Complete Wedding Planning Guide

Northwestern Minnesota wedding photographer Alyssa Ashley Photography

So, he popped the question, the ring is on your finger… but now what? Planning a wedding can seem like a completely overwhelming task. 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 wedding planning process and not be stressed about what you might be forgetting. So without further-a-do… let’s jump right in!

The Complete Wedding Planning Guide | Minnesota Wedding Photographer

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.

Northwestern Minnesota wedding photographer Alyssa Ashley Photography

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).

The Complete Wedding Planning Guide by Northwestern Minnesota wedding photographer Alyssa Ashley Photography

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).

The Complete Wedding Planning Guide by Northwestern Minnesota wedding photographer Alyssa Ashley Photography

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).

The Complete Wedding Planning Guide by Northwestern Minnesota wedding photographer Alyssa Ashley Photography

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 Complete Wedding Planning Guide by Northwestern Minnesota wedding photographer Alyssa Ashley Photography

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!

The Complete Wedding Planning Guide by Northwestern Minnesota wedding photographer Alyssa Ashley Photography

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.).

Wedding Planning Guide Wrap Up

Now that you’ve got your hands on my version of “the complete wedding planning guide”, you can plan your big day without that annoying voice in the back of your head asking if you’ve forgotten anything! But I also want to leave you with just one final piece of advice. Enjoy this season of your life. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; celebrate and honor the fact that you are marrying the love of your life.

The rest of it can wait.

Searching for more wedding planning tips, tricks, or inspo? BINGE THE BLOG for all of that and more! And as always, be sure to follow along on Insta (@alyssaashley_photography) and send me a DM if you have any further questions about planning for your big day. Happy wedding planning, friend!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *