Your Complete Wedding Timeline
It is not fanciful daydreaming: Your wedding day should be one of the most prized and momentous occasions of your life — and you want it to be perfect.
Weddings gather family and friends to share your love story through a time-honored, cherished celebration. They display your love, commitment and personality, merging old and new traditions into a memory you will never forget.
Yet for these very reasons, weddings can catapult stress into overdrive. From booking venues to buying garments to detailed decorating to guest lists to timing dances and speeches just right, a thousand swirling details can seemingly make or break the occasion.
Let the big day highlight what it is supposed to — you and your partner’s love — with a step-by-step, exact wedding planning timeline that turns wedding planning into wedding enjoying.
Immediately After Engagement
You or your partner popped the question — and the answer was yes! Aside from those stomach butterflies and the fluttering excitement — as well as sharing the good news with family and friends — where should you start your wedding to-do list?
1. Set the Budget
It may not be the most fun detail to execute, but it sure is a crucial one.
Sit down with your fiance to map out your ideal budget. Consider a spending cap, and stick to it, as well as budget leniences you would not mind a little wiggle room with. Categorize the significant projected budget expenses, such as venue, entertainment, catering and wardrobe, and create ballpark figures that will help guide your initial searches into each of these.
2. Look for Inspiration
Your wedding is as much a celebration of your partnership as it is an expression of you.
Look for aesthetic inspiration from the get-go that will match your wedding with your tastes. Consider color schemes and lighting, furniture, decorations and general ambiance. Page through wedding websites, bridal and fashion magazines, design publications and even lifestyle blogs to get a taste of all the aesthetic styles and choices out there for parties — and have some fun making them yours.
3. Select a Date
Along with your budget, determining the date is the next most functional decision to mark off your wedding planning checklist.
There are a number of scheduling factors to review. Consider venue location and geography, such as if you would prefer an indoor or outdoor ceremony and if you will be inviting guests from afar. Are there holidays that may interfere with prospective dates or other engagements shaping schedules?
Also, use personal preferences and your budget to help select the date. Do you have a favorite season that would enhance the atmosphere, such as a spring wedding surrounded by natural, blooming flowers? Or would you prefer an indoor wedding at a renowned or popular venue? Selecting the date is step one in prioritizing all these wedding questions.
4. Pick the Party
Old friends, new friends, siblings, co-workers, cousins — there is an abundance of individuals in your life you want to include on your special day. Pick your bridesmaids and groomsmen as soon as possible, and go about asking them in fun, personalized ways.
Do not forget other wedding party roles as well, such as ringbearers and flower children. You will want to start thinking of filling those functions too.
5. Consider a Wedding Planner
Wedding planners are unexpendable resources. They eat, sleep and breathe nuptials, and they will know the most intricate elements to consider when planning a wedding — big and small, early and day of.
What is more, wedding planners will have one-of-a-kind connections and valuable insights into the wedding industry. Whether an event specialist comes with a wedding venue or is acquired independently, consider the convenience and ease they will provide for your big day.
One Year Before the Wedding Day
At the one-year marker before your wedding, it may seem like you still have ages to go. Yet it is the premiere time to begin establishing celebratory dates and accompanying wedding details.
1. Reserve Dates and Venues
As soon as possible, secure the locations for your wedding ceremony and reception. This step is important for many reasons.
First, today’s ceremonies and receptions tend to take place at separate locations. This separation takes more work and coordination, and it is becoming increasingly common for popular wedding venues to fill up to two years in advance.
Second, being flexible with dates helps. Yet conducting venue research, getting price quotes and making a final decision between a list of favorites remains the surest way to go.
Third, select a venue that works with your budget and tastes. What amenities does the venue offer? Are there event planning services included, such as in-house decorations and catering? Can you opt out of these services, if you desire? Will the layout and size work with your guest list? Consult with venue representatives to have these questions and more addressed.
2. Draft the Guest List
Be tactful, but remain true to your ideal vision of the day. Many arguments have been had over who makes it on the wedding guest list — and who does not.
Enter into this planning step with some flexibility and cordiality, and talk out any concerns with your partner. Remember, at the end of the day, it is your wedding — but let us not start any long-term rifts just to keep head counts low!
3. Find an Officiant
Like venues, officiants need to be researched and reserved. Whether it is a local pastor, ordained official or best friend with an officiating license, look into who you want presiding over your ceremony.
Consider how this person matches and enhances the event’s atmosphere as well as their personality, plus if you want to uphold traditional officials or personalize your day through a more unique and diverse choice.
4. Find a Photographer and Videographer
Make a list of promising area photographers and videographers. Read reviews, and sample their work through online or print portfolios. Then, set up consultations to assess availability and service estimates.
These consultations are key. Seasoned professionals will inquire about specific shots you want and moments captured, such as special photo arrangements with grandparents or funny moments during the reception to keep an eye out for. Likewise, come prepared for all meetings with your budget and photography desires. The more you can communicate your wedding-day vision, the better these professionals can meet them.
