Complete Wedding Planning Guide

So, he popped the question, the ring is on your finger… but now what? Planning a wedding can seem like a completely overwhelming task and sometimes you don’t even know where to start! This is why I wanted to create a complete wedding planning guide to help you get started. By having a checklist for yourself, you will be able to fully enjoy the planning process and not be stressed about what you might be forgetting. So without further-a-do… let’s jump right in!

10 – 12+ months before the wedding

  • Buy a wedding planner or download an app like Wedding Wire to help you keep track of your to-do lists, budget, etc.
  • Create a Pinterest board and start gathering ideas! This will help you decide on the style of wedding you’d like (traditional/classic, bohemian/whimsical, rustic/romantic, etc.).
  • Set your wedding budget and decide what things are the most important to you (non-negotiables).
  • Decide on some possible dates. Check with your closest family, friends, and your top vendors to see if there is a date that would work better.
  • Create a rough draft guest list so that you can get an estimate on how much space you will need at your venues. When making a guest list, start with immediate family, bridal party, extended family, and then friends (don’t forget to think about kids and plus one’s).
  • Book the following vendors first: ceremony venue, reception venue, photographer, videographer, officiant, and wedding planner.
  • Decide who will be in your bridal party!
  • Get engagement photos taken (you will probably want to use these on your wedding website and invitations).
  • Start shopping for a wedding dress and accessories.
  • Finalize your guest list and gather mailing addresses.

8 – 9 months before the wedding

  • Order and send out save the dates (if you’d like).
  • Book the following vendors next: caterer, DJ, florist, baker, bartender, and any other rentals (i.e. tables/chairs, decor, party bus).
  • Create a wedding website.
  • Create a wedding registry (this is the fun part)!
  • Decide on a date for the bridal shower.
  • After you find your wedding dress you are going to want to start looking for bridesmaids dresses and suits/tuxes for the groom and groomsmen.
  • Start planning for your honeymoon.

6 – 7 months before the wedding

  • Order bridesmaid dresses and suits for the groom/groomsmen. It doesn’t hurt to get these ordered sooner rather than later to account for the time it can take to ship, plus some people may need to get alterations.
  • Decide on dates for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
  • Order thank you cards – you will use these for bridal showers and other gifts that may arrive early.
  • Buy wedding bands.
  • Start looking at wedding invitation designs.
  • Explore wedding day hair and makeup ideas – schedule trial runs.
  • Decide what kind of food and dessert you’d like – schedule tastings.
  • Start looking for and gathering ceremony/reception decorations (check on Facebook sell and swap groups or go shopping at Hobby Lobby or Michaels for DIY decorations).

4 – 5 months before the wedding

  • Find hotels at different price points and call to block out rooms for guests.
  • Meet with officiant to start discussing plans for the ceremony.
  • Order gifts for your bridal party.
  • Book hair and makeup artists.
  • Order wedding invitations.
  • Decide on the style of flowers (real or fake) and how many bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, and centerpieces you will need.
  • Schedule dress fittings.
  • Decide who will be involved in the ceremony (singers, musicians, readers) and who will be giving speeches at the reception. Let these people know so they have time to prepare.
  • Book honeymoon flights, hotels, etc.
  • Book a room for your wedding night.
  • Decide on rehearsal dinner venue and inform those who are invited on when it is.

3 months before the wedding

  • Mail out wedding invitations (request that guests RSVP 3-4 weeks before the wedding so you have time to give a final headcount to your caterer).
  • Finalize ceremony details and make/order wedding ceremony programs.
  • Make a wedding day timeline to give to anyone involved in the wedding (family members, bridal party, vendors, officiant). If you are an Alyssa Ashley Photography bride, we will make this together!
  • Purchase other items such as the guestbook, cake cutting utensils, flower baskets, party favors, etc.
  • Prepare a “must play” and a “do not play” list of songs for your DJ/band.
  • Finalize details for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
  • Finalize honeymoon plans and documents for travel.
  • Find trustworthy people you can designate the following jobs to: setting up and taking down decorations; moving decor from the ceremony to the reception; driving your vehicle over to the reception; cleaning up the getting ready rooms; cleaning up after the reception; gathering wedding gifts and cards; hosting and directing guests; picking up or dropping off rentals; refilling snacks, desserts, drinks at the reception (if this is not covered by the caterer).

2 months before the wedding

  • Develop a system to organize RSVP’s as they come in.
  • Decide on your first dance songs (bride/groom, father/daughter, mother/son).
  • Apply for marriage license.
  • Finalize seating arrangements (if you have them at the reception).
  • Finalize readings, music, etc. for the ceremony.
  • Schedule final dress/suit fittings and make sure the bridal party has everything they need.
  • Finalize any wedding day transportation you may have.

1 month before the wedding

  • Read through your contracts AGAIN to refresh your memory on questions such as, “When is my final payment due?” or “Am I required to feed my vendors?”
  • Begin writing vows and/or a letter to your fiancé. Decide if you are getting gifts for each other.
  • Review ceremony details with your officiant. Also, check in with your vendors to confirm date, times, location, etc.
  • Decide if you want to have a receiving line after the ceremony or if you are going to leave right away.
  • Get your ring cleaned.
  • Think of what you would like prepared for lunch on your wedding day for the bridal party and family members that are there getting things ready.
  • Begin writing thank you’s as you receive gifts early (or at least start a list of people that give you gifts so you don’t forget).

2 – 3 weeks before the wedding

  • Follow up with guests who have not RSVP’d.
  • Give final headcount to the caterer and baker.
  • Pack for your honeymoon (if you are leaving right away) and confirm all reservations.
  • Pack your wedding overnight bag.
  • Start breaking in your wedding day shoes.
  • Final hair and makeup run-through.
  • Confirm plans with those you have delegated to take care of special duties on the wedding day.
  • Share with your photographer/videographer if you have any last minute special requests.

1 week before the wedding

  • Finalize payments to your vendors (think about if you want to be prepared to tip any of your vendors).
  • Prepare a wedding day “emergency kit” that your personal attendant can carry with them.
  • Gather details that your photographer may request for “detail shots”.
  • Practice bustling your dress with someone who will actually be there to bustle it for you.
  • Go treat yourself to a spa treatment (maybe even go with your bridesmaids)!

The day before!

  • Go get a manicure/pedicure.
  • Finish setting up decorations at the ceremony and reception (if you need to and/or are able to the day before).
  • Make sure you have everything you need to get ready in the morning at your getting ready location.
  • Attend the wedding rehearsal and ENJOY!
  • Try to get to bed at a decent hour.


  • Eat a good breakfast.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready.
  • Relax and soak in every moment because the day will fly by!
  • Lastly, don’t worry about the little details. You have already done all of the hard work preparing for the day… so now just enjoy!

Beyond the wedding day…

  • Make sure all rentals have been returned.
  • Enjoy opening your wedding gifts and prepare thank you cards.
  • Get your wedding dress preserved/cleaned if you’d like.
  • Get started on changing your last name (Social Security office, driver’s license, passport, vehicle title/registration, banks, credit cards, etc.).



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