The Countdown: A Detailed Planning Checklist

first things first:

  • Share the news of your engagement with family and close friends.
  • Announce your engagement in the local newspapers.
  • Set a budget. Establish who will be able to contribute, and how much.
  • Set the date.
  • Meet with potential wedding planners or event designers, if you anticipate using one.
  • Choose your ceremony and reception sites (click here for waterfront reception sites).
  • Interview officiants.
  • Establish the number of guests you’d like to invite, and compile a list with input from both sets of parents.
  • Choose your maid of honor, best man and other honor attendants.
  • Start shopping for your gown.
  • Begin a pre-wedding beauty regimen to improve your complexion.
  • Schedule any beauty treatments (facials, waxing, brow-shaping, teeth-whitening) that you’d like to have over the next few months.

6 to 9 months before:

4 to 6 months before:

  • Place orders for all wedding stationery: invitations, envelopes, thank-you notes. Negotiate a price for programs, menus and escort cards, which will be ordered closer to the date.
  • Book a calligrapher, if using one.
  • Meet with cake bakers and schedule tastings.
  • Book wedding-day transportation.
  • Make wedding-day appointments for hair and makeup, as well as a run-through four to eight weeks prior to the date.
  • Research accommodations and group rates for out-of-town guests.
  • Finalize the guest list.
  • Plan the honeymoon and reserve flights, hotel rooms and a rental car.
  • Plan the rehearsal dinner.

2 to 4 months before:

  • Contact the town/city clerk’s office to inquire about marriage-license requirements. (Click here for an alternate article about marriage license requirements).
  • Choose formal attire for groom and groomsmen and place orders.
  • Choose and order wedding favors.
  • Order the wedding cake.
  • Meet with officiant to discuss options for the ceremony and choose readings; invite loved ones to perform readings, if appropriate.
  • Select the ceremony and reception music.
  • Shop for attendants’ gifts.
  • Choose and order items for welcome baskets, if you’re giving them.
  • Shop for and order wedding bands.
  • Reserve party rentals – linens, tables, chairs and tents – if necessary.
  • Reserve your accommodations for the wedding night.
  • Confirm group hotel rates for out-of-town guests.

4 to 8 weeks before:

  • Mail wedding invitations six to eight weeks prior to the date.
  • Meet with caterer to decide on menu.
  • Send programs, menus and escort cards to stationer to be printed.
  • Do hair and makeup run-through with headpiece.
  • Decide on any necessary insurance-policy changes.
  • Gather information from the town/city clerk’s office to change your name, if desired.
  • Send wedding announcements to local papers.

2 to 4 weeks before:

  • Create a seating chart for the reception.
  • Contact all vendors to confirm all details and set a timeline for the wedding day.
  • Have your final dress fitting with shoes, headpiece, jewelry and lingerie.
  • Compose your vows, if desired. (Click here for wedding vows examples)
  • Write a toast to give at the rehearsal dinner or during the reception.
  • Visit the salon for one last haircut and color.
  • Send escort cards and seating chart to calligrapher to fill in guests’ names and table numbers one to two weeks before the wedding.

1 week before:

  • Arrange for dress to be picked up or delivered.
  • Organize all wedding-day payments and gratuities in envelopes and decide who will distribute them.
  • Decide who will transport and collect heirlooms (unity candle, toasting glasses, cake knife) to and from the ceremony and reception.
  • Deliver a final headcount to the caterer.
  • Take care of last-minute beauty treatments, including waxing, facial, manicure and pedicure.
  • Pack for the honeymoon. (See our Honeymoon Packing Checklist for help!)