5. Cast the Caterer and Menu
Many venues today provide catering services and menu options for you to choose from. If you have selected a venue that does not or are throwing your wedding at a private residence or property, then you will need to determine the event’s food and drink.
This step includes the addition of cocktail hours, hors-d'oeuvres, stocked or open bars, the reception meal and any after-hour snacks. It may also feature specialty toasts and champagne for the head table and other wedding guests, all of which must be determined and ordered early on.
6. Find a Florist
Floral arrangments and decor can be elegant to eclectic, minimalist to bold. They are central elements in the design and ambiance of your wedding, and as such, should be planned early.
Conduct similar price and portfolio-based searches as you did with other venue prospects. Also consider the weather and month you have selected as your wedding date, as these factors will play a huge role in what flowers are in season.
7. Pick the Cake
Let your guests eat cake — and lots of it! The staple dessert behind weddings small and large offers another opportunity to stamp your wedding day with your mark.
Book tastings and consultations with numerous bakeries. Inquire about flavors or treats the bakery is known for, as well as their schedules, baking capacities, delivery options and other custom dessert desires.
Perhaps you and your partner want to forgo the traditional tiered wedding cake for another celebratory treat altogether. Fun sweet-tooth favorites include cupcakes, cheesecakes, candy buffets and even donut walls.
8. Throw an Engagement Party
Take a moment to enjoy the present by throwing an engagement party. Time flies by, and amidst all things to consider when planning a wedding — the questions and calls, meetings and consultations — it can be easy to lose sight of the bliss of your engagement.
Just remember to keep your engagement-party invitees on par with your actual wedding guest list. You do not want to invite people to the early gathering, then have them wondering where their actual ceremony invite is down the road.
Six Months Before the Wedding Day
Six months marks the halfway point between rote wedding planning and actual wedding celebrations. Amidst all the things to know before your wedding day, make sure you have these items checked off while you are still six months out.
1. Send Save-the-Dates
Order and mail save the date cards to your complete guest list. These cards do not have to be budget-busters to be stylish and personal. Many websites and online services offer customizable templates you can design and print en masse.
2. Design Invitations
While in the wedding-card spirit, scratch another to-do off your wedding day checklist by designing the ceremony and reception invitations.
There are numerous stationers, calligraphers and websites to choose from for beautiful invitation designs. Each can suit your needs and guest-list amount — though do not be hesitant to outsource the actual task of addressing and mailing. Your hands and wrists will thank you later!
3. Determine the Entertainment
Whether booking a band or hiring a DJ, start arranging the musical entertainment for the night. This stage will often court the preparations you are making at the reception venue itself, as it may hold a fixed stage and dancefloor.
You can then start crafting a playlist, which will include first dances and other special songs that are must-plays during the event.
4. Say Yes to the Dress
Many brides-to-be wonder the proverbial question, “When should I buy my dress?” Like most things on this list, the sooner you dive into dress hunting, the better!
Give yourself plenty of time to shop around boutiques and dress stores at your leisure. If possible, schedule multiple fittings or private consultations with tailors and sales representatives. Use your inspirational research online and in magazines to find necklines, cuts, lengths and fabrics you love, and relay that information during fittings. We guarantee you will find the dress of your dreams — and the veil to boot.
Do not forget the groom and his groomsman. They will need to determine their wardrobe as well, from traditional tuxedos or vest ensembles to casual suspenders, all complementing your color scheme.
5. Reserve Hotel Room Blocks
Out-of-town guests will need a place to stay after the celebration. Look into booking room blocks at hotels within an easy driving distance of the venue — or consider a hotel wedding venue all together for maximum convenience.
Be budget conscious. Diversify the room blocks or even the hotels themselves to match different price points, giving your guests affordable and thoughtful choices.
6. Create a Registry
Start your wedding registry at any number of stores or online retailers. You can mix and match your registry for your exact needs, and make it as easy as possible for guests to participate with an online registry link you send out.
7. Book Transportation
Solidify the transportation for you and your wedding party between ceremony, photo-taking and reception locations. Pick a chauffeur service that is as reliable as it is fun, from limos to busses to luxury cars.
Outline your wedding-day route. Then, email and print these directions for the drivers of your booked transportation, just to be safe and avoid any unfortunate route mishaps.
8. Plan the Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner
Select the venue, and book any event catering for the rehearsal dinner. If you can, try to negotiate the costs of the food and drinks, or see if you can have additional amenities thrown in for the celebration. But try not to go overboard — rehearsals should be lighthearted and relaxing, after all!
9. Order the Cake
In-demand bakeries will require order lead time well in advance of the actual delivery day. Use your tastings and consultations to pick a favorite, then book within six months to make sure you get your first choice and all the fixings.
Three Months Before the Wedding Day
The big day is fast approaching — and with it, a few more items to check off the wedding to-do list.
