The Ultimate Wedding Planning Timeline

March 30, 2017

For most couples getting married, this will be your first time going through the wedding planning process. You don't know how to start planning, when things should be completed by and how to go about actually doing what is on your timeline.

We went through our best blogs and compiled a wedding planning timeline that will help you stay on task and will also help you complete the task. The wedding planning timeline addressed everything from wedding invitations, wedding budgets, tipping vendors, how to look and hire a vendor.

Free Download - Wedding Planning Timeline

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12 Months Out

Set Wedding Budget
Just like everything else in life, budgeting for a wedding is critical to the success of wedding planning. For many, this will be your first wedding, so there is a bit of education that needs to take place before you start your budget. A simple way to start is to have an idea of your wedding vendor budget percentages. No matter what your overall wedding budget is, you can follow the vendor percentage breakdown as a guide to know what you should be budgeting each category. The percentages will help you set your expectations accordingly.

Wedding Budget Breakdown


Figuring out how to plan a wedding on a budget means something different to everyone. No matter what your budget is, there will come the point during the planning process where you will need to figure out how to save a dollar or two. We have compiled a two-part list with different areas you can save some money. This blog here will help you plan a wedding on a budget, and this blog goes through some secret ways to save money maybe you haven't thought of yet! Don't forget about these 10 most common forgotten items to the wedding budget. Feeling overwhelmed? Here is how we use Quickbooks to help keep our wedding budget on track. 

Find Ceremony and Reception Site
Finding a ceremony site and reception site will be one of the hardest and most overwhelming tasks you will find, especially if they will be two different locations. But the good news is, it is one of the biggest check marks off this list! How do you even start? You start after you have an idea of your budget breakdown. Having an idea of what you can afford is the greatest tool in narrowing down your options. You will also want to know what time of year, location, an estimated guest count, and what is important to you from a venue. Maybe you want your ceremony site and reception site to be within walking distance. Maybe you want your reception to be in the same building your guest will be staying. Maybe you want to be outside for cocktail hour. Maybe you want to bring in your caterer, so you need to find a venue with a flexible catering option. No detail is too small to start listing what your venue qualifications will be. Write everything down, and then begin your search. Keep an open mind while looking at venues because you may not even know how important something is or isn't to you until you see it!

Find Room Blocks for Wedding
As soon as you have the date picked out, guest will start to ask about hotel blocks for the wedding. You have most likely never given hotel blocks for weddings a thought, and here you are with another task that will take up more of your time. How do you begin the search? We have partnered with Where Will They Stay? to help make your room block search an easy item to check off your to-do list and for free! They will create a highly customized report as a no-cost service that oversees the hotel room block process on your behalf. They will also find you better deals than you can find on your own! BONUS: If you mention O'Neil Events in the referral box of the questionnaire, you will receive a special gift! There are a ton of details that go into the process of finding room blocks for your wedding, check out this blog post to help you navigate through the process.

Free Room Block Help

11 Months Out

Choose Officiant
If you are getting married in a church, or place of worship, finding an officiant won't' be too difficult as many have officiants on staff. However, if you are getting married elsewhere, it might be up to you to find your officiant. Before you start your search, figure out what type of ceremony you are envisioning. Having an idea in your head will help you narrow down officiants when you begin meeting with them. As you are researching officiants, try to meet with them in person. This relationship will be an important one to you, especially on your wedding day. Don't be afraid to ask for references or see some of their past work. If you are going to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony, make sure you understand what that means and the state's rules around making your marriage legal.

Hire Caterer
If your venue does not have an in-house caterer, this is going to be another biggie to tackle. Just like figuring out your site, you will want to have a few things figured out before you start interviewing caterers. As always, your budget is going to help start the search off. Why look at a caterer that might be out of your price range. A great place to start looking is to ask your venue some of the caterers they recommend. It is always a bonus if the caterer has worked at the site before, they will have a great understanding of the layout and what they can realistically provide to you. Always try at least two different caterer's foods as well as get at least two full proposals. Be an educated buyer and understand what you are getting and paying. Go through all of the final estimates to see all of the line items such as if alcohol is included, if the rentals are included, see if taxes and gratuities are included, for example. All of these are items will you need to pay for at some point.

10 Months Out

Find Reception and Ceremony Music
Just like everything else so far, having a good idea of your budget will help guide the process of finding your reception and ceremony music. If you are getting married in a church or place of worship, many times there is someone in-house that can help with the ceremony music. If your ceremony is at the same location as your reception, it might be cost effective to have the same group or organization help with music for both reception and ceremony. Don't forget to spend the time to go and listen to the music live before booking!

Register for Gifts
Gift registration is a fun wedding "chore," but certainly can be overwhelming. Along with the hotel information, this is another item your guest will begin asking you about early, so why not register beforehand! It is a fun activity to do together as a couple. Who doesn't like shopping with other people's money? Don't get too caught up in what you are "supposed" to register for and spend more time thinking about what you want in your house as a couple and what you will use. Don't forget to have a good selection of differently priced items, so all your guest will be able to get something in their price range. Best tip is to go into a store that does a lot of wedding registry, and they will be able to walk you through the process. For more tips check out this blog!

Finalize Guest List
Finalizing a guest list is a team effort. As a couple, you have a ton of people who you want to invite, but don't forget your parents are going to have a list of guest they would like to invite. Be sure to be respectful of people that are close to your parents. It will go a long way in the end. Your guest list number should be a reflection of the number your venue can hold.

9 MONTHS OUT

Hire Photographer and Videographer
Now that you have your wedding date and budget, you should start researching and booking your photographer and videographer. Remember, this is one of the only physical items you will have and share for the rest of your life. It is worth spending a little money and doing research before making any decisions. You should start with looking at the portfolios online and seeing what type of style is appealing to you. You do not have to be an expert in the various kinds of styles; you will know what you like when you see it! The next step is meeting in person. You will arguably spend the most time of your day with the photographer and videographer, having good chemistry is important.

Begin Wedding Dress Shopping
The moment every bride has been waiting for, wedding dress shopping! There is something about putting on a wedding dress that starts to make everything real. Start by making a few appointments at local shops to try on dresses in person. Even if you know of great deals online, you want to try them on first. Keep a very opened mind; many brides end up with dresses completely different than they thought they were going to wear. You never know what is going to look the best for your body type. Take some friends and family and make an event of it!

Send Save the Date Cards
This will be the start of your printed wedding materials. Here is a timeline that will help you through the process. Many couples will want to forgo this step, and I get it. However, if you are against sending traditional save the dates, it is important to find a way to let those you are inviting to your wedding, know when your wedding is. Some people may assume they are invited, and they might not even be on your C list. Some people may not be excited to be invited, but then be caught off guard two months before your wedding when they get your invitation. Think about sending out save the dates, especially if your wedding is a destination wedding, a wedding on a day other than Saturday, or a wedding over a holiday weekend. Sending out save the dates does not have to be an expensive or tedious process. In fact, we picked our top 20 trendy (and affordable) save the dates to help you get started.

8 MONTHS OUT

Hire Florist
A great place to start when looking for a florist is to ask the reception venue which has worked there before. It is great when the florist has worked in the space before and will be able to offer great suggestions on how to decorate the space. Before meeting with your florist, have an idea of what you would like and bring those pictures to the meeting. Maybe create a Pinterest board just for the florist. They will have a ton of great ideas, however, if they can see what you are trying to explain, they will be able to create and make suggestions off of what you are showing them.

7 MONTHS OUT

Hire Day of Wedding Planner
With all of the available resources, many couples feel comfortable planning their wedding themselves and do not see the value in hiring a full wedding planner. As couples get closer to their wedding date, they realize someone is going to have to coordinate, oversee, and execute all of their months of planning. That is where a day wedding planner or a day-of wedding coordinator comes in to save the day! A day of wedding planner doesn't just show up the day of the wedding, contrary to the title. In fact, they are much more and becomes a tremendous asset to the final month of your wedding planning journey. Most days of wedding planners start working with the couple about a month or two before the wedding. That gives everyone a chance to get to know each other and start to build up trust and understanding of the wedding vision. Want to learn more than you every thought about a day of wedding planners - check out more information here!

Finalize Transportation
Wedding transportation can mean many things to different weddings. You want to think about how you, the bridal party and your family will be getting from place to place. If your ceremony and reception are at two different locations, that is a lot of moving people, and it might be worth getting a shuttle bus or limo. Transportation normally has a 3-4 hour minimum. If you know you aren't going to hit the minimum, you can always use uber. Sounds silly, but I have had a ton of couples use uber rather than renting a shuttle bus that will only be used for an hour. Uber even has wedding codes you can create and give to your guest! You also want to think of your guests, if most of your guest are at the same hotel and the reception or ceremony locations are far, it might be considerate to look into providing a shuttle bus. Not a requirement, but something to consider. Learn a bit more about transportation here.

