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The Ultimate Bridal Checklist: Everything you should do during the 12 months leading to your wedding

Black and White Wedding Shot

So, the big question’s been popped, and so has the celebratory bubbly. You’ve celebrated, shared with family and friends, and now what? Nothing like a stage-by-stage checklist to help you sort out exactly everything you need to be doing each step of the way leading up to your wedding. This checklist is based on starting off on at an ideal 12-month timeline. If you’re planning a wedding in a shorter amount of time don’t be discouraged! Crunch the numbers and get the basics down first (budget and venue) to figure out each of the little details in as little time as possible. Each of the time periods outlined has 8 tasks to complete and a few more to get done in the final stage. So if you check off one or two items per week you’ll be good to go!

There’s a lot to take into consideration when planning a wedding, but seeing it all laid out will make it less overwhelming and confusing. Of course, you can always hire a wedding planner (um, me obvi) or a day of wedding coordinator (surprise, me too) to help you out whether from the get-go and handling all the details, or as support on the day of your wedding. However, if you’re a DIY bride, say no more and follow this handy dandy checklist:

12 Months Before

1. Create folders and assign a binder for all your wedding inspiration and paperwork: Organization is key! Make sure you have a place to keep all your information together at once. Create a folder in your computer and in your email to store all vendor and inquiry emails as well as inspirational pictures, contracts, your guest list, etc. Have a folder in your phone’s pictures to save the screenshots of things you like in one readily available spot. If you’re a pinner, create a board on Pintrest for some inspiration as well. And finally, assign a binder or folder where you’ll keep all the physical copies of paperwork associated to the wedding in one place.

2. Set your budget and decide on priorities: This is probably one of the biggest conversations you’ll have to have with your significant other when it comes to planning the wedding. Everything else will depend on this point, so you need to have an open, honest, and realistic conversation about how much you can spend on your wedding. As a part of this conversation, you’ll also have to decide what your priorities are, which items are non-negotiable? What are you more or less willing to spend or splurge on? All of this will help guide the rest of the planning process. 

3. Select your wedding party: Time to pick the ladies and gentlemen that will be standing next to you on your big day and sharing the big news with them!

4. Start drafting the guest list: The number of guests will be very important when selecting a venue and booking a caterer, so the sooner you have a fairly approximate number, the better. 

5. Hire a planner: Hi again. If you do decide you’d like to work with a wedding planner that can sort out every detail for you, this is the time to book one. Your wedding planner will be in your life for the next year or so, and they will be dealing with one of the biggest days of your life. It’s okay to interview and meet up with as many as you need until you feel you’ve found the right match. Most planners offer free consultations, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of this possibility to find the planner you feel the most comfortable with. 

6. Reserve a date and book your venue: Booking your venue is one of the most important steps of the planning venture. Most venues should be booked a year in advance, so the time to do it is now. As soon as you settle on the time of the year during which you’d like to have your wedding, you can start visiting venues and finding their availability during the period of your choice. If you find the right place available during the right time don’t hesitate to act and book the venue!

7. Book an officiant: Whether you’d like to have a religious or secular ceremony, a year in advance is a good time to start finding the person that will deliver some of the most important words of your wedding. 

8. Do some creeping: Probably the most entertaining step of this stage is just creeping through Instagram and Pintrest, and Googling all sorts of local vendors in your hometown that can provide the services you need for your wedding. Check out some photographers, videographers, invitation designers, bands and DJs, florists and caterers and start selecting which styles catch your eye and what’s the feel you’d like your wedding to have!

8 Months Before

1. Hire a photographer and videographer: By this point, you may have been following some of your favourite photographer/videographer’s work. You know what style you like, which lighting you’d like your photos to have and you’ve found the right match to immortalize your big day. Now is a good time to book them. 

2. Book the entertainment, band, or DJ: Just as with the photographer, after a few months of checking out bands and DJs here and there, you can book your dream entertainment for the night. 

3. Meet some caterers: Make a few consultation appointments with caterers to decide which fits your budget and preferences the best. Many venues have their own caterers, making this step a lot easier, but it’s also a good time to do a few tastings and decide on a menu. 

4. Purchase your dress: not much more to say, than yes to the dress!

5. Sort out accommodations for out-of-town guests: Even if you’ll only have a few out-of-towners it’s good to reserve a block of hotel rooms that they’ll have access to in a location that will make transportation to and from the venue a simple task. 

6. Create a gift registry: Again, fun times. Whether you create an online registry or select certain stores, this part is always quite exciting and fun. 

7. Create your wedding website: More and more people expect to be able to find all the information for your wedding, including registry and directions, on a centralized website. Make sure to make it user-friendly but still keep the theme and style of your wedding throughout. 

8. Do some more creeping: Once you’ve checked off items such as photographer and band, you can start looking around for more items you’ll need to book. Mainly, start finding the style of wedding invitations and stationery you’d like to have at your wedding and the designers that offer these services locally. 

6 Months Before

1. Choose and purchase your stationery: Select the invites of your dreams, your Save-The-Date cards, menus, programs, and seating chart. Many designers (hello, hi, me again) will offer all of these for you in one place to make sure you have a cohesive style throughout all of your wedding’s stationery. 

2. Plan your honeymoon: This varies from couple to couple, but if you choose to go on your honeymoon right after your wedding, you’ll also have to keep a tab open for planning your getaway during this time. 

3. Select bridesmaids’ dresses: Whether you’d like to have all your girls wearing the same dress or variations of the same colour or tones, it’s time to go shopping for your bridal party’s dresses. 

4. Sit down with your officiant: Meeting up with your officiant six months out will help you map out the ceremony and start figuring out the times and roles during the ceremony. 

