First give yourself a pat on the back for finding true love. That in itself is an accomplishment, but now you need to ask yourself: who (will you invite?), what (will you wear?), when (should the ceremony start?), where (will the reception be held?), how (am I going to pay for it?), and why (did I decide to plan this myself?).
Take a moment to breathe. Yes, you have a million things to do, but if you plan accordingly, you won’t overstress yourself and you might even enjoy the planning process. The important thing to remember is that it’s never too early to start planning your wedding day. According to most wedding planners, couples should spend at least a year planning their nuptials. This gives them time to find the right vendors and save money so they can stay within their budget. That’s the biggest thing to keep in mind – how much are you planning to spend for the big day and how do you intend to work within that budget?
A year before you get married, you and your fiancé should begin to brainstorm wedding ideas. Do you want to get married in a church or in a vineyard or in Hawaii? Do you want a large wedding with 200 guests or an intimate affair with only 20? Establish guidelines to work from by determining the magnitude of the ceremony and party you want to throw.
Eleven months to go: Start looking for a venue for the ceremony and the reception as well as the officiant. It’s also time to choose members of the wedding party who will serve as your allies during the rest of your planning. And settle on the music and a photographer (and videographer). These services book fast, so secure these services and make a deposit if needed.
Ten months to go: Think about what you’re going to look like on the big day. Do you want to lose some weight, grow out your hair or tone up before the ceremony? This is the time to start thinking about what you want to do with your hair and makeup. And decide on your colors because you’ll need to plan for flowers, linens and dresses in the upcoming months.
Nine months to go: Time to begin finalizing that guest list, taking care not to leave anyone out, and begin looking for save-the-date notices and invitations. By now, you should also be searching for a caterer and conducting interviews and tastings.
Eight months to go: Time to get into fairytale mode and begin dress shopping. Reserve plenty of time to look for a bridal gown and bridesmaids’ dresses. Guys don’t get to sit this one out, though. You might as well settle on what the groom and groomsmen are wearing, too.
Seven months to go: Time to get a taste of the sweet side of your big day by shopping for a florist and a wedding cake. This is the perfect time to sample plenty of cakes and not feel guilty. You’re still keeping up with your workout regimen, right?
Six months to go: Create a wedding website or blog to keep potential guests up to date on the latest information. If people will arrive from out of town, a website is the place to offer hotel suggestions and maps of the route from the ceremony to the reception. Also, remember those wedding attendants you so carefully picked out? Put them to work. Let your wedding party help you keep tabs on the details now that you’ve booked all the key vendors for your big day.
Five months to go: Things are starting to come together. Now that it’s all becoming more real, think about where you’d like to go when it’s all over. Find a travel agent and book the honeymoon of your dreams – and a hotel for your wedding night.
Four months to go: Now would be a good time to choose wedding bands. Oh, and don’t forget that you’ve got a rehearsal dinner to plan. Give the host a guest list and begin choosing the menu.
Three months to go: Time to look at the little details. Pick out your bridal jewelry, and accessories for the bridesmaids. Book hair and makeup professionals to make you look like a princess, and if you’ve got time, do a little lingerie shopping now that you’ve got the perfect getaway planned. This is also the time when you should be putting the final touches on your invitations to give guests plenty of time to RSVP.
Two months to go: Time to finalize the big details. Get your marriage license and blood tests, and if needed, update your passport. By now, you should have ironed out the details of the ceremony – songs, special performances and guest speakers. Buy the favors for your guests and gifts for the wedding party.
One month to go: Almost there! The day seemed so far away, but now it’s coming fast. If you’re writing your own vows, you should be close to finishing them now. Attend several fittings for the dresses and suits to make sure everyone is comfortable. For those not in the wedding party, make sure they’re comfortable, too, and do your best to make a seating chart that will keep drama to a minimum. Don’t forget to check in with all of your vendors to make sure everything is good to go.
A few hours to go: Relax. Let your attendants and family track down last-minute details and finalize preparations. This is your day. Enjoy it.
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