1. Tailor the Dress
Have the rest of your wedding-day ensemble picked out, such as shoes and accessories. Wear your shoes to the fitting to assess proper dress length, and let the tailor mark any finishing trimmings and detailing.
2. Book Hair and Makeup Appointments
Book a hair and makeup appointment for you and your bridal party at your favorite salon. Like with other service vendors, inquire about a consultation beforehand where you can communicate and practice the exact look you want.
3. Finalize the Music and Menu
Give your band or DJ your complete musical wishlist, including times you want specific songs to be played. Finalize your first-dance song as well as any other special music requests.
Likewise, go over any menu changes or orders with catering. Ensure all your food requests are in place and that the complete menu looks as it should.
4. Check in With the Florist
Try not to make any last-minute decorative, arrangement or delivery swaps after three months. This provision gives your florist plenty of time to grow or order your exact floral order while maintaining original estimates and budgets.
6. Order Party Favors
If you plan on giving party favors to your guests, order now to avoid stressful present mishaps or last-minute express shipping fees.
Two Months Before the Wedding Day
Wedding planning should be coming to a conclusion within one to two months of your big day. Most major decisions should be checked off, and you and your partner should be focusing on executing the final details and enjoying the growing excitement.
1. Mail the Invitations
The standard benchmark remains to mail invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding. This timeline gives plenty of time to receive RSVPs, as well as to give an RSVP cutoff three to four weeks after the postmarked mailing date.
2. Finalize the Ceremony
Meet with your wedding planner and officiant to review all ceremony and reception timelines. Finalize readings, songs and any extra quirks or personalized moments you want to occur, as well as their order.
Once finalized, send the step-by-step timeline to all vendors. This course of action gives them ample time to review and provide their own feedback, plus maintains harmony between all parties.
3. Print Programs
Outsource or use your home computer and printer to design and print the wedding ceremony program. You can also print the reception menu or placards if desired.
4. Purchase Wedding Rings
Allow plenty of time for resizing or specialty designs and engravings.
One Month Before the Wedding Day
The day is almost here! With proper foresight and a little help from professional event planners, you should be well on your way to checking off your entire wedding day planning list.
1. Do a Photography and Videography Walkthrough
Meet at the ceremony and reception venues to do a detailed walkthrough of each space. If taking wedding party pictures in a third location, do a final walkthrough there, alongside any weather contingency plans.
2. File for a Marriage License
Make a stress-free date out of this process by scheduling a few weeks in advance. Turnaround for a marriage license can take up to a week. Order a few copies, and triple check all filed information.
3. Do a Final Head Count
Take inventory of all RSVP’d guests. Relay the headcount to catering and your chosen venue so that they can prepare meal plates and stock the bar.
4. Assign Reception Seating
Use the layout of your reception venue to best seat and space guests. Group people together intuitively, and use your best judgment about final arrangements without overly stressing.
A Few Days Prior to the Big Day
Besides riding the rush of your around-the-corner wedding day, keep things simple and stress-free with the following concluding details.
1. Check in With All Vendors
A quick email or phone call will suffice. Ensure none have lingering questions or concerns — that all loose strings are tied and schedules are in sync.
2. Confirm Appointment Times
Call or email to confirm hair and makeup appointments. You do not want the panic and shock of finding out you mis-scheduled your own wedding appointment.
3. Make as Many Vendor Payments as Possible
For your own mental security, keep diligent track of which vendors you have paid and which you have not yet. Maintain receipts, and know your financing plans. Then, make sure those who require payment up front have it.
5. Write Your Vows
Take time to reflect on all you have built with your partner. Your story is just beginning — let yourself bask in the past, present and future while you write.
6. Pick up Your Dress
Do one last fitting to ensure everything fits like a glove. Then, take your dress home, and keep it stored in a safe place.
7. Primp and Pamper
Schedule any manicures, pedicures, hair trims, coloring or tanning sessions, if you desire.
Wedding Day Checklist
Finally, the big day is here. It has taken months of planning, research, budgeting and work to bring you to this moment. Hold on to every last minute while they occur — and do not forget to let your hair down.
1. Delegate Point Persons
Will your maid of honor be bustling your dress? Will your bridesmaids carry any of your things, and will a wedding or event planner be taking care of gifts and envelopes? Allot a point person for each day-of pop-up task as well as extraneous vendor questions.
Live in the moment as much as possible, including butterflies, tears, laughter and any other memories the day brings.
It is your wedding after all!
A Wedding to Remember at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino
Dover Downs Hotel & Casino is a premier wedding destination in Delaware. From its award-winning cuisine and opulent decor to one-of-a-kind gaming and entertainment, our venue is sure to be a celebratory setting you and your guests will never forget.
We are proud to share in these momentous occasions — and even more proud of the luxury services, amenities and high-class accommodations we bring to them. Consider Dover Downs Hotel & Casino for your wedding venue, and see what packages we curate for your special celebration.