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. Don’t worry… we’ve got your back. Since we can’t literally swoop in and plan it for you, we’re going to give you as many tools as possible. Back away from the “my crazy amazing wedding ideas” Pinterest board, it’s time to figure out what you’re actually doing.
Planning a wedding is not for the faint of heart. Honestly, if anyone knows, it’s us. We’ve been helping folks just like you navigate the process for well over a decade. So, let us just say this: You’ve got this, and we’ve got you.
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 high stakes party. 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:
- Food and drink
- 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 (or micro-wedding locations)
- Make appointments for walkthroughs (or virtual walkthroughs)
- Go on walkthroughs (or virtual 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 whole 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, and a lot of options, and sometimes you want something you can write on, check things off, and scribble all over, so you don’t miss anything… even when things change a mile a minute. (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. Actually, we created an ebook with every single wedding checklist you could possibly need (think: 12-month, 6-month, day-of, elopement, and there’s even one in there that’s more specific to #CovidCouples, because while we’re on the other side, things still are… ahem… different).
Download your free ebook with every wedding planning checklist you could ever need right here.
We’ve structured these checklists around the super quick elopement or micro-wedding timeline, as well as a twelve-month and a six-month planning process—because the reality is that every wedding is different and so every planning process is different. Feel free to adjust these timelines—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.
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 these checklists, you can download that e-book right here
F*ck it, let’s elope Wedding Checklist
We’re big proponents of your wedding being exactly what you want, so… you may want to just off and elope when you get the chance. And, y’all… we’re here for it. Whatever your reasoning, here’s a list of things to think about as you plan for your intimate ceremony and celebration. Don’t worry, this is printable in the ebook, too!
- Nail down some basics:
- Who will be there?
- What’s your budget?
- Do you need or want to hire anyone?
- The big reason you’re eloping may be to avoid all the hullabaloo. Cool, good for you. But if you’d like to have a photographer, or custom flowers, hair and makeup, or anything else, you’ll want to make sure to get that all scheduled and booked.
- If you decided to travel to elope, make sure all your travel plans are in place.
- Get a marriage license.
- Figure out where you can get one, what the legal requirements are, etc. for your state and county. Find out if there is be a waiting period. There is usually a window of time that says you must get it within X days of the wedding. Just be sure you know what you need to know. (And if you’re eloping in another country, just know that you often need to have a ‘legal’ ceremony here in the states.)
- Make sure you’ve got the legal stuff covered.
- Need an officiant? (City Hall will cover that for you, if it’s open. CO, PA and WI don’t require a third-party officiant. Research the rules where you are.)
- Need witnesses? (Gather friends, family, or strangers from a bar as needed.)
- Will you exchange rings?
- You don’t have to, but if you want to, make sure you order them/buy them in enough time to have them in hand (wink) on the wedding day.
- Don’t forget about your outfits. Whatever that means for you. And right now, your best dress or outfit is just perfect.
- After the fact:
- Send in that marriage license. Make it legal.
- Celebrate however the heck you want.
- Share the exciting news with the people you love. (social media, wedding announcements, a website with photos.)
twelve-month Wedding Checklist
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
- Launch your master plan binder, notebook, or Google Doc
- Check out the APW Wedding Planning Spreadsheets and start customizing them
- Sit down and have your first of many guest lists chats (way more info on that here)—and don’t forget to ask your parents for their lists
- Figure out your target wedding budget
- Narrow your venue search (ceremony and reception) to your favorite options
- If you want (and can afford) a wedding planner, find one who shares your wedding values
11 months before your wedding
- Begin touring your preferred reception and ceremony venues (Ask questions!)
- Pick your wedding date
- Book a venue
- Begin your wedding photographer search: set up meetings and book
10 months before your wedding
- Start shopping for wedding attire. Make appointments at bridal and clothing shops as needed. Remember traditional wedding dress shops will have long lead times on ordering dresses. (Check out advice on plus-sized dress shopping too.)
- Research what kind of food you want to have, and begin to interview and book caterers
- If you don’t want a caterer, start to look into self-catering or having a potluck wedding
- Once you’ve booked your wedding photographer, shoot engagement photos (especially if you’re using them for save the dates)
- Finalize your guest list before sending save the dates (and read up on everything you need to know about guest lists). Hot tip: Our spreadsheets can help you do this.
- Create a basic version of your wedding website, especially if you want to include it in your save the dates
- Design and order your save the dates
9 months before your wedding
- Send save the dates
- Research wedding invitations and associated paper goods
- If you want to DIY your wedding invitations, come up with a plan
- If you can afford a day-of coordinator, hire one; if you can’t, ask a friend to be your wedding stage manager
8 months before your wedding
- Decide what kind of music you want to have: Do you need a DJ? A band? A DIY music plan? (Psst: check APW’s wedding playlists)
- Begin thinking about your officiant: Who will it be?
- Daydream about wedding cakes, and discuss what kind you’d like
- If you want a bridal shower, peruse these ideas (we even have game ideas) and ask a bestie if they’ll plan it for you
7 months before your wedding
- Book a florist, if you’re using one (here are tips!)
- If you’ve decided on a band or a DJ, book one now
- If you want a videographer, book one now
- Research hair and makeup artists, if needed
- Begin researching honeymoon destinations (because you KNOW you need a beak)
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
5 months before your wedding
- Book that honeymoon!
- If someone in your wedding is wearing suits, start figuring out if you want to rent or buy
- Check out wedding rings and decide what you want
- Decide if you need party rentals, and figure out what you need; put together an order (Adjustments can be made later, so book now!)
- If you need a wedding tent, research and reserve one
- Schedule your hair and makeup trials, if you’re hiring a stylist (also make sure you coordinate with your wedding party or friends)
- Reserve hotel blocks for your wedding
- Make wedding night reservations as needed
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)
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
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
6 weeks before your wedding
- Start wearing your wedding shoes around the house, as needed
- Make sure you’re updating your gift registry and spreadsheets as gifts arrive; send thank you notes now if you can
- Confirm that out-of-town guests are set up at hotels and lodging
- Figure out if you want a guest book, and make one happen if so (also, test your pens!)
- Write thank you notes for your shower gifts.
- Finalize your vows
- Make sure your wedding outfits are still on point
- Finalize your menu with your caterer
- Finalize your wedding ceremony
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
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!
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
last-minute things you might forget
(AKA, rip this wedding checklist out and stick it to your front door)
- Marriage license
- Drivers license
- Socks, underwear, bra
- Comfortable shoes
- Tips for vendors
- Wedding playlist
- Snacks and water
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
After the wedding Checklist
- 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.
Pretty amazing list, huh? You Can Print It all out as well. Right here: