Three Wedding Planning Timelines

If you’re familiar with CastleWed Ceremonies, you already know that no two weddings are the same. That’s also our approach to wedding planning and the time allotted for it. No matter the reason, everyone who plans a wedding is working on a different schedule. We broke down our recommendations into three categories. 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months: Select which one most closely resembles your timeline and scroll on down for our best advice.


Three Months (or Less)

Week 1 - Start a Wedding Binder/Folder

    This should include a budget and the reason is simple. You don’t have a lot of time and getting organized early will help you along the way.

Optionally, if you’re planning on hiring a wedding planner, you’ll want to do that as soon as possible. But keep in mind, with this short of a time frame, they’ll be harder to book, and maybe more costly because of it.


Week 2 - Reserve Your Venue

   By the end of this week, you should be making your first big decision, and reserving a venue for your wedding. You want to do this as early as possible because almost everything else you do to plan your wedding will require you have a date, time, and location.

When it comes to picking a date, Saturdays are convenient, but are more popular and tend to cost more at many locations, especially on short notice.


Week 3 - Send Invitations

   Start a guest list of people you would like to attend. There’s a lot to consider like a “no ring, no bring,” policy, a simple plus-one policy, and even whether or not you're inviting children. Be sure to send out send out invitations asking for RSVPs within 3 weeks or so. If you already have engagement photos, use them if you'd like. But don't wait to get some taken at this point, you won't have enough time for that AND get invitations sent out in a reasonable amount of time.

With the ideal guest list, now would be a great time to begin developing a tentative seating chart based on who you're expecting, and revise it once people have responded.

If you're expecting people from out of town, now would also be a great time to start considering travel accommodations. Whether that's hotel rooms, or spare room sleeping arrangements, get started, even with nothing set in stone, have a tentative plan prepared.


Week 4 - Meet with Vendors

Or at least contact them. This includes photographers, videographers, bands/DJs, officiants, caterers, florists, etc. If you dedicate a week to this, and try to meet at least one per day, or a few on the weekends, you should be able to make your vendor decisions by the end of the next week. Other than price, be prepared with at least a few questions for each type of vendor. You don’t know what you don’t know, and a good vendor will help make you feel comfortable by answering questions.


Week 5 - Select Vendors

By the end of this week, you should have had the opportunity to determine which vendors you like the best, so ask them what it will take to officially book them. Many vendors will require deposits or initial payments. So be prepared to open your wallet this week. As your wedding planning continues, you should be paying weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on what’s easier for your budget. Just make it consistent, and make sure they’re paid off by the due date.


Week 6 - Find a dress

   Not just for yourself, but for your bridesmaids. Actually, this week the groom and groomsmen should be shopping, too. Whoever you have in your bridal party, outfits should be coordinated and selected. If they’re not paid for this week, that’s fine, but everyone should have an idea what they’re wearing and where they’re getting that outfit. Some of the other items you should be looking for: flower girl basket, ring bearer pillow, an aisle runner, guestbook, cake serving utensils, etc. Create a checklist of wedding specific items you’ll need, so you can shop for them in the coming weeks.


Week 7 - Finalize Travel Accommodations

   By now you should have received all RSVPs including late ones, so make arrangements for transportation and travel accommodations for people traveling from out of town. Revisit the bridal party list, the seating chart, and have further discussions with vendors. For example, if you planned on 150-200 people, but has somehow dwindled down to 90-125 people showing up, make sure you’re not paying for services and food you don’t need.


Week 8 - Create a Day-Of List

   You’ve probably pictured in your head exactly what your wedding day experience will be from sunup to sundown. Now you should start putting that down on paper. It should include what you want to happen from the moment you wake up on your wedding day to the moment you go to sleep or leave for your honeymoon. This should be for your reference and shared with members of the bridal party only. You should also start a wedding program. Something similar to the day-of list, but for the guests to pick up and keep. It's their guide to how the entire event should transpire so they know what to expect, especially when to be seated for the wedding procession. Depending on the fit of your dress and/or any alterations that are being made, your seamstress will probably want to see you again around this time. Keep in touch with them.


