The most common question I see in bridal groups is, "I just got engaged! Now what?". After the big proposal it's not long before the questions from family and friends start rolling in, "When's the wedding?" "Where are you getting married?" "When are you going to start planning?" and needless to say it can be a bit overwhelming. Through my eight years as a wedding photographer in the Philadelphia area, planning my own wedding, and doing research for wedding tip videos I share across social media channels I will say I've become a bit of an expert on the topic. Here is my recommended wedding planning timeline.
The one thing to keep in mind: everyones timeline will be different. I'll start with very broad time frames like "12+ months". For my husband and I, we worked with an 18 month planning timeline and spaced these tasks out pretty greatly, about one task per month in the beginning of our planning experience. If you're working on a tighter time frame such as 9 months, you may want to be tackling these tasks a bit closer together. Either way, I highly recommend taking this information and creating a master checklist like this one that you and your fiancé can follow along the way!
First things: Newly Engaged / No current timeline set
Plan/Host Engagement Party - Not everyone will have an engagement party, but if you're expecting a "longer" engagement (18 months+) I highly recommend having one! My husband and I knew we were looking at least a few years before we'd be able to have our wedding, and having an engagement party fresh off of our engagement gave us something wedding related to plan. It was a really fun and exciting time to celebrate and gave us a great jump start on wedding saving.
Wedding Planner - If you know you want to leave the wedding planning to the professionals, start with them as your first vendor and they will be able to provide a ton of help and insight right at the start of your experience!
Organize a rough guest list - you'll need this to make sure the venues you tour can accommodate your guest count. This will also help you as you start gathering venue and catering quotes so you can start to set your budget.
Wedding Venue - Schedule tours and set your date once you find "the one!" your entire timeline will fall into place from here.
9-12+ Months Out
This is vendor booking time! The typical rule of thumb with wedding vendors is: the earlier the better. You run a better chance that your dream vendors will be available for your date, and in some cases you can snag early pricing.
Caterer (if not included with venue)
Hair and Makeup
Start honeymoon planning - at minimum you should have the destination decided in this phase so you can budget accordingly! You may want to hire a travel agent to take the planning off your plate, but planning can be spaced out over the next few months.
Dress - Did you know the average bridal boutique will recommend having your dress order in by a minimum of 10 months prior to your wedding date? Dresses can take months to order, and then your seamstress will need at least a few weeks to make the perfect finishing touches. Plan accordingly! I started shopping about 12 months out so I would have 2 months to look freely without feeling the pressures of a time constraint. If you are already starting planning past this 10 month mark - don't fear! Make the boutiques you are visiting aware of your wedding date and they should be able to ensure that you are trying on options that will be in on time for your big day.
Save the Dates - If your wedding will require travel accommodations, it is recommended you let your guests know your date at least 10-12 months out
6-9 Months Out
Plan wedding weekend events: rehearsal dinner, after party, brunch, etc.
Set up Guest Accommodations - hotel room blocks, transportation, etc.
Wedding Party and Family Dresses - similar to wedding dress ordering, bridesmaid dresses, mother of the bride dresses, etc. are typically made to order and take some time to come in. Ordering at least 6 months prior is recommended.
3-6 Months Out
1-3 Months Out
RSVP due date, final guest numbers
This list is focused on the tasks you have to book along the way to wedding planning, but these last six months will definitely be more full once you start planning your unique wedding day! We had unique items like deadlines for ourselves for DIY projects, decor shopping, finalizing our wedding accessories. shopping for gifts for our wedding party and parents, and more. Happy Planning!