Wedding Timeline

Because planning a wedding is such an involved task, it's good to have a sense of when things need to be done in order to have it come together on time. Here is a rough timeline to follow:

After Engagement

6 Months Before

4 Months Before

2 Months Before

6 Weeks Before

4 Weeks Before

2 Weeks Before

Last Week Before

Rehearsal Day

Wedding Day

After Engagement (9 months and earlier):

    Announce engagement- This involves telling family and friends. Also, you may formally announce it in a newspaper, but it is not required. I actually forgot to do this, but it is a nice thing to do for a keepsake.

    Set the date- Keep in mind what will be going on in your life, especially what is happening with your college. Also, try to think what time of the year you like best and what kind of weather you prefer. When deciding our wedding date, Bill and I decided that winter in Florida is more pleasant than summer because of the heat. We chose December because I was in between semesters and would have enough time for the wedding and honeymoon.

    Decide on the type of wedding- Would you like a formal, informal or in between wedding? Do you want to get married outside,  inside, or in a church? How many guests will you invite? What time of day will it be held? What kind of decorations and color scheme do you want? These are all things to consider. My wedding was held in my childhood church at 3:00 in the afternoon. It was fairly formal. To get the right feel for what you want, all details must be pondered.

    Make the guest list- This is a very important step in the decision making process. The guest list, in part, determines what the budget is and also where the reception is held. You need a reception that will be able to hold the amount of people that will come. We did not make the guest list before choosing the reception site, and we almost did not have enough room for everyone. The easiest way that I have found to make a guest list is to make three lists. They are the people who have to come, the people who ought to come, and those you would like to come. Then you can determine how many of those you can afford to have come in your budget.

    Determine the budget- Usually college students do not have much extra money, especially if their parents do not have much money, so a carefully planned budget is very important. A wedding costs more than most people think. If a person does not have much money, he or she should try to find ways to save money in any way he or she can. On this site, I highlight some ways, and there are also many books and resources on the subject. I was very fortunate to have parents who could afford to pay for my wedding, but it can be done if this is not the case. At this point, you should also think of a good way to keep track of the spending.

    Choose ceremony and reception sites- This is very important because it sets the tone for your wedding. The type of wedding you decided on above also goes along with these. As soon as you know the date, you should book these because you never know who might want the same day for their wedding. We booked ours a year before we got married because we knew December was a busy month because of the holidays. It was a very good thing we did because there was another couple who wanted the same time.

    Hire an officiant- You need a person who will perform the ceremony. He or she can be a minister of some sort or a public official. If you want, you could ask a family member to get the license and have that person marry you. This is the sentimental route to go. After choosing someone, you should discuss what kind of ceremony he or she will perform.

    Choose your gown and headpiece- This is definitely one of the most fun things to do for a wedding. I love looking at dresses, and I could not wait to do this. You can go to bridal boutiques, but I have found that chains are a better value. I got my dress at David's Bridal which not only has a great selection, but also great prices. I absolutely loved my dress and felt absolutely beautiful on my wedding day.

    Start to look for a photographer- Pictures are one of the most important keepsakes of a wedding. These are how you can best remember every detail because there is so much to take in on that day. Much time and deliberation should be utilized to find the best photographer for the amount of money you have to spend. I had an awesome photographer, and I received great pictures of my wedding as a result of choosing him. That is why I am using the pictures on this site.

    Choose the wedding party- To do this, you must weigh how many good friends and family you have with how many people you want to have in your party. This can be difficult because you might not be able to choose all of your friends, and you do not want to hurt anyone's feelings. I only had four attendants, but you can have as many or little as you want. It is your choice because it is your wedding.

6 Months Before:

    Choose the bridal party's dresses and shoes- Although you want to go with a style you like, keep in mind the different body shapes of your attendants and try to find a dress that flatters everyone. This might take some searching and time, but you can usually find the right dress. If you cannot, you could consider having them made.

    Book caterer- If the reception site does not provide its own catering, you will have to find your own. When doing so, keep your budget in mind and the kind of food you might want. Finger foods are cheaper than a sit down dinner if you do not have much to spend on food. Also keep in mind the time of day the reception will be and what type of meal, if any, will coincide. I had a sit down dinner that was catered by my reception hall. It worked out well, but took a lot of time away from dancing. A buffet usually takes less time.

    Choose the musicians/ DJ- The reception should not be a stuffy, solemn affair. You are celebrating your marriage to the person you love, so do not be afraid to throw a party for yourselves and all those there with you. Your choice in music should reflect this feeling. It is best to have a variety of songs from slow to fast so that everyone can have a good time. We had a disc jockey who was ok, but I do not think he really understood what we wanted. It is very good to communicate this to whoever you choose.

    Choose the florist- Flowers are so versatile. There are so many kinds and colors you can use. You can use them to decorate everything in the ceremony or only for the bouquets and boutonnieres. They can be rather expensive, especially if you choose rare or out of season flowers, but there are ways to minimize the cost. Because I had a decorator, I only used the florist for the bouquets and boutonnieres, which did cut down on the cost of flowers as decorations. A florist might be able to decorate the entire wedding for less. I would check around for price comparisons.