Week 9 - Contact Vendors

With your day-of list created, and with your wedding program coming into focus, contact your vendors and verify everything, all the details including times, item counts, colors, prices, etc. If you’re still making payments to them, continue to do so


Week 10 - Have a Fitting for your Dress

   Once again, if this isn’t the week for a fitting, just be sure to keep in touch with the person tailoring your look. If you haven’t made contact with all of your vendors last week, continue until you have.

If you have been picky or hesitant about wedding-specific items, now is the time to start making those purchases. Having a flower girl basket that isn't your favorite is better than no flower girl basket.


Week 11 - Wrap Up Loose Ends

   Especially if you’re ordering printed materials online, you should have wedding programs, and other materials printed and ready to go. Any DIY projects (like unique seating charts or party favors) should all be completed or nearing completion by the end of this week. By now each of your vendors should be fully paid. If they haven’t all been paid in full, be sure to touch base with them and double check to make sure you’re still in good standing. All of the wedding -specific items you put on a checklist in week 6 should be purchased by now.


Wedding Week - Have Your Rehearsal

  Have a rehearsal a day or two before your wedding date. Occasionally couples will do it the morning-of. Just make sure no matter how you do it, that you do it. It’s important that everyone with a role participates. This should at least include your DJ/audio person, officiant, ring bearer, flower girl, bridesmaids, groomsmen, even the bride and groom’s parents if they’re walking down the aisle at some point – everyone should be involved because it usually takes at least four attempts before everyone is on the same page.

Then, enjoy your wedding!


Six Months-ish

Week 2 - Start a Wedding Binder/Folder

   This should include a budget and the reason is simple. You don’t have a lot of time and getting organized early will help you along the way. Optionally, if you’re planning on hiring a wedding planner, you’ll want to do that as soon as possible. During this couple of weeks, you should be doing your best to locate a venue and reserve it. With a date and location, you’ll be able to send out Save-the-Dates during the next couple of weeks.


Week 4 - Find and Reserve a Venue

   Your Save-the-dates should be very light on detail. Your names, the date, and the location are really about it. But it helps people get in on their calendar far in advance. At most, include one of your favorite engagement photos. If you don't have engagement photos yet, don't get hung up on that, just send Save-the-Dates with the details only. You can use engagement photos for your invitations.


Week 6 - Pick a Bridal Party

   If you plan on having some bridesmaids and groomsmen, this would be a great time to check with them and see if they’re available and willing to be part of your bridal party. Start the search for a wedding dress and attire for each member of your bridal party including the ring bearer and flower girl.


Week 8 - Meet with Vendors

Or at least contact them. This includes photographers, videographers, bands/DJs, officiants, caterers, florists, etc. If you dedicate a solid two weeks to this, and try to meet at least one per day, or a few on the weekends, you should be able to make your vendor decisions before week 10.

Other than price, be prepared with at least a few questions for each type of vendor. You don’t know what you don’t know, and a good vendor will help make you feel comfortable by answering questions.


Week 10 - Select Wardrobe

   If you started shopping for a dress and tux in week 6 of planning, by now you should have found a dress for yourself, a tux for the groom, and made selections for bridesmaids and groomsmen. If everyone is paying for their own outfit, encourage them to do so by now. It’s more likely than not you’ll have members of your bridal party that want to keep looking for something else or want to wait to make the purchase for any number of reasons. Regardless of the situation, now is the time to start herding those cats.


Week 12 - Send Invitations

   Send out invitations. There’s a lot to consider like a “no ring, no bring,” invitation, or a simple plus-one. You’ll also want to consider how you want to handle children. It can feel overwhelming how to approach this carefully, but we have some advice here. Ask for RSVPs to be returned within 3 weeks or so. You probably have a rough idea of who you expect to respond and attend, so with the ideal guest list in mind, now would be a good time to start creating a tentative seating chart. You can always revise this as the RSVPs start rolling in. If you're expecting people from out of town, we recommend you begin considering travel accommodations. Whether that's hotel rooms, or spare room sleeping arrangements, get started. Even with nothing set in stone, have a tentative plan prepared.


Week 14 - Create a Day-of List.

