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This Is The Expert Wedding Checklist You’ve Been Looking For

“Get a Spray Tan” is not on this list even once

Oh hey did you just realize you need a wedding checklist? Because after the initial “HEY HEY WE’RE GETTING ENGAGED” period, there’s generally a pretty rough comedown when you realize that oh, now you have to plan your wedding. Apparently, Pinterest/David Tutera isn’t going to swoop in and plan it for you. Or you’ve realized that planning a big event while holding down a full-time job may not actually be in your wheelhouse. In any case, the day comes when you have to step away from the “my crazy amazing wedding ideas” Pinterest board and figure out what you’re actually doing. Which is why we’re here to provide you with a foolproof step-by-step wedding planning checklist. You know, one designed to reduce stress, not maximize it.

What Kind Of Planner Are You?

I planned my wedding budget on a post-it that I kept on my desk with a rough outline of a budget on it. While you should definitely not follow my lead (we have really solid wedding budgeting tips), suffice to say I was not a super type-A organized planner. A wedding checklist with a hundred steps would have just stressed me out. (In fact, I signed up for one, blacked out when I looked at it, and never checked it again.) If you’re like me and can’t handle a million part checklist, Brooklyn-based professional wedding designer, Michelle Edgemont recommends breaking your wedding checklist into more manageable big picture chunks before you get into the details of your to-do list. She says:

As much you might be trying to be a chill engaged person, you are still putting together a party for what could be over 100 people. This party, aka your wedding, has a lot of moving parts—like the ceremony, food, drinks, entertainment, fashion, etc. The best way to keep it organized is with a big checklist of todos. To start, I like to write down all the big things that need to happen:

  • Location
  • Food and drink
  • Fashion
  • Decor
  • Whatever else makes sense with your own wedding

Then I break down each category into smaller steps, because “book a venue” feels like a daunting task without smaller tasks to make it manageable. Like this:

  • Research venues
  • Make appointments for walkthroughs
  • Go on walkthroughs
  • Ask for contract
  • Review contract
  • Send deposit and signed contract

Whatever type or size of wedding you are planning, break down your wedding planning checklist into smaller actionable steps. It’ll make it easier to get through and easier to delegate to your partner, friends, or family. Because you can’t do everything yourself, no matter how bad you want to.

The Lowest Key Wedding Checklist

Before we get into a huge checklist, let’s step back and look at the picture. We created this flowchart—to help you figure out the big picture of how wedding planning is going to work. This walks you through the fact that you need to figure out where you’re getting married first, then book your most important vendors, and you know… maybe then buy your dress (or perfect wedding outfit). This will help keep your priorities straight when you’re tempted to, say, spend $500 on decor before you’ve got your venue locked down. Pin it to your Pinterest board, or put it on your fridge and just follow the general big picture steps.

Our Free Printable Wedding Planning Checklist

BUT. Sometimes what you need is a lot of detail, so you can get a solid sense of what to do when, and make sure you don’t miss anything. (Funny story about how I forgot that I had to pay for postage on our wedding invitations, hahahaha sob.) So finally we’ve created a free printable full wedding checklist for you, with all the things you (might) need.

woman holding APW's free wedding planning checklist

Download your free wedding planning checklist right here.

We’ve structured this checklist around a twelve-month planning process. However, you might be planning over two years, or two months. That’s fine! There is nothing particularly magical about a twelve-month planning period. Feel free to adjust this timeline—stretch it out and do it leisurely, or cut all the stuff you can’t be bothered with and do it in a few months. Likewise, remember that just because something is on the list, it does not mean that you have to do it. In fact, let’s discuss:

How To Use This wedding planning Checklist

First, get a red pen and cross out everything on the wedding checklist you don’t care about. Seriously. Go crazy. If you’re getting married in your backyard, cross out all the stuff about finding a venue. If you really don’t care about flowers, cross out all the stuff about finding a florist.

