You’re engaged! Congratulations and what a special time this is.
However, now you’ve gone from the endless question of "When are you two getting engaged?", to the endless question of "When are you two getting married?"!
So the first thing you have to decide is how long an engagement you want or need before you commit to anything. I know people that have pulled off wonderful weddings in less than 3 months. To do this, you can’t 'major in the minors, or even in the majors' for that matter! You need to be perfectly happy with whatever venue, food and music you can organise, and enjoy having everyone pull together. I find these weddings are usually great fun and also quite meaningful, as everyone has contributed to making the day happen and special.
If you have your heart set on a specific venue or time of year, if you need to save in order to have the wedding of your dreams, or if you want everyone who loves you to attend and therefore need to give plenty of notice, then you are looking at an engagement period of at least a year to eighteen months.
Either way, there are things that need to be done, and there are some things that need to be booked or ordered way before others. If you have never been involved in a wedding party before, who on earth knows these things? I know I certainly didn’t! The looks I got when I started dress shopping and they found out my wedding was only a few months away! Boy, did I panic! I had no idea you had to allow such long dress-making times.
So here is our guide for you, based on our experiences as brides, grooms and wedding hosts. It is done over an 18 month period (which sounds ages, but really flies!) so adapt as per your time frame.
The most important thing to remember throughout is – do this together and enjoy it. Happy planning!
Eighteen Months to Go
- Well, before there is any talk of Weddings, enjoy this special time, and organise your engagement party!
- Decide on what type of wedding do you want?
Tip: Do you want all the extended family and every friend or work colleague, something small and intimate or something in-between? Is there a theme you want to work to; steampunk, black n white, very traditional, super casual, full of summer flowers?
- What is your budget and who is contributing to it? Download our handy budget calculator to keep your budget in check
- Set the date
- Start a Wedding Folder – this will become your best friend
Tip: In it, you can note all your contacts, the places and ideas you have had, the cost of each for comparison, make notes of things to do and when they are done – etc etc etc.
- Start the Guest List
- Start looking at places for your ceremony and reception
Tip: A lot of places are booked up to a year in advance. If you have become engaged in the summer or autumn, and are looking to wed the following summer this may be something you need to look at smartly.
Twelve Months to Go
- Try attending a Wedding Show – the more ideas the better!
- Get all quotes in writing Book your venue for your ceremony
- Book your venue for your reception
Tip: make sure you fully understand what the venue supplies, so you know what you are paying for and what you need to hire.
- Start looking for caterers
Tip: Find out what the venue is able to supply by way of equipment, what your caterer is able to supply, and make a checklist of any equipment you have to hire for the day.
- Book your photographer (and videographer if appropriate)
- Book your DJ or band
Tip: popular bands are often booked well in advance to allow time to check them out before choosing who is right for your day.
- Start looking at florists and cake makers – do tastings of different cakes
- Decide on your wedding party and ask them if they are able to, and willing to, be there for you
- Decide on Stationery
- Finalise a guest list
- Send out Save The Date cards
- Book your honeymoon – if you are planning on going away after the wedding, you will need to take time off work, book flights and accommodation where applicable.
- Start looking for wedding outfits
Six months to go
- Book Florist and Cake Maker
- Book hair and makeup artists
- Book all hire outfits and accessories
- Finalise the wedding cake
- Arrange transport to and from the wedding ceremony and reception for the wedding party and wedding guests (if you choose to provide this)
- Book accommodation for the night for the bridal couple
- Decide on table settings
- Book any hire equipment
Tip: This includes tables, chairs, tablecloths, glasses, cutlery, crockery, serving equipment etc, if not supplied.
- Book waiting staff if not supplied at your venue.
- Work out details of any events you will host the day before or the day after the Wedding
- Send out the Invites if you didn’t do a Save The Date – now that’s exciting!