6 MONTHS OUT

Rent any Items
By now, the big details are starting to come together, and you have your vendors in place. Go through all of your contracts to make sure there isn't anything slipping through the cracks. Make sure your caterer is renting all of the equipment needed to serve food and drinks. If your venue does not provide tables and chairs, make sure that is either included in the caterer's contract or make sure you start researching options on your own. No detail is too small! You will need linens for everything (including the gift and DJ table). Also, think about if you wanted to add lighting to the rooms or if you want to add a tent. Try to sit down and visualize everything that you would need for your wedding and make sure every item is on someone's list!

Have Rings Ordered
Another fun "chore." It is always easy to get your rings from the same place as the engagement ring. Also, there are many great places online that are affordable and reliable. Once you have your rings, don't forget to take care of them properly! Here are some steps to make sure your ring last as long as your marriage.

5 MONTHS OUT

Book Honeymoon
If you are taking a honeymoon right after your wedding, you want to be sure the details are ironed out well before your wedding. Not only does travel take a ton of planning, but you don't want to have to worry about planning a trip a too close to your wedding. Don't forget to make sure your passports are up to date if you will be traveling outside the country!

4 MONTHS OUT

Order Wedding Cake and Topper
Go to the cake testing! Finding the cake is by far my favorite part of being a planner. Cake testing is a fun thing to do in the planning process together. It is a reward for all of the planning you have done so far. Many caterers or venues will include a cake or dessert in their package, but if not, start the cake search by visiting local bakeries to see what is out there. Don't forget about the cake topper which is something that can be done by the florist or even check out Etsy or places like that which will have specialty and unique options.

3 MONTHS OUT

Plan Rehearsal Dinner
The rehearsal dinner is traditionally hosted by the groom's side of the family but doesn't mean that is how it needs to be. Many couples will host their rehersal dinner, or it will be a joint effort. Try to find a place that is close to the ceremony rehearsal site or close to the hotel everyone is staying. When making the guest count, make sure you remember to include everyone in the bridal party, immediate family, as well as all of the readers and other ceremony participants.

2 MONTHS OUT

Send out Invitations
The point of your wedding invitation is to get information out to your guest. Of course, you want it to be beautiful, but don't forget to add the correct information. Wedding invitation wording can seem overwhelming at first. Here we break it down to explain what information you are relaying to your guest and how to make it fit your wedding theme.
After you ordered your invitations, and they have arrived with five pieces of paper, three envelopes, and a piece of tissue paper...now what? Ok, maybe you don't have all of those items, but it is still nice to know how to the wedding invitation assembly works and what is the best order to put all of your invitation details. Here is an easy guide to assemble your wedding invitations!

Free Download - Wedding Invitation Etiquette and Tips



Schedule Hair and Makeup
By now you have your dress and a good idea of how you want to look and feel the day of your wedding. When you are doing your hair and makeup trials, share with them what your dress looks like, they will be able to make hair and makeup suggest that will flatter your dress and overall look. It is also great to show up to your trials with pictures of what you would like, that will give the artist something to start with and grow from there.

1 MONTHS OUT

Get marriage license
Marriage license varies from state to state. Some states will let you pick it up a month before your wedding, some you have to wait till much closer to your wedding date. Some states both of you will need to be there and some states you can pick it up yourself! Make sure you do your state research and see what you need to be bringing with you to the court before you head that way. Keep the license is a safe place till you hand it over to your officiant.

Send out Rehearsal Dinner Invitations
Nothing more to be said here, just make sure you double check all the right people are invited!

Finalize Outstanding Details
There are a lot of last minute details that need to be worked out such as the seating chart, getting all of your personal decor items to the venue, escort cards, menu cards (here is where a day of wedding coordinator can make a difference).


Don't forget to have all of your tip money ready. Tipping at a wedding is like tipping at a restaurant, no one is making you tip, but would you walk away from dinner without tipping? Even if the service was just blah, I bet you still leave something.Unlike tipping at a restaurant, it is not clear how to go about tipping wedding vendors. The standard 15% to 20% rule does not apply in this case. We broke down all of the tipping etiquette and suggestions for you.


It's finally the day of your wedding! But don't relax yet because there are still things that need to be done the day of your wedding. A simple day of wedding checklist will help to put your mind at ease!

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Now it's time to go plan! Have questions along the way? Reach out; we are here to help!

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