5. Send out your save-the-date cards: These shouldn’t take long to print once you’ve selected them earlier in the month. Now you can mail them out and assure all your guests know what’s coming!

6. Book extra necessities: This step will depend on your venue and whether or not they’ll require you to book electrical and structural supplies on your own. However, even if they do, you may want to ask them for preferred providers as they always have go-to people they work with and it will make it much easier for you to select and book if the vendors know the location.

7. Book a florist: Same as with every other vendor, you been creepin. And now you know for sure what’s the look you’d like for your wedding day and just which florist can achieve that for you.

8. Cake tasting: YAAAS. Enjoy this step.

4 Months Before

1. Timeline and Day-Of Coordinator: Put together a timeline of your wedding day and decide whether you’d like to hire a day-of coordinator (hi, once agaiiiin). The point of a day-of coordinator is that if you didn’t hire a planner to take care of the wedding in general, you can still have someone come on board for the day of your wedding. The coordinator will take care of everything in the few weeks leading up to the wedding such as confirming vendors, taking care of the timeline, and most importantly, being there during the day of the wedding to set up and arrange everything for you so that you can enjoy your day and you don’t need to get any of your friends or family to be running around sorting out all those little details while the wedding is going on. 

2. Book the rehearsal dinner venue

3. Select and order the cake

4. Dress fitting and shoes: Start your dress fittings and make sure any alterations made work perfectly. It’s also a good time to buy your shoes in order for those alterations to be made with the exact height in mind. 

5. Select the groomsmen’s attire

6. Book hair and makeup: Schedule your hair and make up appointments for the wedding day and take into consideration the timeline including everyone else that’s getting their hair and makeup done with you that day (commonly mom and bridesmaids). Book your trials as well so you can test out how you’d like your hair and makeup to look in advance of the wedding day. 

7. Create a playlist: Sit down with your partner and choose the music you’d like to be played at the wedding, everything from before the ceremony, to during, after, first dance and those can’t miss songs for the reception. 

8. Figure out transportation services: Both for out-of-town guests and for yourself, make sure to have perfectly mapped out how everyone will get from point A to point B and if a service needs to be hired this is the time to book it. 

3 Months Before

1. Finalize menu and flowers: Take some time to confirm the menu and to speak to your florist to ensure everything is confirmed regarding the arrangements you selected.

2. Order favors: If you’re planning on giving party favors at the wedding you should order or purchase them a few months in advance to give you time to tinker with them or DIY any details you’re adding to them. 

3. Arrange toasts: Make a list of the family members and friends that will be speaking during the wedding and arrange the order in which you’d like them to speak.

4. Finalize readings: Much like with the toasts, make a list of which passages or texts you’d like to be read during the ceremony and who’d be reading them.

5. Finalize the order of the ceremony and reception:Taking everything into consideration you can now complete the order of the entire day, from ceremony to reception, including the order in which everyone will walk down the aisle, the readings, the vows, the exit, the cocktail hour while the wedding party, couple and families are photographed, the dinner, the toasts, and the rest of the reception.

6. Purchase the rings: Select and buy the rings for the ceremony and have them engraved if you wish.

7. Send event schedule to vendors: All the people involved in making your wedding day spectacular need to be on the same page about the schedule of the day, make sure to send it to all of them in case anything needs to be reviewed and for everyone to know what’s expected of them and when. 

8. Hair and make up trials

2 Months and 1 Month Before

1. Touch base with all vendors: As I said earlier, organization is key. A part of being organized is always making sure that everyone is lined up and ready to go with the plan of the day.

2. Meet with the photographer and videographer: Have a final meet up to discuss who needs to be photographed, which moments you’d like to see captured, and any other thoughts and concerns. 

3. Review your playlist with the band or DJ

4. Send out the invites: Time to get those gorgeous invites in the hands of your guests and start collecting some RSVPs. As they come in, make sure to enter them into your guest database. 

5. Start breaking in your shoes: Make sure they feel absolutely comfortable by the time the wedding comes around so you can dance all night and not be bothered by any discomfort. 

6. Purchase accessories and jewelry

7. Create a seating chart: This can be a truly tedious task, so it’s best to start it once you have the RSVPs in order to make sure you’re only assigning seating to guests that will be joining you for your wedding. 

8. Get your marriage license: Although these don’t typically take long and it should be a fairly smooth operation, it’s not something you want to leave for last minute and have it stressing you out. 

9. Visit the dressmaker for one last fitting

10. Send out final payments: Some vendors will want you to pay in full a few weeks before the wedding so this will be the time to do so.

11. Write your vows: If you’ve decided to read your own vows during the wedding you should start giving those some time to brew. 

Week of the Wedding

1. Confirm, confirm, confirm: Even if you’re feeling like the most annoying bride on Earth, don’t feel bad about checking in and confirming times and bookings with each and every single vendor. It will help tremendously for your own ease. 

2. Delegate: You will have already discussed these steps but make sure that everyone knows how and when they’ll be helping you out with wedding-day tasks.

3. Give your bridesmaids a gift: A token of appreciation for all they’ve done for you and the wedding goes a long way!

4. Send the finalized timeline to the bridal party: You should send them a finalized timeline of the wedding so everyone is on the same page. 

5. Pick up your dress

6. Get a mani-pedi

7. Set aside checks: Some vendors request being paid on the day of the event, so prepare the checks with labelled envelopes and keep them with your wedding musts so you’re not running back to get them on your wedding day.

8. Send the final guest list to caterer and venue: One last chance for any last minute changes and confirming the finalized list.

9. Enjoy!: Here it is! The day you’ve been dreaming about is finally here. It can go by so quick, so try to take a step back whenever you can, take a look around, and take it all in! And of course, don’t forget to party your heart out! 

Champaign Toast

Hope you have the most wonderful wedding!



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