly.

Stock The Bar

Now that you have a firm headcount you can order accordingly.

Send Out as Many Final Payments to Your Vendors as You Can

Getting this done before the day or the week of your wedding can save you a lot of stress. Some vendors might actually require the final payment before the Wedding. Also, make sure to look at the contract.

Confirm Times For Hair & Makeup

As well for all other vendors. This can include photographers, band, DJ, officiant, etc.

Make Your Seating Chart

Draw out table shapes on a layout of the room to help plan place settings. Write the names of female guests on pink sticky notes and the names of male guests on blue sticky notes so you can move people about without resketching the entire setting.

Purchase Thank-you Gifts For Your Wedding Party

You can present them at the rehearsal dinner, the night before the wedding, or while getting ready

Write Your Vows

If this is necessary for you.

Get Your Hair Cut & Colored

If this is necessary for you as well.

Week of the Wedding

Reconfirm Arrival Times For Your Vendors

Delegate Small Wedding Day Tasks

Choose someone to bustle your dress, someone to carry your things, someone to be in charge of gifts (especially the enveloped sort), someone to hand out tips, and someone to be the point person for each vendor. Normally this is for the Wedding Planner to take care of, but if you don’t have one get some help from family or wedding party.

Send a Timeline to Your Wedding Party

Include every member’s contact information, along with the point people you’ve asked to deal with the vendors if problems arise.

Pick Up Your Dress

Or make arrangements for delivery.

Check-in One Last Time With The Photographer

Supply them with a list of moments you want captured on film. Never feel like your reaching out too many times. I love it when my clients reach out to me, so I can calm their stresses and address their concerns.

Set Aside Final Payment For Vendors

If you haven’t given a final payment to your vendors this is the time to do it. Also, don’t forget to put tips in envelopes to be handed out at the event.

Book a Spa Treatment

Treat yourself! Make an appointment for a manicure and a pedicure the day before the “I dos.” (Consider a stress-relieving massage, too.)

Send the Final Guest List to the Caterer & All Venues

Break-in Your Shoes

You don’t want your feet hurting during the big day.

Pack for your honeymoon!

When your getting overwhelmed, make sure to take a deep breath and a break. Go spend time with your Partner and reflect on why you love them. I always see it that the wedding will sort itself out, no matter how big or small your day is.

Don’t forget to save this page and refer back to it when you get stumped 🙂