    Book the photographer and videographer- By now, you should know who you want to take the pictures. As was mentioned above, this is extremely important. Choosing a videographer is also important. In doing so, you should watch samples of other couples' weddings to get a feel for what kind of work the videographer can do. I was very happy with ours. We received a very good video that truly captures everything that happened that day. Hopefully you will too.

    Start planning the honeymoon- The honeymoon is the first vacation you will have as a married couple. It should be special and fun. It is a time to relax and spend time with just the two of you. You should think of what will be fun for both of you keeping in mind the cost and time constraints. Bill and I did not have much time between the wedding and the next semester of college, so we decided to go to Disney World, which is not that far away. We had so much fun just being with each other even though we did not go to an exotic place, like most people think you should. Anywhere can be romantic as long as you are together.

    Choose the wedding decorator- If you so choose, you may hire a decorator to help with the decorations. Decorating ideas can be endless and hard to choose, so it is nice to have an experienced person help you. My decorator was someone I knew from my church and was very creative. She made the ceremony and reception absolutely beautiful, and I was extremely happy with the results. If you want to save some money, though, you could make the decorations yourself or with the help of your friends and family. If you are doing so and are going to be using items that might need to be rented, such as candle holders or a kneeling bench, this is the time to ask the ceremony site if they are available there. If not, you will have to find a rental store.

4 Months Before:

    Finalize guest list- At this point, your guest list should be complete. You are now ready to order the invitations. There are two options in doing this. First, you can order the invitations from a card store like Hallmark. These are very nice, but can be rather expensive, depending on what you get. This is what we did, and they reflected our personalities and were very nice. Second, you could make them yourselves in a computer program. I have some friends that did this, and they also turned out nicely. If you do order them from a store, they take a few weeks to come in, so be patient. As soon as they come, you should start addressing them because it is a very long and tedious process.

    Considering rehearsal dinner site-The rehearsal dinner is an important part of the pre-wedding festivities. The rehearsal can be a little hectic, and the dinner is a time where everyone can just have a good time and relax before the stress of the next day. This is where gifts to the wedding party and to each other are customarily given. A nice restaurant or banquet hall are nice choices. We had ours at a restaurant called Grady's. It was very intimate and pleasant.

    Register for gifts- This can be one of the most fun parts of the planning process for both of you. Usually, the guy likes doing this because he can use the scanning gun. This is where you think of all things you will need as a married couple such as kitchen appliances, bathroom supplies, furniture, etc. One of the easiest places that we found to register is Target. They have almost everything that you need, and the store is very organized, which makes it easy to include everything for guests to find. We were very happy with the process and the results.

    Get your shoes- It is never too soon to break in a pair of shoes. For your wedding day, this is extra important. Because you will be on your feet so much, you want shoes as comfortable as they are stylish. You should wear them around the house at least a few minutes a day until the wedding so you will get used to them. I do not think I did this as much as I should have, and I had a difficult time standing for all of those pictures.

    Choose and reserve the men's tuxedos- Even though most men do not like wearing tuxedos, they do look very stylish. At this time, they should decide on the style they want and reserve them so they are sure they will be ready at the appointed time. I was very happy with Bill's choice of tuxedos for the groomsmen and himself, and they all looked very sleek in their straight ties and vests.

2 Months Before:

    Order the wedding cake- This is the tastiest part of the planning process. The best way to find a cake is just to go to different bakeries and even grocery stores and taste the merchandise. We had ours made by a woman who has a business at home, and it was absolutely delicious. When choosing, obviously keep in mind how many people you have. You do not want too much cake left over, or do you? If a certain cake needs to be a certain height to look good, the baker can always make fake layers. Also, do not forget that you are supposed to freeze the top layer to eat on your 1st wedding anniversary.

    Buy favors and wedding party's gifts - Buying party favors is nothing more than choosing a memento that guests can keep as a reminder of your special day. They can be anything from packages of candy to little bells or rings to themed trinkets. Since I am a Disney fanatic, I found miniature Cinderella's glass slippers made of plastic. I filled them with chocolate and wrapped them in tulle. They turned out very nicely. Presents for bridesmaids are a little easier. Usually matching necklaces and earrings are appropriate. For the men, a nice pen, keychain, or a similar trinket are always nice. As for gifts for each other, anything goes. You know what your fiancÚ likes, so choose something sentimental and sweet that represents the day to you. I got Bill an engraved pocket watch while he got me pearl earrings and a necklace. It was very special.

    Arrange wedding day transportation- If the reception site is at a different place than the ceremony, then you will need a way to get there. You will probably want your car to be parked there and ready to go, so you will need something else. A limousine or another type of rented car is a popular choice, however, they be rather expensive for the short amount of time it will be used. If you would like to save money, you could ask someone to drive you in their car. This is the option we chose. My grandfather drove us in his very nice car. He felt so honored to be asked, and it was special to have him do it.