Three months to go
- Get passports, if you need them and don’t have them
- Choose lingerie, if needed for a bridal dress or for female attendants
- Organise where the various wedding parties will get ready
- Work out an agenda for the wedding day
- Send out the Invites now if you did a Save The Date
- Choose and order your wedding rings
- Start writing your Wedding Vows
- Confirm readings and music for the ceremony
- Choose a gift for your soon-to-be-spouse, if you have agreed you are doing this
- Choose thank you gifts for your wedding party – and perhaps anyone close who has helped heaps (such as your mums ☺)
- Create a wedding registry
Tip: you may decide you prefer money to gifts, to go towards the honeymoon or house purchase, or you would rather everyone contributed to a painting to remind you of your day.
- Book trial runs of hair and make-up
- Finalise fittings for wedding attire
- Check in with all suppliers and vendors to make sure everyone is still on track
- Finalise your choice of alcohol for the reception
- Meet with your officiant to discuss the order of the ceremony. Your officiant may also have some pre-marriage courses for you to attend
- Are you having a first dance? Have you chosen the music? Do you need dance lessons??
Two Months to go
- Confirm flowers and colour scheme with your florist
- Make sure Chief Attendants send out Hen\Stag do invites
One Month to go
- Apply for your Marriage Licence
Tip: this can be done up to a week before the ceremony, but this is one Very Important Thing ticked off your To Do list and they are valid for 3 months. Just make sure you give it to someone reliable to look after! Read our What You Need To Legally Wed blog post.
- Finalise your ceremony, music and readings
- Finalise guest numbers
- Check with all suppliers\vendors
- Finish table settings
- Finalise seating plan and make place names and seating plan board for arriving guests
- Create a timeline for the day and share this will all participating parties
Tip: the more people know about the plan for the day, the more smoothly the day will run
- Finalise last fittings
- Wear in your wedding shoes!
- Organise who picks up dresses/suits/flowers/cake/rings etc
- Finalise details of the Day Before and Day After events
- Book wedding rehearsal
Two weeks to go
- Attend Hen/Stag do’s
Tip: best to get these well out of the way and make sure chief attendants know their main job is to look after the bridal couple
- Write your speeches
- Give the photographer a list of particular shots you would like
Tip: You will lose track of which groups are being photographed so it is important the photographer has a checklist
- Have a last facial or spa – any closer to the day and you’re bound to get a break-out!
- Keep wearing in those shoes!
- Practice session with hair and makeup, and last haircuts all round
- Print menu cards and any other day of wedding stationery i.e seating plan and name cards
- Organise someone to greet\pick up Out-Of-Towners as they arrive
One Week to go
- Check all legal documents (passports, marriage licence etc)
- Attend your wedding rehearsal
- Give Order of Service sheets to Usher
- Make sure ring bearer has the rings
- Collect all hire outfits
- Arrange for someone to return all hire outfits afterwards
- Stock the bar (if possible or applicable)
- Pack for the night, and for the honeymoon if you are leaving immediately
One day to go
- Set up the venue
- Have some quiet time together
- Enjoy a casual meal with family and friends
- Have an early night!
And it's The Day!!
After all this planning, you have finally woken up to your Wedding Day. Here are some tips to start you off
- EAT! It’s going to be a fun but long day. You may not feel like it, but breakfast and lunch will be your best friends today. Make sure there is plenty of food to nibble on while you are getting ready as the Bubbles flow a little too easily during this time! –Tip: If you are a bride, be mindful of what bra you wear in the morning – if you have a strapless dress you won’t want marks. And make sure you and all your wedding party don’t wear tops you need to pull off over your head. Not ideal after hair and makeup
- BREATHE! Things will go wrong. It’s just normal. You have done all you can, and at the end of the day, you will be married. Let others help sort out any problems or mishaps. Now is your time to be taken care of
- ENJOY. Take a minute to take it all in. This day will pass in a blur. Sit at the head table with your new spouse and take a mental photograph. You won’t forget that moment.
For a more in-depth timeline for your wedding day check out our Ultimate Wedding Day Guideline blog post.
Download our 18-month wedding planning guide with more handy hints and tips leading up to your wedding day.