You’ve probably pictured in your head exactly what your wedding day experience will be from sunup to sundown. Now you should start putting that down on paper. Be sure to include what you want to happen from the moment you wake up on your wedding day to the moment you go to sleep or leave for your honeymoon. This is something that’s really just for refence to help you continue to prepare. We also recommend you start a wedding program. Something similar to the day-of-list, but for the guests to pick up and keep. It’s their guide to how the entire event should transpire so they know what to expect, especially when to be seated for the wedding procession. Depending on the fit of your dress and/or any alterations that are being made, your seamstress will probably want to see you again around this time. Regardless of when that takes place, be sure to keep in touch with them.


Week 16 - Purchase Wedding-Specific Items

By now you should have received all of your RSVPs. Which makes now a good time to start developing concrete travel and sleeping arrangements if necessary. A more specific number will help you adjust accordingly with your vendors if your initial estimate was off. For example, if you need to feed less guests than anticipated, you might be able to save some serious money. At the same time, if you’re paying any vendors in installments, double check to make sure you’re in good standing. Begin purchasing wedding specific items. This includes a ring bearer pillow, flower girl basket, unity candles, cake cutting utensils, etc.


Week 18 - Touch Base with Vendors

In the previous couple of weeks, if you haven’t been able to reach out to every vendor or supplier of yours, now would be a good time to simply confirm delivery dates, times, colors, prices, etc.


Week 20 - Have a Dress Fitting

    Depending on the fit/alterations of dress, you should have another dress fitting between now and next week. If this isn’t planned for this week, be sure stay in contact with your seamstress.

If you have been picky or hesitant on wedding-specific items, you should really consider buying those now. A ring bearer pillow that isn't your favorite is still better than no ring bearer pillow.


Week 22 - Finish any and all DIY Projects

Especially if you’re ordering printed materials online, you should have wedding programs and other materials printed and ready to go. Any DIY projects (like unique seating charts or guestbooks) should all completed by now, or in their final stages. By now each of your vendors should be fully paid.


Wedding Week - Have a Rehearsal

With two weeks left, now would be the time to tie up all loose ends. Anything on your “to-do” list should be completed a week before the wedding.

Your rehearsal should be one or two days prior to the actual wedding day (maybe even the morning-of if you’re having a late afternoon or evening wedding ceremony). It should be on location and include everyone from the officiant and DJ down to the ring bearer and flower girl. Finally, enjoy your special moment!


12 Months(-ish)

1st Month - Start a Wedding Binder/Folder

This should include a budget. The reason is simple; it’s best to get organized early. Optionally, if you’re planning on hiring a wedding planner, you’ll want to do that early on as well. If you’re going that route, spend some time early in the month making appointments with wedding planners, and meet with them until you find the one that makes you most comfortable. It’s also important that you settle on a date. You’ll need that wedding date to help with every other step, including reserving a venue.

If you haven't already had engagement photos taken, do so well before you send out your Save-the-Dates (in month six) so you can include them.


2nd Month - Reserve a Venue

Once you have a budget and a date, find yourself a venue and reserve it as soon as possible. Aside from a wedding planner and a wedding date, this should be your first big wedding commitment. You won’t be able to strike deals with vendors until you have a location. Take some time this month to scout different locations and work with your spouse to balance value and budget to lock down the perfect location for your nuptials.


3rd Month - Select a Bridal Party

Create a list of potential bridesmaids and groomsmen if you decide you’re going to have some, and reach out to them to see if they’re willing participants. Then put together a list of family members, close friends, and cool co-workers. Carefully consider how you want to approach hosting plus-ones and children. CastleWed offers advice on an approach to children here. Also start casually browsing for different wedding dresses, tuxedos, and everything that you prefer for your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and your ring bearer and flower girl. Be sure to browse with an open mind. With an idea of roughly how many guests you’ll have, start to put together a tentative seating chart and consider how you’ll want to approach food and drink. Because next month you’re going to want to meet with vendors, and you’ll need that info.


