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Wedding Checklist: Complete & Lower Stress

“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’ve partnered with the online wedding registry and free wedding planning app Zola to provide you with a foolproof step-by-step wedding planning checklist. You know, one with some measure of sanity and helpfulness.

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.

One way to figure out what should end up in that big picture bullet point list is to start with what you don’t want in your wedding and then build your checklist from there. We’ve got a handy copy of the getting started worksheets from my book, the A Practical Wedding Planner, right here, that can help you narrow down what should end up on your final wedding planning checklist. Here’s an excerpt from the planner on how to use it:

Instead of giving you a to-do list, I’m giving you a “pick what you really care about” list that spans from the useful to the possibly absurd.  You and your partner should each grab a different colored pen and run through this list, crossing out things you could seriously  care less  about, circling  things that matter  to you (double circling  and starring things that you really value is encouraged), and scribbling in items you don’t see listed. Once you’ve narrowed down All the Wedding Things to a smaller collection of items you actually care about, you can each fill out the list of your top three wedding planning priorities and then try to create a joint list. You can think of this exercise as a way to figure out what makes a wedding feel like a wedding to each of you.

The Lowest Key Wedding Checklist

We’ve also created a simple wedding planning checklist—or, really, flowchart—to help you figure out the big picture timeline of your wedding. 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.

BUT. It’s quite possible that what makes you feel calm is a nice long checklist, with lots of things to check off, and a specific order for doing things, just to 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.

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 if you want to print it out, well lookit! We made you a free printable wedding checklist with boxes you can check off and everything. Just find the download at the bottom of this post and it’s all yours.

And if you want to plan on the go, our printable checklist integrates perfectly with the free, customizable checklist on the Zola Weddings app, so you can access and update your list anytime and anywhere. Add the tasks you want, delete ones you don’t need, then Zola will help remind you to get it done. (They will even personalize your checklist to your religion or culture and then autofill your to-do list accordingly.) Combine that information with ours, and you’ll have everything you need to cross tasks off your list in style.

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

close up on the hands of a bride wearing a lace jumpsuit with long neutral colored wedding nails

10 months before your wedding

a tropical-themed turquoise wedding stationery set is styled in a layflat on an orange backdrop with ribbons and tropical flowers

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

a still life flatlay of various wedding registry items including a kitchenaid, fine china, and a le creuset

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 which you can then upload into your Zola app. You can even collect guest addresses that you don’t already have directly in the app too.)
  • 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. Our partner Zola lets you build the registry you actually want, with a selection of over 50,000 gifts, experiences and subscriptions (plus cash options and more.)
  • 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. If you’ve signed up with Zola above, you can gather addresses multiple ways (including by uploading our spreadsheet directly) and manage your list from your desktop or straight from your phone.
  • 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"

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

  • 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.  If you registered with Zola, you can easily export a list of who got you what and when, so then all you have to do is put pen to paper. And then do the same again with wedding gifts down the road.
  • Finalize your vows
  • Make sure your wedding outfits are still on point
  • Finalize your menu with your caterer
  • Finalize your wedding ceremony

wooden wedding seating chart made with hot pink, orange and teal rubber bands and glitter lettering

1 month before your wedding

a queer mixed race couple sits on a school bus and takes a selfie with their iphone. One of the brides is wearing a giant floral crown and the other wears a bow tie and suspenders

two weeks before your wedding

  • Check in with guests who haven’t RSVP. If you’ve got your guest list loaded up into the Zola App, their guest list manager lets you track RSVPs in real-time and communicate directly with your guests to see who’s coming.
  • 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 guests and a bride count money on a table at a wedding

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!

wedding guests stand against a light blue wall carrying celebration flags and music speakers

1 day before your wedding

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 list 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)
  • Toast your marriage! You did it! Now the good stuff starts for real

Pretty amazing list, huh? We even made you a snazzy FREE printable Wedding Checklist version— Click here to download.

This post was sponsored by Zola. With Zola, you can build the registry you actually want; add items from a selection of over 50,000 gifts (plus add from any store) or if physical objects aren’t your style, register for experiences and subscriptions—heck, with Zola you can even register for your wedding album. And with Zola Weddings, now you can manage your wedding checklist and your guest list too. Other perks include group gifting, shipping control (aka you tell your registry when you want to receive stuff), and the lowest credit card processing fee in the industry for cash gifts, if you choose to add a cash registry option. Click here for a full list of Zola’s features and sign up for Zola today!

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