Then feel free to reorder things. We’re wedding experts, but we’re not experts on your wedding, so if you want to do things in a different order, girlfriend, you do you. (Though seriously, don’t get your dress till you know where you’re getting married. Many a giant ball gown has been returned when the drive-through chapel in Vegas was picked as the venue…) So start here, and make it you. At every point along the way, we’ve linked to more detailed articles to give you all the guidance you need. (Oh right, and the #APWPlanner has a lot more detail on this whole planning thing, so probably pick that up.)

And remember, if you want to print out this checklist, you can do that right here

Wedding Checklist

close up on the hands of a queer non-white couple wearing engagement rings and wedding bands

When You’re Newly Engaged

  • You’re engaged!—have some bubbly, bliss out
  • Tell people the big news
  • Avoid jumping right into planning if you can possibly avoid it; chill out and enjoy
  • Pick up a copy of the APW Book and the APW Planner (but don’t start reading the planner till you’re ready to really get planning)
  • Sit down and figure out what your wedding priorities are
  • Come up with a wedding mission statement
  • Sign up for APW’s wedding planning email list so you have a built in wedding BFF
  • Have an engagement party or a super casual engagement toast
  • Decide if you want to elope and ditch the rest of this list

12 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR WEDDING

a sweetheart table sits in a white room with wood floors. There are two potted tropical plants on either side of the table and a neon sign that says "Chris <3 Sara"

11 months before your wedding

10 months before your wedding

9 months before your wedding

close up image of wedding DJ spinning records on a turntable

8 months before your wedding

close up of a bride wearing a backless lace gown carrying a wild bridal bouquet with protea

7 months before your wedding

6 months before your wedding

  • Think about rehearsal dinner options
  • Start to plan any extra events associated with the wedding (after party, brunch, welcome party)
  • Finalize your guest list (we’ve got spreadsheets for that.)
  • Set up a meeting with your officiant to discuss the ceremony and start marital counseling (if relevant)
  • Start thinking about your wedding vows and ceremony plan
  • If you’re having a friend officiate your wedding, now is a good time to ask them about doing so
  • If you’re not having a friend officiate your wedding, make sure you’ve booked someone (or the church/shul/mosque/temple)
  • Set up your wedding registry. (Even if you don’t want one, it’s wise to register for a few things so you don’t get a fugly vase made out of a tree #truestory.)
  • Have a meeting with everyone who is helping (or start sharing those Google Docs!) and make sure they all understand what is expected
  • Find a baker for your wedding cake, and if you can schedule cake tastings, do so
  • If someone is throwing you a bridal shower, send that person these tips

a mixed gender wedding party sits in a minimal room with modern furniture wearing black suits

5 months before your wedding

an asian bride wearing a floral robe and a modern updo talks on her cell phone while getting ready for her wedding

4 months before your wedding

  • Finalize rehearsal dinner, and book anything you might need to book
  • Buy your wedding rings
  • Make sure your passport is up to date, if you’re leaving the country for your honeymoon
  • Book wedding transportation
  • Create a spreadsheet for RSVPs and guest list addresses.
  • Talk to whoever is planning your bachelorette party, and hook them up with this checklist (same goes for any wedding showers)

a close up of a ketubah that says "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine"

Wedding Checklist: 3 months before your wedding

  • Address and mail your wedding invitations (double check the postage!)
  • Think about what ceremony extras you might need (chuppah, aisle runners, etc.), and buy or rent them
  • Start planning out your wedding ceremony script
  • If you’re DIYing anything for your wedding, start now or cross it off your list
  • Schedule dress fittings, as needed
  • Research your local marriage license, civil union, and domestic partnership rules

a woman writes her wedding vows in a small notebook with A Practical Wedding's wedding vow checklist pulled up on her screen

2 months before your wedding

  • Begin working on your wedding vows in earnest
  • Make sure everyone in your wedding party has bought what they’re wearing
  • Figure out what you’re wearing to your rehearsal dinner
  • Put together a list of what you want to pack for your honeymoon, if you’re having one

close up on a black bride lifting up her wedding dress slightly to show her hot pink platform wedding shoes