4th Month - Meet and Select Vendors

Start to meet with photographers, videographers, bands/DJs, officiants, caterers, florists, and the like. If you dedicate a few afternoons, evenings, and weekends, you should be able to make your vendor decisions before the following month. To keep your wedding unique, we recommend really exploring small local businesses with positive online reviews and ratings.

A good vendor will be able to provide concrete examples of why they’ll add more value to your wedding than your cheaper alternative. Other than price, be prepared with at least a few questions for each type of vendor. You don’t know what you don’t know, and a good vendor will help make you feel comfortable by answering questions. By the end of the month, you should be in position to book your vendors.


5th Month - Select Dress

   If you started looking around for a dress and tux in month 3 of planning, by now you should have found a dress for yourself, a tux for groom, and made selections for bridesmaids, groomsmen, ring bearer, and flower girl. If everyone is paying for their own outfit, encourage them to do so by now. It’s more likely than not you’ll have members of your bridal party that want to keep looking for something else or want to wait to make the purchase for any number of reasons. Regardless of the situation, now is the time to start issuing friendly reminders.


6th Month - Send Save-the-Dates

Now is the time to send out Save-the-Dates. They should be light on detail and include the date, location, and your names. You’ll send out the actual invitations in 3 months. With your ideal guest list in mind, revisit the seating chart you initially created. See if it may have changed in any way based off crafty examples you’ve come across or ideas you’ve developed. At the same time, you probably have a good idea as to who will and won’t be able to attend. If you have folks traveling from out of town, this is a great opportunity to begin looking into travel arrangements and creating a tentative plan.


7th Month - Start a Day-of List

This list should outline exactly what you want to happen from the moment you wake up on your wedding day to the moment you go to sleep or leave for your honeymoon. If you’re delegating certain responsibilities to members of the bridal party, you’ll want to share this with them. If you’re interested in creating one, you should also start a wedding program. Something similar, but for the guests to pick up and keep, like a little guide to help them know what to expect as the wedding transpires. Especially when to be seated for the wedding procession. Depending on the fit of your dress and/or any alterations that are being made, you should have another fitting right around now.


8th Month - Begin Purchasing Wedding-Specific Items

You’ve likely seen all sorts of crafty DIY projects and amazingly unique items for weddings. Now would be a great time to start narrowing down very specific items to create or to purchase. Consider finding a ring bearer pillow, flower girl basket, or the items necessary for a symbolic gesture (such as unity candles or handfasting materials). This is also a good time to revisit and make sure you’ve got vendors paid in full, or on schedule to be completely paid on time.


9th Month - Contact Vendors

Whether you’re creating your own invitations or getting them made, just make sure they go out before the end of this month. The earlier, the better. Like each of the previous months, if you have vendors that you’re paying in installments, continue doing so. If necessary, continue to be in touch with your seamstress about fittings.


10th Month - Finalize Travel Plans

Hopefully near the beginning of this month you received all of your RSVP responses. A simple inevitability to keep in mind is that more people will show up to your wedding than RSVP’d. And armed with that knowledge, by month’s end, you should contact each of your vendors (especially caterers) with a more specific number of wedding guests. Perhaps instead of the 150-200 people you prepared for, only 125 will be there, and you can save some money that way. Also, with a more complete list of wedding guests, this is a great time to start locking down arrangements for transportation and accommodations for people traveling from out of town. By now there might have been some changes that require you to revisit the bridal party list, or the seating chart.


11th Month - Wrap Up DIY Projects

Start this month by creating a checklist of all the things that need to be completed before the wedding. Especially if you’re ordering printed materials online, you should have wedding programs and other materials printed and ready to go. Any DIY projects (like unique seating charts) should all completed by now, or in their final stages. By the end of this month each of your vendors should be fully paid, and travel accommodations should be concretely in place.


Wedding Month - Have a Rehearsal

Start this month by making sure your checklist from last month has been completed. Anything on that to-do list that can be completed should be completed at least a week before the wedding. Your rehearsal should be one or two days prior to the actual wedding day (maybe even the morning-of if you’re having a late afternoon or evening wedding ceremony). It should be on location and include everyone because it will probably take at least 4 or 5 attempts before you’re confident everyone knows their role. Finally, enjoy your special day!

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