    Buy wedding rings- I'm sure by now you have been looking at wedding rings, but now is the time to purchase them. Along with choosing the right ones, you might want to think about having them engraved and, if so, what will be engraved. This is a way to make them extra special. I have even heard of people who got their partner's ring engraved as a surprise, and they did not see them on their wedding day. That is a romantic spin on the situation.

6 Weeks Before:

    Get marriage license- Although the ceremony is extremely important, the marriage is made legal by signing a piece of paper, the marriage license. To get this, you must go to the Clerk of the County Court Office and fill out paperwork. The license itself costs around 60 to 80 dollars, but can be discounted if you have attended premarital counseling. The license must be signed by yourself and your spouse, as well as the officiant and two witnesses. A copy must then be sent to the State for processing.

    Mail invitations- You have been working on these for awhile, so now is finally the time to mail them. Along with the invitations, it is also a good idea to include directions to the ceremony and reception sites. At this time you can also mail the rehearsal dinner invitations and directions as well.

    Make beautification appointments- If you are going to have your hair, makeup, or nails done, you need to schedule the appointments at this time to ensure that you will have them when you need them. As far as your hair goes, you might want to schedule a preview appointment so you will know exactly how you want your hair so that it will be perfect on your wedding day. I was very glad I did this because I was afraid there would be a problem on my wedding day. Knowing exactly how my hair was going to look eased my mind.

    Buy wedding day items- There are many different little things that you must buy for the wedding. Some of these are a guestbook, unity candle (if having one), ring pillow, garter, etc. Just think of the little things that would add to it and make it special.

    Finalize menu- Although you have already decided on the menu, it is a good idea to go over it again with the caterers or with the reception site manager to make sure everything goes according to plan. You never know what may come up, so plan for it ahead of time.

4 Weeks Before:

    Meet with ceremony coordinator- This is the person who makes sure everything goes as planned at the wedding. He or she makes sure the building is open, the lighting and sound is in order, and everyone knows what to do and where to stand. It is very important that this person knows exactly how you want the ceremony to run. In fact, at this point, you should be in the process of finalizing everything that has to do with the wedding, not just the ceremony.

    Make a timeline- Because so many things have to take place, it can become very hectic. In order to make them easier, it is advisable to make a detailed timeline of the wedding and reception. This will not only help yourself and your fiancÚ get organized, but also your family, wedding party, and service providers. This is an easy way to make sure things run smoothly.

    Have final fitting for your gown- If you have had alterations done to your gown, you must have a fitting before the gown is pressed and prepared for the wedding. It is extremely important that it fits well, so you will be comfortable. Even if you did not need to have it altered, make sure you try it on at least a month in advance in case you have changed weight and need to have it altered. You would not want to be faced with a gown that does not fit on your wedding day.

2 Weeks Before:

    Start packing for honeymoon- If you take a long time to decide what to pack on trips like I do, you should start packing early so you do not have to add it to a long list of things you already have to do in the days prior to your wedding. You do not want to be up the night before.

Last Week Before:

    Pick up wedding attire- The tuxes, dresses and all other accessories should be ready to be picked up a few days before the wedding. Again, make sure everything fits well. The men will probably say that they are uncomfortable in their tuxes, but then again, what man is ever happy wearing a tux? They usually just do it to make the women happy.

    Finalize guest count- At this point, you need to know exactly how many people are coming to the wedding. You should call all guests who have not responded just in case they forgot. Once you have the number, you need to notify the reception site manager and caterer so they can make the appropriate changes.

    Confirm reservations- It is always good to make sure everything is in order for your honeymoon. You should confirm accommodations, transportation, dinner reservations, tours, etc.

    Finish packing- A couple of days before the wedding you should be packed with everything you will be taking on the honeymoon and have it ready to go. You should also gather together all wedding items so you will not forget anything, which is so easy to do.

    Make last minute arrangements- Make sure anything that you have to do before you leave gets done. One such thing is having the post office hold your mail. Also, if you have any pets you will need to make arrangements for them. It is easy to forget the little things, so take a moment to sit down and try to think of all possible situations.

Rehearsal Day:

    Misc. wedding day preparations- Now it is coming down to crunch time. You must now take care of all the little details that make a wedding work. Today you should make sure the wedding party has everything it needs such as accessories, ask someone to bring all wedding items to the ceremony and reception sites, request that someone returns the rental items, give out schedules, put suitcases in the getaway car, etc.

Wedding Day:

    Enjoy your wedding- The day is finally here! You have been waiting for this for a long time, so relax and enjoy it. It is so easy to let it fly by, so try to savor it and take it in as much as you can. Besides this, the only other things you need to remember are to give rings to the best man and maid of honor and to just follow the schedule you have set. With all this preparation, your wedding should be the wonderful, fun, and exciting day you dreamed it would be, a day in which you celebrate your love and face forever together.


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Jennifer Hitchcock, Webmaster
Last revised November 18, 2002
Copyright Jennifer Hitchcock 2002 all rights reserved.
Void where prohibited.