6 weeks before your wedding

1 month before your wedding

  • Put together your seating chart
  • Create your escort cards
  • Finalize your ceremony outline
  • Create a wedding timeline
  • Make any necessary nail and spa appointments
  • Confirm all vendor payments (and tip amounts)
  • Create your wedding playlist, if you’re doing the DIY DJ route
  • Make sure your wedding party knows any critical information as it pertains to the rehearsal dinner or wedding day
  • Schedule a final dress fitting
  • Print wedding programs, if you’re having them
  • Confirm all rentals (and adjust your rental order, as needed)
  • Sit down with your wedding stage manager or day-of coordinator and walk through all the details for your wedding day
  • Get your marriage license
  • And finally, for fun, if you haven’t picked a wedding hashtag, get moving on that
  • This is also a good time to review your wedding checklist and overall plan, add stuff you missed, and remove stuff you don’t care about anymore

two weeks before your wedding

  • Check in with guests who haven’t RSVP.
  • Confirm head counts, menus, and delivery with your caterers and bakers (also confirm vendor meal requests)
  • Confirm your photo requests, required family, and timeline with your photographer
  • Make sure that everyone who is delivering something to the wedding (rentals, flowers, etc.) has a confirmed, final timeline
  • Send a transportation schedule to transport providers
  • Make sure any clothing you want cleaned or pressed is taken care of
  • Ensure that there is a plan for wedding venue setup and breakdown

Bride and groom with horse

Wedding Checklist: one week before your wedding

  • Pack an overnight bag and include your toothbrush, birth control/condoms, something to sleep in, an outfit for the next day, honeymoon luggage, and your passport
  • Get your wedding manicure and pedicure (if it’s happening at all)
  • Make sure a copy of your honeymoon plans is left with family and friends
  • Put your final payments and tips for vendors in labeled envelopes, and give this to another person to manage
  • Get your wedding day “oh shit kit” put together (you’ll want aspirin, makeup, safety pins, mints, snacks, etc.)
  • Pick up your dress (if it wasn’t delivered to you)
  • Try on your entire wedding ensemble
  • Give all of your vendors an emergency number to call, just in case (note: not yours!)
  • Assign a family member to be the photographer’s point of contact
  • Hand over all of your planning docs to your wedding stage manager (including a copy of the vendor delivery schedule, set up times, and phone numbers) or DOC and take a step back to enjoy this thing!

Long winding wedding table in forest

One Last Wedding Checklist: 1 day before your wedding

  • Rehearse your ceremony with your officiant and wedding party
  • Confirm your honeymoon transportation, airport drop-off, etc.
  • Set your alarm (and a backup)
  • Print out your vows (or memorize them)
  • Drop off favors, menus, table plans, and place cards with your caterer or venue
  • Do a final review of your wedding checklist, and any other lists you have going

a layflat of day-of wedding essentials including gold high heeled shoes, printed foiled vows, and wedding rings

last-minute things you might forget

(AKA, rip this wedding checklist out and stick it to your front door)

  • Rings
  • Vows
  • Marriage license
  • Dresses
  • Suits
  • Drivers license
  • Wallet
  • Cash
  • Passport/ID
  • Socks, underwear, bra
  • Accessories
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Tips for vendors
  • Wedding playlist
  • Umbrella
  • Snacks and water

a recently married queer couple of color show off their new wedding rings while walking on a cobblestone street

on your wedding day

  • Make sure you pause and appreciate your family, friends, and each other
  • Take a few minutes every so often to breathe and focus; smile at your friends, give hugs, be in the moment
  • GET MARRIED

a pile of instax mini photos sits on a silver tray next to a sign that says "Polaroid Guestbook"

After the wedding

  • Send out your thank you notes (to people who helped with the wedding AND for gifts)
  • Make sure your vendors have been paid in full
  • Follow up and make sure you know when you’ll get your wedding photos back
  • Ensure that rentals, clothing, and accessories have been returned (as needed)
  • Throw that wedding checklist in the trash. You did it!
  • Toast your marriage! Now the good stuff starts for real.

APW's free wedding planning checklist

Pretty amazing list, huh? You Can Print It Out as well— Click here to download.

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